When we tried to set the sag on the EX 9.0 our chosen shock pump fouled the link plate, so we had to compress the suspension slightly to attach it to the Fox RP23 shock. Trek assured us that this isn’t an issue with the slimmer nozzle on the Wrench Force pump supplied with the bike. With the sag set we were off, but on the very first outing the handling of the Fuel got progressively worse. The problem was that the Talas 2 adjuster on the Fox 32 fork was moving ever so slightly from the 130mm position (Trek uses last year’s 90-130mm travel range), but instead of just dropping to the next tier of travel, the seals almost bottomed out on the crown. As a quick fix we held the Talas 2 adjuster in place with some gaffer tape and it allowed us to continue with our photo shoot, but the only solution was to return it for a warranty repair.
We suffered a disproportionate number of rear wheel pinch flats on the Trek, with both the stock tyres and some Maxxis 2.1in High Rollers. One possible reason for this is that the Bontrager Race Lite rims have a much squarer edge than Mavic, DT or Sun rims. So, in theory, even round rocks and roots can always find a square edge to pinch the tube. We’ll do some more digging to see if we can find out exactly what caused the problem but, if you ever needed a reason to use the Bontrager tubeless kits, I think we have just given
Like the Kona, the Trek is dependent on the ProPedal lever for middle ring climbing and we found that the number two position on the RP23 shock offered the best balance between traction and efficiency. Fox just needs to put a sticker on the air-can to make it obvious for newcomers as to which are the on and off lever positions.
We also noticed that by running slightly less sag (higher pressure) and a little bit more rebound damping the suspension bobbed less and was more progressive, reducing the dependence on the ProPedal lever. The only catch with the firmer setting is that you never achieve the last 6mm of shock stroke. So while the Trek and Whyte both tend to be too active, on the Whyte it is more terrain-induced, whereas the effect on the Trek seems to be pedal-induced.
Finally we’ve said it before and we’ll say it again — the Bonty grips are dreadful. Hopefully someone at Trek will wise up soon.
The Fuel EX 9.0 is the best trail bike Trek has produced to date. It has an excellent spec, it’s light, it handles well and the suspension is effective. It does, however, feel more flimsy than the similar weight Whyte or Specialized, and it comes down to the fact that the Trek is a little bit more flexy. So if you’re carrying a few extra pounds, or are particularly hard on kit, the Fuel EX9.0 isn’t the one for you.
MBR RATING: 9/10