Trek Fuel EX 9.7 review£3,200.00

Nice frame and detailing let down by poor tyres and shock

BikeRadar score3/5

Trek’s new feature-rich, semi-carbon, dual-wheel size compatible chassis has the potential to burn a lot more ferociously than previous Fuel EX bikes. Sadly, shock and wheel compromises restrict its obvious potential.

The OCLV carbon frame is a seriously sturdy and obviously stiff chassis using Trek’s latest ‘Knock Block’ reduced-steering lock concept to allow a stiffer straight down tube without risking fork-on-frame contact in a crash.

Fox’s entry-level 34 Rhythm Boost axle fork really impressed me with its smoothness and predictable control

The alloy back end uses the proven ABP rear pivot that’s concentric to the Boost 12mm rear axle and there’s a movable ‘Mino Link’ chip at the rocker link junction to alter geometry slightly.

The Fox Float Performance shock ‘floats’ between the chainstay tips and the linkage, altering compression rate and making it feel like you’ve got more than the actual 130mm on tap.

I love details like the moulded frame armour and jigsaw-style convertible ‘control freak’ internal cable routing plugs. Add the frame stiffness, a long 465mm reach and a 67-degree head angle in the slacker ‘Mino Link’ setting and you’ve got a chassis that loves to charge hard without being exclusively gravity focused.

The 55mm Bontrager stem
The 55mm Bontrager stem

It’s the same story with the 55mm Bontrager stem and 760mm-wide bar in a high-stiffness 35mm diameter format, and yet again Fox’s entry-level 34 Rhythm Boost axle fork really impressed me with its smoothness and predictable control.

While the large-volume 29x2.4in Bontrager XR3 tyres sound an ideal match they’re a cheap, heavy ‘Expert’ version with an unforgivingly wooden ride that’s exacerbated by the narrow rims.

The Performance spec rear shock also feels harsh and clattery, with a really obvious notch when the custom Trek Re:Aktiv platform damping opens and closes, which you don’t get on more expensive Fox or RockShox Re:Aktiv shocks. That means the Trek really doesn’t carry speed as well as it should, and while switching to wider 29erwheels or 27.5in plus tyres makes a massive difference, the shock still doesn’t feel great.

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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