Trek Bikes Slash 9.8 2016 Mountain Bike Review

Trek Bikes Slash 9.8 2016

Reviews / Enduro Bikes

Trek Bikes 1,642,047

At A Glance

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Six years ago Trek developed this suspension design, it was hugely successful and they’ve stuck with it. The Slash 9.8 is a very well thought out and brilliantly executed application of this platform aimed at the enduro rider looking for a highly capable 27.5 wheeled machine.

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The design criteria for this discipline of mountain biking is a minefield for the manufacturer. They must create a bike capable of withstanding high speeds and brutal punishment on the downhills, but to be light and agile enough to tackle any demanding ascent you’d encounter on your all-mountain epic.

Trek have accomplished this well. The near fully carbon frame on the Slash (bar the chainstays and their ‘Evo’ rocker link) is light, stiff, and confidence-inspiring. This platform makes for a solid descent, with support in the corners not unlike a bigger, more downhill orientated bike. Point the Slash upwards, and it turns into an agile and efficient climbing machine.

The frame is nothing without the tried-and-tested suspension combo from Rock Shox. Pikes take care of damping duties upfront while the exceptional Monarch Plus RC3 handles the rear. Normally Trek use a custom Fox DRCV RE:aktiv shock. Although the DRCV is good, it doesn’t quite have the progressive nature to cater for the Slash’s downhill aspirations.

The Monarch Plus manages this with its piggyback cartridge and a much bigger volume. Three compression settings ensure the bike is supple and grippy in all conditions. Coupled with Trek’s Full Floater Linkage, the suspension feels bottomless, while still being supportive. Small bumps are soaked up effortlessly and the bike keeps its poise ready for the bigger hits.

Tech Heads

The SRAM 11 Speed X1 Drivetrain needs no introduction. It worked faultlessly throughout testing with no adjustment whatsoever. It handles steep uphill gear changes with ease, and there wasn’t even a hint of dropping a chain, even on the roughest downhills. If it were mine, I would add a small top guide for belt-and-braces security, but that’s probably over the top - the narrow/wide chainring and mech work perfectly together.

Bontrager Maverick Pro TLR rims are shod with their meaty XR4 tyres. Being of the new 35mm breed of rim, these offer fantastic support and amazing stiffness. These wheels make an already quick bike accelerate like nothing else.

SRAM takes a break when it comes to stopping duties, bowing out to the legendary Shimano XTs. With a 203mm rotor up front, it’s clear what Trek want you to be doing on this. The brakes worked perfectly throughout testing without any fade on long descents.

The dual position Pikes and Monarch Plus shock lend themselves to the riding that the Slash was made for. Fully open and fully extended, the suspension platform allows for fast descents over truly rough terrain. Even when you start testing it, the bike is as steady as a rock and doesn’t let you down. Dropping the forks down to 130mm, and ramping up the Monarch’s compression setting creates a solid and very efficient pedalling platform for the grind back up.

On The Trail

Straight out of the box, Trek’s intentions are clear with this model. The 65.5 head angle is very slack for a do-it-all bike. That being said, it’s no slouch on the uphills, and even after a long day in the saddle, ascending is never a chore on the Slash.

On the downhills is where it really shines though. The phenomenal grip generated by the big high-volume tyres, wide rims, beautifully plush suspension, and solid frame allows you to push the Slash 9.8 further than you’d think. This bike is knocking on the doors of matching downhill rig capabilities, you can truly point and shoot it wherever takes your fancy - it's a truly well-balanced machine! The clever ‘Mino’ link system allows an even slacker option of bang on 65 degrees. 65 degrees is a bit slack for every day use, but for riders taking this on uplift days, it adds even more versatility.

Spec wise, I wouldn’t change a thing. Everything serves an important purpose and does it very well. Trek have managed the most difficult task in mountain biking with ease, and in doing so have created a truly fantastic bike.

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This review was in Issue 39 of IMB.

For more information visit Trek Bikes


By Will Simmons

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