First Look! 2014 Trek Fuel EX 29er – Weights, Details & Ride Impressions!
Last week, Trek released a few key 2014 models to their dealers, and as expected, a few of the more, um, “eager” shops immediately posted images online well before the official public launch pegged for the end of the month. Even their athletes got in on it.
In years past, Trek dealers have often had to sit by and watch as the media pushed next-model-year info online and build hype, only to not see product available for them to sell for months afterward. To their delight, the brand flipflopped it this time, and dealers are now already taking delivery of the bikes. We found a few fresh off the truck at one dealer and put them on the scale, in front of the camera and on the dirt for a quick test ride!
Click past for specs, details, weights and first ride impressions on four of the new 2014 Trek Fuel EX 29er bikes…
From left to right, these are:
- Trek Fuel EX 9.7 29er – 28.42lbs (12.89kg) – Size 17.5
- Trek Fuel EX 8 29er – 29.81lbs (13.52kg) – Size 19.5
- Trek Fuel EX 7 29er – 30.15lbs (13.68kg) – Size 18.5
Note that weights are with the reflectors, plastic cassette spoke guard and tubes all installed.
Across all three of the complete bikes shown here, there are some commonalities. They all get Fox CTD Evolution forks and CTD rear shocks with Trek’s proprietary (and quite functional) DRCV design. It’s using Trek’s Full Floater and ABP suspension design, which traps the shock between floating the rocker and an extension of the seatstays, built for 120mm of travel. Up front, the headtube and fork are based on their G2 geometry. They’re running what look to be new Bontrager Duster 29er wheels and Bontrager 29×2.3 tires. One interesting spec note: They’re all three running triple chainrings. There are a couple of differences on the partially assembled 9.8 bike.
2014 TREK FUEL EX 9.7 DETAILS
Pictured in all its glory at the top of the post, the Fuel EX 9.7 29er sits just below the top rung model, shown next. It uses an OCLV front triangle with an alloy rear end and rocker.
The front end feeds the shifter cables into the frame and runs the rear brake externally along the downtube. The front shift cable runs inside the top tube and pops out just in front of the seat collar.
The rear shift cable pops out just in front of the shock and ducks into the chainstay, popping out again just in front of the rear derailleur. That black rubber port cover? That’s the entry point for stealth droppers…keep reading.
Both carbon and alloy models get their Carbon Armor downtube protection, it just extends further toward the BB on the carbon models. All models have ISCG chainguide mounts and use Pressfit 92 bottom brackets. On the carbon versions, it looks like the front derailleur mount is removable, letting you set up a 1×10 / 1×11 drivetrain without extraneous hardware cluttering the view.
Trek seems to have made the Fuel EX 29ers (and likely the new Remedy 29ers, too) ready for anything. Both the carbon and alloy models have routing and ports for “stealth” dropper posts as well as additional routing along the bottom of the top tube. The latter has double sided grooves, which would allow for running an externally controlled dropper post and a rear shock remote side by side. On the carbon frames, only the front is fixed, the rear two are removable.
Click to enlarge the image and you’ll notice the beautifully deep paint. It’s a high gloss blue that shows the UD carbon patterns beneath it. In the sunlight it’s quite striking.
The Fuel Ex 9.7 29er gets a full XT build with triple chainrings, Bontrager cockpit and Duster wheels. Retail is $4,199.99.
2014 TREK FUEL EX 9.8 29er
For now, the top model will be the Fuel EX 9.8 29er. It gets a full XT 2×10 build and upgrades to carbon fiber seatstays. It also includes a Rockshox Reverb dropper post. The wheels also look like another new model for 2014 called Bontrager Elite 29er.
The 9.8 gets a shiny dark red paint scheme that’s like fire. Just out of view, this model gets a bolt-on (i.e. non-quick release) seatpost collar and includes a torque key so you get bolt torque set properly.
Here’s the port for the dropper post’s line to enter the frame. From the handlebar, the housing/hose would run parallel to the rear brake hose. Notice the cable guides have grooves on either side to hold two hoses next to each other. The bike comes with a Reverb bleed kit, which allows your Authorized Trek Dealer to properly trim the hose to length and install it as it’s supposed to be.
All of the bikes also come with their chainstay guard, which has a piece that curves up along the tube closer to the crankset. It’s a nice thought, but on my test ride it didn’t do much to quiet the chain slap if the rear derailleur’s clutch was turned off, and when hosing down the bike aprés ride, I noticed it holding a bit of water and dirt between it and the frame.
There’s little doubt they’ll eventually reveal a pro-level 9.9, but for now this $5,249.99 beast will rule the roost.
2014 TREK FUEL EX 8 29er
The top level alloy model is the Trek Fuel EX 9 29er, which we didn’t get our hands on. It will have an aluminum/alloy frame and will cost the same as the EX 9.7 in carbon, but will have a better kit. Shown above is the next level alloy frame the Trek Fuel EX 8 29er.
Cable routing is much the same as with the carbon versions.
The Full Floater suspension coupled with the DRCV shocks makes for a very plush suspension without sacrificing performance under full power.
The extra air canister at the top of the shock creates more volume once it’s about 50% of the way through it’s stroke. The effect is that of a firmer, tighter shock under small bumps that opens up to allow big bump eating movements when necessary. It’s a pretty slick design that works exceptionally well.
On the alloy bikes, a stealth dropper post cable or hose pops out of the seat tube just behind the lower shock mount, then run up the downtube alongside the brake hose.
With the 2.3 tires, clearance is still decent for this type of bike. Alloy models also get the chainguide mounts and downtube armor…it’s just not called Carbon Armor.
Trek’s ABP puts a 142×12 thru axle between concentric pivots. Retail on this model is $2,939.99 and it’s spec’d with Shimano SLX shifters, front derailleur and brakes, plus an XT rear derailleur. Cranks are the standard non-series Shimano triple.
2014 TREK FUEL EX 7 29er
Next down the line is the Fuel EX 7 29er, which shares the same alloy frame but basically just downspecs the components a bit.
Like the carbon bikes, you get one fixed cable guide under the top tube, followed by two dual-hose, removable retainers.
With only minor differences in spec, this one comes in just a bit less at $2,629.99.
2014 Bontrager Duster 29er Wheels
Missing from Bontrager’s website as of this posting are these Duster 29er wheels. They’re pretty good looking up close with a subtle brushed finish and smooth, rounded asymmetric profile. The spokes line up on the non-drive side in the rear, and away from the disc rotor on the front.
Eyeletted spoke holes sit in what looked like properly wide rim beds. They rolled smooth, holding the line well in the corners, and I didn’t notice any sluggish engagement. They’re tubeless ready, but I tested with tubes in them.
FIRST RIDE REVIEW
The bike tested is sellable inventory for a shop, so I couldn’t thrash it (too hard), but I did give it a two-hour run at full speed on our local trails. This is just a first impressions review based on one ride, though I have ridden G2 and ABP/Full Floater bikes in the past.
I rode the gray alloy EX 8 alloy bike since it was the only one in my size. The first thing I noticed is how much better the range of the CTD is on this bike. Whether it’s Trek’s custom tune combined with their DRCV or just an updated version of CTD, it’s the best I’ve ridden. The Climb mode became very firm, both on the fork and the shock, giving it about as much lockout as I’d ever really want. Trail seemed spot on for our cross country-oriented singletrack, and Descend became super plush. All in all very, very good.
Part of G2’s geometry is a fork with more offset, which reduces the trail. It’s coupled with a shorter stem, and this one was pretty short, to provide tight-yet-stable handling. It’s definitely different and takes a bit to get used to, but once it does, the Fuel can be whipped in and out of corners.
Along those lines, the Fuel EX 29er is playful. Dare I say the handling resembled a 26″ bike, except it rolled over everything better. It’s easy to pop the rear wheel off the ground around a corner and flick it a bit sideways on a jump. It’s almost as if the bike knows you want to do that and helps things along.
On the descents, drops and rough stuff, the suspension felt controlled. The suspension settles quickly into its travel when pouring into a G-out or landing a small jump, but, once there, seems to maintain itself within a usable range in the travel. It didn’t feel like it sunk too low, nor did it sit too high in the travel.
On smaller stuff, it did feel a bit firm and wanted to skip around a bit when standing and hammering/climbing, but weighting the rear wheel slightly seemed to help. Even in Trail mode, there’s minimal bobbing when standing and pedaling. Like any full suspension bike, it’ll feel more efficient in Climb/lockout mode, but in Trail I could still scoot along and not feel like my efforts were wasted on useless up-and-down motion. Honestly, I think that combination of firm and plush is exactly what they’re going for with DRCV, and if so, it works. Heck, even if it’s not intentional, it’s pretty darn good.
I could only find a few small gripes: In the big ring, there was a chain grind noise under hard compression. Not sure what this was, but it wasn’t pleasant. Since the front derailleur’s position is fixed, it could be that the rear end brings the chain up too high in certain cogs and it rubs the top of the cage.
Second, there’s noticeable chain slap noise when RD’s clutch is turned off. Make sure you turn it on. Are we spoiled these days or what?
Lastly, I mentioned some small bump harshness, particularly at the hands. This could be more noticeable with the alloy stem and handlebar spec’d with paper thin lock on grips. Swapping to a carbon bar and thicker grips would turn this into a non-issue for me.
All in all, the ride is really good. Compared to other 120mm bikes, this one feels like it has 100mm of travel until you need more, which is (IMO) a pretty good thing. Fast and efficient but able to take bigger hits. Slotting this in above the 100mm Superfly makes a lot of sense for anyone that’s not all about XC racing and gram shaving. That said, it’s not hard to imagine shedding quite a bit of weight from any of these bikes simply by trading the tubes for a bit of sealant and putting a good 2x or 1x crankset on it. It’s not that the bike felt heavy on the trail, but reducing the rotating mass helps you feel fresher, longer and makes every ride more enjoyable.
If you’ve been holding out for Trek to move their ABP/FF platform to 29″ wheels, I’d say get thee to your local Trek Store ASAP. Word is plenty of dealers just got them in stock, and they’re not allowed to EP them until August…so you might stand a chance.