Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Trek Training Day!!!

Whenever anyone asks me about working in the Bike industry, I always get the same question asked “It must be awesome to ride bikes all day and get paid for it!”
As anyone who works in a Bike Shop knows, most of our time is spent selling bikes, fixing bikes, sorting replacement parts to customers and generally stressing about the lack of time we have to do repairs and new builds, or about the state of the shop floor.

Honestly, some days you get home and think “Id be happy if I never saw another bike in my life!” However, occasionally (and I do mean occasionally!), the monkeys are given a free pass and sent somewhere (normally cold and wet) to ride bikes for a day, and I will tell you now, the odd trip out here and there really does make all the, stressful days in the shop worth it! Myself & partner in crime Tom, as well as Dan from our new Wetherby shop, were lucky enough to be invited up to Glentress last week to try and destroy, sorry “test” Treks new range of 2015 bikes,and all 3 of us jumped at the chance to go and see what they have to offer.

So we packed our bags, left work early on the Wednesday night, picked Dan up from Wetherby and set off on a 3 ½ hour journey full of inappropriate comments, banter and many coffee stops!!!

Eventually we rolled into Glentress lodges, our home for the night and start unpacking the car and setting up camp. Tom has other ideas so by the time me and Dan had the car unpacked,Tom set up and lit a fair sized fire so it was beer o’clock!

After some ribbing each other some more, talk turned to the next day and what bikes we all wanted to try out. Both Tom and I wanted to go down the 27.5” route, however Dan was very much committed to the 29er, so as it hit midnight and the fire died down, it was time for some kip as it was an early start in the morning.

8am, everyone’s up and ready, a quick trip into Peebles for breakfast and then back to the Pod to eat and get our riding kit sorted for the day.
After a lovely, crisp, clear night, the Riding gods have not looked upon us favourably and decided to make things a bit more interesting, so it’s tipping it down!!

Waterproofs on, winter gloves and Sealskins socks
are dug out of kit bags and were off bright and early to get the pick of the bikes. Where the first lot there, so like kids in a sweetshop, we had pretty much every bike and size at our disposal, so Tom goes for a 2015 Slash 9, I grab a Remedy 9 and Dan goes for a Remedy 9 29er.

Trek have come on leaps and bounds in the last couple of years with their bikes and this year’s range looks stunning (even caked in mud from the previous day!!).
Trek have very much stuck with 29” wheels through their range as well as 27.5” for 2015. It seems everyone else has been jumping ship and going down the 27.5” route. I can understand the commitment from a lot of brands going with 27.5” over 29” as they are nimbler through the tight, twisty stuff and to be really blunt, most people are scared to death of changing to a 29er as they think it will limit them on the trail, especially anything over 120mm, as unfortunately the rise of the dreaded forum and many armchair experts have demonised the 29er as a thing reserved for the XC whippets and the quirkier riders. I’m going to tell you now that’s absolute rubbish!

Treks range of 29ers are some of the best I have ridden, and I’m very much a convert of the smaller wheels (something to do with a DH background I guess!) but with the offset crowns used on their 29” bikes, they handle like they have a much smaller wheel and after last year’s demo day at Coeyd y Brennen, I was very much sold on the 29ers (ask Dan at Wetherby for confirmation, he spent his cold hard cash on a 29er remedy this year!), but we didn’t really get a chance to test much in their 27.5” range last year as they were few and far between, but for 2015 that has all changed!

So all 3 of us set off for the long, soggy, cold slog to the top. Tom and Dan are off like missiles, I hang at the back (as usual!) being the unfit mess of the group. As predicted, Dan’s 29er is by far the best climber of the 3, the bigger wheels are always going to help him on the climbs and even with the ground sodden, he’s not struggling with lack of grip on the closed woodland climbs. Toms off like a rocket too, but starts to ease up a bit halfway to the free ride park as the slash he’s on is a big, slack bike designed for going down rather than up, but surprisingly he gets it up to the buzzards nest before Dan.

My 650b Remedy is a big surprise. It climbs very well for a 150mm travel bike and even through the steeper switchback climbs, the front end feels planted. It has all the traits of the 29er I rode last year going up, but as we get to the free ride park, I’m getting tetchy to give it some stick.

Tom and I decide to mess about for half an hour on the jumps and drops and as predicted the Slash didn’t disappoint. From the looks of things, Tom had a blast on the bike through the table tops and berms, but I’ll let you read his review further down for more on the Slash.
Dan made the decision to catch a breather and laughed at us sliding our way down the jump line, probably a wise decision as it was pretty lethal on the rocky sections and wooden boxes.
My Remedy rode like a dream, no matter how sketchy my landings were after some rather shonky whips, or dodgy line choices through some slippery rocks, the bike felt stable, planted and very forgiving. As soon as I got to the bottom, I was running back up for another go!!!!
Eventually the other 2 prised me away from the playground and we continued our accent to the top! After a couple more heart attacks and a small stroke, I crawl into the picnic area at the top of the red route. The other 2 are already there having a bite to eat and look fresh as daisys!! I catch my breath, have a moan about how cold it is, ring out my beard and then start to perk up realising its all downhill from here!!

We barrel into spooky woods at a fair rate!! The trail’s hard packed up here and were not fighting for grip even though there is a river running down the top section. I keep my distance from tom, don’t fancy having a tumble on the first decent so all 3 of us are keeping a fair bit of room between us, but were flying! The remedy is light, nimble and sticks like glue to the berms, rollers and small jumps on the top section. Through the berms I wasn’t even covering the brakes because the bike felt so stable I was rolling through them and using the berm itself to moderate my speed. It’s rare I can be on a bike for less than 2 hours and feel comfortable enough to do that, but in the wet I don’t think I’ve ever ridden a demo bike like that. This is shaping up to be a good decent!

We pop out at the bottom, have a quick breather and a drink and then into the next section.
Once again hardpack trail, fast open, corners and more pushing the bikes harder and harder.
The next section is a little different. We drop into the woods and straight away we are greeted with mud, polished roots and rocks. It wouldn’t be so bad even in the wet, but it is dark, and I mean really dark. We slow it down and pick our lines very carefully. At lower speeds the remedy still feels stable and even though it’s got a pretty slack head angle, I found I could muscle it through the technical sections without any hassle. I felt so at home on it, at one point I got a bit sloppy with my line choices and ended up straight lining a section of polished roots and ended up in a tangled muddy mess on the floor! Very much pilot error rather than the bike not being able to handle it. Dan had the same idea as me, slow and steady in the dark woods, Tom on the other hand was his usual gung-ho self and was hitting everything with a real do or die attitude, which seemed to pay off! I was the only casualty of the day, but I’m sure the other chaps had a couple of hairy moments but I doubt they will admit it!!
As we rolled back to treks tent, caked in mud, cold and hungry we all had smiles on our faces!

Next stop, food.

Over dinner, we had a talk about the bikes we’d ridden and decided to go out for a go on the new 27.5” fuels which Trek have brought out this year, we were already covered in mud so we might as well go out and try something none of us were too bothered about last year.
We decided a trip to the halfway point was a wiser move as it would be late by the time we got back if we did the full loop, so off we went on the shorter travel bikes for a bit of a play.

The Fuels are a good option for the UK, as they are slack enough to really enjoy the descents, but not too slack as to limit you on the climbs. If I was to buy a bike to ride the natural trails around west and north Yorkshire, this would be at the top of my list!!!! They climb like mountain goats, and even with my lack of fitness and how tired I was, I actually enjoyed the switchbacks up to the halfway point. It didn’t want to lift its front wheel, it was easy to manhandle over rocks and roots and had a nice comfortable riding position.
The real surprise was on the down!  The fuel feels like it has a hell of a lot more travel than it actually does!!! This partly due to the DRCV RE:AKTIV shocks trek use on some of their bikes and this year. I won’t go too much into the technology in this review, but I advise looking at this link and watching the videos on the DRCV and RE:AKTIV shocks.

What I will tell you about the shocks is that they do actually do what they say on the tin. I never really used the climb setting on either of the bikes as I found that even in the middle “trail” setting, both shocks were stiff enough to climb on, but if like me, you get caught up in the moment and forget to switch back to the “decent” mode, the bike won’t try to kill you and your suspension will work as is meant to even on rough descents. I know there is a lot of people in the industry developing specific shocks and forks for their own suspension platforms, and a lot of them don’t live up to expectations, but trek have nailed it this year, and that’s a pretty big statement from me as I am unbelievably fussy with my suspension set ups!

So, in a nutshell, Remedy or Fuel? For me personally, it’s still the remedy. I love the fact I can beat the bike up on everything I throw it at and it takes it in its stride. I’ve always loved the full floater suspension platform and Active Braking Pivots trek have used for years, I think they are one of the most forgiving rides on the market, but the DRCV shocks on the longer travel bikes have always been a bit wishy washy, sometimes you find you are using all your travel when you don’t need too.  A linier stroke on a longer travel bike isn’t always a good thing, I always find a little ramp up does make the bike feel sturdier and you’re not quite as worried you’re going to bottom out the bike. 

The RE:ACTIVE shock changes how the bike feels at the top end of the travel and never once did I bottom it out, or even feel close to doing so. I think the only change id make would be the front forks on the Remedy. I would have gone with the Rockshox Pikes myself as they have a much better feel than the 2015 Fox 34’s, but once again, that’s personal preference.

Now for the shocker…..
The Fuel really is the bike I'd suggest buying for most people. I can imagine taking it out of a trail centre setting and up onto the natural terrain and moorland round here it would be in its element. The only reason I would have the Remedy is due to how I ride a bike, as I said I tend to want something that I can really throw around and will do the bigger jumps and drops, but for your weekend warriors, trail centre riders and dare I say it, the XC guys who want just a bit more, I think the Fuel is the better option. The 27.5” wheels with 120mm forks really is the best option for most trail centres in the UK, but with its climbing capability’s and relaxed, but not too relaxed geometry (I hope that makes sense!!) it is the Perfect UK trail bike.

It’s not about how much travel your bike has, but very much how the frame and shock work together as a platform and for me, and I hate to say it, the Fuel does it better than the Remedy!