Off-road bikes these days are pretty well segmented, and there’s a dizzying array of models suited to specific kinds of riding: Downhill bikes designed for bombing through rugged descents, light and fast cross-country bikes meant for racing, and fat-tire bikes for tearing up snow and sand. It’s hard to keep track of it all. Fortunately, with the new Trek Fuel EX, you don’t have to choose. The latest update to the company’s best-selling full-suspension bike is designed for maximum versatility in all kinds of dirt, whether you’re hustling up a fire road or bouncing down forested singletrack.
“Our goal here was to keep it at that sweet spot of capability, but also efficiency,” Travis Ott, mountain bike brand manager for Trek, tells Men’s Journal.
The Fuel EX is an ideal fit for someone looking for one bike that can do it all, Ott explains. The design tweaks in the latest version are geared to help it perform better on rugged downhills while preserving its ability to climb. Trek upped the bike’s front fork suspension travel to 140mm, and adjusted the frame geometry so it’s longer and slacker than the previous version. Both of these changes help the Fuel soak up rough descents and increase its stability, while a revised rear shock mount and steeper seat tube angle help maximize pedaling efficiency. For riders familiar with the earlier version of the bike, the new Fuel EX retains its strong climbing ability but is now more capable on downhill segments.
“You’re gonna notice the changes on this bike descending as opposed to climbing,” said Ott. “When you’re pointed downhill, you’re going to feel a lot more confident.”
The updated Fuel EX is also introducing two brand new features to the Trek lineup: in-frame storage and unisex sizing. The carbon fiber models of the Fuel EX come with a storage compartment beneath the water bottle cage on the downtube—a great spot for storing tools and snacks. In addition, the Fuel EX now features unisex sizing. Rather than picking from a limited range of women’s options, riders of any gender can explore the full range of models, says Ott.
“You’re no longer having to choose between that good, better, or best option.”
As for specs, here’s a taste of what you’ll get: The top-shelf Fuel EX 9.9 retails for $7,500 and comes with a Fox Factory Float front fork and rear shock, a 1×12 SRAM Eagle GX drivetrain, Shimano hydraulic disc brakes, and tubeless-friendly Bontrager Line Carbon 30 wheels, available in 27.5-inch (for the smaller frames) and 29-inch sizes. There are several more affordable versions available, too. Ott points out that the Fuel EX 8, the most popular version, and Fuel EX 9.8 provide particularly good bang for your buck.
“You’re getting a lot of performance for the dollar there,” he adds.
Calling the Fuel EX a good starter bike for trail riding doesn’t really do it justice. You can ride the Fuel for a while, and on a wide variety of trails, before you bump up against the edges of its capability. Put it this way: If you only have room in your garage for one bike, and some cash to spend, start your search here.