Trek's mountaitaitain bike development team hashashas been on a tear over the last few years, and the company's Session big-bike platform was the last of the off-road lineup to be anointed with the company's technological trifecta. In marketing parlance, this includes Full Floater, ABPBP and EVO Link.
In plain English, Full Floater simply means the rear shock "floats" between the rocker link and an extension of the chainstay, allowing for supple initial shock activation and smooth linear stroke that ramps up at the tail-end of its 8 inches of travel. ABPBP, meanwhile, refers to the location of the crucial rear pivot—above the axle is a standard four-bar link, below the axle is Horst Link patent-infringement territory, but placing the pivot concentric with the rear axle, says Trek, delivers an Active Braking Pivot. Last up, the Session's massive rocker link is welded from a single chunk of aluminum—an EVO-lutionary step beyond Trek's previous, bolted-together rockers.
With the back-story decoded, how did it ride? In short, PFW (Pretty F'ing Well). Compared to its predecessor, the 47-pound Session 10, the 37.8-pound (without pedals) 88 DH handled a lot more like a mountain bike than a Cadillac. Nimble and flickable aren't characteristics normally assigned to a DH rig, but this bike achieves both traits without sacrificing "bombability"—the ability to point and shoot with no regard for personal safety.
Thanks to widely braced pivots and a stout front triangle, the chassis didn't yield a bit while blasting through off-camber rock gardens. Instead, these situations showed off the bike's suspension. The rear end was plush and predictable, with no noticeable bad ju-ju while braking through the chop. And the Fox 40, with its superlative low-speed compression adjustability, could be tuned to stick to the ground like stink on shit.
Applying the old flick-test to the center of the Session's downtube produces an uncannily hollow-sounding thwack…a reminder that making a sub-10-pound frame (with shock) means employing some serious tube-butting techniques. That said, I found myself sending drops and barreling through fiendish rock gardens without ever worrying that the bike was going to let me down.
On slow-speed ladders or anything requiring careful pedaling, I found myself wanting a lower front end and a single-crown fork, but on balance I quite liked the Fox 40. With a 47-inch wheelbase (on this size large) and a 65-degree headtube angle, there's no denying this horse's race breeding. Luckily, a race pedigree doesn't prevent sandbaggers like me from thoroughly enjoying the Session at the local bike park.