Trek's 20lb Procaliber 9.9 SL is pure cross-country porn

Top of the range hardtail, with a soft side

It was difficult to photograph this bike. Not because of its stealthy finish, nor its fierce red highlights – the issue instead was that people simply would not leave me alone to get the job done.

“Nice bike mate,” and “How much did that one set you back?” and so on – the Procaliber 9.9 was rapidly drawing its own crowd in Bristol, and who could blame these people. I’d have wanted a closer look, and if you’re reading this then you obviously do too.

The Procaliber 9.9 is Trek’s top drawer cross-country hardtail, and depending on where you are in the world it’ll set you back a rather brutal £6,000 / US$8,400.  It’s worth noting that we’ve already ridden the considerably less offensively priced Procaliber 9.8 SL.

Aside from being eye wateringly dear, the Procaliber 9.9 does have a standout feature – this is a hardtail with a soft side. Yep, just forward of the seat tube is a decoupler with a bearing at either side and a bushing in the centre – this means that the seat tube is effectively allowed to splay open where you’d normally have a weld. Not by a lot though, the system is said to provide just 11mm of movement.

Related: The return of the softtail - BMC's elastomer-equipped Teamelite TE01

What does this mean for a rider? Well, in theory it should allow for a more comfortable experience, or less fatigue for the racers among us. It should also keep a rider more planted while in the saddle, and in turn this should help to keep the tyre in contact with the ground more effectively. Notice that I keep mentioning being seated, because this design only really works when a rider has their weight over the saddle.

Once out of the saddle the Procaliber will react exactly like a regular hardtail, and depending on who you are and how you ride that may or may not be a good thing.

This is where the magic happens.. all 11mm of it: this is where the magic happens.. all 11mm of it
This is where the magic happens.. all 11mm of it: this is where the magic happens.. all 11mm of it

This is where the magic happens

Anyway, enough of the squidgy bit in the middle, let’s talk about what else makes this bike special. When we pay more for bikes what we actually want is less (I’m talking about weight of course) and the Procaliber 9.9 doesn’t have a lot of it – this one was dead on 20lbs (9.07kg) complete for an 18.5in frame.

Pointing away from the head tube of the Procaliber at the keen angle of 69.5 degrees is a RockShox RS-1 fork. Here at BikeRadar we haven’t been particularly fond of the wobbly-legged RS-1, but its prevalence among the cross-country elite is not to be ignored. 

An RS-1 also means a dedicated front hub, and that brings us nicely onto the DT Swiss XMC1200 Carbon wheelset of the Trek. They’re hookless (no bead hook), and feature a chunky internal diameter of 24mm; they also use DT’s Spline hubs, which are some of the lightest around.The treads are the XR1/2 Team Issue tubeless combo from in-house firm Bontrager

The drivetrain of the Procaliber 9.9 is a mechanical 1x configuration with a mix of parts from RaceFace and Shimano’s XTR line. Being XTR, the Procaliber doesn’t get the ultra-wide cassette of its lesser brother XT – instead there’s the part carbon, part alloy and part steel 11-40t cluster. The Next SL chainset is a carbon offering from Race Face, and comes fitted with a 32t direct mount narrow/wide chainring.

The brakes are Shimano XTR Race units and should provide accurate yet powerful stopping power to the featherweight Trek. The finishing kit consists of mostly carbon bits from Bontrager’s XXX collection, a product line tasty enough to deserve the connotations its name conjures up. Attention to detail extends right down to the grips, which are extra light silicone bits from ESI.

This tasty Trek will soon be handed over to our tame cross-country hooligan Joe Norledge. He can’t wait, and I’m very jealous... you probably are too.

Oli Woodman

Section Editor, UK
With more than 10 years of experience riding mountain bikes, Oli knows the good from the bad when it comes to gear. He's a total bike nerd and loves few things more than fettling with spangly riding bits. Also, he seems to have a talent for crashing hard but emerging unscathed.
  • Discipline: Mountain
  • Preferred Terrain: Loamy singletrack
  • Current Bikes: Marin Pine Mountain, Pinnacle Dolomite
  • Dream Bike: Honda RN01
  • Beer of Choice: Corona
  • Location: Bristol, UK

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