Trek Fuel EX 9.7 29er first ride review£3,200.00

New Fuel’s a stiffer, tougher, double-rubber trail dominator

Trek’s Fuel has always been a very popular bike for riders who want a totally dependable, easy to ride and naturally efficient trail bike. The latest iteration, the EX, will take your comfort zone a lot further into EX-treme terrain, without sacrificing the easy speed that makes it Trek’s biggest seller.

Trek Fuel EX 9.7 29er spec overview

  • Frame: OCLV Mountain Carbon
  • Fork: Fox Rhythm 34
  • Shock: Fox Perf EVOL
  • Wheel size: 29”
  • Drivetrain: SRAM GX / X1
  • Brakes: Shimano Deore
  • Head angle: 67.7
  • Seat angle: 74.7
  • Reach: 465mm (19.5”)

Trek Fuel EX 9.7 29er ride impression

Stiff, tough and aggressive
Stiff, tough and aggressive

The new Fuel is a great example of cutting edge trail bike versatility too. The most obvious bonus is that the 29er bikes and the plus bikes share the same full carbon, carbon mainframe with alloy back end (like the 9.7 here) or full alloy frames, so you can switch between wheel types easily for a two-in-one bike bonus.

The really sketchy cross-country tyres of last year have been replaced by tougher and bigger (but nevertheless still slippery) Bontrager 29x2.4in tyres and it comes with a KS dropper post as standard.

Boost spacing lets you add wider tyres or a bigger chainring
Boost spacing lets you add wider tyres or a bigger chainring

Travel is also increased slightly from 120mm to 130mm, but the real difference is the unshakeable authority of the massive OCLV Mountain Carbon mainframe, which uses a straight rather than curved downtube for maximum front end stiffness and control.

That does create potential fork fouling issues at full lock though, so Trek has created a unique Knock Block head tube and stem system to limit steering lock, allowing you to drive the Fuel flat out into lines most bigger bikes would wimp out of.

A unique ‘Knock Block’ headtube and stem system is designed to limit steering lock
A unique ‘Knock Block’ headtube and stem system is designed to limit steering lock

A 13.86kg for my 19.5in frame, this is by no means a light bike, but the Wisconsin-based company’s suite of suspension acronyms — including its unique RE:aktiv-valved metric-sized RockShox Deluxe damper, which allows the shock to open up quickly when needed — spells out a very efficient climber and torque transferring muscle bike.

While Deore brakes and Fox’s new Rhythm 34 fork might seem like dubious value on paper, they both punch way above their price even on properly punishing trails. And there’s definitely no doubt as to the upgrade potential of this impressively aggressive and focused double rubber frame either.

This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine.

Guy Kesteven

Freelance Writer, UK
Guy started filling his brain with cycle stats and steaming up bike shop windows back in 1980. He worked the other side of those windows from '89 while getting a degree in “describing broken things covered in mud" (archaeology). Dug historical holes in the ground through the early '90s, then became a pro bike tester in '97. Guy has ridden thousands of bikes and even more components the world over since then and can remember them all in vivid, haunting detail. Can't remember where the car keys are, though.
  • Age: 45
  • Height: 180cm / 5' 11"
  • Weight: 68kg / 150lb
  • Waist: 76cm / 30in
  • Chest: 91cm / 36in
  • Discipline: Strict sadomasochist
  • Preferred Terrain: Technical off-piste singletrack and twisted back roads. Up, down, along — so long as it's faster than the last time he did it he's happy.
  • Current Bikes: An ever changing herd of test machines from Tri bikes to fat bikes and everything in between.
  • Dream Bike: His Nicolai Helius AM custom tandem
  • Beer of Choice: Theakston's Old Peculier (not Peculiar)
  • Location: Yorkshire, UK

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