My time aboard the new Trek Fuel EXe, a mid-level assist trail bike that’s designed to deliver the natural ride feel of a regular non-assisted mountain bike, has been limited. However, I have managed to glean some interesting insights during the first few lengthy rides I’ve done on the bike.
Based around the new TQ HPR50 drive unit that’s claimed to be the lightest motor on a bike of this type, the Trek Fuel EXe is being talked up as a bike that could forever change the electric mountain bike landscape.
Preparing to put these bold claims to the test, setup was easy (I’m familiar with the 2023 RockShox fork and shock changes). It didn’t take me long to dial in initial suspension settings.
The HPR50 motor, developed by aerospace and robotics specialist TQ, produces 50Nm of torque. It is extremely smooth and very responsive.
As promised, pick-up is almost instantaneous. The power is very complimentary to rider inputs and easy to control – it passed the wheelie test (a good gauge as to how controllable an e-bike motor may be) with flying colours.
The lack of noise is noticeable, and I found myself having to concentrate to hear it over the rumbling of the tyres on the dirt. It’s not totally silent, but it’s the quietest electric mountain bike I’ve ridden to date.
Toggling through the modes is quick and easy thanks to the small bar-mounted remote. Most of my time has been spent in the lowest and middle modes, but it’s reassuring to know that if I did venture out with mates on full-powered e-MTBs, the highest mode should allow me to keep up (that’s assuming they’re not using their ‘turbo’ mode).
Agile and eager
On the climbs, the motor acts as a helping hand and remains easy to control, even on awkward, technical climbs where you’re forced to stop and start while navigating obstacles.
The power doesn’t offer the same kick and neck-wrenching feel of a full-power e-MTB, but still enables you to clean tricky sections that you may not even attempt on a regular mountain bike.
Alongside the natural feel of the assistance provided by the TQ motor, it’s the dimensions of the Fuel EXe that help it stand out. Another contributor is the lively feel created by the latest RockShox suspension.
The bike has 140mm of rear-wheel travel and is designed around a 150mm-travel fork.
My medium test bike weighs just over 19kg (with pedals), but didn’t feel cumbersome or overweight on the trail.
With a reach of 452mm, I felt very comfortable when up out of the saddle and the proportions all add up to a confident bike on the descents.
The Fuel EXe feels very nimble on the trail. Its weight means it’s closer in feel to an enduro bike with heavy tyres but, in many regards, that only helps to boost confidence thanks to the solid feel it seems to produce.
I found the seated position great for steep, technical climbs, with enough room from saddle to bar that I never felt cramped or awkward, while my weight was always well positioned.
On the downs, the Fuel EXe is rapid. While it isn’t glued to the floor like a full-power eMTB, the grip levels feel consistent and the tyres predictable. A bit more shoulder tread wouldn’t go amiss when it comes to muddier trails, though.
The suspension feels well-balanced, too, though there’s still a question mark over the rear shock tune.
I’m currently running 35 per cent sag with no rebound damping or compression damping wound on.
This makes me think, especially for smaller or lighter riders like me (I weigh 67kg), Trek could go with a lighter shock tune. It’s something I’m keen to explore.
I also found the one-piece bar and stem a little limiting (and it didn’t help that Trek cut the fork steerer quite short) because I’m quite particular about bar roll and height. Not everyone will like the shape of the bar, but after a few rides, I’m slowly coming around.
Trek Fuel EXe 9.9 XX1 AXS bottom line
So, will the Fuel EXe change the face of modern e-MTBs as we know it? Yes, it possibly will.
It helps that Trek has done a great job with the specs and overall balance of the bike. I really like the fact that despite its trail bike tag, the Fuel EXe clearly has enduro bike intentions when pointed downhill, too.
For me, as it stands, this could well be the answer for those who are keen to ride with mates on e-MTBs, but don’t want to lose that raw, more natural feel of a regular mountain bike.
|Price||GBP £13250.00USD $14000.00|
|Features||Extras: SRAM TyreWiz and AirWiz|
|Brakes||SRAM Code RSC|
|Fork||RockShox Lyrik Ultimate, 150mm travel|
|Handlebar||one-piece carbon bar and stem|
|Motor||HPR50 motor from TQ, 50Nm of torque|
|Rear derailleur||SRAM XX1 AXS|
|Rear Shocks||RockShox Super Deluxe Ultimate|
|Seatpost||RockShox Reverb AXS dropper|
|Stem||one-piece carbon bar and stem|
|Tyres||Bontrager SE5 29x2.5in|
|Wheels||Bontrager Line Pro 30 carbon|