TREK FUEL EX
Bike Tested: Trek Fuel EX 9: $3,409 Top of the Line: Fuel EX 9.5: $6,159 New Technology: R1i Suspension Intelligence and the Active Braking Pivot
Hype: The new Active Braking Pivot system keeps the rear suspension engaged when the brakes are engaged, resulting in more control through sharp turns (less skidding, less skipping). The new shock is also mounted on two moving links instead of the industry standard one. The extra moving link at the bottom of the rear shock is intended to give you a super plush feel and make the most of the travel.
Performance: The performance of the duel linking suspension system can’t be overstated. With most full suspension bikes (including the Stumpjumper) the rear shock rarely maxes out, so if you’re riding a 4-inch travel bike, you’re actually only squeezing 3.5-inches of travel out of your suspension. The extra link at the bottom of Trek’s rear shock moves when needed just like the top link, allowing the rider to sink through all 4.7 inches of travel in the bike’s rear suspension. The extra travel was noticed and appreciated on a downhill with big waterbar drops. The Active Braking Pivot (ABP) system also lived up to its hype. On an extended downhill with high berms and big whoop-de-doos, the ABP kept the rear suspension engaged regardless of how hard our testers hit the brakes, allowing the testers to push high speeds through turns while remaining in control of the back end.
While the Stumpjumper uses the Brain technology to eliminate pedal feedback, Trek accomplishes something similar by carefully positioning the main pivot of the swing arm so that when you’re in the middle chain ring (where you spend the majority of your time), the rear suspension stiffens automatically. Drop in the lower chain ring for a steep climb, and the suspension softens. However, the Fuel rear shock comes with a quick lockout switch–a standard feature that came in handy on a couple of extended climbs during testing. Lock the suspension out, and the Fuel is as nimble and responsive as any hardtail through steep, technical terrain.
The Stumpjumper’s Brain technology worked exactly the way it was supposed to, helping to bridge the gap between the power of a hardtail and the cush ride of a soft tail. The Fuel’s suspension and braking system isn’t as technically advanced as the Stumpjumper, but it offers similar results. The dual pivoting links surrounding the Fuel’s shock offer a more plush ride than the Stumpy without sacrificing weight or power. The Active Braking Pivot system kept our testers in control of their bike regardless of how fast they whipped through turns, and the simple, often overlooked shock lockout accomplishes what the Brain accomplishes, but with more customizable results. All of these factors make the Trek Fuel EX BRO’s Editor’s Choice.