At A Glance
This is one hot looking bike; we shot it at the Trek World show in Munich and fell in love with the colours. If you get the chance to see one in the flesh take a good hard look at the slight blue tint to the carbon weave. Bikes aren’t just about looks though and there is a reason this machine has won many accolades in the industry. The 120mm trail bike has long been a popular choice for many riders, capable of everything from XC racing to some serious trail abuse. However, in recent years the trend has shifted towards enduro and longer travel bikes the Fuel EX was in danger of being left by the wayside. New for this year is a 130mm front and rear suspension platform that will make this bike even more capable than it was before!Buy Trail Bikes on
The central platform to any bike is the frame, and the 9.8 features the stunning OCLV Mountain Carbon frame and seatstay with an alloy chainstay. E2 tapered head tube at the front and 142x12mm at the back along with ISCG 05 mounts. The EVO Link is magnesium to save on weight and internal cable routing is featured throughout, including the dropper post, keeping things nice and tidy.
Suspension is built around the tried and tested Full Floater system with Active Braking Pivot to ensure the suspension works irrespectively of what you are doing with the brakes. Trek have a long history of working with Fox Racing Shox to custom tune their suspension to each bike and the Fuel EX 9.8 gets the same treatment with a custom tuned Fox Performance Series 32 Float 130mm with DRCV, CTD (climb, trail, descend) and the FIT Damper with a 15QR Axle.
The rear end gets the same custom treatment with a Fox Performance Series Float DRCV shock with CTD at 7.25x2.0” giving 130mm of travel.
Wheels and tyres are an all-Bontrager affair, as you would expect, the set up is the Rhythm Elite Tubeless Ready wheeleset with 15mm front and 142x12mm rear. Rubber duties are performed by the Bontrager XR3 Expert 2.20 tyres.
Handlebars and stem are Bontrager Race X Lite with a Bontrager Evoke 3 saddle on titanium rails held up by a Rock Shox Reverb dropper post.
Stopping is taken care of by the excellent Shimano XT hydraulic disc brakes with 180mm front and 160mm rear discs.
The drivetrain is also Shimano with XT Shadow Plus rear mech, XT 3x10 crankset plus XT shifters and an XT front mech.
Trek Fuel EX 9.8 17.5
Seat tube 419mm
Effective top tube 585mm
Head tube 122mm
Chain stay 425mm
Wheel base 1110mm
BB height 33.8cm
Head angle 68°
Seat angle (eff) 73°
Weight w/o pedals 26.3lbs
On the Trail
It’s not hard to swing your leg over the Fuel EX 9.8, the arcing top tube leads to a very low standover height. Once you have got your leg over you are going to struggle to get it back off though, this bike is seriously fun to ride. Out of the three testers who rode it from our team none of them wanted to give it back and there were smiles aplenty on the trails.
The Fuel EX has always been a fun bike to ride, and very capable too, but the extra 130mm and tweaked geometry make it even better in terms of hitting heavier stuff. The rear shock tune is superb and it never seems to wallow, instead feeling taught with every pedal stroke. This is attributed as well to Trek’s excellent suspension platform, add in the Climb Trail Descend modes and you have a bike that is just as at home on flat blasty singletrack races, as it is in big mountains.
The handling is sublime and we never felt out of our depth, no matter what we asked of the bike. It has a very playful nature and feels infinitely “chuckable”, throw it into berms, off jumps and drops and it takes it all with aplomb.
Climbing is very good, the stiff frame and taught suspension ensures maximum power is converted and the bike accelerates up the hill like a bulldog that has been stung on the balls by a wasp. When it gets steep the front can lift a little so be sure to trim your body position in the saddle to keep the nose down.
Cornering inspires confidence with the short nature of the bike allowing you to dominate the frame and really get round tight corners fast. The XR3 tyres were lacking a little in the mud and gloop, but that is only to be expected with conditions as they are here in the UK. Spring through to Autumn these are great and if you stick some mud tyres on for winter there will be no stopping you.
Simply one of the easiest to ride, fun, playful and entertaining bikes out there. It isn’t cheap, but the same smile inducing geometry and suspension set up can be had for a lot less on the aluminium models.
If we had to find fault, and it is hard, the ability to drop the front fork down to 100 or 110 would help on steep climbs, it also looks so good you will cry when you scratch it for the first time.
A great upgrade to the hugely popular Fuel EX platform, 130mm of travel makes the bike even more relevant in the current marketplace and a whole heap more fun to ride down just about anything!Buy Trail Bikes on
This review was in Issue 22 of IMB.For more information visit Trek Bikes
By Rou ChaterRou 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.