Of the five Trek Fuel EXs available with the new Active Braking Pivot (ABP), the
EX 9.5 is the daddy. It gets an OCLV front triangle, top-of-the-range components, and it’s the only bike in the range to sport a magnesium one-piece rocker link for extra weight saving.
Travel is fixed at 120mm on the rear, and with the seatstay pivot now located concentric to the rear axle, you have to unwind the skewer and remove it completely to get the rear wheel out. It’s easy enough to do, and all of the component parts stay in place. And in case you’re wondering, the rear dropouts will accept any quick-release 135mm spacing rear hub. Our bike came tubeless equipped as standard and, combined with the light Bontrager hoops, made for very rapid acceleration. Just don’t leave home without some sturdy tyre levers, because if you do get a flat the Bontrager Jones XR tyres are pretty hard to get off.
Overall the ABP suspension design with R1i tuning makes the EX9.5 less dependent on the ProPedal lever for climbing than its predecessor, but we mostly rode the bike on relatively smooth trails — the true test will come when we take the Fuel EX9.5 to Afan and hammer it around our
test loop.
Up front Trek has a custom Talas RLC with 130, 110 and 90mm travel settings. With the low bottom bracket on the Fuel we were not convinced that you could actually make use of the 90mm setting. In the 130mm position the steep 69.5-degree head angle gives the Trek sharp, precise steering, which feels great on hard packed trails. But this may also make the front wheel more prone to tucking under in wet, muddy conditions, and combined with a narrow handlebar, you don’t have a lot of leverage to fight wheel deflection on rockier terrain.
In addition to completely redesigning the Fuel EX’s suspension, Trek has introduced an 18.5in frame size for 2008 to bridge the gap between the 17.5in and 19.5in sizes. We will definitely be ordering our test bikes in the new size, as we always seemed to fall between what was available. Saddle height adjustment is somewhat limited on the Fuel EX, as the rocker link pivot bisects the seat tube. Shorter riders will have to lop a bit off the seatpost if they want to drop the saddle, and it didn’t take long for the carbon post to get pretty scuffed up, as it wasn’t that easy to move up and down.
Trek claims the new Fuel rocker link is twice as stiff as last year’s, but now that we’ve ridden the bike we wouldn’t say that it is mind-blowingly stiff. The ’07 Fuel EX was pretty flexy, so there was a lot of room for improvement, and the new bikes are now on a par with the competition. Trek has been evolving the Fuel range over the years but progress has been slow; it’s fair to say that the new EX platform is giant leap in terms of performance.