Trek Fuel EX 9.7 Review
The Trek Fuel EX 9.7 is the first bike in its range to introduce a carbon main frame into the mix, making it lighter than most of its alloy framed alternatives. It is designed for singletrack dominance, letting you climb efficiently and also descend with confidence when the terrain starts to throw up all sorts of surprises.
The OCLV Mountain Carbon mainframe is combined with alloy chain and seat stays to appropriately distinguish this bike from the rest of the Fuel EX range. The OCLV material has been specially hardened to give it the strength that is required in modern mountain bikes. However, this added durability does not mean that you have to deal with any extra weight, because clever construction techniques help to avoid additional heft.
As a full suspension bike it is important to consider its shock setup. The Trek Fuel EX 9.7 has a Fox 32 Float RL fork at the front with a Trek DRCV air spring and options to adjust the rebound or activate a full lockout mode. Backing you up at the rear is a Fox Performance Series Float RP-2. These shocks have not simply been taken off the shelf and slapped on the bike but have instead been tuned by Trek in the U.S. to make sure they are complementary to the Fuel EX 9.7 as a whole.
You get 120mm of travel from the suspension, which means that it comes in quite handy when you are careening down a trail with all sorts of bumps and obstacles strewn in your way. However, the bike is also adaptable enough to make a name for itself in uphill sections, because you can adjust it to offer a stiffer type of setup that helps you climb effectively and experience responsive handling. The Trek fork and shock sag metre lets you see when your suspension has passed its optimum capacity and the included shock pump from Bontrager will let you breathe new life into it.
Shimano SLX and XT kit is arranged to provide the Trek Fuel EX 9.7 with a transmission that operates unhindered by slow shifts. These components are also from the lighter end of Shimano’s groupsets and so promise to keep more weight off this model than you will find on its more affordable contemporaries.
Shimano SLX M666 hydraulic disc brakes keep the Bontrager Ready Comp Disc wheels with XR4 tyres in check when it comes time to flick the bike in a different direction or stop to avoid disaster. The wheelset as a whole is hard wearing and appropriate for a variety of situations, from flat cruising and acceleration to slippery climbs and sharp descents.
The racing credentials of the Trek Fuel EX 9.7 are expanded upon by the Bontrager Race Lite Low Riser handlebar, Race Lite stem and Rhythm Elite seat post, topped with the Evoke 2 saddle.
The stiffness of the bike is preserved thanks to its unique bottom bracket, which is not found on any mountain bikes outside of the Trek stable. Whilst a bike like this might typically be seen as a compliant and therefore slightly lifeless option, when compared with particularly taught hardtails, the designers have worked hard to make sure that the Trek Fuel EX 9.7 is not as easy to categorise with other full-sus trail bikes in this respect.
This mountain bike will really come to life when taken out on singletrack courses for fun or in competitive situations. Its price point and specification show that it is not exactly aimed at weekend riders, but enthusiasts will get a lot from this setup.
Trek Fuel EX 9.7 Specifications
- Front Fork: Fox 32 Float RL, air spring, lockout, rebound, 120mm travel
- Rear Shock: Fox Performance Series Float RP-2
- Front Derailleur: Shimano SLX
- Rear Derailleur: Shimano XT M780, 10 speed
- Gears: 30
- Chainring: Shimano M772, 42/32/24T
- Cassette: Shimano HG-62 11-36T
- Shifters: Shimano SLX
- Brakes: Shimano SLX M666 hydraulic disc brakes
- Wheels: Bontrager Rhythm Comp Disc
- Tyres: Bontrager XR4 Expert, 26×2.2″