The 2008 Trek Fuel line of bikes was wildly successful. 2009 brings about the evolution and the optimization of the species. The two most compelling changes to the 2009 Trek Fuel carbon frame are:
- 212 grams lighter than 2008. New frame weight is 2238 grams or 4.92 lbs
- Frame is now 28% stiffer in an axle to axle torsion test.
These two goals of stiffer and lighter appear to be conflicting since less frame material usually equates to less stiffness. But Trek modified the bottom bracket, the rocker arms and the headtube to save weight while increasing stiffness. We all know why light weight is important. But why is stiffness important? In a nutshell, it’s about control. A laterally stiff bike allows the rider to steer the bike accurately. Furthermore, acceleration and handling are enhanced.
The top-of-the-line Fuel EX 9.9 now weighs in at 23.5 lbs with Eggbeater pedals. Prices have not been released but it will be close to the 2008 price of $6195.99
But what about the ride?
We rode the first test day in the Horse Gulch trails of Durango, Colorado. It was just a short two-hour ride on twisty and steep climbs followed by tight, rocky descents. We’ll update these ride impressions after our huge Hermosa Creek ride tomorrow.
This bike is a climber. Despite my tired legs and oxygen deprived lungs, I was able to scoot up all the climbs on our route. And I didn’t lock it out! The front and rear shocks work in concert with each other so who was I to shut them down. I had good traction and good power transfer up the steep and rocky climbs today.
Descending was a little more difficult. The Bontrager XRs were not the ideal tire for the loose and rocky conditions so holding a line was a difficult affair today. I let some air out of the tires and dropped the saddle a bit and the bike flowed better through technical parts. On the fast, swoopy turns, the bike felt right at home as the steering accuracy was quite noticeable. The 1.5″ lower headtube size really delivers better steering control.
The second test ride was much more comprehensive as we rode the Hermosa Creek trail. We rode a 20 mile section that involved rocky fire roads, stream crossings, short climbs, narrow, swoopy and technical singletrack. Soil conditions were tacky and the rocks and other obstacles were mostly embedded in the ground.
The Fuel EX aced the test. It seemed like the ideal bike for this terrain that required a lot of pedalling and bursts of power to get up the rolling terrain. The bike was agile and had a lot of traction.
Unlike the previous day where the tires struggled on the loose rocks, the Bontrager XRs performed fairly well on the packed terrain. We believe this bike would have done better though with a bigger, knobbier tire on the front with a little less pressure.
As the trail got steeper and more exciting, we gained confidence with the handling capabilities of the bike. Big hits can bounce this bike around but it is easy to steer and holds a line quite well. Also, the front and rear shocks work together quite well and remain active under heavy braking.
The best part of the experience was navigating through rock beds, swooping down into a banked stream crossing and putting the power down as the trail climbed slightly. We were able to brake early and let go of the brakes as the bike carved through the exit of the corners.
It was a great ride and we hope to put more time on the Fuel EX in the coming months.