The things he carried.
The things he carried.

Trek 1120 – Rack-o-Rama, What Have We Here?

The Midstay bikepacking rig looks similar to a Stache, though markedly different

Trek recently released its 2018 1120 rigid 29+ bike aimed squarely at bikepacking and mixed-terrain adventure touring with integrated aluminum front and rear racks. There may be some readers who will not make it to this second sentence due to two things mentioned in the first sentence – rigid (scary) and 29+ (big, also potentially scary.) Let us remind you that we are fans of the Trek Stache 29+ bike, which yes, has 29+ tires and, also yes, is fun. So we don’t need to necessarily fear the big tires. Many have reported on the unveiling of this 1120 bike, so we’re here to provide some reasonably-priced-cubicle-armchair thoughts on the new steed. Unridden of course, so the best type of thoughts–nonempirical speculation. You know, what made Internet forums famous, right? That said, let the speculation begin.

The alloy-framed rig seemingly appears very similar to a Stache–Trek’s trail hardtail making use of 29+ tires, a 120-millimeter boost fork, and a short, elevated drive-side chainstay referred to as Midstay by Trek.  Closer inspection reveals some other differences between the two: the short chainstays aren’t as short, the a-mere-two-months-ago-considered-slack headtube angle of 67.8 degrees isn’t as slack. Less close inspection reveals racks. Big, unapologetically orange racks.

Racks.

Like, for commuting? You mean for people with panniers and sandal SPD shoes that pass me (effortlessly, mind you) on the way in to work as I sweat heavily and make no forward progress on my fancy bike? Those kind of racks? More question marks?

Yes racks. Call me crazy but I seem to remember the supposed emergence of bikepacking being rack-free. Bikepacking: the shedding or disposal of noisy, potentially snap-able touring racks in favor of lightweight “soft” bags fitting within the fame, dangling off the bars and saddle, adventure included, color-matching optional.

Bikepushing, not to be confused with Bikepacking.

Equally perplexing then seems to be the priorities at play here–no suspension fork, yet a dropper post. Hmmm.

Though we may be lead to believe we need to fear all of this: a longer chainstay, a steeper headtube angle, robust racks, and a rigid fork–despite all of this, Trek just might be onto something here. Before we dive into why, let’s think about this bike’s intent. If you’re looking for a Trek to ride out of the bike shop door and to the bottom of South America, then, aha, look to the 1120. The 1120 is a bike to ride long distances, on dirt, in mixed-terrain, on dreaded fire road, perhaps even some singletrack–to go the distance with all the things you need (possibly more, certainly room for them) to go that distance.

Now that we have that ironed-out: 1120 = distance, let’s revisit those changes–longer chainstay, steeper headtube angle, burly racks, and a suspension-corrected rigid carbon fork.

 

CHAINSTAY

We’re talking 20 millimeters here–a 420-millimeter Stache chainstay versus a 440-millimeter 1120 chainstay. This places the rider comparatively further forward on the 1120 as one is riding more in between the wheels than over the rear wheel.  The effective toptube is just over 20 millimeters shorter per comparative frame size on the 1120, and the effective seat-tube angle remains the same between the Stache and the 1120–again, positioning the rider comparatively further forward on the 1120. A longer chainstay is more stable–it won’t change direction in a sprightly manner, but it also won’t cause things to sneak up on a tourer while all-day dirt touring as intended on the 1120. It also can be somewhat more comfortable when riding long distances as the rider’s weight isn’t sitting as directly over the rear axle, again pointing to favoring stability and comfort with the 1120 versus the Stache.

 

STEEPER HEADTUBE ANGLE

With a little bit shorter toptube and the same effective seat tube angle as the Stache, the 1120 has more of an upright riding position. Combine this with substantial weight on the front end, more of a focus on dirt road usage over singletrack, and a 70.3-degree headtube angle may not necessarily be the end of the world. 70.3 degrees is, in fact, a full degree slacker than what’s considered slack on gravel bikes. People tell me gravel bikes have dropper posts and rigid forks. Does this make the 1120 a slacked-out gravel bike? I kid. Slightly.

RACK ATTACK AND SUSPENSION CORRECTION

Excitement time. On the rear rack, the 1120 comes equipped with two included rack harnesses intended to securely hold two eight-liter drybags, making for 16 liters total of storage on the rack’s flanks. To put things into perspective, a Porcelain Rocket Mr. Fusion seat bag, regarded as relatively large, holds 13 liters when maxed-out.  A pitfall of most seat bags is that they sway and that the heavy, high weight placement is very noticeable while riding. Porcelain Rocket solved the sway problem by adding a seatpost-mounted strut with the Mr. Fusion, which is known to be reliable while out there. The rear rack and harness system on the 1120 places the weight lower and frees up space for a dropper post. Additionally, there’s room on top of the rack to lash on more things, also possibly negating the use of the dropper, one of the rack’s benefits. If the rear rack system proves to be durable, rattle-free and the bags secure, Trek could be onto something here.

Gear futzing, the essence of any bikepack trip.

The front rack works in tandem with the suspension-corrected fork. Suspension-corrected for me conjures thoughts of a misbehaving suspension fork, wallowing away, then–ta-da, suspension-corrected, one is pronounced with a rigid carbon fork, punitive duties fulfilled.

Not really.

Suspension-corrected rigid forks are made with taller axle to crown heights than are necessitated to solely clear the front wheel–in effect, they accommodate for the additional travel that would be there on a suspension fork by making the rigid fork taller. They might as well be called fun-compatible because when you see one, it means you can put a suspension fork on that otherwise rigid bike. In this case, 120 millimeters of fun-compatible 29+ suspension fork. That’s a lot of fun. We like fun.

This front rack works in tandem with the suspension-corrected-to-120-millimeters rigid fork because it allows for more room between the front tire and handlebar. The additional room is used by the front rack and it places the weight lower than traditional handlebar bags.  Remember, low weight good, high weight bad. It also frees hydraulic brake lines from getting kinked, a common complaint of traditional handlebar bags that slam the bag upward against the handlebar, cinching tightly to reduce sway. Remember, sway bad. Salsa came out with a similar system not quite a year ago with their EXP Series Anything Cradle and Dry Bag which attempted a similar aim–to securely fasten a dry bag or gear lower and without kinking brake lines. Salsa achieved this through using two 6061 forged aluminum arms connecting a rigid,  composite mounting harness a few inches away from the handlebar, again alleviating brake line kinking. The affixer of the system would then rotate the harness downward until the harnessed dry bag was not quite rubbing the front tire when the suspension fork was fully compressed. Trek instead opted for a rack and created the necessary space by using a tall rigid fork–if successful, it should alleviate brake line kinking and provide a very low and even feel to front bags. This is a hypothesis we will have to test and find out. Yep, empirical testing, real talk.

Notice the brake lines, they are free to roam, just like adventure dirt touring.

The question we’ve been waiting for: Is it a Stache, is it not a Stache? It is definitely different than a Stache and it has some very interesting and unique features, as well as a solid, no-nonsense SLX 1X drivetrain for $2,499 with a claimed weight of 31 pounds for a 19.5″. Has bikepacking evolved to racks? Will it hold up? Those questions we can’t yet answer. We’re  eagerly awaiting our test bike, and once we get it, we’ll hopefully rattle our teeth out on dirt roads before the racks fall off. Hopefully. Only time will tell. Full review to come.

trekbikes.com/1120

Related:

Review: Trek Stache 9.8

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