What is it?
The Trek Fuel EX is the biggest selling bike by Trek so it has stayed the course through the years as an XC bike with a playful side. This year though, riding styles and terrain have evolved enough that Trek saw it fit to significantly alter the Fuel EX’s course. This 29er is now more capable and more fun with the following changes.
- More travel from 120mm to 130mm rear / 130mm front
- Slacker geometry from 68 headtube to 67.7 degree (high) / 67o (low) headtube
- Longer reach from 448mm to 453mm for a 19.5 in bike (low position)
Straight Shot Downtube
Another significant change is what Trek refers to as the Straight Shot Downtube. It is a downtube design that is massive and meets to steer tube in a straight shot, devoid of curves or the characteristic ‘gooseneck’ seen in many frames today. This produces a lighter & Stiffer frame because it avoids all the layering and strengthening required of carbon fiber to achieve the desired stiffness lost from all the curving and shaping that diverge from classic front triangle designs.
The downside is the fork crown will not clear the downtube at almost 90 degree angles so special apparatus had to be designed in to prevent the fork from damaging the frame. To this end, Trek designed the Knock Block system which has a keyed stem to block the fork crown from hitting the frame. There is also bumper on the downtube as a failsafe from contact.
The test ride
We did some fun, flowy trail in Squamish, BC that featured a lot of roots and rock kickers. This is indeed the sweet spot of the new Fuel EX. But as the trail descents got steeper and with bigger boulders and extended rock slabs, the new Fuel EX never lost its composure. The slack head angle and long reach on the bike allowed it to stay composed on the steepest maneuvers. The front Fox fork stayed high in its travel as well, thus not upsetting the fore/aft balance of the rider and bike.
On the twisty segments, turning the bike on berms and navigating through the tightest corners was a delight as well. This bike feels very stiff laterally and that can be felt when cornering hard or throwing the bike around. The new Bontrager XR4 tires helped as well as they have a new pattern with better side knobs and the rubber compound of the very capable SE5 tire.