The goal for the new Fuel EX was to create the ultimate trail bike: more versatile than ever and packed with cutting-edge technology. No small task, given that the current Fuel EX is one of the most popular suspension bikes Trek has ever produced.
Building on key features, including ABP (active braking pivot) suspension and DRCV (dual-rate control valve) shock technology, a redesign of the Fuel EX frame in both carbon and aluminium ensued.
Wheel size must have been a major talking point in the development process, but Trek has stuck with traditional 26in wheels for the new Fuel EX range. Having the 120mm-travel Rumblefish 29er already in the line-up will have played a part in the decision, but it must have been a tough call with 650b gaining so much traction.
So what has changed for 2013? The biggest difference to the frame is an increase in travel from 120mm to 130mm right across the eight-model range. Standover clearance has also been improved and the new frames look sleeker and more compact than ever before. Triple chainsets feature on all but the top-end Fuel EX 9.9, which sports a SRAM 2×10 drivetrain, but most models have ISCG tabs on the press-fit BB shell to make it easier to fit a chain device. And while we’re on the subject of upgrading, Fuel EX 8 and above all get Stealth routing for a RockShox Reverb dropper post. With all of the improvements, Trek has repositioned the Fuel EX much closer to the 150mm-travel Remedy and targeted it squarely at the trail rider looking for a lightweight, capable 130mm-travel bike.
But the new Fuel EX isn’t just about increased travel; quality of travel has also been improved. Subtle changes to the main pivot location and leverage rate make the ABP suspension much more sensitive than previously. The end result is that traction and grip have both been increased and the bike sits into the travel much more easily, without feeling too soft or lacking mid-stroke support. Combined with the shorter 425mm chainstays, the new Fuel EX feels more capable, livelier and easier to manoeuvre than previous designs. Trek has still managed to retain the bike’s efficient power delivery, in or out of the saddle, but it’s fair to say that the 2013 Trek Fuel EX has finally shed its racing roots and has evolved into a much more capable trail bike. Without testing it back to back with the competition, it’s hard to say for sure whether Trek has achieved its goal of creating the ultimate trail bike, but our experiences at the launch suggested that this is the best Fuel EX to date.
Need to know
- Travel on Fuel EX increased to 130mm; wheels stay at 26in
- New Stache 29er hardtail boasts dedicated trail geometry and 120mm fork
- The 120mm-travel Rumblefish 29er gets the latest Fox CT damped fork and rear shock
■ Fuel EX 5 £1,400
■ Fuel EX 6 £1,650
■ Fuel EX 7 £2,000
■ Fuel EX 8 £2,300
■ Fuel EX 9 £2,900
■ Fuel EX 9.7 £3,000
■ Fuel EX 9.8 £4,000
■ Fuel EX 9.9 £6,250
This first ride appeared in the November 2012 issue of mbr magazine.