Trek’s latest 140mm-travel trail bike boasts a carbon frame and 650b wheels. Can it better 29in performance regardless of the terrain?
A Trek Remedy 650b shouldn’t come as a huge surprise. Trek has always been at the cutting edge of wheel size development — it was the first mainstream brand to get behind the 29er movement and it has also been quick to make the transition from 26in wheels to 650b.
So whereas Giant and Specialized have each picked sides in the war of wheels, Trek has a more neutral approach, allowing intended use to dictate wheel size for all bikes in development. The new full-suspension bikes with less than 140mm of travel have 29in wheels, and everything over 140mm has, or is in the process of shifting to, 650b. The crossover point is at 140mm travel, where trail riders have the option of the Remedy 29 or Remedy 650b. Who knows whether or not it will always be that way, but for now Trek’s approach looks sensible.
The Remedy 9.8 is the flagship 650b bike with a reinforced OCLV Mountain Carbon frame that saves weight and offers better vibration-damping than aluminium. I opted for the extra length of the 19.5in frame size, the second-largest of five available (I’m 5ft 11in), but I hadn’t factored in the proportionally longer 90mm stem that came with it.
Fitting a 60mm stem and slamming the saddle all the way forward on the head of the Reverb dropper post gave me the reach that I craved. This also improved the steering characteristics, and saddle position relative to the BB. Fortunately, standover clearance is very generous even on the larger Remedy frames, so all that was left to do was swap out the 720mm bar for a 750mm.
My first impression was that this bike is fast. It pumps and tracks the terrain amazingly well, rewarding acceleration and pressing ahead. In fact, the rear suspension is so sensitive that you really need to use the trail setting on the dual air-chamber DRCV rear shock to tame pedal-induced bob when sprinting along smooth flat trails or rocketing up climbs.
Fox on form
Up front, the Performance level Fox 34 Float was one of the best I’ve ridden this year. It wasn’t anything like as harsh as some and the rebound never felt erratic. Maybe the recent issues we’ve experienced with Fox forks had more to do with quality control and inconsistency than with fundamental design flaws. After all, for most of the last decade, Fox made the best trail forks on the market.
On the trails around the Surrey Hills, the Remedy 9.8 was every bit as agile as it was quick. I was able to pick any line that I fancied and stick to it — or, at the very last minute, dart to the opposite side of the trail to set up wide for a flat turn or avoid a puddle. It’s a really fun bike to ride and it always encourages you to get creative with the terrain.
It helps that it rails corners too. The BB is just low enough to make you think about timing your pedal strokes, but it’s not so low that you’re constantly smashing into the ground. I was happy with the compromise — I glanced the ground with a pedal once or twice per ride, but this was outweighed by the in-the-bike sensation you get from a low BB. Also, if you find that you need more pedal clearance, then flipping the Mino-Link to the high/steep geometry setting will raise the BB a touch.
It's fun and fast, but is it better than the Remedy 29? That’s a tough one to answer. It doesn’t feel as solid as the 29er, but then there’s no carbon Remedy 29 to compare it to. Also, it’s not just the wheel size that’s different; the 650b Remedy has a much lower BB and that’s a trait I adore in a bike. As ever (and particularly where 29ers are involved), personal preference will probably override the objective differences between two high-quality bikes.