The Trek Fuel EX 9.8 is a full suspension mountain bike designed to offer fluid performance across all courses, trails and terrains.
While you could choose to ride it all day it is able to adapt to more specialist circumstances, so if you want to race competitively it will be there for you while also offering a more general level of functionality that keeps on giving.
If you want lightness and strength from your mountain bike then you really need to pick one like the Trek Fuel EX 9.8 which has a carbon frame. The seatstay is also carbon, but the chainstay is alloy, a concession to the fact that this bike is one step below the top of the range and therefore has to differentiate itself from the full blown 9.9.
The OCLV mountain carbon material which is used on the frame has been reinforced with extra strength, which is sensible since this bike will need to take knocks and come up swinging. Trek has tested this carbon extensively and so you can be sure that it will live up to real world conditions and not just promotional promises.
The downtube gets its own Carbon Armour so that detritus kicked up by your progress along the trail does not leave it damaged. Meanwhile even the BB95 bottom bracket is fashioned from carbon, which is an addition that allows the Trek Fuel EX 9.8 to be much stiffer than some other bikes of a similar price point, improving power transfer and lateral rigidity.
The front suspension comes in the form of the Fox 32 Float FIT RL fork with Trek’s own DRCV air spring and bespoke tuning. This combines with the Fox Performance Series Float RP-3 at the rear which features a boost valve and offers 3 position ProPedal technology to give the bike a level of adaptability which lets it move beyond its standard full-sus setup. In total you get 120mm of progressively delivered travel to play with, while lockout and adjustable rebound will let you hone the setup to suit whatever challenges you face on a particular day.
Both the front and rear shocks benefit from Trek’s DRCV technology, which essentially allows you to get the most out of your suspension system, rather than allowing you to use about 90 per cent of its capacity. The result is that minor impacts are absorbed smoothly and vibrations are eliminated, while if you need to bottom out after a big hit then you can do so by pushing the bike right to its limits and still come out smiling.
The Bontrager Rhythm Elite TLR Disc wheelset combines with XR4 Team tyres for excellent grip and the kind of technical, responsive performance you would expect from a 26 inch wheel setup. The brakes are the Shimano Deore XT M785 hydraulic disc variety and match with the Deore XT drive train setup for rugged, sustainable performance which will not leave you in the lurch after some serious time out on the trail.
The Bontrager Rhythm Elite seat post and Evoke 3 saddle with titanium rails are just as light and strong as the rest of the components, while the Race X Lite Carbon Low Riser handlebars let you get to grips with the bike without it being weighed down any more than is necessary.
If you want an off-road racer that looks the part and backs this up with components and performance that will keep you going all day, then the Trek Fuel EX 9.8 might be a sensible choice. It trumps its siblings thanks to the carefully chosen kit but lets you experience a ride similar to that of the 9.9 without leaving such a big hole in your finances.