The Remedy 9.8 marks a departure in Trek’s philosophy on women's mountain bikes. Trek was at the forefront of the women's-specific geometry movement, and used to design compact frames with low standover and short reach. This year it ditched all that and added feminine touchpoints and fresh paint to an existing frame platform. Were we thinking about that on the trail? Absolutely not. In fact, we didn't get much past, "This thing rips." After back-to-back laps on Coler's chunky rock gardens, limestone slabs and the occasional drop, testers hailed the Remedy for its nimble qualities, ease of control and downhill domination, regardless of line choice.
The 150-millimeter-travel, 27.5-inch-wheeled bike sports a package of parts that is decidedly all-mountain, like the Boost 148 Bontrager Line Comp 30 wheels wrapped in XR4 2.4-inch tires, a RockShox Pike RC fork, Deluxe RT3 shock and the carbon Bontrager Line Pro 780-millimeter bar and matching 35-mil stem. Testers applauded Trek's decision to keep parts that tend to get downsized on women's-specific builds, notably the 180-mil brake rotors and 175-millimeter cranks on the size medium. However, we universally wondered why the 9.8 doesn't come with a one-by drivetrain (although the aluminum Remedy 8 uses SRAM GX 1×11), especially now that one-by gear ranges can match those of doubles. That said, the Shimano XT 36/26 11-speed kit shifted well, and we appreciated the bike's full XT outfit. Even with all that beef mounted on a carbon main frame (with alloy rear triangle), the Remedy weighs a reasonable 28.6 pounds. And while its preference is to be pointed downhill, the Remedy is no sloth on the climbs, even if it lacks some of the spunk of its lighter counterparts.
Trek incorporated several proprietary technologies in this bike, all of which stood out as positive attributes. Knock Block, a system of 'keys' that connect the bar, stem and headset, preventing interference between the bar and the toptube, allowed Trek to straighten the downtube, increasing stiffness. And the Mino Link slackens the 66.5-degree head angle by a half-degree and lowers the bottom bracket, putting more party into an already-rowdy build.
Q&A with Trek
This year marked a shift in Trek’s philosophy on its women’s mountain bikes, from designing bikes around “women’s-specific” geometry to utilizing existing frame platforms and adding women’s-specific touchpoints. Why the change? Trek was at the forefront of the women’s-specific geometry movement. What did it learn about female riders over the years that prompted a move away from developing different geometry for female riders?
Since these are two parts to the same question, we'll answer them together. Trek is actually offering "women's specific" geometry on our entry-to-mid-level hardtails and utilizing existing frame platforms on our higher-end models, including all full suspension bikes. This approach better aligns with what female customers want and expect out of their mountain bikes. Newer female riders want stability, and for them, comfort provides confidence. More seasoned riders want full suspension bikes that prioritize performance over all else.
Here's the historical vantage point: around 2000, we wanted to get the right fit and performance for female riders. We knew that a lot of women really liked our Women's Specific Design geometry, which put the rider in a more upright position with a shorter top tube and taller head tube. Some women liked this riding position because they had relatively short arms or a short torso. Others liked it because it worked better with their level of flexibility and/or core strength.
Over the years, we saw increasing numbers of women riding aggressively on more technical and steep trails. This correlated with increased requests from riders and retailers to produce a WSD trail bike. So we took everything we had learned and developed the Lush with ultra-low standover and a more upright position. Many women rejoiced, the bike sold well, and we continued to refine Lush for a few more years, including navigating the gamut of wheel size debates, going from a 26" to 29" and then finally settling on 27.5" as the ideal size for female trail riders.
Lush is a great bike that would still work for many women mountain bikers today, but as we've continued our research in this growing market, we've learned that, while Lush and other WSD bikes can be comfortable and confidence-inspiring on the trail for many riders, they often don't meet the needs of more experienced riders, especially on more rowdy terrain where a rider's position on the bike is far more dynamic than it is in a Road or XC setting. For every woman who loved Lush, there was at least one or more who loved Fuel EX or Remedy for performance reasons. So, we learned that, though we are big enough to have the resources to produce a unique women's trail frame, that doesn't necessarily make it the right call. We're not going to tweak a measurement or two just so we can make a "unique" frame that we can call "women's specific." We would rather use those resources to make the best-riding bikes in each category, regardless of the rider's gender.
When it comes to gender, we do know that most women are conditioned to shop for "women's" product. The reasons for that could make up a whole other discussion, but it's a social reality we wanted to continue to acknowledge. That is why we choose to offer Women's models within each platform that offer the same performance as our mainline models, but with distinct styling and a WSD saddle to address the physical differences found in our pelvic area.
Specifically regarding the Remedy, what were designers’ goals with this bike? What kind of rider did designers have in mind?
Wheel size is a personal choice for long-travel riders. Since we designed new Slash around 29" wheels to be the fastest choice for enduro racing, we knew we still needed a 27.5" long-travel bike for technical trail riders who prefer the increased maneuverability of smaller wheels. Remedy riders want steeze, style, and playful handling more than they want the flat-out speed of a 29er.
Testers loved pretty much everything about this bike, but everyone wondered why it isn’t available in a one-by build (although we noted that the Remedy 8 is), particularly because there isn’t a higher-end Remedy available for women in a one-by version. Why? Is Trek seeing that more of its customers still want two-by drivetrains?
From a global perspective, there's still enough demand for a high-quality 2x system to warrant offering a bike with it. Especially in areas with drastic elevation changes, many riders want more range than what current affordable 1x systems offer. So, we chose to spec Remedy 9.8 with Shimano XT to satisfy the demand for both Shimano and for 2x. For riders at this price point who wish to run a single ring up front, it's easy enough to ditch the front derailleur and shifter and then add a chain ring with the desired tooth count. It would be much more complicated for a rider who wants 2x to do the conversion from 1x.
Trek’s previous women’s trail bike, the Lush, was available as small as 14, which was one of the few full-suspension bikes available for smaller riders and definitely one of the only 29ers available that small. Although the Fuel is still available as a 14, the smallest size of Remedy is 15.5-the same as the unisex version. Was there a design challenge that made smaller frame sizes unattainable for this bike? Or is it simply that Trek doesn’t see enough demand for those smaller sizes to invest in a size14 frame for the Remedy as well?
It's not that a 14" Remedy was unattainable, but when we considered all the various factors that go into these decisions, it didn't make sense. The reach on our 15.5 Remedy is already the same as the reach on its two closest competitors, the small Juliana Roubion and the extra small Giant Hail. Other pertinent measures such as head angle, seat tube angle, and stack are nearly the same as well when the Remedy is set up with the Mino Link in the "Low" position.
Considering that the fit and sizing of the smallest Remedy is already in line with the smallest 150mm bikes from other brands, and that all the various costs for things like development, testing, tooling, and carbon molds outweighed what we would sell in that new size, it didn't make sense to produce a smaller Remedy just because we could. Since Fuel EX is our highest-volume full-suspension bike, it made more sense to put our development resources into making a smaller size for that category instead.