The Trek Fuel EX 8 is Trek’s best selling trail bike. An enduro / all-mountain bike that promises to be very versatile with its ample travel of 130mm on the front and rear suspension, 29-inch wheels and a few smart features. With a 1×12 SRAM GX Eagle drivetrain and a 10-50 cassette, the Fuel is also well equipped for steep climbing and killer descents.
In itself, the Trek with these specs is not necessarily very different from other bikes. There are two elements that make the bike a bit more unique. That is the ABP and the Mino Link.
We had a short window of opportunity, just two weeks to ride the bike. I mention this because I normally like to ride a bit longer on the bike and preferably under various circumstances. Certainly for the Fuel EX 8 it would have been great to be able to ride it in a bit more mountainous terrain than we have available here in the Netherlands, nut we didn’t have that opportunity. We rode on the Utrechtse Heuvelrug, a natural park area in the Netherlands with technical flow trails, much more XC than enduro. Sand and forest. We drove in dry and slightly humid weather.
You can transform the bike from a more compact, steep, upright XC geometry you can go to a wider/longer and lower DH geometry.
The Mino Link is a bolt that connects the upper arms of the rear frame to the top of the rear suspension. By loosening it you can adjust the geometry of your bike because by dropping the bottom bracket by up to 10 mm. This simultaneously changes the steepness of the head angle and results in a longer wheelbase. You can transform the bike from a more compact, steep, upright XC geometry you can go to a wider/longer and lower DH geometry.
Werking van de Mino Link
The Mino link is a potentially very cool feature, which we, unfortunately, have not been able to test. On our review bike the bolt seemed to be stuck too tightly, and in the short period that we had the bike at our disposal, we did not force it because we did not want to damage the bike. I would really like to try this out in the mountains. Because, and that is what we have felt, the geometry of the bike with the higher bottom bracket height and the steeper head tube angle is a geometry that fits very well to Dutch trails. We do not have the really fast and technical downhill runs in the Netherlands where a DH geometry is needed.
The feeling of the Trek on the Dutch trails was really nice. The bike is quite responsive and you can thread it easily through the trails. Not a very compact geometry, by the way, the highest position of the Mino Link is less steep than actual XC bikes (of course), and on the pieces that are faster and more downhill you can (also because of the dropper-post) sit nice and low, attack the turns and really lean your bike into them. The bike climbs well (especially with lock-out on the suspension), and its power delivery is good for an enduro bike.
As for the Active Braking Pivot: this technology has to counteract the effect that if you brake, your rear frame becomes more rigid (that happens naturally with braking action in any bike) and therefore your rear suspension does not work as well. With a stiffer rear frame you will bounce more. Trek has tackled this problem by ensuring that the back swing arm on which the brake caliper is fixed “floats” independently from the rest of the frame.
As a result, the braking action does not affect the tension on the rest of the frame and the suspension can also work freely. As a result, the bike should stay track better on the trail and you’ll be more maneuverable when it gets faster and steeper.
I have to say that I did not necessarily feel that the bike was riding or steering better due to the ABP. But that also has to do with the fact that in the two weeks we had the bike at our disposal, we could only ride in the Netherlands and that steepness, speed over rocky terrain: we just don’t have it here. Another reason to hoop that we can ride the bike again under the circumstances where it is really built for.
The bike is nice and playful, it jumps well, whether it is a built jump, a trail feature or a bunny hop, it takes air easily and landing feels safe and stable.
So what does the Trek bring?
If we have not been able to properly test and review those special features such as the ABP and the MinoLink, what can we say about the bike? Well above all that riding the Fuel is just a lot of fun because it is simply a good bike. The 29-inch wheels keep speed, and despite that wheel size the bike steers through the trails really well and feels nimble. On the more bumpy, downhill parts that we do have (including brake washboards) the suspension felt nice. The back suspension has the Fox Performance Float EVOL that can be set in three positions, and in front of the Fox Rhythm 34 Float. I also rode a few stairs (closest thing to rocky downhills) and the bike managed these smoothly and stable. The bike is nice and playful, it jumps well, whether it is a built jump, a trail feature or a bunny hop, it takes air easily and landing feels safe and stable.
Smooth, clean and versatile
De Trek Fuel 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.
I really liked the Bontrager XR4 Team Issue tires, with a lot of grip and sufficient speed. The aluminum frame is what you can expect from such a frame, and together with the SRAM and other Bontrager components (Bontrager is part of Trek and actually their component brand) the bike weighs around 14 kilos. Not exceptionally light but not too heavy either.
In short, a very complete and versatile bicycle of which we have not yet seen the complete potential. The Trek Fuel does well on trails in the Netherlands, but its real mountains where we expect it will really excel.