Trek Procaliber SL, Top Fuel and Fuel EX 29 revamped

Significant changes made to line-up of cross-country race bikes

27.5 29er All Mountain Trail Cross Country
Now you can choose between three dedicated cross country models. Photo by Jeroen Tiggelman

Now you can choose between three dedicated cross country models (click to enlarge). Photo by Jeroen Tiggelman

Trek Fuel EX 29

According to Trek, the best 120mm trail bike has gotten even better. The Fuel EX has been Trek’s most popular trail bike – in all wheel sizes. The 29er now has been improved with a new frame, offering Boost hubs, suspension that defines new criteria and smart frame features that have specially been made for trail riding.

With the Control Freak Cable Management System, cables are well fixed inside the down tube to prevent rattling. Photo by Jeroen Tiggelman

With the Control Freak Cable Management System, cables are well fixed inside the down tube to prevent rattling (click to enlarge). Photo by Jeroen Tiggelman

Features Fuel EX 29
  • Boost 110/148 hubs
  • RE:aktiv suspension, Active Braking Pivot, EVO link and Full Floater suspension with the new Fox EVOL damper (which has the same, long worked on suspension curve of the old custom damper – right out of the box)
  • Mino Link adjustable geometry
  • Control Freak cable management system
  • Optionally, there’s a Project One version for the ultimate customization
Product manager John Riley rips the trails on the new Procaliber. Photo by Jeroen Tiggelman

Product manager John Riley rips the trails on the new Procaliber (click to enlarge). Photo by Jeroen Tiggelman

First Ride Impressions

We got the opportunity to ride the mountain bike trails in the forests in the neighborhood of Zeist with the new Procaliber 9.8 SL and the new Top Fuel 9.8 SL. Both bikes were ridden in an 18.5” fame size, which means that they are equipped with 29” wheels. Surprisingly, these forests unveil a true roller coaster style single track. Sharp turns with unexpected roots and small hills. Gravity pump tracks without gravity – you have to pedal full throttle to be able to lean high in the berms but man, it’s fun riding. Ideal terrain for cross country bikes.

The Trek Procaliber 9.8 SL pivot of the IsoSpeed decoupler has been placed in front of the seat tube, so if wanted, you could mount a dropper post. Photo by Jeroen Tiggelman

The Trek Procaliber 9.8 SL pivot of the IsoSpeed decoupler has been placed in front of the seat tube, so if wanted, you could mount a dropper post (click to enlarge). Photo by Jeroen Tiggelman

The Procaliber 9.8 SL offers a very positive first impression by offering great acceleration and very precise maneuverability right out of the box. The best part of the bike shows itself by riding over small bumps on not too extreme trails: the IsoSpeed decoupler makes the seat tube flex, independently of the rest of the frame. The flex is visible but it doesn’t soak up the rider’s energy – au contraire, it smoothens out the ride significantly and the normal feeling of ending a hardtail ride totally shot by the small bumps is taken away.

With almost no weight penalty, this opens more demanding trails for hardtail fans, without sacrificing riding efficiency or, you could ride the same trails longer keeping the same amount of fatigue.

Trek Top Fuel 9.8 SL rear triangle with the Full Floater suspension, Active Braking Pivot and EVO link. Photo by Jeroen Tiggelman

Trek Top Fuel 9.8 SL rear triangle with the Full Floater suspension, Active Braking Pivot and EVO link (click to enlarge). Photo by Jeroen Tiggelman

The new Top Fuel 9.8 SL takes care of the bumps with the known, very efficient full floater suspension. The wheels with Boost hubs, together with the stiff frame, make this bike rocket down the roller coaster without the feeling that too much energy is lost in suspension action. Although the Top Fuel 9.8 SL offers a one-button full lockout, the trails were ridden at open setting. Speed bumps, unexpected roots, but also the soft sand surface which the tracks threw at the bike, were leveled by the very well balanced suspension system.

Like the Procaliber, the maneuverability is very precise and direct, without lag. Of course, the bike weighs a little bit more than the hardtail, but on more uneven surfaces the acceleration is almost the same – the rear wheel is glued to the ground.

Emily Batty and Dan McConnell at the entrance of the venue, which was held at the castle of the Dutch town Zeist. Photo by Jeroen Tiggelman

Emily Batty and Dan McConnell at the entrance of the venue, which was held at the castle of the Dutch town Zeist (click to enlarge). Photo by Jeroen Tiggelman

We’ve seen cross country bikes getting more suspension travel during the years, but it seems that Trek sets the limit at 100mm of travel. Another remarkable point is that with the IsoSpeed decoupler, technology from road bikes reaches mountain bikes and is already being called a game changer by competition riders (the lovely Emily Batty and Dan McConnell which is having a great season honored us with their presence). We’ve given the ‘roadies’ disc brakes, let’s get something in return, too!

Continue to page 3 for the Trek Procaliber SL FAQ and a full photo gallery »

About the author: Jeroen Tiggelman

Jeroen is a contributor based in Belgium. He is expert in the field of photography and a fan of local beer.


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  • Olivier says:

    Great to see you folks from mtbr were here in the Netherlands! I was not aware of this event or I would have loved to attend. I live nearby and am happy that these trails have now gotten some international attention!

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