First they got bigger, now they’re getting wider — who says you can’t reinvent the wheel? The new Trek Stache 9 29+ hardtail rolls on 3in rubber
- Huge 3in 29er Plus tyres offer improved rollover and incredible traction
- High asking proce for a hardtail with SRAM X1-level kit
- Backbone of the Stache frame is a wide press-fit BB92 shell the promotes direct power delivery
- Bontrager’s 80mm Rhythm Pro stem had to go to sharpen the Stache’s steering and shift rider weight rearwards
Trek has never been afraid to experiment with alternative wheel sizes. The Stache 9 29+, however, takes this open-minded approach to a whole new level, with 3in tyres, mounted on 50mm wide 29er rims and slotted into ultra-short chainstays.
The monster-truck tweaks also include wider Boost 110 and 148 dropout spacing, to accommodate those bulbous treads. And while it’s a beautifully-made frame, with extensively sculpted aluminium tubing, at £2,700, it’s definitely an expensive hardtail.
The Trek Stache 9 29+ makes its remarkably short chainstays possible by eliminating the front mech, and pairing an elevated driveside chainstay with scooped-out seat tube. They’re so short, in fact, that the rear axle sits just 410mm behind the BB when in the forward dropout setting, even with huge 3in Chupacabra tyres.
Being Boost, the Manitou Magnum’s 15mm axle is 10mm wider than usual, and the fork offset has also been increased to 51mm to sharpen the handling. As such, the steering feels totally natural, even though the footprint of the tyre is of Sasquatch proportions.
Stiffness, damping and tracking on the 110mm travel Manitou are on-the-money too, but even though we’ve used Manitou’s 15mm HexLock axle several times before, we still can’t get it tight first time, every time.
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You’d expect killer components on a £2,700 hardtail, and they’re largely delivered, but the X1 series isn’t SRAM’s highest-tier 1×11 drivetrain and adds grams as a result.
This bike is all about the tyres, though, and with lower pressures, a giant contact patch, aggressive tread and good rubber compound, the 3in Chupacabras have tenacious hold. The casing is relatively thin, to save weight, so it’s easily damaged, and offers little in the way of pinch-flat protection.
The Chupacabras worked best with pressures as low as 12psi, as this stopped the tyres from bouncing uncontrollably, while still ironing out the trail effectively. Run them any softer and the tyres squirm too much, accelerating sidewall wear further. Still, they bring a completely new level of braking control and balance to a hardtail.
The Stache is seriously confidence-inspiring. So much so that you often need to remind yourself to tap the powerful Shimano XT brakes and rein it in. Climbing or descending, grip levels are off the scale, and once those big wheels start motoring, it takes a surprising amount of nerve to push the Trek out of its comfort zone.
The super-short chainstays make it a breeze to manual, and the bike feels surprisingly nimble, even though the wheels are massive. Leaning into corners feels a bit like skiing — just stand upright, trust the front tyre grip, steer from the hips and the rear wheel follows tightly behind.
In loam, dry dirt or loose gravel, there’s grip for ever, and the Stache can absolutely rail turns once you acclimatise to how stable the fatter tyres ride.
It definitely requires more effort to lean it over, and in that respect the Stache feels like a more pronounced version of how a regular 29er rides. It’s no buzz kill, though, and the safety net of the Velcro-like traction means you can chuck the Stache around the trail with reckless abandon, and this makes it seriously good fun to ride.
Overall, rolling resistance feels marginally higher than a ‘standard’ 29er going up or along flat singletrack, and the first few cranks always feel lost dragging the wheels up to speed. There’s a tipping point, however, at which resistance morphs into momentum and the Stache hammers through all but the roughest terrain. It’s then that the concept begins to make a lot more sense and becomes a lot more fun.
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The Trek Stache 9 is a radical departure from trail hardtail tradition, but it’s certainly no fat bike. Instead, it’s a bold reinvention that’s paid off big time. Despite having the tallest, widest tyres on test, once up to speed, clever engineering and geometry ensure the Stache is an incredibly fast, fun bike that’s somehow almost BMX-like in its playfulness. Sure, the 29 Plus wheel size isn’t without inherent compromises — tyre weight and durability being the key ones. It also has questionable credentials in wet, muddy conditions, but we challenge anyone who loves mountain biking to ride the Stache and not come away impressed.