The Lance years were good for Trek's road business. Now Trek knows it has to step up its off-road product lines, and beyond a hefty R&D budget, the attention paid to the Trek, Fisher and Bontrager MTB lines for 2008 was made evident during the Ultimate Ride, a media launch in Sun Valley, Idaho in June.
Trek was savvy to give a sneak peak of its 2008 Fuel EX suspension platform during its Madone road launch in late May, where Lance flaunted the new road machine. Trek president John Burke emphasized his directive to his product managers, engineering staff and marketing crew: "to be the best, let's offer the best, both on road and off." Dirt pro Travis Brown, below, and suspension guru Jose Gonzalez, both now working fulltime for Trek, got their 15 minutes of fame describing the suspension development process on stage at the Milwaukee Art Museum with Burke in May.
In Sun Valley, though, the fruits of their labour were made real with three days of glorious trail and technical riding. A group of international bicycling media were introduced to six new models, with Brown, Gary Fisher and, for a day, Keith Bontrager, leading the way. Lance may be one of the best road riders in recent memory, but Brown, Fisher and Bontrager have been soldiers of dirt for decades, as I can attest after struggling to acclimatise to the high altitude and unfamiliar trails. Here's an overview of the models we rode.
Realizing the tipping point of progressive full suspension was about to pass them by, Trek president John Burke made it perfectly clear to his development team, led by Joe Vadeboncoeur, in 2006: let's do what it takes to be the best in the world. One of the first building blocks laid by Trek was the hiring in July 2006 of suspension guru Jose Gonzalez, a seven-year veteran of Answer-Manitou. Gonzalez came from a motocross background at Kawasaki, and had worked closely with Trek in the past.
For 2008, Trek's engineering department totally re-engineered its Fuel EX platform. Called R1i suspension intelligence, it's built on Trek's rocker-link design using an optimized single-pivot and category-specific geometry. Trek is betting the farm on this `pedaling neutral' design, which they believe in more efficient in using slightly lower shock pressure than its 2007 R1 bikes. Trek's stated goal is `incredible pedaling and climbing with unmatched descending ability.' Rear wheel travel is 120mm.
Active Braking Pivot
Active Braking Pivot (ABP) - patent-pending technology that puts the rear suspension pivot concentric to the rear wheel axle, allowing the disc caliper to keep a near-constant relationship to the disc rotor. According to Riley, the caliper's rotation in relation to the disc rotor is minimized through the bike's range of travel. "No other available pivot location achieves this."
According to Trek, ABP offers three key benefits: 1.) Reduced braking forces on suspension. No more suspension stiffening under braking, providing better tracking on the trail; 2.) More control. Less brake jack means suspension can work all the time, keeping the tire on the ground. Less rotation equals less suspension stiffening equals less kidding and wheel hop. 3.) Perfect suspension balance front-to-rear. ABP allows the rear and front suspension to work effectively in braking and non-braking situations, allowing better handling and more control in all situations.
Full Floater technology - rear shock-mounting system places rear shock mounts on two separate linkages, allowing it to "float" on two suspended attachment points. According to Trek, this results in a highly tunable system that provides supple initial travel, excellent mid-stroke control and "bottomless" travel. "Full Floater isn't more travel," Gonzales explained, "it's smarter travel. Because there are two moving mounts that can be controlled, our engineers can adjust the instantaneous leverage ratios of the suspension system throughout its full travel range to do precisely what they want - keeping the suspension active over the small stuff , but with good control of the mid stroke, and precise end-stroke compression.
"Since the ABP allows the suspension to work under all conditions, suspension tuning is that much more crucial. Other suspension systems can be tuned to feel great while a bike is moving forward, but as soon as the brakes are applied, their suspension action is compromised. Trek's Full Floater tuning ability can be felt in every condition. Without ABP, Full Floater's effects could only be felt while staying off the brakes; because the two technologies can work together, the result is a bike that feels like it has more suspension travel than it really does."
The 2008 Fuel EX receives a dramatically redesigned rocker link. What was once two forged pieces bolted together using a third cross-brace has evolved into a one-piece design that is lighter, stiffer, and more compact. A one-piece design eliminates extra bolts and small cross braces. The increase in link stiffness greatly increases overall torsional stiffness of the frame. This increased stiffness creates more precise steering and and better handling.
According to Gonzalez, the all-new EVO link has been designed on a multi-material application basis. A forged aluminum piece is matched to all 2008 aluminum Fuel EXs, while 2008 OCLV carbon bike Fuel EXs receive the lighter magnesium model.
"By working with specifically developed alloys and an advanced thixomold forming method, the magnesium link's weight has been significantly reduced, increasing the stiffness and strength of the 2007 EVO link," he said. "By putting each magnesium EVO link through an advanced Keronite immersion process, the link receives a hard outer layer for corrosion resistance."