Bike Test: 2011 Trek Top Fuel 9.8

Joe Parkin's Trek Top Fuel 9.8 review.

Trek Top Fuel 9.8
By Joe Parkin
$5,250 / trekbikes.com

Dear Trek Bicycles: Send your sales force, send the cops, send the National Guard if you want—I’m not sending this bike back to you.

You’d be hard pressed to find a sub-par bicycle in the over-five-grand category. Heck, you’d be hard pressed to find a questionable bike in the three-grand category these days. Simply put, there are a lot of good bikes out there. Trek’s 2011 Top Fuel, however, is exceptional.

From the first pedal stroke, I felt 100 percent connected with the Top Fuel—as if I’d been spending hours aboard the thing everyday for months at a time. And maybe it’s a simple matter of the-older-I-get, the-faster-I-used-to-be, but the Trek had me seriously considering a comeback to racing. I even stood on the bathroom scale a couple times over the period of this test (for the first time in a year or two) just to gauge how many months/pounds this comeback might require.

The 2011 Top Fuel is not a complete re-design, but the company has made a few admirable tweaks to last year’s design. Most notably, Trek, together with Fox Racing Shox, have given the Top Fuel handlebar-mounted, remote suspension lockouts for both front and rear squishy bits. Curmudgeons will undoubtedly consider this unnecessary, but anyone who has ever taken the start of a World Cup XC (or any XC race for that matter) will instantly see the benefit of a bike that climbs rigid and descends squishy.

Another notable change? Internal cable routing. Yep, the folks at Trek have seen fit to hide cables and hoses wherever they possible can, which not only gives the Top Fuel a clean look but also seems to quiet things down a bit over the rough stuff. Without the glut of excess cables, the Top Fuel seemed to collect a bit less heft-adding mud, too. Our guess is that this slippery internal cable routing also helps in the aerodynamics department, if you can produce the power and speed of someone like reigning U-23 world champ, Matthias Flückiger, who collected his rainbow jersey aboard a Top Fuel.

As with the 2010 model that we reviewed in the May 2010 issue of Bike, the new Top Fuel sports 100 millimeters of suspension travel front and rear, a 70-degree head tube and a BB90 bottom bracket. The stiff, OCLV platform, combined with proven geometry and just the right amount of suspension, give this bike incredible point-and-shoot handling—up, down and on tight singletrack.

I tested my 25.3-pound (with pedals), 21.5-inch model at 20-percent sag, which had me daydreaming of the World Cup, but I also tested it at about 25-percent sag, which mellowed the ride and gave it a trail-bike feel. But right now, I’m back to the 20-percent race setting, which will help me evade the cops should Trek attempt to repo its bike.

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