Trek Fuel EX 9.7 review

Nice frame and detailing let down by poor tyres and shock

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0
GBP £3,200.00 RRP | USD $4,000.00

Our review

Excellent dual wheel trail frame but dull wheels and clattery shock tune
Buy if, You're a fan of the Trek Fuel platform and are looking for a bike with a stiff chassis, the option to change wheel sizes and don't mind an upgrade on the tyres
Pros: Super-stiff semi-carbon frame with sorted all-rounder geometry; twin-wheel size compatibility and a host of tough, practical features
Cons: Wooden-feeling tyres and heavy wheels undermine speed sustain; obvious on/off clunk and pedal bounce from the Fox Re:Aktiv shock
Skip to view product specifications

Trek’s new feature-rich, semi-carbon, dual-wheel size compatible chassis has the potential to burn a lot more ferociously than previous Fuel EX bikes. Sadly, shock and wheel compromises restrict its obvious potential.

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The OCLV carbon frame is a seriously sturdy and obviously stiff chassis using Trek’s latest ‘Knock Block’ reduced-steering lock concept to allow a stiffer straight down tube without risking fork-on-frame contact in a crash.

Fox’s entry-level 34 Rhythm Boost axle fork really impressed me with its smoothness and predictable control

The alloy back end uses the proven ABP rear pivot that’s concentric to the Boost 12mm rear axle and there’s a movable ‘Mino Link’ chip at the rocker link junction to alter geometry slightly.

The Fox Float Performance shock ‘floats’ between the chainstay tips and the linkage, altering compression rate and making it feel like you’ve got more than the actual 130mm on tap.

I love details like the moulded frame armour and jigsaw-style convertible ‘control freak’ internal cable routing plugs. Add the frame stiffness, a long 465mm reach and a 67-degree head angle in the slacker ‘Mino Link’ setting and you’ve got a chassis that loves to charge hard without being exclusively gravity focused.

The 55mm Bontrager stem
The 55mm Bontrager stem
Russell Burton / Immedite Media

It’s the same story with the 55mm Bontrager stem and 760mm-wide bar in a high-stiffness 35mm diameter format, and yet again Fox’s entry-level 34 Rhythm Boost axle fork really impressed me with its smoothness and predictable control.

While the large-volume 29×2.4in Bontrager XR3 tyres sound an ideal match they’re a cheap, heavy ‘Expert’ version with an unforgivingly wooden ride that’s exacerbated by the narrow rims.

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The Performance spec rear shock also feels harsh and clattery, with a really obvious notch when the custom Trek Re:Aktiv platform damping opens and closes, which you don’t get on more expensive Fox or RockShox Re:Aktiv shocks. That means the Trek really doesn’t carry speed as well as it should, and while switching to wider 29er wheels or 27.5in plus tyres makes a massive difference, the shock still doesn’t feel great.

Product Specifications

Product

Name Fuel EX 9.7
Brand Trek

Brakes Shimano Deore 180/160mm
Cranks SRAM X1 1200 32t
Fork Fox Rhythm GRIP Boost 130mm
Frame Material Carbon mainframe, alloy rear
Front Tyre Bontrager XR3 Expert 29x2.4in
Head Angle 67.7
Rear Derailleur SRAM GX
Rear Shock Fox Float Performance Re:Aktiv EVOL 130mm
Rear Tyre Bontrager XR3 Expert 29x2.4in
Seat Angle 74.7
Shifters SRAM GX
Weight (kg) 13.86
Wheelset Bontrager Duster Elite
Frame size tested L