Trek Fuel EX = A Rico Suave All-Around Bike
Reviewer: Randy King
Photos: Scott Schekman & Randy King
The Trek Fuel EX 9.9 is an inspiring all-around bike, great for big mountain riding: it is fast, light weight and cheeky. The top of the Fuel line model is a sort of James Bond super agent of bikes. Yes, some other bikes can run, jump and fight as well, and yet others share its dark good looks. However, the Fuel EX 9.9 does both at the same time, making its rider look as good and as competent merely by association.
The demo bike I tested was dressed to kill, decked out with the best offerings from SRAM, Fox, Shimano and others. The parts worked together well, carrying the bike smoothly and nimbly over the rough roots and short, tight steeps of Bedford, VA’s Falling Creek Park. The all-carbon frame, crank and bar rode like a dream of all that carbon is hyped up to be.
Riding the XL-sized frame put me in a little more stretched out versus upright riding position. I liked this because I felt more actively engaged with the bike – not perched on top of it. I found myself pedaling faster and pushing the bike through turns. Interestingly, the riding position also seemed to keep me seated more, even through small rough patches.
However, I think most of the Fuel EX’s buttery smoothness flows right from the Fox suspension. Specifically, Trek’s proprietary Fox RP-23 design, with DRCV (Dual Rate Control Valve). According to Trek, the twin-chambered shock is designed to eliminate the ramp-up at the end of the shock’s travel without adding the weight of an external chamber, meaning a smoother ride over varied terrain. The shock acts like a normal RP-23, until a bigger hit. Then the compression opens the valve into the second section of the chamber – the little extra bit visible on the top of the shock in the pictures – and the bump is eaten up at the same compression rate. In theory, it should feel more like the linear compression of a coil spring, but with air shock weight. “Right on,” I say. The DRCV shock performed beautifully.
This is a high-speed machine that would handle many challenges with aplomb. It weighs just 25-pounds (11.34KG) in its carbon suit. The aluminum versions reputedly weigh in at only a pound (454G) more for the frame. That’s light, and it feels even lighter. Still, the 5-inches (120MM) of travel are meant for going places off the beaten path, and the Fuel EX does this with the bold cheek of a much burlier bike. You could race this bike; you could ride it all day, every day.
So what’s the bad news? Well it has to do with all those little green pieces of paper. Specifically, the more than 6,700 of them it takes to buy the Trek Fuel EX 9.9. That’s a lot of money for something stamped “Made in Wisconsin.” That’s a lot of money period.
Still, if you ride it, you’ll probably want this bike. I did. And you know what? I’m not gonna try to convince you that you can’t rationalize the purchase. Everybody has dreams. Why not a glam, all-carbon, $6,700 one from Wisconsin?
©Big Mountain Riding