Trek Rumblefish Elite review£2,400.00

Big wheels and mid travel make most trail problems a lot smaller

BikeRadar score3.5/5

One of the first mid-travel 29er trail bikes, the Rumblefish is a very well proven and capable all-rounder. A naturally docile rather than dynamic feel and relatively high weight means it’s best suited to those focused on riding everything in their path rather than getting to the top first. 

Ride & handling: Sluggish initial feel hides a very capable bike that excels on the climbs

The Rumblefish's Fox 32 Float fork and RP2 shock are both equipped with Trek's proprietary DRCV (Dual Rate Control Valve) technology. This means they have twin inline air chambers instead of just one. The idea is that a smaller, tighter-feeling chamber handles the early part of travel for a responsive pedalling feel, while the second, larger chamber takes over deeper into the stroke for a smoother, plusher feel.

The Trek pedals well and picks up speed okay for a bike the far side of 13.5kg (30lb). The bigger air volume and strike angle of the 29in wheels (compared to 26in hoops) let it roll smoothly over the smaller chatter the suspension would otherwise ignore too. Out back the seamless transition between chambers gives a very well controlled, progressive feel when you’re launching off or clattering through rocks, and overall frame composure is excellent. 

We’re less impressed by the dive-prone fork that sees you regularly hitting full travel even if the situation doesn’t demand it. Combined with the straight up seatpost and a broad saddle that nudges you forward, this places a lot of weight through the handlebar and front wheel. Great for cornering and braking traction, but sometimes unwelcomingly like you’re being jostled further towards the edge than you want to be. 

Things got noticeably better when we deliberately over-pressurised the fork and under-pressurised the shock to settle the bike back on its haunches. With this balance the vast amounts of traction from the chunky tyres and stiff tracking feel were more obvious and easy to make use of. In fact, once you’re rolling the Rumblefish takes the ball and runs with it, scrambling up and steamrollering through technical sections without a second thought. 

We’re not convinced by the DRCV fork balance, but the 120mm-travel Trek is a lot faster and more capable on the trail than it seems at first. Climbing tenacity in particular is outstanding and its ability to trivialise trail trauma soon becomes an addictive advantage.

Frame & equipment: Stiff, full feature, mid-travel 29er frameset; high control, highly durable kit package

The purposeful looking raw-alloy-under-lacquer chassis gets every modern frame fixture you need, from tapered head tube to screw-through 142x12mm rear axle, while the straight top tube gives ample standover despite the big wheels. The Fox 32 fork gets a custom Trek 29er offset to create a unique steering feel and a twin-chamber DRCV air spring to match the rear shock. 

A Shimano Deore XT/SLX/Deore stop-and-go mix gives faultless, weatherproof performance that’s hard to beat. The Rhythm Elite wheels from Trek sub-brand Bontrager add breadth and tubeless-ready capability to the already high volume, high grip tyres. Switching to faster-rolling rubber for some of the test livened the naturally lazy feel of the bike up dramatically for very little cost in climbing tenacity.

This bike was tested as part of What Mountain Bike magazine's Bike of the Year shootout. You can read the full feature in this month's mag, in shops now, and available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.

Trail Bike of the Year preview

We are having trouble displaying this video

The testers reflect on this year's crop of bikes

We are having trouble displaying this video

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
Back to top