A real firestarter.
The Plus version of the Fuel EX is an impressive bike, but it has had to contend with being bridesmaid, not once, but twice this year already.
In 29er guise however, Trek has delivered a marriage made in heaven, where the Fuel EX 7 29 finally gets to toss a bouquet over its shoulder and leave it rivals scrambling to be next in line.
Both versions of the Fuel EX share the new 130mm travel Alpha Platinum aluminium frame, where double-pass smooth welds and complex hydroformed tubes make it almost indistinguishable from the carbon versions.
How does Trek account for the different wheel sizes with one frame design? Easy. It uses its longstanding Mino Link geometry chip and different travel forks. So while the Plus version of the Fuel EX ships in the high geometry setting with a 140mm suspension fork, the 29er comes slammed in the low position with 10mm less travel up front. The real beauty of the Mino Link though, is that you can choose which setting you want to run it in.
Where there’s complexity, hype often follows, and suspension designs tend to have equal measures of both – Trek’s ABP suspension linkage has some genuine benefits though. With the chain and seat stay pivots concentric with the rear axle, it decouples the braking characteristics from pedalling and bump forces. It’s also makes for a stiff structure, so you’re not leaking power through frame flex.
Any suspension design is only as good as the shock tune, and again, Trek has nailed it. The Fox Float Evol shock offers just the right amount of support to stop you ripping through the 130mm travel, while the light touch to the damping ensures that it’s still stain smooth of the top and never sucks the life out of the ride.
Paired to the 130mm RockShox Revelation fork, the Trek felt superbly balanced, where the stiffness of the frame seemed to overcome any shortcomings of the spindly 32mm fork legs.
Once again Shimano’s M506 disc brakes impressed us with their consistent lever feel and ample stopping power. The real deal breaker here however, is the 125mm drop KS eThirty Integra dropper post. With its neat handlebar remote you’ll never find yourself in a pickle.
The combination for Shimano Deore shifters and an SLX rear mech offers light accurate gear changes, and while we’d prefer the simplicity and weight savings of a 1x drivetrain, like the SRAM GX kit on the Norco, we never dropped the chain and you can’t argue with the extend gear range of the 2x set-up for longer rides.
Thanks to the Boost hub spacing that Trek spearheaded, flimsy 29in wheels are a thing of the past. We smashed the Bontrager hoops down the infamous Rim Dinger trail at BikePark Wales while testing the new Flat Tyre Defender foam inserts and remarkably the wheels survived completely unscathed.
Great bikes flatter the rider by making everything seem a little bit easier. So whether you grinding up a climb, pumping down a flowing section of primo singletrack, or simply hanging off the back of the bike and surfing a steep, sketchy descent, the Fuel EX 7 keep its cool so you’ll never lose yours.
It’s feels more solid and poised than the Specialized Camber but every bit a playful, while its pace, up or down, leaves the Norco Optic struggling to respond. Stomp on the pedals and power deliver is every bit as direct as the Kona Hei Hei. It’s a bike with no rival, so your only real concern is which size to get.
And once again Trek delivers. The Fuel EX 7 29 comes in six strong size ranging, starting with a compact 15.5in frame and going all the way up a massive 23in bike. We chose to test the 19.5in, where the 465mm reach measurement combined with 60mm stem with felt spot on for a 5ft 11in rider. So that leaves plenty for scope for taller and shorter rider to enjoy what is arguably one of the hottest bikes of 2017.
The sheer pace of the Fuel EX 7 29 throws petrol on the heated wheel size debate and then fans the flames. But the Fuel EX 29 isn’t simply a fire starter. There’s a subtlety to the ride quality of the new Fuel EX 29 that lets you dance up or down every trail at a scorching pace. The fact that it looks red hot only boosts it appeal further. Sure, we’ve criticized the Plus version of the Fuel EX for being too expensive compared to the competition, the Fuel EX 7 29 however is right on the money, both in terms of value and performance.