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FAST BIKE FRIDAY – FUEL EX 8 XT

Trek Fuel EX 8 XT 2021

This week our Fast Bike Friday feature is looking at the fantastically versatile, super-fun to ride Trek Fuel EX 8 XT full-suspension trail bike. This capable bike is a great option for riders looking for one mountain bike that does everything well; the Fuel EX 8 is only one option within the range of Fuel EX models available and is made from Alpha Platinum Aluminium rather than OCLV Mountain Carbon which you’ll find further up the range, this means that the Fuel EX 8 is more affordable while still including many of the key benefits you’ll find on the more expensive Carbon options providing great value for money. The versatile Fuel EX 8 XT is built around two different wheel size options depending on your bike size; while fast-rolling 29” wheels feature on most frame sizes, on an extra-small frame you’ll get a more proportional 27.5” wheel to help give you better stand-over clearance and it’s also good to see that for the size small option Trek have actually given us a choice of 29” or 27.5” wheels.

The Fuel EX 8 XT’s stout but light alloy frame is ready for action…

Trek Fuel EX 8 XT 2021

The Trek Fuel EX 8 XT trail bike is built ready for rowdy riding; as you cast an eye over the bike the big travel fork, active rear suspension, large aggressive-tread 2.6” tyres and dropper seat post all hint at what this bike has been designed to do – conquer tight, technical trails at speed and handle big hits with ease. This versatile trail bike doesn’t just excel on the downhills though, with years of experience and the constant evolution of Trek’s design and engineering principles with regard to full suspension platforms the Fuel EX 8 pedals surprisingly well uphill without being effected by all of that suspension travel. Throw in an efficient 1x drivetrain with a massive 12-speed 10-51T cassette and there’s really no reason to fear the uphills; this is a trail bike that’s capable of taking on the most demanding terrain you can find regardless of whether you’re pointing it uphill or downhill.

The Fuel EX 8 is built for rowdy riding…

Trek Fuel EX 8 XT 2021

The Trek Fuel EX 8 XT Alpha Platinum Aluminium frame is packed full of user-friendly features that have previously been utilised on a number of Trek’s other mountain bike models. One such feature is the Knock Block which is a clever frame defence system integrated into the bike’s headset and headtube; in the event of a crash where your bars spin this system limits the rotation of the handlebar to prevent the fork crown or handlebar controls from damaging the frame. There’s also a downtube guard to protect from any potential damage from flying debris as well as Trek’s Control Freak system – a simple setup which provides neat, efficient brake and gear cable routing through the frame; every little detail on the frame has been considered and refined where necessary.

The high-value Alpha Platinum Aluminium frame is packed full of user-friendly features…

Trek Fuel EX 8 XT 2021

The Fuel EX 8 XT’s rear suspension takes proven technology and designs that have evolved over years of design and development at Trek; with a bike brand that is so well established in MTB and with so many full-suspension mountain bikes across their complete range of bikes you won’t be surprised to see a number of suspension innovations on the Fuel EX that are also found elsewhere.  Trek’s ABP system separates suspension and braking forces, keeping suspension active under braking. If you’re braking on rough terrain the last thing you want is for the suspension to stop working and for the rear wheel to start skipping about so that you lose traction and control just when you need it most. The ABP system sees the brake being attached to the floating portion of the swingarm allowing for fully-active suspension even under heavy braking.

Trek’s APB system keeps suspension active thanks to this concentric pivot and careful placement of the brake on the floating portion of the swingarm…

Trek Fuel EX 8 XT 2021

The rear suspension is plush, active and adjustable thanks to its Magnesium Rocker Link, Mino Link and APB…

Trek Fuel EX 8 XT 2021

The Fuel EX 8’s 130mm of active rear suspension is facilitated by a Fox Performance Float EVOL rear shock which has been tuned by the Trek Suspension Lab to include their RE:Aktiv suspension system. This clever shock was developed in partnership with Penske Racing Shocks & implemented by Fox and is completely unique to Trek bikes; the principle behind this shock is simple – when you’re pedalling you want your suspension to be firm and supportive, when you suddenly hit rough terrain and encounter big hits you want your shock to absorb it with full-travel. The RE:Aktiv tuned shock allows this consistent control all the time; it’s NOT two separate settings; Trek use a Regressive Damping system which adjusts how reactive the shock is to different types of input. When you’re pedalling the shock is being subjected to low-velocity shock compression and the corresponding damping means the shock is firm; when you encounter a big hit there is a high-velocity compression and the corresponding damping means the shock opens fully to allow full compression. Clever and unique to Trek!

The Fox Performance Float EVOL RE:Aktiv shock tuned by the Trek Suspension Lab provides 130mm of travel…

Trek Fuel EX XT 8 2021

It’s all about the details on this Trek Fuel EX  with another brilliant addition being their Mino Link featured on the rear swingarm. The Mino Link gives you the ability to fine tune the bike’s geometry to suit your preferred style of riding and the sort of terrain you typically ride; this link can be adjusted quickly and easily using just one tool. Flip the Mino Link back for a slacker headtube and a slightly lower bottom bracket giving you more stability for steep, fast and lose descents; if you’re spending more time negotiating tight, technical singletrack flip the Mino Link forward for a steeper headtube angle and a higher bottom bracket giving you faster, more-responsive steering.

The Mino Link allows you to adjust the Fuel EX 8’s geometry quickly and easily…

Trek Fuel EX 8 XT 2021

To match that sophisticated 130mm of suspension on the rear of the Fuel the EX 8 comes spec’d with Fox’s brilliant Rhythm 34, Float EVOL air spring fork with GRIP damper. Inspired from FOX’s MOTO background the GRIP damper uses their FIT sealed cartridge technology combined with an independent floating piston. GRIP allows excess oil to purge through specially designed ports at the top of the damper helping to maintain consistent damping.  There are three compression damping positions which can be easily adjusted on the top of the fork – Open, Medium and Firm; these Boost110 forks with 140mm of travel are built to take the big hits in their stride.

The Fox Rhythm 34 Float suspension fork with 140mm of travel is ready for the big hits…

Trek Fuel EX 8 XT 2021

The Rhythm 34 features an EVOL air spring and GRIP damper…

Trek Fuel EX 8 XT 2021

The Rhythm’s GRIP Damper is quick and easy to adjust on the fork crown…

Trek Fuel EX 8 XT 2021

Trek have included their own Bontrager Line dropper seatpost on the Fuel EX 8 XT and have spec’d the amount of travel specifically to the size of the frame; for bikes sized XS and S there’s 100mm of travel while sizes M, ML, L, XL and XXL all get droppers with 150mm of travel. The Bontrager Line is internally routed through the frame and is cable activated rather than hydraulic. A simple shifter is fitted to the underside of the handlebar on the left hand side and is compact, neat and easy to use without cluttering up your cockpit. If you’re going to ride this bike aggressively (and you will!) then the addition of a dropper seatpost is a must, enabling you to quickly get your saddle out of the way when you’re dropping into that steep techy descent.

Trek have spec’d their own internally-routed cable-activated Bontrager Line Dropper seat post…

Trek Fuel EX 8 XT 2021

The Bontrager Line dropper seat post is activated by a simple lever on the left of the handlebars…

Trek Fuel EX 8 XT 2021

As the name suggests, the Trek Fuel EX 8 XT comes spec’d with a Shimano XT groupset (there’s also an option to buy the same bike but with a Sram GX groupset if you prefer, for the same price). This latest Shimano XT groupset is 12-speed and features lots of innovative features that have been developed and further-refined from previous iterations. Key features of this 1x drivetrain include a 12-speed cassette with a huge range of gear ratios ranging from a tiny 10T cog to a massive 51T cog so there’s no chance of spinning out on the descents or running out of low gears on the climbs. The XT rear derailleur features a clutch to keep the chain in tension and preventing it from unshipping from the cassette or 30T chainring upfront.

The Fuel EX 8 XT’s 12-speed drivetrain consists of mainly XT componentry… 

Trek Fuel EX 8 XT 2021

You may have already spotted that, despite the Fuel EX 8 XT’s model name this isn’t strictly speaking a full XT groupset as Trek have fitted a Shimano SLX chainset; this is not an unusual practice as bike brands will often mix and match componentry to ensure that they can hit a particular price point and this case it’s VERY easy to see just how much bang for your buck you’re getting elsewhere on the bike. Despite flagging this up, it really is a minor point; the SLX chainset with a direct-mount chainring is almost equally as light and stiff as the equivalent Shimano XT chainset.

Trek have spec’d an SLX chainset rather than XT on the Fuel EX 8…

Trek Fuel EX 8 XT 2021

Gear shifting duties are taken care of by a 12-speed Shimano XT M8100 shifter…

Trek Fuel EX 8 XT 2021

The Shimano XT M8100 long cage derailleur can handle a 51T max cog…

Trek Fuel EX 8 XT 2021

A trail bike that’s as nimble and agile as this is going to get you up to speed pretty fast; with the potential to launch you into steep drops and tight turns at full chat you’ll quickly find yourself needing to scrub off speed to stay in control. Thankfully Trek have spec’d a pair of Shimano MT420 4-piston hydraulic brake callipers; these 4-pot brakes are more powerful than a typical 2-piston calliper that you will find on a more cross-country, less gravity-orientated mountain bike. These brakes are matched up with large Shimano 180mm rotors and user-friendly Shimano MT4100 brake levers for a dependable setup capable of handling the demands of aggressive gravity-assisted trail riding.

Shimano MT4100 levers place powerful braking capacity at your fingertips…

Trek Fuel EX 8 XT 2021

Powerful Shimano MT420 4-piston hydraulic disc callipers scrub off speed quickly and in control…

Trek Fuel EX 8 XT 2021

As you’d expect from a complete bike from Trek the Fuel EX 8 XT comes with a durable wheelset from Bontrager. The Bontrager Line Comp 30 front wheel features a Boost110 alloy hub with a 15mm thru axle built onto a tubeless-ready rim while the Bontrager Line Comp 30 rear wheel features a Boost148 alloy hub with a 12mm thru axle and a Shimano MicroSpline freehub (to accommodate that massive 10-51T cassette) built onto a tubeless-ready rim. Depending on which bike size you’re riding those wheels will either be 29” or 27.5” as we highlighted earlier, needless to say both options are pretty bombproof and have been spec’d with aggressive trail riding in mind.

29″ Bontrager Line Comp 30 wheels shod with XR4 Team Issue tyres are tubeless ready…

Trek Fuel EX 8 XT 2021

Those capable Bontrager wheels come fitted with a pair of Bontrager XR4 Team Issue tyres. Trek have spec’d a 2.60” wide option upfront and a slightly slimmer 2.40” option at the rear; that extra volume on the front will help you plough through unpredictable terrain and hold traction on tight, lose turns. The XR4 Team Issue tyres feature Inner Strength sidewalls for enhanced protection from cuts to the sidewall inflicted by sharp rocks – a scenario not uncommon here in the Lake District, but wherever you ride this is a welcome addition.

The XR4 Team Issue tyres feature an aggressive tread pattern and Inner Strength sidewalls for enhanced protection… 

Trek Fuel EX 8 XT 2021

The Trek Fuel EX 8 XT is the trail bike for you if you’re looking for a versatile full suspension mountain bike that encourages you to ride harder and faster than you have previously in the pursuit of pure, laugh-out-loud fun with your mates. A ‘do it all mountain bike’ is a term that can be over used, however, in this case it’s most certainly true! Trek can back up this claim thanks to some clever design and engineering of the frame’s suspension platform, custom shock and refined trail-friendly geometry. The Trek Fuel EX 8 XT is equally at home at your favourite trail centre as it is on more natural terrain when you’re undertaking a marathon singletrack session and it climbs as well as it descends thanks to that clever RE:Aktiv shock. If you measure quality in performance per pound, then the Fuel EX 8 XT with its strong, durable alloy frame, plush active suspension and rather choice selection of componentry is one seriously good option.

The Trek Fuel EX 8 XT is a high-value 29er trail bike that’s packed full of tech…

Trek Fuel EX 8 XT 2021

The Trek Fuel EX 8 XT mountain bike is available now in-store and online…

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Written by Johnny Dodgin

Photos by James Vincent