Photos Copyrighted by Sterling Lorence and Dan Milner.
Mtbr was given the opportunity to ride the 2013 Trek Fuel EX in the rocky trails of the Dolomite mountains in Cortina, Italy. What we found was a bike that was more highly evolved and more capable than its predecessor. The new Fuel has more travel now at 130mm instead of 120, but the real story is how plush the travel is. With a dual-chamber shock and fork, Trek has been able to tune this bike to be smooth yet responsive. It’s now more capable than many five or six inch travel bikes.
Key changes are:
- 130 mm of travel from 120 mm last year.
- new suspension kinematics where main pivot is moved forward for better pedaling performance
- Lower standover
- 5mm lower bottom bracket height when sagged
- 10mm shorter chainstays
- Lighter frame weights from 3.9 lbs to 5.4 lbs
- Fuel 9.9 complete bike is now 24.5 lbs
- Internal cable routing for all shifter cables and even the Rockshox Reverb post cable
- Fuel EX 5, 6, 7 weigh 2466 gram
- Fuel EX 9.9 weighs 1760 grams or 3.88 lbs
Head angle remains at 68 degrees to keep this a singletrack all-arounder that can climb and carve with ease. Other trail worthy upgrades include internal dropper post routing and guides. A removable front derailleur mount and new ISCG05 tabs opens the doors to 1×10.
Suspension wise, rather than just bumping the travel up slightly, they’ve adjusted the frame’s leverage ratio for improved pedaling performance. Trek’s DRCV technology also finds its way into the new 2013 Fox CTD suspension both front and rear. The DRCV equipped fork is now rider-tunable using two included spacer sets that will decrease the air chamber volume of the fork to make it more progressive for aggressive riders.
CTD has been optimized for this bike and the ‘Climb’ or lockout mode has been stiffened up the provide an aggressive climbing platform. And with the integrated RockShox Reverb post, the Climb-Trail-Descend trifecta is fully realized as this lightweight bike can take on completely different personalities as a climber, descender or singletrack carving machine.
How does it ride?
The new Fuel is a technical singletrack specialist. It’s quick, low to the ground and can handle roots, rocks and other obstacles while still carving with precision. On the rollers and climbs, this bike can get up with ease as well. It has great traction and it’s an efficient climber specially in the ‘Trail’ mode of the Fox CTD suspension.
Pointing it downhill over the kind of rock-strewn trail that is typically seen as big brother Remedy’s terrain, we found the new EX 9.9 more than capable. While the drop-offs and vertical rollovers hidden among a sea of less-than-forgiving sharp limestone had us wishing for a tiny bit slacker head-angle at times, we soon learned to trust the bike’s capabilities, sit back and let it roll.
The interesting surprise is how well the Fuel can handle big descents as well. The new Fuel can maintain its composure over the roughest terrain. It is probably one of the plushes 5 inch travel bikes we’ve tried and it’s a testament to how far air shocks have developed. It’s just hard to believe one can descend with this much confidence in a sub 25 lb bike.
Of course it has it’s limitations as the drops and jumps get bugger and the trail gets less defined. Our bikes came with the new Bontrager XR3 tires and they are fast, capable, xc race-ready tires. They were a bit overmatched in the muddy and loose trails of Cortina, Italy and we were longing for the the XR4′s that we know and love. But we foresee that these tires will be perfect for most of the singletrack forests of Norcal. But that’s an easy change and changing even just the front tire of the the Fuel to the XR4 can expand its range quite a bit.
Steering control was helped by new 720mm wide, low rise bars that seemed perfectly matched for this bike. The new Bongrager saddle spec’d on this bike was a non-issue in three days of riding so that is a great testimonial for its comfort. Chain slap and dropped chains were never an issue so the drivetrain with the Shimano clutch-type derailleurs did the job.