At A Glance
The world of wheel sizes and widths is no longer simple, not only do we now have three 'standard' wheel sizes, the advent of 'plus' sized tyres and fat bikes have given us a multitude of wheel and tyre options. Perhaps one of the more niche combinations is in the form of the 29er plus option, and here we have Trek's take on the plus sized big wheeler.Buy Hard Tails on
Now the Stache 9 is a great looking creature, a hardtail frame built from Trek’s highest grade of aluminium, with plenty of fancy looking hydroforming going into keeping it both impressively light and strong. Power delivery is taken care of with a SRAM X1 drivetrain, and stopping capabilities are handled with Shimano XT brakes. The seating and cockpit are provided by the ever-present Bontrager, the standout being the excellent Rhythm Pro Carbon bars, and dropper duty is looked after by the internally routed KS eThirty Integra seatpost. All this combined with an air sprung Manitou Magnum 34 Pro fork, gives a hint of what this bike might want to do. Finally, the wheels are DT Swiss 350 boost hubs front and rear built onto SUN Ringlé Mulefüt rims shod with Bontrager Chupacabra tubeless ready tyres.
On The Trail
'Oh my God what is that thing?' , I guess that would be most people's reaction too. No, it's not quite a “proper” fat bike, but it has definitely got its foot jammed firmly in the door, doing its damnedest to make the most of this peculiar breeds good points while retaining some small modicum of normality.
At this point, I should confess to a slight reputation for liking unusual bikes being an early adopter of 29ers, albeit in a single speed guise. I guess that's how I ended up with this steed, but I do like my bikes to be capable of fun too, which a quick inspection of the Trek website suggested that the Stache should be more than capable of delivering.
I have ridden the Stache in as many different environments as my local area can afford. It has sampled everything from mountain tops, valley trails and the mud/root combination so beloved of many riders currently, all of which give very different experiences of this strangely versatile beast. The first observation would have to be ‘wow!’. This is light.
It pedals a lot better than I expected, and I would go as far as saying it's downright rapid, in part no doubt to a combination of the aforementioned low weight and those Chupacabra tyres. This may be partly down to perception though which I will come back to later. Further to the wow was an ‘Ooooof!!’. It ain't half playful! This little blighter wants to have a laugh on the trails, that tight back end begs to be for manuals and it likes hopping over any and everything your skill will let you, while the voluminous tyres take the sting out of general trail chatter.
Braking has been exemplary, as you would expect from the venerable XT’s, they did get a bit squeaky in the wet, but in the real world what brakes don't a little? The transmission was OK; I did have to adjust it a couple of times, but to be fair that came as little surprise in the filth of a UK winter. Similarly, the seatpost, while it did the job, did seem a little quirky and every now and then it became stuck at the bottom. This required a little bounce to get it to return, however once I had worked this out it wasn't a big problem, again most likely caused by winter filth.
How about those tyres? I suspect that in the US, where we in the UK assume the weather is always dry, the Chupacabras are an awesome choice. For general trail centre duties and well used rocky tracks they do a great job, seemingly both grippy and fast rolling. However, get them on something less well travelled and therefore somewhat dirtier, that grip rapidly vanishes. Get them onto the mud-covered roots and suddenly I found myself on something that felt like an uncontrollable hovercraft! Oh, and for all you tyre pressure lovers out there I ran them at around 9psi which seemed the best compromise between grip, rolling resistance and not rimming out on the rockier terrain!
So, back to that pesky perception issue. I guess, as with many things, our feeling of how something rides is sometimes a very personal area. I managed to get in around 20 hours on the Stache for the test and during this time a couple of 'plus curious' friends had a ride, both of whom have slightly different standpoints to my own.
While I probably inhabit a middle ground of riding, one of these inquiring minds is of a far more cross-country persuasion, and on hearing my glowing opinion of its speed his interest was piqued. While out together we had a quick swap, XC whippet for the Stache. The result; perhaps not as fast as I thought. On a separate occasion another friend of a slightly more enduro persuasion was interested in its technical abilities, again a swap occurred. The result; not quite as rad as I thought!
Does this leave us a little confused? Well perhaps, but the general feeling was certainly one of Fun, (yes with a capital F). Maybe not the fastest nor the most capable bike out there, but inhabiting the middle ground, that of compromise, which if I'm honest is what most of us really need. Maybe there were a couple of niggles, those gears and seatpost perhaps, but nothing major though, and no more than could be expected.
What we have here is a light, playful, capable steed, up for long days in the hills or fun days on the trails. If we could just have a slightly more aggressive bit of rubber up front, I couldn't really ask for any more!Buy Hard Tails on
This review was in Issue 40 of IMB.For more information visit Trek Bikes
By Matt MartindaleMatt Martindale is a rare breed, capable of riding for days on end without sign of fatigue and still able to navigate the steep and technical with style, simultaneously putting both Enduroists and XC types to shame. As comfortable on a single-speed 29er as a 160mm full bouncer, his breadth of knowledge and experience give him fantastic insight into what really makes a great bike.