investment

Trek Fuel EX 9 27.5 review

We test-rode the 27.5in-wheeled version of the Trek Fuel EX 9 in the beautiful landscape around Burnsall in the Yorkshire Dale with Joe Vadeboncoeur from Trek. We last rode here with him 15 years ago and while neither the scenery nor the love for biking have changed much in that time, the bikes we’re riding have changed a lot.

So does Trek’s updated Fuel all-rounder set new standards or offer valid reasons to buy that other bikes don’t?

Frame and equipment: well-specced alloy frame

As it’s one of the first releases of 2015, the EX 9 27.5’s pricing is hard to judge. The price seems steep for an alloy machine, but then SRAM’s X1 1×11 transmission and XT brakes aren’t cheap.

In terms of fit, the 720mm bars are wide enough for reasonable control without catching in trees and the top tube is long enough to cope with a mid-length stem without cramping breathing. The front-end feel matches well with the 68-degree head angle that is steady enough to feel safe but not downhill floppy or bars-on-your-knees slack on climbs and flat trails.

Trek loves an exclusive ‘technology’ and a catchy name and for 2015 its unique twin-chamber DRCV shocks get a new RE:Aktiv damping valve setup. Designed by American auto racing aristocracy Penske, this is a speed-sensitive regressive damper developed to keep Formula One cars stable under cornering but still suck up high-speed kerb hits. If this sounds a very familiar sort of claim for most inertia or threshold dampers then you’re not wrong.

However, Penske’s valve uses seriously complex multi-angle port and backplate technology that’s different enough to be patented, and it feels great on the Trek. The fully floating shock (it squeezes between chainstay tip and rocker linkage) and ABP concentric rear axle mean there’s still a bit of movement when you look down.

At under 13kg with a dropper post it’s okay – if not outstanding – on weight, lifting over stiles on the first sneaky singletrack without too much trouble. That means our assessment is going to be all about ride.

Ride and handling: under control

The Fuel EX 9 27.5 flicks and picks lines nicely on flowing riverside singletrack but doesn’t threaten to tuck under as the surprise steps at the start get steeper. Trek’s certainly not alone in having well sorted, friendly handling that lets you get on with the ride though, which immediately shifts focus to the suspension.

That Re:Aktiv DRCV shock gave better traction and a more connected feel when climbing or descending loose rock trails than a full lock like Specialized’s Brain or more aggressive threshold dampers. Actual pedal stability was excellent when we had to leap on the pedals to hunt down passing roadies or properly grind a gear up the last concrete slab pitch way above Coniston.

Surprisingly, given the amount of things happening in such a small space, there’s no spike or choke from either the RE:Aktiv or the twin air chamber DRCV valve opening or closing. The net result is a genuine delivery on the ‘back end that feels as tight as a short travel bike under power, but descends and grips like a 140mm travel bike’ clich?.

It’s totally neutral in the way it manuals, drops, drifts and brakes too.

This gave us confidence enough to drop the Reverb and clatter flying rocks against the rubber belly armour and push the travel ring to full through ditch yumps, but isn’t so bullish and enduro that you automatically push the 68-degree front end so hard it starts to feel unstable.

?The Performance series Float fork is a lot smoother and consistent than 2014 models and the 32mm legs are just about stiff enough to make the most of the tapered top end and balanced handling. The Bontrager tyres are also great matches, usefully fast on roads without feeling treacherous on washy shale or wet rock, and ready to turn tubeless just by snapping the supplied sealing strip and adding a slop of sealant into the wheel.

With SRAM 11 and the RE:Aktiv shock, the EX9 certainly worth the investment over the cheaper EX8. Then again we’re really keen to test the more-expensive carbon-framed 9.8 now, to see if that’s worth the extra too.

This is a great no-brainer package that uses the latest technology to remove lever faffing, position shifting and steering re-learning stress. If the views, easily cleaned climbs and carved descents are what you want to remember from summer days on your bike, rather than the bike itself then Trek’s new Fuel is a winner.

This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.

Our Australian crew have their hands on this model too, we’ll be sure to provide a longer-term test on this ride in the future.








Trek Fuel EX 9 27.5 review

We test-rode the 27.5in-wheeled version of the Trek Fuel EX 9 in the beautiful landscape around Burnsall in the Yorkshire Dale with Joe Vadeboncoeur from Trek. We last rode here with him 15 years ago and while neither the scenery nor the love for biking have changed much in that time, the bikes we’re riding have changed a lot.

So does Trek’s updated Fuel all-rounder set new standards or offer valid reasons to buy that other bikes don’t?

Frame and equipment: well-specced alloy frame

As it’s one of the first releases of 2015, the EX 9 27.5’s pricing is hard to judge. The price seems steep for an alloy machine, but then SRAM’s X1 1×11 transmission and XT brakes aren’t cheap.

In terms of fit, the 720mm bars are wide enough for reasonable control without catching in trees and the top tube is long enough to cope with a mid-length stem without cramping breathing. The front-end feel matches well with the 68-degree head angle that is steady enough to feel safe but not downhill floppy or bars-on-your-knees slack on climbs and flat trails.

Trek loves an exclusive ‘technology’ and a catchy name and for 2015 its unique twin-chamber DRCV shocks get a new RE:Aktiv damping valve setup. Designed by American auto racing aristocracy Penske, this is a speed-sensitive regressive damper developed to keep Formula One cars stable under cornering but still suck up high-speed kerb hits. If this sounds a very familiar sort of claim for most inertia or threshold dampers then you’re not wrong.

However, Penske’s valve uses seriously complex multi-angle port and backplate technology that’s different enough to be patented, and it feels great on the Trek. The fully floating shock (it squeezes between chainstay tip and rocker linkage) and ABP concentric rear axle mean there’s still a bit of movement when you look down.

At under 13kg with a dropper post it’s okay – if not outstanding – on weight, lifting over stiles on the first sneaky singletrack without too much trouble. That means our assessment is going to be all about ride.

Ride and handling: under control

The Fuel EX 9 27.5 flicks and picks lines nicely on flowing riverside singletrack but doesn’t threaten to tuck under as the surprise steps at the start get steeper. Trek’s certainly not alone in having well sorted, friendly handling that lets you get on with the ride though, which immediately shifts focus to the suspension.

That Re:Aktiv DRCV shock gave better traction and a more connected feel when climbing or descending loose rock trails than a full lock like Specialized’s Brain or more aggressive threshold dampers. Actual pedal stability was excellent when we had to leap on the pedals to hunt down passing roadies or properly grind a gear up the last concrete slab pitch way above Coniston.

Surprisingly, given the amount of things happening in such a small space, there’s no spike or choke from either the RE:Aktiv or the twin air chamber DRCV valve opening or closing. The net result is a genuine delivery on the ‘back end that feels as tight as a short travel bike under power, but descends and grips like a 140mm travel bike’ clich?.

It’s totally neutral in the way it manuals, drops, drifts and brakes too.

This gave us confidence enough to drop the Reverb and clatter flying rocks against the rubber belly armour and push the travel ring to full through ditch yumps, but isn’t so bullish and enduro that you automatically push the 68-degree front end so hard it starts to feel unstable.

?The Performance series Float fork is a lot smoother and consistent than 2014 models and the 32mm legs are just about stiff enough to make the most of the tapered top end and balanced handling. The Bontrager tyres are also great matches, usefully fast on roads without feeling treacherous on washy shale or wet rock, and ready to turn tubeless just by snapping the supplied sealing strip and adding a slop of sealant into the wheel.

With SRAM 11 and the RE:Aktiv shock, the EX9 certainly worth the investment over the cheaper EX8. Then again we’re really keen to test the more-expensive carbon-framed 9.8 now, to see if that’s worth the extra too.

This is a great no-brainer package that uses the latest technology to remove lever faffing, position shifting and steering re-learning stress. If the views, easily cleaned climbs and carved descents are what you want to remember from summer days on your bike, rather than the bike itself then Trek’s new Fuel is a winner.

This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.

Our Australian crew have their hands on this model too, we’ll be sure to provide a longer-term test on this ride in the future.








Blue is back, with plans to expand product line

WILMINGTON, Del. (BRAIN) — Blue Competition Cycles is back in business and looking to expand its product line in the coming years, its CEO told BRAIN. After nearly two seasons off the market, Blue recently received its first shipment of bikes from Taiwan since the brand emerged from an unsuccessful merger with the now-bankrupt Divine Cycling Group.

Gore Bike Wear Fusion Cross 2.0 Windstopper AS jacket review

Gore Bike Wear may be priced at the premium end of the market, but the investment usually pays off because of its garments quality materials and attention to detail.

The Fusion Cross 2.0 uses Gore’s water resistant and windproof Windstopper Active Shell material, and has some nice touches, such as the zipped Napoleon pocket with captive lens wipe hidden neatly within.

The cut is very good, but on the slim-fitting side. It slots in neatly between a full-on roadie cut and baggier trail fit, with pre-shaped arms that rest comfortably when in a riding position. There are underarm pit vents to help control airflow, plenty of subtle reflective detailing and reinforcement on the shoulders to prevent premature wear from backpack straps.

The waist isn’t elasticated, and nor does it have silicone grippers, so it occasionally rides up, especially when it gets tangled with waist straps. The velcro straps on the wrists can be securely cinched down, but we prefer the Neoprene cuffs of Gore’s own Alp-X 2.0 softshell, which do a much better job of sealing the gaps for less bulk.

That warmer, slightly insulating jacket also highlights another issue with the Fusion Cross. When it does give up the battle with rain and wets out, it’s not particularly insulating and the material tends to leech heat from your body rather than help keep it in. On warmer, dry days it also gets quite sweaty.

It excels in cold, dry conditions, where it cuts out wind chill effectively. It is also very hardwearing and the quality is beyond reproach.

This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.


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Trail Tech: Using 10-speed chains with SRAM XX1 and XO1

Question: I’ve read on various Internet forums where riders are using 10-speed chains with SRAM XX1. Can you confirm that it’s possible to run a 10-speed chain on SRAM’s 11-speed mountain groups?

Possible? Yes. Prudent? Well, read on…

Why it’s possible

Some of the cleverest design elements of SRAM’s 11-speed mountain groups are also the most subtle. Take for example the cassette: SRAM didn’t attempt to cram 11 cogs in the same space previously occupied by 8, 9, and 10-speed cassettes. In these three previous cog additions, the chain as well as the teeth of the cassette were made increasingly narrow to fit onto the freehub body.?

In the case of XX1 and XO1, the smallest 10 cogs occupy the same space as a 10-speed cassette. The 42-tooth cog is essentially dished inward from the actual freehub body. (If you look at an XX1 or XO1 cassette installed on a wheel in profile you’ll see what I mean.) As a result of “cheating space” from the cassette, the teeth on SRAM’s 11-speed mountain bike groups are only marginally narrower, as is the spacing, compared with its 10-speed groups.

Last summer, I was riding a test bike equipped with XX1 when I managed to wedge a branch in the drivetrain. The stick won; the PC-XX1 lost. I shortened the chain and limped home. I had a race the next day and was in a bind. I replaced the shortened PC-XX1 with a properly sized PC-1071 I had in my toolbox.

The 10-speed chain shifted through all 11 cogs just fine, though I removed it and installed a PC-XX1 at the earliest possible opportunity. Although it worked okay and the differences in spacing and tolerances are “only marginally” different, those margins matter.

Why it’s not the best idea

Many of the riders running 10-speed chains on SRAM’s 11-speed mountain groups are likely going this route for one of two reasons:

1. They have an existing stockpile of 10-speed chains to burn through.

2. Many 10-speed chains can be found cheaper than SRAM’s XX1 offerings.

In both cases price is the primary concern, not performance. I can understand this; like any other high-end mountain bike group, SRAM XX1 and XO1 come with a premium price tag. But if you’re going to spend the money, it’s prudent to take care of your investment.

As one would expect, SRAM cautions against running anything other than a PC-XX1 with a XX1 or XO1 drivetrain.

The difference in the external width between 10-speed and 11-speed chains is very slight, but could be enough to cause premature wear to the cassette. You are essentially attempting to save money on a chain while risking the longevity of a very costly cassette.

Don’t be penny wise and pound foolish. A 10-speed chain can work in a pinch, but the risk of premature wear to one of the most expensive parts of the drivetrain is worth avoiding. Replace your worn or broken PC-XX1 chain with another one.


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Bike brands: savior of the pro peloton?

From the magazine Editor’s note: The following article appeared in the March 1 issue of Bicycle Retailer & Industry News. By Nicole Formosa WESTLAKE VILLAGE, CA (BRAIN) — Bob Burbank refers to the days of Mario Cipollini and the Cannondale-sponsored Saeco race team often as he discusses the brand’s latest venture, Cannondale Pro Cycling.  That sense of camaraderie and fun represented through a personable and reachable character like Cipollini is a dynamic that Burbank, Cannondale’s general manager, hopes to bring back to the sport with the new title-sponsored team and Peter Sagan, the 22-year-old breakout sprinter who became known last year for his quirky finish line celebrations in the Amgen Tour of California and Tour de France.

Lock innovators look to Kickstarter

VANCOUVER, BC (BRAIN) — Kickstarter.com continues to be a popular tool for innovators in the bike industry, who increasingly are using the crowd-funding site to complement other investment possibilities. The latest example is the Interlock, a cunning cable lock that slides into a seatpost, providing the user with a streamlined lock that is always ready for use. The proposed product comes from Vancouver-based Solgaard Design. The new company’s Kickstarter strategy is as savvy as the product itself. The company hopes to raise $48,000 through Kickstarter to put the post into production, said founder Adrian Solgaard Janzen. Janzen said he already has potential investors in the wings, but is waiting to conclude the Kickstarter campaign before bringing them in. The  Kickstarter campaign  launched Friday and by Tuesday morning had raised nearly $10,000.

Stats: 29ers, Internet sales shake up market

Editor’s note: This story was part of BRAIN’s annual compilation of industry statistics in the July 1 issue. To read related stories and for full charts, download the PDF

From the magazine: Courting China

As middle-class incomes rise and consumerism abounds, Western brands feel out future opportunity in the fast-changing country. By Nicole Formosa SHANGHAI, China—Nowhere in Shanghai is the pull of European and American brands more prevalent than the famed Nanjing Road East pedestrian mall. The new glass-walled Apple store, the third location in Shanghai and the biggest in China, is constantly packed with shoppers and gawkers as security guards keep watch outside.

IBD Summit wraps up in Monterey

MONTEREY, CA (BRAIN)—Owners and managers from 38 of the industry’s biggest-volume stores began heading back Thursday evening and Friday morning following two days of seminars and training with peers and hearing from industry outsiders and business experts on the topics of customer service, profitability, consumer trends, succession planning and new retail opportunities at the first IBD Summit. The conference was organized and hosted by Interbike and Sea Otter Classic’s Frank Yohannan