Trek Roscoe and X-Caliber hardtails reviewed

Find out what bike options $1200 can deliver

27.5 29er All Mountain Trail Cross Country Plus
Trek Roscoe and X-Caliber

These twins had separate upbringings.

This is a good time for hardtails. Most of us were introduced to the sport riding on of these bikes, but many of us have moved on to more aggressive (and some would argue more fun) full suspension bikes. Hardtails have often been relegated to low-cost or XC racing duties, but that’s beginning to change with the advent of the more playful trail hardtail. Riders now have the option of going the racing route or fun route on the same frame — and budget. These bikes may have the same core gene, but they quickly developed their own personalities.

Trek Roscoe and X-Caliber

The Trek X-Caliber (left) likes to fly up hills, while the Roscoe is better at boosting off trail features.

Did we mention these bikes share the same frame? This is almost shocking since virtually every component is different except for this all-important core. The price is almost identical, too, with a selection of price points for each bike. The Roscoe 8 reviewed here is $1259, and the X-Caliber 9 Mtbr rode is $1579. However, the matching X-Caliber 8 can be had for $1069, so the price is close.

Trek Roscoe and X-Caliber

The X-Caliber corners well, while the Roscoe takes advantage of any trail feature.

Affordability is ground-breaking as well. And we’re not talking $3000 affordable as we’ve done in the past. We are talking around $1200! That gets you in the game, racing or hitting rad trails.

Trek X-Caliber

If you’re a NICA racer paying for your own rig, you’ll appreciate this bike.

What is the X-Caliber cross country hardtail

Cross country hardtails typically feature quick-handling geometry with 100mm-travel suspension forks that take the edge off bumps. Riders get the fastest wheel based on sizing. That means 29er wheels on sizes 17.5 and larger, and more proportional 27.5 wheels on 15.5 and smaller. These bikes feature 2×10 or 2×11 drivetrains for the right gear and cadence in any situation, and weight-conscious specs like narrower handlebars and rigid seat posts. Everything about the bike is optimized for covering great distances or going fast on climbs and flats.

Trek X-Caliber

This 2×11 drivetrain is ready to race.

Key Features
  • Lightweight Alpha Gold aluminum frame
  • Shorter chainstays and Boost hub spacing
  • Updated geometry and E2 tapered head tube for more confident handling
  • Internal routing protects cables and accommodates dropper post upgrades
  • RockShox Recon RL fork w/Solo Air and remote
  • Bontrager sealed bearing alloy axle
  • Boost hubs Bontrager XR2 Team Issue TLR tires
  • Shimano SLX/XT 2×11 drivetrain
  • Shimano M425 brakes
Trek X-Caliber

The cockpit is purpose-built with narrow, flattish bar and a longish stem.

  • 2×11 maintains better cadence and achieves better range for XC or epic rides
  • Fast rolling tires
  • Remote lockout helps fork that doesn’t have best mid support
  • Whole bike is optimized for XC and long rides
  • The $1069 X-Caliber 8 is a deal
  • Brake levers are huge
  • Front tire is not confidence-inspiring
  • Fork lacks mid-stroke support
Trek X-Caliber

The remote lever on the X-Caliber is for the fork. On the Roscoe, it’s for the dropper post.

Mtbr’s Take on the X-Caliber 9

We’re overly excited about this bike, as it’s not as revolutionary at this price point. It’s very XC-oriented and not the most fun or confidence inspiring bike on technical descents. But we understand its purpose: to eat up pavement, fire roads, and mellow singletrack climbs. If the day’s plan is an XC race or 50-mile ride, this is a good weapon. The X-Caliber 8 for $1069 is a very good option, too.

Rating: 4 out of 5 4.5 Flamin' Chili Peppers
Price: $1579 for X-Caliber 9; $1069 for X-Caliber 8
More Info:

Trek Roscoe

Roscoe comes with a capable dropper post at this price point.

What is the Roscoe trail hardtail

Trail hardtails feature geometry that’s slacker and lower than their XC counterparts. That means the bike feels more stable, especially at higher speeds or on steep terrain. These bikes provide a little more cushion, with longer 120mm forks and plus-size 3.0 tires. Their larger size helps to absorb bumps and provides amazing traction. These hardtails are also equipped with simple, easy-to-use 1x drivetrains along with wider handlebars and shorter stems for added control. The Roscoe 8 comes stock with a dropper seatpost, getting your saddle out of the way on steep or tricky descents

Key Features
  • Plus tires provide extra traction and confidence
  • Lightweight Alpha Gold aluminum frame
  • Shorter chainstays and Boost hub spacing
  • Trail geometry and E2 tapered head tube
  • RockShox Judy TK Solo Air fork
  • SRAM NX 11-speed shifters, rear derailleur, and cranks
  • Shimano M315 brakes
Trek Roscoe

The 1×11 drivetrain on the Roscoe is divine.

  • Looks and feels like a $2500 bike, not $1200
  • 1×11 drivetrain that works well
  • Damped, infinite position dropper post with well-designed lever
  • Dialed cockpit with wide bars, short stem
  • Schwalbe tires at this price point is impressive
  • Bike comes with pedals
  • 318mm BB height is low and ready to carve
  • Bike jumps with joy and corners with glee
  • 71-degree seat tube angle too slack by modern standards
  • Front tire would be so much better with a grippy Bontrager XR4 3.0
  • Fork is upgrade ready
  • 31.3-pound weight heavy for a hardtail
  • Brake levers are huge like a motorcycle’s by today’s standards
Trek Roscoe

The tire and wheel combo on the Roscoe is a Schwalbe Rocket Rons on 40mm rims.

Mtbr’s Take on the Roscoe 8

We complained a little bit, but really this $1259 bike is one of the best we’ve ever tried at this price point. It is so fun and capable that it makes boring trails interesting and difficult trails manageable. The 1×11 drivetrain and dropper post performed admirably.

Weight was a bit heavy, but converting it tubeless and replacing the heavy plastic pedals dropped it to right at 30 pounds size medium. We also put on a new Bontrager XR4 2.8 tire, which allowed the bike to rail even in unpredictable corners. Bottom line, Mtbr is exceptionally pleased to share this bike option with new bike buyers.

Rating: 5 out of 5 4.5 Flamin' Chili Peppers
Price: $1259 for Roscoe 8
More Info:

Trek Roscoe and X-Caliber

The Roscoe (left) is best for casual climbing, while the X-Caliber is happiest when threatening uphill KoM leaderboards.

Final thoughts

It is a good day for the enthusiast on a tight budget. For around $1200 you can get a lot of bike. Whether you’re focus is more XC/epic rides, or fun trail rider, you have two good choices 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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  • jc says:

    Some goofy geometry info listed, if indeed they’re the same frame. No way that adding 2cm of travel to the fork will change the seat tube angle by more than 1 full degree – even on the smallest size frame.

  • brian tunney says:

    I’m not a strong enough enthusiast to know a lot about bikes and handling etc…. so I like a bit of the feedback to how the subtle differences can make almost the same bike one format versus the other.

    I’m most impressed with the specs and comments on these as compared to my trail oriented bikepacker or adventure bike, steel, 1×11, Recon, Schwalbe and coming in a shade over 30# at $1199 new, a few months ago.

  • Jon Dahl says:

    I’m thinking about the rear hub “boost” 9*141 ??? Where in the aftermarket can you buy a new rear wheel if it gets broken. Why go back to QR when thru Axel has come to stay…. sad.

  • Bret says:

    Was really tempted by the Roscoe 8…solid build for the price. Ended up stretching the budget a tad more and got Diamondback Release 1…I’m so glad I went full squish.

  • Gordon says:

    I’m somewhere between XC and novice trail. I like long days out in the British country side but also like to dick around on the trails. Does the Rosco also work well on the road as well as the trail? I like the idea of having the dropper post and bigger tyres but suspect this combine with the 1×11 would make it really difficult on a long day out. What are you thoughts?

    • John Mac says:

      Gordon, I’ve got the Roscoe 9 (which is available in the UK) as my do-it-all bike. It handles roads fine albeit not at the pace that a 2-by bike could due to gearing, but where it shines is on climbs with some proper granny gears that help your legs keep churning. The plus size tyres (2.8″ rather than 3.0″ mentioned in the article) also eliminate any concerns over drain grid gaps (the enemy of skinnier hybrid/roadie tyres) and roll over most things with ease. Speaking of roll over, given the plus size tyres, some will say that they roll like 29ers rather than 27.5, but all I can say is that I have not had one single bad ride or found fault with the bike at all so far.

  • Izzy M says:

    The Trek website lists the X-Caliber’s BB as being lower than the Roscoe’s. So the statement about trail hardtails being lower than their XC counterparts isn’t correct in this case.

  • Izzy M says:

    Just found this on the Q&A portion of the X-Caliber on the Trek website:

    Can you swap wheels between 29 and 27.5 plus like on the roscoe models? What is the maximum tire witdh.
    Verified Reply – Luke @ Trek
    No, this is not recommended. The tires will not fit in the frames that already use 27.5″ tires. The 29er X-caliber has less fork travel than the Roscoe which will make the bottom bracket height too low for ideal riding performance if the X-caliber were to use 27.5+ wheels. 2.4″ tires are the maximum recommended tire width for both the 27.5 and 29er X-caliber bikes.

    So apparently, the X-Caliber and Roscoe frames are not the same frame.

  • Ricardo Torrado. says:

    Me hice a la roscoe 8, y es destacada su respuesta en caminos difíciles y descensos pedregosos. La supensión es poderosa y la transmisión suave y fiable. La estética es impresionante, generando comentarios de los compañeros de ruta. El precio es mucho menor al de la competencia, y destaca en componentes frente a esta.

  • Josh says:

    Awesome review. I recently got a roscoe 7. I love it. For what it is meant for it is incredible. Great traction. Smooth ride. Fun bike. I love riding it in the snow.
    I am considering an x caliber 9 vs marlin 7 vs verv 3. I want it to be very fast, responsive and comfortable for mostly pavement and some light cc trail. It would replace my 2009 trek 6000 series mtb with 26x 2” wheels. It would also be used to pull a trek tag along. any suggestions? How does the xcaliber do on roots and rocks vs the marlin 7. I imagine the 29er xcaliber wheels will blow my 6000 series 26”wheels out of the water when it comes to overall speed? will the xcaliber be as nimble as my 6000 series or will it handle more like my roscoe 7? Will the xcaliber be as fast and responsive as a verv 3 on pavement?

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