Trek Sponsored the Warriors 100k event on 2013 Memorial Day and gave each veteran (many with missing limbs) a Trek Fuel EX 29. More information is available HERE.
There was a time when Bontrager components held back the Trek bikes. At some of the press events 4+ years ago, we could see some journalists change the saddle to a personal choice that they brought over since they could not stand the stock Bontrager saddles on the test bikes. The same could be said for some of the tires and wheels of the past. Well those days seem like a distant memory as the saddles are now upgraded and optimized for mountain bikess. And even more important, the wheels and tires have come a long way. The tires for this bike are the new Frank Stacy designed Bontrager 29-3 tires. This is a fairly open tire with low height knobs, good transition and excellent cornering knobs. This tire design is a good one on the 26er size but it really seems to find its stride in the 29er wheel size. The Sedona desert is a tough environment for even aggressive tires but the everyone seemed to have no problem going fast and staying upright in the rocky environment.
Bontrager TLR System
We had about forty riders ride out in different waves in Sedona for three days. In the past, this was an inner tube orgy as a ride like this usually entailed about 20-30 flat tires all told. So Trek used the Bontrager TLR system with their awesome rim strip/valve and new sealant. And setting up about 80 bikes, they just used a floor pump. This would be absolute lunacy in normal systems but they showed me how well the tires initially sealed and there was none of the furious pumping usually associated with getting tubeless tires to hold air from a deflated state.
Anyway, the resulting scorecard is only one flat on the trail for a couple hundred rides in the desert. The flat was pumped up with a CO2 on the trail and the tire resealed even as the tire was cut in the casing area under the tire tread.
Travel on the rear is a plush 120 mm of DRCV suspension on a Full Floater platform. This combination gives the bike excellent small bump and medium bump compliance as the two rear shock chambers work in concert to deliver a linear shock rate unlike normal systems that ramp up and get harsh in the middle of the travel. The Full Floater Platform as well gives the shock mount movement so it seems to have more travel that 120mm on big hits.
Pivots are smooth, quiet and free of play in this short test and other long-term tests that we’ve done on the system. And finally, the ABP works well as the suspension seems to remain fairly active under heavy braking.
The front fork from Fox provides 120 mm of travel. Unlike the 26er version, this loses the DRCV technology in the fork so there is only one air chamber though the travel. Fox engineers explained to me that the spring curves of latest Fox 29er fork match the desired rates of the rear shock so there’s no need for DRCV in the front. On our test ride, the front fork wasn’t nearly as plush as our 26er Fuel EX fork so we reserve judgement on this issue. It may be an issue of break-in as the forks we used in Sedona were brand new. We’ll pay attention to this issue in a long-term test.
At the end of the day, the Fuel EX 29 is a great bike. It is a much needed update to the Fuel EX line and we believe this bike will sell very well since it is well conceived and executed. It is not as glamorous or original as the Remedy 29 with 140 mm of travel but the Fuel EX 29 is just the right bike for many, many cyclists.
Icing on the Cake – Project One
If you don’t like the colors or component choices on any of the 5 Fuel EX’s above, how about choosing from thousands of possibilities. Trek Fuel EX 29 is now available in Project One and can be configured and customized to your heart’s desire. Read all about it HERE and give it a test run HERE.