2017 Trek Slash 9.9 RSL Review

Trek Slash 9.9 RSL Review

Hot Tamale

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.

The Lab

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.

2017 Trek Slash 9.9 RSL Review

The Ride

As we mentioned above the initial set up on the Slash had us a bit discouraged since the Rock Shox-equipped Remedy instantly blew our minds as one of the best bikes we’d ridden. Some diligence and that last motivational call to Jose paid off however as the bike blossomed into a fiery red butterfly. The capabilities of the Slash impressed all who rode it. While it may sound like we’re coming down a bit hard on the Slash, and perhaps we are, the reality is, hands down, the Slash is one of the best bikes we’ve ridden. As time progresses however, bikes continue to improve and brands always creep up the ranks. In order for reviews to rise with the tide of these awesome new bikes, we need to increase our pickiness. It’s time to really flush out the little stuff, since that’s kinda all we get to complain about now that nobody specs triple chainrings or 90mm stems and 720mm bars.

The Slash 9.9 got passed around like a joint at a Cypress Hill concert. In some instances we’d even hop off and hand it over mid-run. It was a pretty eye-opening experience to be ripping on a bike we got along with pretty well only to throw a leg over the Slash and feel like we just unlocked a super power. Speeds increased, cornering confidence went way up and traction gains only made us feel like pushing harder. Our testers enjoyed the Slash in fast terrain with lots of turns and chunder. It’s clear that this bike was designed to move.

2017 Trek Slash 9.9 RSL Review

the Slash had us a bit discouraged since the Rock Shox-equipped Remedy instantly blew our minds as one of the best bikes we’d ridden. Some diligence and that last motivational call to Jose paid off however as the bike blossomed into a fiery red butterfly.

The Wolf’s Last Word

The bike is flat-out fast! Whether we were screaming down 6-inch wide ridgelines or scratching down steep, rugged DH tracks, the Slash was all in. We’ve spent a good amount of time aboard all three of Trek’s offerings and surprisingly, the Slash feels less like a 29er than it’s shorter travel brother, the Fuel EX. On only the steepest of chutes did we bump our ass on the tire. The dreaded rear wheel hang up that some 29ers experience going off slow speed drops was never an issue on the Slash.

Of all places we rode the Slash, we noticed it excelled in the corners and at high speeds. The confidence to attack turns is pretty heroic. It’s hard to pick a weakness in terms of on-trail performance as it really didn’t do anything poorly, once we finally got the set up dialed that is. Our biggest issue was with the Fox spec and shock tune. The Talas fork doesn’t perform as well as it’s Float counterpart and the shock tune is lacking for aggressive or heavy riders. At roughly 170 pounds our testers relied on the maximum number of 5 volume reducers to offer the ramp up needed while trying to keep the air spring and compression sensitive enough for trail chatter. Despite our critiques above, the Slash 9.9 is one of our top three all mountain bike choices this year. We’ve spent several months aboard similar bikes in the category from the Rocky Mountain Slayer to the Norco Range and Trek slashes the competition in the all-mountain category with this machine. A little patience and experimenting will help you and the bike achieve a new level of riding.

Price: $7,999

Weight: 29.79 lbs

Sizes: S, M, L, XL

Website: trekbikes.com


Frame: OCLV carbon; 150mm
Fork: Fox Factory 36 Talas; 160mm
Shock: Fox Factory Float X2; 230 x 57.5

Brakes: SRAM Guide Ultimate
Handlebar: Bontrager Line Pro; 780
Headset: FSA Knock Block
Saddle: Bontrager Evok Ti
Seatpost: Bontrager Drop Line; 125mm
Shifter: SRAM X01 Eagle
Stem: Bontrager Line Pro; 35mm

Hubs: Bontrager Line Elite
Rims: Bontrager Line Elite 30
Tires: Bontrager SE4 Team Issue; 29 x 2.4

Bottom Bracket: SRAM PF92
Cassette: SRAM XG-1295; 10-50t
Cranks: SRAM X01 Eagle; 32t
Derailleur: SRAM X01 Eagle; 12s

We Dig

Comfort and Confidence

We Don’t

Bontrager Post
Fox X2 Shock and Tune
Talas Fork