Trek Bikes Scratch Air 8  2010 Mountain Bike Review

Trek Bikes Scratch Air 8 2010

Reviews / Enduro Bikes

Trek Bikes 1,642,047

At a glance

Pulling the Trek out of the van for the first time caused a scramble from the guys. This is the bike many have been waiting for and it has the look and solid feel about it that suggests it is not going to disappoint.

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It has the beefed up lines that look like a cross between a Remedy and a Session, which is in essence exactly what it is… A freeride rig yet it sports a triple chainset and air shocks? Read on and we will endeavour to explain.

Tech heads

There are 4 models in the Scratch range, 2 with coil suspension units and double and bash set ups and 2 with air suspension units with triple chainsets.

Our test bike is the Air 8 model which is the higher specced of the two air models and came in a 17.5’’ which is not in fact a medium but what trek call a virtual large which is what it felt like.

All four models feature Treks Alpha Red Aluminum frameset.

Treks ABP eliminates brake jack whilst Full Floater suspension technology via the alloy EVO Link provides 170mm of travel at the back.

An E2 tapered head tube stiffens up the front end with a 1.5’’ lower and a 1 1/8’’ upper whilst ISCG03 mounts allow all models to be easily fitted with chain guides and bashrings.

Then there are the innovations, the Scratch sports the new 142mm x 12mm rear dropout standard which has a tabbed guide so the rear wheel slots into position easily and the axle has a location point, you also get a better chain line which is a bonus. 135mm x 12mm can still be used with an adaptor.

Trek have included a neat adjustable geometry feature which allows you to run a 66.5º head tube angle with the bottom bracket at 14.4’’ or flip the Mino Links and you can run a 66º head tube angle with the bottom bracket at 14.1’’.

Seat tube angles are 75.5º and 75º depending on the geometry setting.

An effective top tube length of 570mm keeps the cockpit feeling compact which is just right on a freeride rig and the wheelbase of 1160mm keeps things stable as speeds increase.

On the Air 8 model there is a Fox DHX 4.0 rear shock with Pro pedal bottom out resistance and up front a Fox 36 Talas R with lockout, rebound adjustment and a 20mm thru axle gives up to 160mm of adjustable travel.

Ever dependable Shimano XT kit handles drivetrain duties whilst Avid carbon handled Elixir R brakes take care of stopping the bike.

A bonus is the Crank Bros Joplin seatpost with remote lever, which is topped by a Bontrager Rhythm saddle.

Bontrager provide the 70mm stem and Big Earl handlebars which are 710mm wide and have 25mm rise.

Bontrager Cousin Earl Elite wheels finished with Bontrager XR4 2.35 tires round out the package.

Our test bike weighed in at a very reasonable 33.5lbs on our scales without pedals.

On the trail

The Scratch has a look that makes you feel like it is going to be good and once riding it feels taut and very controlled. It felt very similar to the shorter travel Trek we rode in the last issue which raised the question of how it would cope on big terrain.

The reason that Trek have specced this bike with a triple chainset and air shocks is to allow those amongst us that do not have the luxury of an uplift a chance to pedal the thing to the top without blowing a gasket and the good news is that you can!

With the fork set at 130mm which equates to a head tube angle of 67.5º the Scratch made its way purposefully uphill. The rear end finds traction with ease and whilst it is no mountain goat we did get it up everything we ride 140mm trail bikes without the need to push.

Leaving the fork at 130mm on singletrack made for a planted and surefooted ride that had us enjoying the trail, with the fork set at 160mm the steering slowed down a bit and the bike became a little slow through tight twisty stuff.

It is heading down the hill that is what the Scratch was born for and it does it with aplomb.

The Scratch flows downward with a sense of assurance that comes from a sorted design and good angles. This allows the rider to pick lines and hone their skills without having to second guess what the bike is going to do.

We found ourselves riding with a fluidity and smoothness that had us believing we might actually be better riders than we realised and we found that we were riding sections faster than we felt we had.

Hucking 7’ dropoffs never fazed the Trek and the bike never felt overwhelmed even when riding some seriously long rock gardens at speeds that would have thrown the rider on a less composed rig.

For

Versatility is becoming the buzz word in mountain biking and this bike is causing a buzz for all the right reasons.

With travel adjustment up front and geometry adjustment out back the Scratch is a tool that will reward its owner by providing a competent freeride experience and yet can be pedalled up hill and put through singletrack at pace.

With the bike set in 66.5º head tube angle mode it flows down freeride and UK style DH courses. Flip the Mino Links and it allows you to up the speeds on big bermy open DH courses and is perfect for Alpine riding.

Precision and control make the Scratch a scalpel which in the hands of a riding surgeon will cut fast, clean lines down any trail and seconds off any run.

Against

The only gripe that came up with the Trek was that the bike could feel a little slow to turn in the tight stuff. This was a minor issue and would easily be rectified by swapping the 70mm stem out for something a bit shorter, we found a 50mm suited the bike better and any mention of slow steering was soon forgotten.

We would do away with the triple chainring too and get a double and bash on it.

The Scratch is a controlled, efficient ride and as such it did not always excite, which for some meant it would not be their first choice.

Overall

What Trek has done with the Scratch is hit a niche in the market and they have hit it smack bang in the bullseye

This bike rides beautifully and every rider logged fast times when we sessioned it out on the hill but as with all things mountain biking opinions are subjective and it was felt by some that the bike was not playful enough for them where as others loved the fact that the bike behaved impeccably and allowed them to develop their art and ride smooth and fast.

A great bike that can be ridden over the whole mountain yet has a razor sharp cutting edge… if you have an itch for a fast precise ride then you should Scratch it!

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This review was in Issue 4 of IMB.

For more information visit Trek Bikes

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By Rou Chater
Rou Chater is the Publishing Editor of IMB Magazine; he’s a jack-of-all-trades and master of none, but his passion for bikes knows no bounds. His first mountain bike was a Trek 820, which he bought in 1990. It didn’t take him long to earn himself a trip to the hospital on it, and he’s never looked back since. These days he’s keeping it rubber side down, riding locally and overseas as much as possible.

Tried this? What did you think?