De Trek Stache is maybe one of the more quirky bikes I have ridden the past few years. I remember seeing it for the first time at the Bike Motion 2016 tradeshow and marveling at the genius fabrication of the very special chainstay, which in the case of Stache is called the Midstay. But more about that later.
“It’s one of the easiest 29-ers to wheelie!”
Martin Sneeuw of Trek Benelux was very enthusiastic about the bike and told us we really had to ride and feel the bike. “It’s one of the easiest 29-ers to wheelie,” he said with a smile. So we were really happy when we got the opportunity to ride this bike, with it’s 29-er wheels with 3 inch-almost-fat-tires and its freakishly compact geometry.
We had a short window of opportunity, just two weeks to ride the bike. I mention this because normally I like to ride a bike a bit longer and in various circumstances. I live in the Netherlands and as the name suggests, we don’t get a lot of mountains here, all of zero mountains in fact. What we do have are technical flow trails, more XC than enduro. Sand and forest dirt trails. To find rocks we need to go over the border to Germany or Belgium and beyond; or hit a rock garden of which there are not a lot either. Anyway so two weeks to ride the Stache, so we did it often and hard.
The Stache 9.7 aims to offer everything a hardtail 29er has to offer, but softer and agiler. Softer by running 3-inch tires which you can ride at lower pressure to offer some “suspension” on the hardtail you are riding. And agiler due to the shorter wheelbase.
Wheelbase and agility
To begin with the wheelbase: Trek has managed to place the wheel very “deep” into the frame. The chainstay on the Stache is a-symmetrical, with the chain running underneath the chainstay to be able to bring the bottom bracket much closer. In effect, you will see the chainring over the back tire. Which is amazing. The idea behind this complex construction is simple: the tighter into the frame you can bring the tire, the closer it will be to the center of the bike, the shorter the chainstay will be, the shorter the wheelbase will be, and the agiler the bike will be.
The Stache delivers on its agility promise. It is easy to wheel, it is nimble in parking lot playing around, and more importantly, you can thread your way through the technical trails with ease. The plus size tires give you heaps of grip while making your tight corners. There is a place on the trail I did, where you hid downhill at speed, making a very tight corner and go straight up again. You have to try to carry some speed, shift down a couple of speeds quickly and power through. The Stache handled this corner really well. The seat dropper post helping in switching the saddle height and riding position from low for the downhill to high for the climb. Excellent.
Wheels, tires and speed.
And on the climb is where I thought the Trek Stache really came into its own. It is light and stiff, the power you deliver is transferred to effectively to those grippy 29-inch tires that will roll over anything. Roots on climbs were no hindrance, you can either lift the front wheel easily or just travel over them at speed. On the flatter more XC segments the Stache is just really fast. And even though I am not really the best XC rider, I had the feeling I could just keep on piling on power to blast through those trails.
I had the feeling I could just keep on piling on power to blast through those trails.
Speed downhill is another matter though, the bike is a bit less steady than bikes with a longer wheelbase, but that is as can be expected. And you can play with the length due to the Stranglehold Dropout (mentioned later).
Hardtail and plus tires
As said, the plus tires give you room to run the tires a bit softer than you would do with regular tires. However you will compromise a bit on speed. With other fatter tires I have noticed if you run them soft, they will get bouncy quick. So I kept them well pressurized (perhaps a bit too much to be honest) in my search for that speed and power on climbs. The disadvantage to that is that on downhill bits the back tire did tend to jump around a bit. Normally I ride full suspension, so I am more used to having the rear suspension “swallow” the roughness of the trail. So I did miss that with the Bontrager Chupacabra tires at the pressure (about 1.8 bar) I rode with.
Smooth, clean and versatile
The Trek Stache has a SRAM GX 1×12 groupset which shifted sharply and smoothly. The SRAM XG cassette has a wide 10-50 range that will help you up any steep climb. I really like not having a front derailer. Simpler, cleaner, means less maintenance and is slightly lighter. The rest of the bike is just as smooth, with internally routed cables and a clean cockpit. The SRAM Guide R brake system does its job, although I have to say that, riding Dutch trails, it wasn’t possible to really put it to the test of prolonged and hard breaking which you would encounter if you are doing alpine rides.
The fact that you can run such a large cassette and such large tires are enabled by the Boost 148 on the back axle. Bigger wheels with the stiffness of smaller ones. And the other piece of simple tech is the Stranglehold dropout, a system that enables you to move the rear axle 15 mm back and forth in the back frame, adapting the length of the chainstay to your preferences and riding style. I did not have the time or opportunity to really play around with this. So, unfortunately, cannot report on it.
It’s fast, it’s nimble, it will roll easily over most obstacles. You can ride it aggressively uphill and downhill requires and active and alert riding style. It does what it was made for very well.