Fuel EX 9.7 29
Words by Nic “U-Turn” Hall | Action Photos by Drew Rohde / Product Nic Hall
Despite the impressive spec and build of the Fuel EX 9.7, Trek isn’t a brand often associated with budget-friendly bikes. With a carbon front triangle, supple suspension, and a solid component spec, it has all the right pieces to make it just as capable as its more expensive siblings, but at a price point that many more riders will be able to justify. Let’s see how all that trickle down technology treated our EX 9.7.
The Fuel EX 9.7 is Trek’s entry-level carbon build in their longstanding Fuel EX line. It is billed as an all around trail bike that is an incredibly comfortable and efficient all-day rig. Trek’s 9.7 is priced down significantly from their flagship 9.9 models, but is full of Trek technology. Features like a custom-tuned RE:aktiv damper, Active Braking Pivot, Control Freak cable routing, a Mino Link geo flip-chip and G2 geometry find their way on the 9.7.
Both the front and rear are set at 130mm with a Fox Rhythm 34 up front and the Fox Performance Float EVOL out back. We had a personal Fuel EX 8 last year that we built up with a 140mm fork and actually preferred the slightly slacker head angle and extra travel for our riding style. But for all-around trail riding and snappy handling, the OE specified 130 does a great job.
With the Mino Link in High, the EX9.7 sports a 67.7-degree head tube angle, 17.01-in (432mm) chainstays, 18.31-in (465mm) reach, and 13.54-in (344mm) BB height. These numbers put the Fuel EX on the conservative side of trail bike design but still provide stability where it counts. Flipping the Mino Link does alter the head angle by about half a degree. Overall the Fuel EX 9.7 is very active, playful and one of the most fun climbing and cornering bikes in the budget roundup.
If you’re an XC ripper or do not live for the steep gnarly descents, the numbers are great. If you’re like us, putting a taller fork on the bike really takes it to the next level!
A SRAM NX 11-speed drivetrain handles drivetrain duties, offering 11-42t rear gearing and a 32T front ring. SRAM Guide R brakes keep the Fuel EX 9.7 under control. Bontrager fills in the rest of the components with their cockpit, saddle, dropper post and grips. Spec also includes a Bontrager Line Comp 30 Boost wheelset and Bontrager XR4 Team tires.