Trek Slash 9.9 RSL Review
Words by Drew Rohde // Photos by Michael Darter & Dennis Yuroshek
When Waterloo, Wisconsin based Trek Bicycles revamped their mountain bike line for 2017 a lot of people took note. For several years Trek offered their three dual suspension bikes – the Fuel EX, Remedy and Slash in various wheel sizes. Trek’s current offering now aligns itself with current trends in the ever-changing (10mm at a time) landscape of mountain bikes. The Trek Slash, which was once considered more of a freerider’s bike is now squarely aimed at the enduro race crowd with its 29-inch wheels and 150mm of rear wheel travel and a 160mm fork. We tested the flagship 9.9 RSL (Race Shop Limited) build, which sports heavier duty tires and the most performance-minded build for discerning riders.
Over the last decade, Trek has quickly gone from being your dad’s bike brand to a company with an esteemed pedigree. Starting with Aaron Gwin’s World Cup domination aboard early Session frames to the Atherton’s current Session 9.9 dream machines. Tracey Moseley has amassed EWS victories and Trek also sponsors what is arguably the most impressive freeride roster, the C3 program.
The Slash’s geometry is adjustable via Trek’s Mino Link and is definitely worth praising as the bike feels very well balanced and stable regardless of the position we flipped the Mino Link to. In the high position the Slash has a very capable 65.6-degree head angle with a 64.8-degree seat tube angle and 13.86-inch BB height. The reach on our size large 19.5-inch frame was 18.07 inches with a 47.99-inch wheelbase and 17.04-inch chainstays.
The spec on the 9.9 RSL is a bit of a mixed bag. Fox Factory shocks handle the bumps but aren’t our favorite offerings from the brand. Trek chose to spec this enduro-ready racer with a Talas fork, which does not work as well as a Factory Float without travel adjust. The performance penalty for a non-essential feature is not worth it in our opinion. Out back a Float X2 shock also gave us a bit of trouble as we feel this damper lacks the ability to quickly open up on chattery, small to medium-sized obstacles based on our experience with several other bikes also spec’ing this shock. Trek’s tune further exacerbated the shock’s weakness as we ended up having to use the maximum number of volume reducers to find the sensitivity we wanted yet still had issues bottoming out too easily. We contacted Trek and requested a Rock Shox Super Deluxe to compare it to because we had one on a Trek Remedy and absolutely loved it! After back-to-back experimentation and one last phone call with Jose Gonzalez, Trek’s suspension guru, we gave the Fox another go. With the maximum number of volume spacers (5) installed and a change in air pressure, both front and back we found our happy place. That said, we worry about riders who are heavier and faster than our 170lb hacks as we still reached bottom several times on fast runs with 5 spacers installed. Depending on your weight, riding terrain and style, this may or may not be an issue for you.
SRAM’s Eagle drivetrain held up to a real beating on the Slash and never skipped a beat. It always shifted and pedaled like a dream. The SRAM brakes left a little to be desired in terms of lever feel and power but they got the job done. What didn’t get the job done however was the Bontrager dropper post. It gave up the ghost pretty quickly, which to be honest wasn’t a huge bummer as the 125mm of travel was really cramping our style on the steep descents of the PNW. The rest of the cockpit and wheels held up great and we’d have no problem recommending any of those parts for hard charging.