Review: Trek Top Fuel 9.9 2020

This updated do-it-all machine is fully-capable of cross-country glory

29er Cross Country Pro Reviews

Boasting one of the most recognizable mountain bike factory teams in the world, Trek knows how to build a fast ride. For 2020, its flagship Top Fuel grows into a longer-travel, more capable machine with the ability to be ridden beyond the boundaries of traditional cross-country racing. The design changes are in response to a changing off-road racing landscape, and the growing call for a bike to do more than go fast. The Top Fuel has long been the bike of choice for speed and efficiency for cross-country and marathon racing. The new models combine Top Fuel’s deep race heritage with additional suspension travel and slacker geometry to harness the confident control of a longer-travel bike and efficiency of snappy XC race bike.


Trek Top Fuel 9.9 2020 Highlights 

  • Marathon race ready: light, capable, and outfitted with top of the line components
  • Wider Kovee Pro 30 wheels provide super reliable tire support with lower pressure
  • Smooth ride, 120/115 combo of Fox Factory Float EVOL 34 Step-Cast and Fox Factory Float DPS damper keep the chatter down
  • Updated Flip-Chip allows the rider to fine-tune geometry and handling 
  • Price: $8,999.99 – $9,499.99
  • Sizes: S, M, M/L, L, XL, (size medium tested) 
  • Weight: 25.3lbs
  • Available for purchase HERE

The new Top Fuel’s blends the Trek’s deep CX race heritage with more additional suspension travel to make it even more capable.


 

Shock orientation and suspension linkage is a major change to the 2020 Trek Top Fuel line.


Trek Top Fuel – What’s New For 2020

Treks’ new Top Fuel boasts longer travel, a new suspension design, and updated geometry that is well-suited to racing and a whole lot more. With the introduction of the race-focused Supercaliber, the Top Fuel is moving from away from a race day only bike towards a daily shred whippet. 

Related: Learn more about the 2020 Top Fuel in our forums

This change in design moves Top Fuel from a bike only racers appreciate to a fast and capable short-travel trail bike that Trek feels is perfect for fast trail riding and endurance racing. Earlier last spring, US Marathon Mountain Bike National Champion Payson McElveen (Orange Seal Off-road) rode the new Top Fuel to a new record on the 100-mile White Rim Trail in Utah’s Canyonlands National Park, beating the previous record by nearly 15 minutes. Proof in the concept that Treks new Top Fuel can shred for miles and still be comfortable to ride.

Top of the line gear for the Trek Top Fuel 9.9 – also available in an XTR or SRAM AXS configuration.


Trek Top Fuel 9.9 Build Details

  • Fork Fox Factory Float EVOL 34 Step-Cast TwistLoc remote 120 mm
  • Shock Fox Factory Float DPS damper, TwistLoc remote 115
  • Brakes SRAM Level Ultimate 180/180 mm
  • Drivetrain SRAM XX1 Eagle, 12 speed
  • Seatpost Bontrager Line Elite Dropper
  • Stem Bontrager Kovee Pro 35 mm
  • Handlebar Bontrager Line Pro, OCLV Carbon, 35mm
  • Wheels Bontrager Kovee Pro 30 carbon
  • Tires Bontrager XR3 Team Issue 2.40″

Bontrager’s Kovee Pro 30 wheels are light enough to race but take a beating like an alloy wheel.


Each model in the new Top Fuel lineup features a wider handlebar and shorter stem over previous models, a dropper post, and a TwistLoc dual remote lockout. The new lockout aims to make it easy to simultaneously lock the front and rear suspension for sprints and climbs. The shorter stem comes with an update in reach. The New Top Fuel arrives with a 35mm stem—previous models arrived with an 80mm. Compared to its predecessor, the new Top Fuel has a nearly an 11mm longer reach moving from 427/436mm to 440/445mm reach – depending on chip orientation. 

ABP braking is standard on most Trek full suspension bike, and the new Top Fuel is no exception.


All-new Top Fuels come decked out in SRAM 12-speed Eagle components with a 32-tooth chainring. A departure from last year’s model, Top Fuels from size small to XXL arrives with 29-inch wheels – something that Trek has adjusted within the past using its Smart Wheel sizing, which supplied smaller bikes with 27.5-inch wheels to accommodate trail and standover height. Trek feels the new Top Fuel is as much about capability as it is speed. Since most riders stand up and move around on the bike a lot more, playing into the nibble handling, Trek went with 29-inch wheels on all sizes, feeling confident the 29-inch wheel at speed is more natural for shorter riders to roll over trail obstacles faster.

Fox Stepcast 34 fork is as smooth and stiff as expected, the plush ride is a notable upgrade from previous models.


Top Fuel Ride Impressions

As someone who raced a Trek Top Fuel for many years, I was more than excited to see the updates and improvements to my ride-or-die race bike. I have to admit, it did sting a bit to know the name that used to be the pinnacle of race performance at Trek now describes a short-travel trail/down-country/marathon bike. What I didn’t know: this bike is exactly what the new generation of aggressive cross-country racers needs. 

Treks Project One paint jobs are truly a thing of beauty – this racing red of the Team Edition is a head-turner for sure.


Our Top Fuel arrived in a stunning Racing Red Trek Factory Racing paint job with a race-ready build package suitable for anyone looking to go fast. My first ride on the Top Fuel was on familiar local trails with little to no climbing—I wanted my first ride to be on trails I’ve ridden on my previous Top Fuel countless times. The sensations were near with same, but when the roots and rocks arrived, this bike gobbled them up with zero hesitation. There was no sinking feeling into the bike, I felt like I was on top of the gear the whole time actually speeding up though gnarly features. The updated linkage and shock orientation allow for an active yet efficient rear end, and the 120mm Fox Factory with 34mm stanchions certainly helps with steering precision.

Trek moved the main pivot in front of the BB shell to optimize pedal efficiency and activity.


Let’s be clear: the Top Fuel rides much more like a cross-country bike than a long-travel trail bike or an enduro race bike, though the new bike does lean a bit more in that direction. For 2020, Trek steepened the seat tube from 74-degrees to 75-degrees, said to give the bike a solid pedaling feel along with the updated forward main pivot. Compared to the previous Top Fuel, the differences in geometry are significant. In the low position, the head angle is slackened to 67.5-degrees. Combined with the longer reach, the new Top Fuel is a very different beast. Trek’s signature Full Floater suspension has gone, the way of 580mm bars, and is replaced with a fixed lower shock mount to improve frame stiffness and increase clearance to fit a 29×2.4″ tire. The race pedigree instilled from its predecessor is notable on long flat sections of trail and gravel. The pedaling efficiency is high, and the acceleration is something you would expect from a much racer bike. The build lends to this ride characteristic, the Bontrager Kovee PR0 30 wheels spin up fast for what could be considered a trail wheelset, and they maintain speed over obstacles with ease. 

Compared to its predecessor, the new Top Fuel has nearly an 11mm longer reach moving from 427/436mm to 440/445mm reach.


I noticed the slacker head angle and a longer reach descending immediately. The confidence and control on rough descents are new for the Top Fuel. The new frame design allows for an aggressive stance without taking away the ability to react quickly to trail feedback and terrain changes. The front end responds quickly to rider input and tracks decisively. Part of this is the new 13-degree stem spec on all the Trek Top Fuel, designed to work with the frames new slack head tube angle 67.5/68 degrees depending on how you flip the chip. For those that would like to take the Top Fuel from race to rowdy, its as simple as flipping the stem and sending it. Also new to the Top Fuel is the addition of a dropper post, all Top Fuels arrive with a Bontrager Line Elite Dropper post with Bontrager’s thumb trigger engagement. A dropper post is necessary for a ride such as this, and the Bontrager Line can hold it’s own amongst the dropper elite – though, near the end of the review period, the Line dropper did develop a small knock that out mechanics were unable to service out. 


Rocks – Roots – Rowdy

In the rock of West Virginia, there was no denying the Top Fuel was faster than its predecessor and could climb with the spandex crowd. The ability to fix a 2.4-inch tire is a massive improvement for those looking to spend hours on end within marathon races. The steering is still precise—emboldening the rider to rail through corners and skip over roots and rocks, keeping the gaze forward for the next challenge. Though the 120/115mm of travel does make the bike more forgiving, the Top Fuel is still is nimble and lively. The Trek 9.9 Top Fuel build is luxurious, and something that helps with the fabulous ride, but it is not crucial to Top Fuel’s fun and efficient ride.

The Trek Top Fuel arrived with 2.40-inch tires with plenty of tire clearance.


The SRAM Eagle XX1 setup shifts precisely, and the gearing is on-point for the intended use. SRAM’s featherweight Level Ultimate brakes with 180/160 mm rotors were more than enough for a cross-country nerd like me and paired well with the spirit of the Top Fuel 9.9 build.

My only gripe: the Rock Shox twist grip lockout – admittedly I’m a push-button lock fan.


The only downside that I experienced is the Grips Shift RockShox dual-lockout system. Since the Top Fuel arrives with a Bontrager Dropper post with a thumb actuated lever, this is the only option for a lockout. The system works as intended, and my issue comes with the release and engagement. The gloss finish on the Bontrager carbon bars allows the grip shift lever to slip when attempting to engage, even when properly torqued. Beyond that, the cable heads frequently stutter when releasing, taking longer for the fork and shock to return to open. I am a massive fan of the Fox push-button lockout system and can see an argument for an upgrade, through a change in the dropper lever would be needed as well. 


Trek Top Fuel 9.9 Verdict

Trek’s new  Top Fuel is just what the doctor ordered, fast and furious on the descents, while not wasting effort on the climbs. Though this bike is most effective as a marathon race bike, it’s also a great option for all-day trail rides. The new Trek Top Fuel could be an advantage on some of today’s more technical cross-country racecourses. For racers who are less confident on technical descents but rocket up climbs, the Top Fuel propels you to another level of performance. I sincerely recommend this to cross-country racers that are a bit enduro-curious and think that a longer travel bike is in their near future. This do-it-all design is sure to bring smiles for miles. 

To see the entire Top Fuel line and for more info check out TrekBikes.com


About the author: Jordan Villella

Jordan comes from the steep streets of Pittsburgh PA, where he learned to dodge cars and rip single track. He has been involved in nearly every aspect of the cycling industry: from turning wrenches, store design, clothing production and bike park creation. Jordan spends his free time racing cross country and cyclocross around North America, though he has been know to enduro every now and then. His love of cycling is only second to his love of his family and punk rock.


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Comments:

  • Paul L Cherry says:

    great write up. was looking at the top fuel 2019 9.8 but glad they relaxed the geometry for 2020 and appeal to those beyond the racing crowd. can’t wait to give it a try.

    • Jordan Villella says:

      Thanks Paul, It’s a great ride. If you’re looking for a bike that is fast on the trails than the Fuel EX but needs more than the 60mm of the Super Cal – this bike is it. The ride is similar to the older Top Fuel in the aggressive position and the new frame style makes it really responsive to accelerations. Hope you enjoy it!

  • I. Carlson says:

    I kind of hated the Top Fuel at first. I came from an enduro bike and this bike feels completely different. It’s an XC bike that can be ridden on moderately technical descents. It’s fast, nimble, and stiff. The suspension is pretty firm until you hit something. It corners hard pack extremely well. It’s 3 lbs lighter than most trail bikes. The geometry is not actually that slack by today’s trail bike standards when compared to Santa Cruz Tallboy or Ibis Ripley. Not a beginner bike for sure.

    To be honest, I bought this bike on specs. I wanted a good bike that I could ride during endurance XC races. I did test ride it twice and it felt much racier than a trail bike. I was very hesitant because I like the feel of trail bikes. They’re comfy and forgiving.

    Anyway, now I think this bike is awesome after about 10 rides. I really enjoy all types of riding and this bike is the swiss-army knife. With the full lockout and relative lightness of the bike, it crushes gravel roads. I prefer riding to the trail from my house to get in some extra miles (fortunate enough to have that privilege) and this bike can do it all (mostly). Even on technical descents the Top Fuel can take hits. It’s pretty impressive since there’s really not that much travel.

    After riding the bike several times I decided I still wanted some of the trail bike feel with everything it has to offer. I put on 29 x 2.6 inch tires. Yes, the rear stays can take a 2.6, just don’t plan on riding through mud bogs. I also bought after-market handlebars that have more rise to raise the stack height.

    For the terrain that I typically ride in Santa Fe and type of riding that I like to do, anything from gravel to technical single track, this bike can do it. Yes, it’s not great at the extremes, but it can do it. Just ride a little slower and pick good lines.

    • Jordan Villella says:

      Thanks for the info on the 2.6 fitting! I was riding some super wide rims later in the review process and I was scared to wear on the beautiful paint job. I’ll update the review!

  • Dave says:

    Interesting that it has basically the exact same geometry, travel, and split pivot of a 2017 Devinci Django. I wonder if that bike would still get a good review by today’s perception?

    • Jordan Villella says:

      I think it would – the XC world is getting more and more excepting of bikes that do more than go fast uphill. The “marathon bike” is the new XC.

  • Tom says:

    Great review. I own this bike, and agree with every single observation. I swapped to a push button remote primarily so I could easily fit my beloved Wolftooth Fat Paw grips.

    This says it all: “This change in design moves Top Fuel from a bike only racers appreciate to a fast and capable short-travel trail bike that Trek feels is perfect for fast trail riding and endurance racing.”

  • rob says:

    I have a 2016 superfly and want something a bit more capable coming down. This sounds like it except for the shock lock out which clutters up the front end adds wait and in my experience are often unreliable on the return. For the rare time you should need it manual on the shock itself would be much better. My superfly is always developing play in the rear shock assembly, mostly on the shock attachments to the frame. Has anyone experience the same with the new top fuel

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