“What is the best bike you will ever ride?” The answer the according to the guys at The Bicycle Company: the TREK Fuel EX 9.8. Read on to ﬁnd out if Shayne Dowling agrees.
You have to believe in your brand, you have to live your brand and you can only do that if you’re convinced that your brand is the best. So when I collected the brand (really?) spanking new Trek Fuel EX 9.8 29 and was told in no uncertain terms that this would be “the best bike I will ever ride” I nodded politely and sceptically thought: “Wow now that’s quite some statement to make…” If one considers the Fuel EX comes from the highly pedigreed, award winning Fuel 26er, that set the bar in its category time and again, despite the conﬁdence of the guys at TBC (The Bicycle Company Trek’s local distributor), the Fuel EX 29er has some big shoes to ﬁll.
It’s pretty much accepted that you can’t take a 26er, supersize it and get the perfect big brother. It’s just not that simple. Trek is well known for the huge amount of R&D it does on its products and the development on the big wheel Fuel EX was no exception. The bike squints at Trek have taken their time to ensure that every piece of the bike has been designed, tested and created perfectly to suit the large wheel dynamic. This becomes obvious when you ﬁ rst see the bike – it sure is easy on the eye – even in Pinotage! As we aff ectionately referred to the glittering burgundy test bike, the clear lacquer coat allows the colour of the carbon to shine through spectacularly and is really cool. But it’s not just about looks, we all know that the real litmus test is in the riding.
There are so many technical innovations to wax lyrical about: like the one piece EVO rocker link, MTB speciﬁc carbon that is built tougher for the rough stuff , well positioned carbon shields that they call Armor, dropper post as standard and a neat little chain guide that ensures no chain suck – I never got to test this little gadget thankfully but if it grafts it is a complete bonus.
I don’t want to get bogged down in the tech stuff , I really just want to tell you about the ride: The Fuel EX is punted as an All-Mountain-Marathon bike and my immediate concern was how would it climb and what about the longer rides? So I did both – 55kms with 1600m of climbing, I had my reservations but I locked out the shock and fork and the bike climbed brilliantly – not the fastest but comfortable and effective and frankly unless you’re in contention to beat the time for the Mast Challenge (or your local killer climb) you’re probably not going to notice.
There is no corner cutting when it comes to spec on the bike and the standard guise we tested had full XT throughout. The brakes are incredible, incorporating their proprietary Active Braking Pivot system that ensures there is no stiff ening under hard braking so no wheel skipping or suspension interference – and I put them through their paces down some hardcore descents that were really loose and gnarly – they performed perfectly. I’m not a lighty (in all sense of the words…) and I really thrashed the Fuel about, none-the-less the DRCV proprietary shock is amazing – it glides and ﬂoats, yes the “full ﬂoater” suspension design assists but believe me when you hit the big stuff the shock comes into its own – it’s two chamber system ensures that you just don’t bottom out!
I was literally whooping and giving it the big: “*^%*ing amazing, did you see that?!” to my cycle partner after coming down what for me was a seemingly impossible line. He was shaking his head, more out of concern that his W2W partner was going to see his ass than my juvenile antics that had me throwing the Fuel 29er around like a 26er on steroids. Yes I’m gushing but dammit the bike rips. The 2.3 Bontrager tyres deﬁnitely added to the “sticks like glue” comfort and conﬁdence factor and I found that despite big wheels I was having as much fun on the tight stuff as I did with my 26er.
The Fuel Ex 29 deﬁnitely comes into its own on the descent, it’s receptive, comfortable (why should the ride down not be?) and most of all it really fun. Considering the type of riding most of us do I can say without a shadow of doubt this is the bike we should be looking at – it will get you up the climbs easily, handle the long road comfortably and take you down the sweet stuff incredibly. The best bike I’ve ever ridden? I’m going to say it’s right up there, in my top ﬁ ve. The best bike I’m ever going to ride? Not if the squints at Trek have anything to say about it!
Sus the Geometry:
Medium frame: 18.5 inches. All measurements in mm or °
Seat Tube ……………………445
Top Tube ……………………605
Chain Stay length ………….425
Head tube angle …………..68°
Seat tube angle ……………73°
Bottom bracket height …..338
Frame rise ………………….568