Featured: Trek Fuel EX 7 29

Not all good bikes are expensive

29er All Mountain Trail

Trek Fuel EX 7 at Mountain House

One of the most common complaints we at Mtbr get is ‘Bikes are too expensive.’ With mountain bikes topping $10k or even $12k, those remarks are not unfounded. But they don’t have to be. What’s happening with bikes is they’re diverging into a much broader range, much like autos, where the high-end becomes exotic, aspirational and unaffordable for most. The good news is there are gems to be found in the mid-range.

The Trek Fuel EX 7 is one such bike that delivers many of the technologies and geometries that the most expensive bikes have to offer. Most of the qualities that can be found on the most expensive Trek Fuels can be found on this bike. Geometry, components, materials and paint are notable on this Trek Fuel.

Trek Fuel EX 7 Drive Side

Does the bike work?

The best part of the bike is the rear suspension. The rear is very active and it feels like there’s more travel than the 120mm claimed. The suspension is very linear and doesn’t get harsh or ramp up quickly like in many 120mm travel bikes. This gives the bike excellent traction on climbs and it keeps the wheels planted on rough corners.

The downside of all this plushness is the rear is not very well-supported in mid-stroke or in the sag position, so it does move a lot under heavy power or when standing up. In these situations it’s best to take the effort to flip the rear shock in to trail mode.

The front shock is a FOX Evolution 120mm travel and although it’s decent, it’s not up to par with the rear suspension’s performance. It’s not supple like the rear end and the damping is not as controlled.

Components on this bike are a well sorted affair. The brakes are very dependable and the shifting is dialed. On a blind test, we’re fairly certain that many riders will not be able to tell if this is equipped with the more expensive XT groupset. The weakest part of the components is perhaps the Duster wheelset, as a heavier rider can flex them and stress them. We’ll call it ‘upgrade ready’ for a pair of the Mavics or the new wide Bontrager Rhythm Elites.

So in a nutshell, it is a capable package, especially for the money. The rear suspension may be a bit too active for some (in wide open mode) and the fork doesn’t quite match up to the plushness of the rear.

Trek Fuel EX 7 Rear Pivot and Wheel

Frame Details

This is where the Fuel rises above the competition. The Fuel EX benefits from many iterations of the Fuel platform, as they are all included in this first version of the Fuel 29. Cable routing is internal, including optional dropper post routing. Frame protection on the down tube near the bottom bracket area is a molded-in rubber piece that Trek calls Carbon Armor. Chain stay protection is another molded piece. A different color scheme is available on each Fuel spec model. Finally, the paint details and the luster is quite stunning in the carbon models.

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.

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.

The Components

Wheels and tires are now a highlight of the Trek line and the Trek Fuel EX 7 benefits from the awesome Bontrager 29-3 tires mated with Duster wheels. These tires do everything well with their low but sturdy knobs. For more aggressive riding, the rider can upgrade to 29-4 tires in the front. These wheels and tires are tubeless ready as well, so the rider can upgraded to the best system in the business called Bontrager TLR. This system will not only improve traction and flat resistance but also lose a bit of weight as well.

Trek Fuel EX 7 Internal Routing

Other key components are Shimano SLX derailleurs with a Shadow Plus clutch rear derailleur. This system is very precise and reliable with only a modest weight penalty. And finally, the brakes are Shimano Deore and these are indeed burly stoppers that are more powerful than many of the most expensive models from other brands.

This bike has a triple front chainring which might be out of fashion these days, but for the target market of intermediate riders, this may be a good choice.

Actual weights and prices in the Fuel bike line

EX 7 – 30.2 lbs. – $2629
EX 8 – 28.8 lbs. – $2939
EX 9 – 28.2 lbs. – $4199 – Aluminium frame, with dropper post
EX 9.7 – 28 lbs. – $4199 – Carbon frame, no dropper post
EX 9.8 – 26.9 lbs. – $5249

For more information visit www.trekbikes.com.

Editor’s Note: The color on this test bike is from the previous year, as the latest model is available in two colors, orange and blue as seen here.

About the author: Francis Cebedo

The founder of mtbr and roadbikereview, Francis Cebedo believes that every cyclist has a lot to teach and a lot to learn. "Our websites are communal hubs for sharing cycling experiences, trading adventure stories, and passing along product information and opinions." Francis' favorite bike is the last bike he rode, whether it's a dirt jumper, singlespeed, trail bike, lugged commuter or ultralight carbon road steed. Indeed, Francis loves cycling in all its forms and is happiest when infecting others with that same passion. Francis also believes that IPA will save America.

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  • Patrick says:

    Tested the ex 9.7 29er this summer, crashed when front tire washed, bent front rim…jump with this bike is nothing funny… Too long rear end for tight corners…but the susp (120mm) with the big wheels was spot on.

  • steve0 says:

    I’ve got the Ex 8 and with a few changes, have been truly impressed with this bike as an all around trail bike. I put a single ring up front, dropper post, shorter stem, carbon bar, TRL tubeless and more aggressive tires, all of which have made a huge difference. It’s really an “affordable” ripper I think compares very well against much more higher priced bikes.

  • Izzy says:

    Cool review. I wish you’d do more of these. Very concise yet includes all the important stuff.

  • Vance says:

    I have this bike and enjoy it but there was room for improvement. I ditched the rims and picked a pair of spanks. Got a short Race Face handle bars, short stem & crank. Went with a Wick Werks front 3x which is amazing. Then upgraded the damper to a fit in the front shock and got a dcrv redone by Push Industries. Went with a full ctd remote front and rear with a fox doss dropper. Last but not least zee brakes and this bike is a beast.

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