In a very stacked field of competitive trail ebikes, the Trek Rail 9.9 stood just above the rest when it came time to evaluate our criticisms. There weren’t any bikes that flat out sucked, in fact, every bike there was good at some things and for could be ideal some people. So, this roundup had us focusing on where bikes weren’t ideal. Some bikes could be more fun than the Rail on super steep DH trails (Norco Sight VLT 29), some could be shorter, snappier, and more fun on tighter singletrack (Specialized Levo), meanwhile, others are much more affordable (Fezzari Wire Peak). However, when it came time to pick the bike we most wanted to take home, what we wanted to ride the most, and what bike we felt compromised the least performance on a broad variety of trails, the Trek Rail was it. It wasn’t the best at everything, but it was better than the rest at more things.
One thing that most of our riders didn’t actually love about the 9.9 was the SRAM AXS group. It’s a very expensive upgrade and the benefits don’t outweigh the cost in our opinion. It requires charging two additional batteries, dropper post, and derailleur, and none of us really enjoyed the ergonomics of the shifter. It was nice reducing the clutter and ditching cables, but it just wasn’t nice enough to get over the awkward shift paddle and equally large dropper post remote. That being said, the system did perform well, shifted smoothly and on this particular bike, we had no issues with the battery life of the SRAM parts; however, the batteries on our Giant Reign E+ died very quickly.
Our size 19.5 (large) test bike had a very capable and confidence-inspiring feel. It wasn’t a dog on tighter, flatter trails like the Norco Sight, however, it was a lot more stable and planted at speed than the Levo. It also has a removable, large capacity battery and the best climbing performance thanks in part to the newest Bosch motor. Our testers were constantly amazed that they could enter tight, technical switchbacks with near-vertical rock slabs after the apex and just crawl up them every time.
When it came time to descend the Rail, it was equally fun and well-rounded. Whether we were attacking high-speed sections with choppy rock gardens or threading the needle between cacti and house-size boulders, the Trek Rail got it done. The Rail is a vast departure from the soft, planted feeling Powerfly we rode from Trek last year. Instead, this bike is lively, poppy, and offers a more race-influenced feel. It’s slightly stiffer off the top, meaning it translates a bit more feedback to the rider but also allows for riders to push harder and faster. We did an unboxing video here where we compare the numbers of the new Rail to the Powerfly, and they’re pretty notable, of course, so is the difference in performance.