Trek has clearly sweated the small stuff
Bike Of The Year 2017! The sheer pace of the Trek Fuel EX 29 throws petrol on the heated wheel size debate and then fans the flames. A real firestarter.
Some bike tests are decided on the finer points, others simply come down to price. But every now and then a bike comes along that stamps its authority so firmly on a category that there’s simply no doubting its pedigree. The Trek Fuel EX 7 29 is one such bike.
The category in question is £2k full suspension 29er trail bikes. It’s a landmark price point that all of the major manufacturers are keen to hit. As such, it’s one of the most hotly contended segments in mountain bike design.
So when the Trek Fuel EX 7 29 breezed our 29er test back in July, easily defeating classics like the Specialized Camber Comp and Kona Hei Hei, while brushing aside any possible challenge from the new Norco Optic 29, it instantly became our new benchmark 29er trail bike.
Build around a brand new 130mm travel Alpha aluminium frame, the Fuel EX draws upon Trek’s wealth of suspension knowledge and all of the latest standards to produce a thoroughly modern 29er trail bike. It retains key features like Trek’s ABP suspension, which decouples the braking characteristics from pedalling and bump forces, while marrying the linkage to a Metric size shock for improved reliability.
It’s got Boost 148x12mm dropouts too, a standard that Trek actually pioneered. It’s also got stacks of tyre clearance so if you ever want to convert your 29er Fuel EX to Plus, the fatter tyres will plug straight in. Trek even accounts for the slightly different wheel sizes with one frame design by using its longstanding Mino link geometry chip. The 29er bikes ship in the low/slack setting, but the real beauty of the Mino link is that there’s nothing stopping you from running it in either position, just be sure to use a spot of Loctite on the fixing bolts otherwise they’ll rattle lose mid ride. The real advantage of Boost though, is that we now have 29er wheels that don’t collapse when you square off a turn or land a jump sideways.
And it’s getting sideways that the new Fuel EX 7 29 is all about. The revised geometry marks a massive shift in attitude for the Fuel EX, a shift that the 10mm increase in travel doesn’t fully convey. It’s no longer a stuffy, pumped up XC bike, instead its vital stats make it a fully fledged trail bike.
Yes, the build kit on the Fuel EX isn’t as trick as you’d get with one of the sales direct brands, but it’s all functional and in no way detracts from the stellar ride quality.
Shimano’s M506 disc brakes impressed us with their consistent lever feel and ample stopping power, but the real deal breaker here is the 125mm drop KS eThirty Integra dropper post. With its neat handlebar remote you’ll never find yourself in a pickle.
Even the RockShox Revelation fork felt superbly balanced with the rear suspension, where the stiffness of the frame seemed to overcome any shortcomings of the spindly 32mm fork legs.
In fact, there’s a synergy to the Trek that very few bikes can rival, the no-frills build kit, great frame geometry, and dialled suspension all combing to produce an effect that’s much greater than the sum of there separate efforts.
So whether you’re seasoned rider or just getting into mountain biking the Trek Fuel EX 7 29 will make everything feel that little bit easier. It rockets up climbs, slays the descents and scorches singletrack at an eye-watering pace. It’s simply a joy to ride. And because the lion’s share of the money in the frame, it’s the perfect partner to upgrade as your riding progresses.
It easy to put together a great bike when money isn’t the limiting factor, but to build a bike as good as the Trek Fuel EX 7 29 for just over £2k you need to sweat every detail. Before signing off on new Fuel EX Trek dotted every I and crossed every T and it has certainly paid off. It’s a standout bike and easily deserving of our 2017 Bike of the Year award.
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.