At a glance
Trek provided us with an 18.5inch Ex8 in pearl white and it has to be said that it looks fabulous.Buy Trail Bikes on
The heavily manipulated tubeset and that big beautiful magnesium EVO link give the bike a look of solidity and it is fair to say that we were very keen to get this bike out of the office and onto the trails.
The big difference to the ’10 EX8 is the inclusion of Trek’s proprietary DRCV Fox Float RP-2 shock with pro pedal and rebound adjustment.
This shock has an extra chamber which becomes active as the shock cycles through its stroke. For the initial 30% of the stroke the shock acts as a small air chamber shock would with a firm progressive feel, then the second chamber is accessed via a push rod valve which then gives the shock the feel of a large air chamber shock for big hit duties.
There are no major changes to the frame which is an all aluminium affair that has a E2 tapered head tube that aids stiffness up front while the DRCV shock is driven from both ends via the EVO link, the frame also features Trek’s ABP.
A reasonably long top tube makes for a roomy cockpit and a fairly lengthy wheelbase adds stability. The head tube angle is 69º while the seat tube is 72.5º.
Up front the EX8 sports a Fox 32 F-Series 120mm RL which has lock out and rebound adjustment, it is worth noting that this is a standard quick release so no 15mm through axle here.
Spec is similar to last years bike with the main upgrades being a XT crankset over SLX and braking duties are now taken care of by Avid Elixir 5’s rather than the Juicy 5’s from last year.
The rest of the kit is pretty much the same, shifters and front mech are SLX with a XT rear mech.
Bontrager Race level finishing kit provide the saddle, seat post, handlebars which are a 40mm rise with 680mm width and 100mm 7º rise stem.
Wheels are Bontrager Rhythm Comps so can be run tubeless and Bontrager XDX 2.2 tyres round out the package.
On the trail
The first thing to do is take your time and set the suspension up correctly, there is a clear and helpful guide on their website.
Once on the bike it immediately feels comfortable and stable, the roomy cockpit is laid out just right and we soon found ourselves riding without really thinking about the bike as it just felt right.
That long top tube and reasonably long wheel base means that the bike is stable and predictable, that is not to say that it isn’t fun, it carries speed well and it was easy to get into a fast flowing rhythm, a shorter stem would be better to quicken up the steering a touch but that is easily sorted.
That DRCV really does work and the back end was tight and controlled and never bulked at anything. Small bumps and stuttery sections were smoothed out and once into the mid and end sections of the stroke there was no yaw or wallow, just a deep controlled plushness… very impressive.
Up front the Fox F-Series 32 is a good balance for the smooth shock out back and the bike was balanced and poised. The lack of 15mm bolt through did mean that we got deflected off line when pushing very hard through rutted sections but it was rare and the front end generally tracked superbly well though the tyres are not designed for wet slippery winter conditions and let go easily.
Climbing is not hard work on the Trek, the rear end can be firmed up with the pro pedal but it was rarely used and the central position on the bike meant it was easy to move our weight forward and aft as required.
Singletrack and fast flowing rocky, rooty trails are a blast on the EX and the bike just seem to handle whatever we threw at it without any fuss which served as a confidence booster which encouraged us to push that little bit harder.
Once heading downhill the DRCV comes into its own and the bike did not kick back or ramp up on some pretty hairy runs, even swallowing up a cased landing of a four foot drop off.
All the kit worked well and we did swap out the long stem for a shorter one which put the finishing touch to the otherwise excellent ride.
Trek have surpassed themselves with the addition of the DRCV shock and it takes an already very good bike up a notch to a brilliant one.
It is tight and controlled giving excellent feedback and makes this a fast, fun bike to ride, yet it is smooth and plush throughout its travel and very comfortable.
Add to this solid build quality, reasonable value and striking good looks and you have a bike that demands a look by those that are in the market for an extremely capable trail bike.
It also comes in an 18.5 inch frame size which is right in between the traditional medium and large sizes and means you can get the right fit for you.
The first thing we would do is change to stem for a shorter one.
Then the tyres would come off as the XDX’s fitted are ok on hard pack but clogged immediately in mud and offered very little grip in wet rooty conditions.
If you have the money it would be worth upgrading the fork to a 15mm bolt though version at the time of purchase as that would then eliminate the only real handling gripe we had.
Whilst it is not heavy at a shade under 28lbs on our scales the EX8 is not light either, that said the weight was not really noticeable on the trail.
A stiff, accurate frame matched with effective suspension and a spot on riding position all add up to an extremely pleasurable ride.
The Trek is not a big mountain bruiser nor is it a flighty xc orientated bike with extra travel but it is capable of taking on big terrain and can be ridden all day at pace too.
Once onboard the Trek you soon forget the bike and concentrate on the trail as the bike is busy taking care of its end of the bargain.
For the money, it has gone up to £2000 this year, this is a lot of bike and only needs the odd tweak to the spec to make it spot on.
Do not look at the spec sheet and think that all you are getting for the extra is a slight improvement in the brakes and crankset, the new DRCV is worth the cost increase alone with its seamless controlled performance throughout the entire 120mm of travel.
If you are a weekend warrior that enjoys riding trails and likes to get away for some more technical rough and ready action every now and again then you should take a Trek Fuel for a test run as it is a consummate trail rig that we suspect you may very well fall in love with.Buy Trail Bikes on
This review was in Issue 3 of IMB.For more information visit Trek Bikes
By Nigel GarroodNigel Garrood was one of the instigators of the IMB project and has been with us since the very beginning. This loveable rogue has more stories than the Bible and is known to enjoy a beer or two. On the bike, he’s fast and loose and often puts younger riders to shame. Equally he’s been known to suffer from the odd crash and carries the scars to prove it. He was once referred to as being a robot sent from the future to save us all!