Dear Regular Bike Magazine Reader,
You’re probably tired of reading about the Fuel EX 29. To be honest, we’re kind of tired of talking about it. If Trek would just leave well enough alone, we could take a break, but they keep changing the damn thing. For 2017, Trek decided to overhaul nearly every mountain bike in its catalog. I don’t know what the product development team over there is taking, but whatever it is, they should probably share some of it with Congress.
Here are the changes to the EX: Travel was increased by 10 millimeters at both ends, to 130 millimeters. In the high geometry position, the head angle is now slacker than last year’s bike in the low setting. And in low it’s actually a half-degree slacker than last year’s Remedy 29. Want numbers? Well, 67.7 and 67 degrees, respectively. The reach was extended by about 5 millimeters across all sizes, and finally, the frame is significantly stiffer. What this boils down to is that the 2017 EX 29 will outperform the crap out of the 2016 version when the trail turns downhill. The overall feel of the rear suspension is suppler and more linear. Where the previous EX may have gotten a bit skittish on steep, technical bits of downhill, this one is surefooted and aggressive, especially in the low setting. Contributing to this is a chassis that’s much more laterally stiff, accomplished by making the downtube straight. The design necessitates a proprietary steering-limiting headset to prevent the fork crown from hitting the frame.
If last year’s EX 29 was perfect for XC racers wanting something more capable, then the new one is for enduro athletes wanting something lighter and faster for everyday rides. It’s still Trek’s most equally balanced bike in the lineup, but the slacker angles and extra squish that make it so capable on the downs do affect its climbing. When compared to other bikes in the category, the EX climbs as well or better than most, but against its previous self, it’s a little less sprightly. For us, there was hardly a tradeoff. Especially when looking at this particular build. It’s the same price as last year’s aluminum EX 9, but with a carbon front triangle. It’s tough to find a better all around bike at a better price.
Q&A with Trek
Between the slacker head angle, stiffer chassis, increased travel, and more sensitive valve tune in the Re:aktiv shock, the 2017 Fuel EX appears to be aimed at potentially much more aggressive riding. Do these changes alienate lovers of last year’s EX 29?
When we redesigned Fuel EX, we had a few goals in mind like accommodating plus-sized tires, maintaining competitive weight and, as you’ve noticed, increasing its capability. These goals were based on feedback from consumers, retailers, and the media, and they are in line with how riders expect modern trail bikes to perform. Some riders have commented that the new Fuel EX doesn’t climb quite as well as the previous version, but that small difference is easily outweighed by the bike’s technical downhill and confident cornering prowess.
In the Fuel EX 29 lineup, you offer an aluminum-framed model for the same price as this one, but with a slightly nicer build kit–namely wheels, fork and drivetrain. What’s Trek’s thinking here?
Most of the individual components on the alloy EX 9 are slightly nicer than what’s on the carbon EX 9.7, but when you consider them all as a whole bike, it makes “slightly nicer” an understatement. The two bikes are also the same weight, which says a lot about the parts spec, considering there’s a 1.75lb weight difference in the frames alone. We chose to offer both of these models because we know that, at this price point, riders vary in their priorities. Some riders prioritize having a carbon frame for better ride quality, perhaps upgrading parts down the line to drop more weight. Others prioritize overall performance, and would rather have nicer parts to begin with. It can be a tough call at this price point, but we’ve got great offerings for all of these riders.
Just as we’re seeing other manufacturers finally adopt trunnion-style shock mounting, which allows a longer-bodied shock in a tighter space, we’re seeing Trek move away from it. Is this a permanent change? The shock reducers seem unusually wide–is this an indication that we might see a different shock in the bike at some point down the line?
We originally adopted trunnion-style mounting to accommodate the extra air can in our DRCV shocks. Now that suspension manufacturers are able to match that spring curve with off-the-shelf air canisters, we don’t have a need for DRCV, the trunnion mount, and the added manufacturing complexity they bring. We’re keeping it simple with a standard shock mount, and leaving room for possible suspension development down the line.
What happened to the EX 27.5”?
Thanks to all the relatively-recent developments that have made 29er trail bikes what they are today, we’re finding far fewer riders asking for a little-wheeled mid-travel bike. However, we are seeing an increase in riders asking for bikes with plus-sized tires, so we chose to simplify the lineup by offering one frame that accepts either standard 29” wheels or 27.5+ wheels.