Trek Fuel EX5.5 review

Time-proven all-round trail machine

Our rating 
3.5 out of 5 star rating 3.5
GBP £1,000.00 RRP | USD $1,415.80

Our review

The Fuel EX is a mid-travel setup that’s better suited for day-long adventures out in the wilds rather than high speed over short distances. The EX5.5 delivers decent performance at a fair price
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Trek’s well-established EX platform has had a major revamp over the past couple of years, with a complete pivot, linkage and swingarm redesign that completely changes the system’s performance. But not, unfortunately, at this level.

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The EX7 and below don’t get the all-new platform just yet. Instead, the EX5.5 offers the tried-and-tested old-skool EX setup in an air-shocked, coil-forked format.

Ride & handling: Tidy handling, and tunable rear end works well in all trail conditions

The EX frame design belongs to an era when 120mm of rear wheel travel was seen as nudging the boundary between cross-country and, for want of a better term, freeride ‘lite’. Times have moved on a little and many more recent 120mm bikes are less overtly ‘all-mountain’ in design.

The Trek’s none the worse for its mildly old-skool approach. It actually feels a lot less like a stripped-down freerider and a lot more like a slightly overweight cross-country bike.

More than 30lb of metal, plastic and rubber is never going to win any awards on the climbs. But the EX5.5 is a surprisingly willing accomplice, helped in no small part by a rear end that’s either reassuringly bob-free (with the shock’s ProPedal platform damping switched on) or surprisingly supple over the technical stuff.

Frame: Good attention to detail combined with tried and tested suspension platform

Functional simplicity defines the Trek’s asymmetric swingarm, rocker-activated shock design. The conventionally profiled front end is made up of subtly curved and profiled top and down tubes, while the impressively cutaway shock linkage plates pivot just behind the heavily gusseted and reinforced seat tube.

Although there’s only room for a single set of bottle mounts inside the main triangle, Trek’s designers have gamely added a second set in the muddiest location on the bike, just ahead of the bottom bracket

The swingarm features a distinctively lop-sided arrangement that increases stiffness without putting the driveside chainstay in a chain-fouling position.

Mud clearance is impressively ample up top, but rather compromised down at the chainstays. Even so, by full-suss standards this is a relatively gloop-friendly design.

Trek Fuel EX5.5
Trek fuel ex5.5: trek fuel ex5.5
Steve Behr

Equipment: Trustworthy shock, gruppo and finishing kit, but coil fork is too stiff for most riders

The springy bits are a mixed bag. On the plus side, it’s good to see the trustworthy Fox Float RP2 air shock holding up the rear wheel. There’s adjustable damping for both compression and rebound, giving the EX5.5 owner a degree of adjustment that isn’t always available at this price.

On the other hand, the RockShox Tora coil fork isn’t nearly as impressive. Coil forks are perfectly capable of performing well, but they’re harder to set up for different rider weights – and riders under 12 stone are likely to find the stock springs too stiff.

Worse, the Tora’s cheap underpinnings were betrayed on our test sample by a reluctance to get moving until we’d hit a bump hard enough.

Shimano’s evergreen Deore groupset provides the Trek’s stop-and-go parts. It may lack the glitz of the newer SLX group, but it’s still a reliable benchmark for clean shifting and trouble-free stopping.

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And Trek’s in-house Bontrager brand, which provides just about everything else on the EX5.5, is a match for anything else out there.

Bontrager finishing kit is among the best own-brand componentry out there, combining good looks with great function
Bontrager finishing kit is among the best own-brand componentry out there, combining good looks with great function: bontrager finishing kit is among the best own-brand componentry out there, combining good looks with great function
Steve Behr

Product Specifications

Product

Name Fuel EX 5.5 (09)
Brand Trek

Available Colours Matte Gold
Rear Tyre Size 26x2.25
Top Tube (in) 23
Seat Tube (in) 16.5
Chainstays (in) 16.9
Bottom Bracket Height (in) 13.3
Weight (lb) 31.2
Year 2009
Weight (kg) 14.2
Stem SSR, 10 degree, 31.8mm
Shifters Deore, 9 speed
Seatpost SSR, 20mm offset
Seat Angle 71
Saddle Race Basic
Rear Tyre Jones XR
Available Sizes 15.5 Inches 17.5 Inches 18.5 Inches 19.5 Inches 21.5 Inches
Rear Shock Float RP2 w/air pressure, Pro Pedal, rebound; 7.5x2.0"
Rear Derailleur Deore
Pedals Platform w/clips and straps
Headset Type A76C AHS semi-cartridge
Head Angle 67.5
Handlebar Race, 40mm rise, 650mm width
Front Tyre Size 26x2.25
Front Tyre Jones XR
Frame Material Alpha Red Aluminum w/Hi/Lo chainstays, oversized bearings, 120mm travel
Fork Tora 302 Coil w/rebound, TurnKey lockout, alloy steerer, 120mm
Cranks M442 Octalink 44/32/22
Cassette SRAM PG950 11-34, 9 speed
Brakes M486 hydraulic disc; 180mm rotors (160mm rear rotor on 15.5, 17.5, 18.5")
Wheelbase (in) 43.7