Trek unveiled its all-new Session platform at the 2008 Sea Otter Classic, supporting two separate bikes—the Session 88 downhill and Session 88 freeride.
The testing for the new Session platform took place over the past three years, as a staff of engineers, designers and test riders traveled the globe to find the most diverse conditions to test the platform.
“The bike’s development reaches far into Trek’s history," said Dylan Howes, Trek's senior research and development suspension engineer. "In a sense, we’ve been waiting for this moment for a very long time.” Howes found himself and his development team in a precarious spot when an eight-inch version of the Session was approved for production two years ago.
“We really had something with the original Session 8," he said. "The geometry was dialed, we were spellbound with the handling, and the weight was acceptable. But we knew from the Fuel EX and Remedy development that new technology would surpass what we were developing. So we stopped production and went back to a clean sheet of paper.”
The Session 88 platform features all of Trek’s recent full suspension development efforts including the one piece of technology responsible for creating the most active suspension system under braking, ABP. The Session 88 platform also combines Trek’s Full Floater shock mount with a custom-tuned Fox DHX 5 coil shock, delivering the small bump compliance, good mid-stroke control and bottomless feel associated with all of Trek’s full suspension offerings.
Stiffness and strength, balanced with light frame weight, were a major concern for the Trek team. To that extent, Trek's industrial designers used hydroforming and extensive frame shaping to achieve project goals. Also of note in the frame construction is the one-piece EVO rocker link and E2 tapered steerer/head tube technology.
“Our goal with developing a new Freeride and DH bike is in line with Trek’s guiding principle to have the best in class product for every category we pursue,” said Joe Vadeboncouer, Trek's product manager. “The new Session products are my personal favourites of all the full suspension bikes we build at Trek.”
According to Vadeboncouer, the development focus of the Session design team was three-fold: create a new platform for gravity application that capitalizes on all of Trek’s recent suspension technology improvements, optimize geometry and reduce overall bike weight.
A key member of the product development team is Trek-sponsored athlete and Freeride legend Andrew Shandro.
“There’s a trail at Whistler called Dirt Merchant," Shandro said. "I know that trail front and back, but on (my first test ride on the final version), I completely overshot the jump. The suspension technology, the platform’s efficiency, and the bike’s overall weight allowed me to carry so much more speed than I ever thought possible. It has all the qualities you want out of a performance gravity mountain bike.”
Regarding suspension performance, Vadeboncouer added that Trek takes considerable time and effort to fine tune its suspension componentry.
“In addition to the bike’s features, the amount of testing and development we did with Fox on the suspension parts insures that no bike available will work anywhere near as well as ours, even if they also use Fox parts,” said Vadeboncouer, noting the extensive development work performed with Trek’s primary suspension partner, Fox Racing Shox.
The Watsonville, California-based suspension manufacturer supplies its popular DHX 5 coil rear shock, but with a special custom tune specific to the Session platform.
“During development, we had prepared several different shock tunes to perform back to back blind taste tests on repeatable terrain across a broad cross section of riders," said Fox’s Mario Galasso. "The resulting feedback on shock tunes and bike geometry ultimately led to the production version of the Session 88. The Trek/Fox relationship has developed into a mutually beneficial one and we look forward to being included at this level of the product development process in the future."
Look for the Trek Session DH and FR to be available mid summer. Pricing has not been set at this time.