Trek’s Procaliber 9.8 SL – first ride review

Nippy cross-country race machine

Our rating 
3.5 out of 5 star rating 3.5
GBP £3,400.00 RRP | AUD $5,999.00 | USD $4,729.00

Our review

Light and agile XC racer with just a bit of give
Skip to view product specifications

BikeRadar recently headed out to the 2016 Trek product launch in Holland to get a taster of the company’s new and improved Procaliber cross-country lineup. We checked the bikes out in all their glory at the launch, from the super-trick 9.9 range-topper down to the 9.7 ‘entry’ level XC race monster, riding the mid-range 9.8 around a 16km dry and dusty XC loop in one of Holland’s most beautiful forests.


Related: Trek Top Fuel 9.9 – first ride review

  • Highs: Nimble handling with just enough give in the rear
  • Lows: When it comes to big hits the Procaliber is still a hardtail
  • Buy if: You’re looking for a light, agile and comfortable XC racer

The frame

The procaliber 9.8 sl uses trek’s new ‘cable freak’ internal routing system:

The Procaliber gets Trek’s new Control Freak internal cable routing system

The Procaliber line is build around an all-new frame Trek designed from the ground up. It incorporates the company’s IsoSpeed frame compliance system originally developed for Trek’s endurance road bikes.

The Procaliber 9.8 SL boasts a highly compliant ride – up to 70 percent more compliant than the Superfly SL, the company claims. Trek was explicit in stating that the compliance built into the frame is isolated from pedaling forces.

The ‘flex’ happens at the frame’s seat tube (making the most of the carbon’s ability to be flexed without losing its form) rather than the seat- or chainstays. The IsoSpeed ‘link’ is Trek’s way of isolating the movement of the seat tube from the rest of the bike. It uses a bushing and a bearing assembly allowing for rotation under frame flex.

The frame also features Trek’s new Control Freak cable management system, allowing internal cable and dropper post compatibility. Boost 110 up front and 148 on the back of the bike have helped improve handling with stiffer 29er wheels. The chainstays are super short on the Procaliber, at 435mm / 17.13in.

Build and equipment

The rockshox sid sl fork uses the new boost (110x15mm) axle spacing to improve stiffness and steering precision:

The RockShox SID RL fork uses the Boost 110mm front spacing to improving steering precision

The new range-topping 9.9 model comes loaded with the RockShox RS-1 and XTR groupset; however the 9.8 is still very well-endowed with a SRAM X01 carbon 11 speed rear derailleur, SRAM X1 shifter and Shimano XT brakes. The ride comes with SRAM X1 cranks and a 32-tooth chainring coupled with a 10-42t cassette.

The RockShox SID RL with motion control and remote lockout takes care of bump eating duties up front. DT Swiss X1700 tubeless 29-inch wheels are light and fairly stiff. The bar and stem are Trek in-house brand Bontrager.

Ride and handling

The isospeed dulls shocks, rather than eliminates them:

The IsoSpeed frame compliance system dulls trail chatter 

Trek went big with a hard sell of the new bike – talking about compliance and comfort, but stressing that this bike is not a softail. It certainly rides like a hardtail when you’re standing – the traditionally rigid, aggressive and stiff carbon ride dominates the bike characteristics.

You need to be quick to react and be ready to make the Procaliber move over and around the terrain to get the most out of it. This is a plus, as the bike is easy to manipulate (because of it’s low weight) and you can reap great rewards when pumping, gaining speed with minimal effort.

The combination of the rigid frame and those short chainstays means the bike is great in corners – you can push hard through the turn to make it accelerate, and it feels very nimble.

When sitting, the IsoSpeed does indeed dull the vibrations and feedback felt through the frame. It excels on smaller sharper bumps, making the impact feel less harsh.

Bigger hits aren’t absorbed as efficiently though, and in these instances the bike does behave more like a traditional hardtail. It feels like the Procaliber is suited to rides where you’re going to be sitting down pedaling, rather than being constantly out of the saddle.



The Procaliber is a nippy cross-country race machine that’s ready out of the box to take on some tough competition. The IsoSpeed dulls shocks, rather than eliminating them. The hardtail ride is maintained when standing, though.

Product Specifications


Name Procaliber 9.8 SL
Brand Trek

Available Colours Powder Blue
Rear Tyre Size 29x2.0
Wheelbase (in) 44.57
Top Tube (in) 25.12
Standover Height (in) 30.63
Seat Tube (in) 18.5
Chainstays (in) 43.5
Bottom Bracket Height (in) 31.1
Year 2016
Wheelset DT Swiss X1700
Stem Bontrager Race X Lite, 31.8mm, 7 degree
Shifters SRAM X1, 11-speed
Seatpost Bontrager Rhythm Elite, 2-bolt head, 31.6mm, zero offset
Saddle Bontrager Montrose Elite, hollow titanium rails
Rear Tyre Bontrager XR1 Team Issue
Available Sizes 15.5in 16.5in 18.5in 19.5in 21.5in
Rear Derailleur SRAM X01 Carbon
Head Angle 69.5
Handlebar Bontrager Race X Lite, OCLV Carbon, 31.8mm, 5mm rise
Front Tyre Size 29x2.0
Front Tyre Bontrager XR1 Team Issue
Frame Material OCLV carbon
Fork Offset 51
Fork RockShox SID RL, Solo Air, 100mm travel
Cranks SRAM X1 1400, 32T Direct Mount X-Sync
Chain SRAM PC-1130
Cassette SRAM XG-1175, 10-42, 11 speed
Brakes Shimano Deore XT, 160mm rotors
Bottom Bracket SRAM BB92
Frame size tested 19.5in