Photos by Sam McMain
Trek has a new XC boss its 2016 lineup. The Top Fuel line up replaces the Superfly FS as Trek's race-specific 100mm travel bike. Don't let the race-specific tag fool you though; the new Top Fuel is the life of the party. It’s fun and fast, without loosing sight of it's goal: Lycra clad domination.
Without sacrificing the lightweight construction traditionally found on the Superfly FS models, the Top Fuel now utilizes an Evo Link and Full Floater rather than the swing link. This makes the 100 millimeters of rear-wheel travel feel extremely capable. The traction and power we experienced pedaling the Top Fuel was, for lack of a better word, shocking. With the addition of Boost 148 rear-axle spacing, everything we put into the pedals was propelled us forward, while the rear wheel seemed almost glued to the ground no matter how chunky the trail was. If that doesn't make you want to lay the smack down you should probably just give up your racing dreams right now.
On the topic of Boost technology, our Top Fuel 9.9 SL was equipped with the RockShox RS1 with Boost 110 spacing up front as well. This only added to the precision handling of the Top Fuel. The RS1 was very well balanced with the rear suspension in being supportive yet capable when it came time to push the pace on the descents.
Adding to that razor sharp handling were the DT Swiss XMC 1200 Carbon hoops. Stiff and lightweight, these DT wheels were the perfect compliment to the Boost technology front and rear. It should also be noted that Trek didn't take the obvious route of Bontrager wheels, instead opting for what they felt would be the best fit for this model. That doesn't mean you won't be roiling on some Bontrager rubber though, and that's a good thing. The 2.0 XR1 tires rode the opposite of how they looked with predictable grip in the corners along with lovely stop and go characteristics under pedaling and braking force.
On the descents our Top Fuel 9.9 SL acted more along the lines of a trail bike than some kind of spindly XC whip. This was in part thanks to the addition of Trek’s Mino Link, which previously was only available on longer-travel trail bikes. It's probably no surprise that our desk-jockey edit team opted for the low-and-slack setting, which came with a 70-degree head angle and 33-millimeter bottom bracket height. In the high position you'll be rocking a head angle that's 0.9-degrees steeper and bottom bracket that's 8-millimeters taller. Regardless of Mino link position, there will no doubt be racers who will shower love on the bar-mounted hydraulic suspension lockout. Our loose-and-rocky test loop didn't leave much time or reason to consider locking out the suspension, and the Top Fuel’s pedaling action felt extremely efficient when the trail did mellow out.
Trek Top Fuel 9.9 SL Details
Wheels: 29" (15.5" size gets 27.5)
Frame weight: 1900g (17.5″ frame with hardware, paint and shock)
Pricing: 9.9 SL: $9,450 (tested); 9.8 SL: $5,250; 9: $4,200; 8: $2,730; Frameset: $3,470
Geometry (click to enlarge):
As you would expect, the $9,450 dollar Top Fuel 9.9 SL didn't leave much to be desired in terms of spec. Shimano's XTR rear cassette, shifter, and derailleur performed as expected, with legendary precision and performance, but what our crew really appreciated about XTR on this race specific machine was the tighter steps between the gears allowing our testers to dial in their cadence no matter what the grade. Another drivetrain detail that was unexpected yet appreciated on the 9.9 SL was the choice of uber-light yet trustworthy Race Face Next carbon cranks and direct mount ring.
Perhaps the only sticking point for our testers were the XTR Race brakes. For how much this bike begged you to open it up on the descents they didn't quite seem to offer the stopping power we had hoped for. Our consensus among the crew was that we would rather sacrifice weight for some added confidence at speed. Although not stock, we opted for adding a KS 65mm dropper post during our test laps, and we were glad that we did. At times it's easy to forget that you're not on a trail bike, so it made sense to have a bit of drop for the drop. Our KS post wasn't internally routed, but the Top Fuel does support internal dropper-post routing with Trek’s Control Freak cable management system.
So who is this bike for? The 9.9 SL is no doubt for the high-end race crowd, and they can be confident that over the course of the last few seasons the Trek Factory Racing team has dialed in every detail of the ride, making this top-end model an absolute weapon at the races. But perhaps one of the most notable things about the 2016 Top Fuel line up is the broad price range: four models, along with a women's specific Fuel 8, start at the reasonable price point of $2,730.