2022 Trek Session 9 X01 Review

2022 TREK SESSION 9 X01 REVIEW

THE PURPOSE-BUILT SPEED MACHINE

Review by Drew Rohde | Photos by Dusten Ryen

When it comes to downhill bikes, few have an identity as established as Trek’s Session. For over 15 years, the Session lineage has been gracing the top steps of podiums the world over. Trek refuses to rest on their laurels however and continue to push the Session’s development to create what they hope will be the fastest bike in the world. After a spectacular World Cup Downhill season, it seems they’re not far off! The new Trek Session has gone both forwards and backwards as cutting-edge tech seems to have revisited older suspension designs and materials but with many advancements. Back in 2006, the Trek Session 10 featured a high pivot design and aluminum construction. Fast forward to the 2022 Trek Session 9 high-pivot race machine and it’s awesome to see history working so smoothly with the present to offer downhill riders one of the fastest bikes we’ve ever ridden. Our team has been pushing the new Session 9 as hard as we dare for the last few months and can now share our verdict on how it stacks up against the fastest downhill race bikes in the world.

QUICK HITS

•High-Pivot
• Full 27.5 / Mullet / Full 29 Compatible
• HTA 63° / 63.6°
• STA 42.5°
• REACH 472 / 465mm (Large)

Price: $6999/£6300
Website: Trekbikes.com

THE LAB
The biggest talking point, and perhaps the most significant design change to the Trek Session since the 2008 Session 88 model was introduced, is the shifting of the main suspension pivot upwards to produce a high pivot variant of their ABP-equipped, linkage driven single pivot suspension platform. We covered this in detail in our Dissected feature of the bike, so we’ll keep it brief here. The high pivot design produces a wheel axle path that is more rearward than the previous generation without being too extreme to cause some hang up that we’ve felt on other high-pivot enduro bikes lately. This mild wheel path and pivot location leads to improved square-edge bump performance as well as greater stability when deep in the travel. Both good things when you’re looking to go as fast as possible down rough terrain. While it is high enough to necessitate an idler, it’s close enough that we’d be comfortable saying it’s almost a mid-pivot bike, which isn’t a bad thing since the drawbacks of a super high rear pivot aren’t felt but you still get many of the advantages.

2022 Trek Session 9 X01 Profile Shot

The 2022 Session sees a departure from the last iterations by only offering an Alpha Platinum aluminum frame – there’s no carbon fiber option here. This decision was made following the feedback from their World Cup Downhill riders, who had tested an aluminum prototype and suggested the feel of the frame was superior to the carbon frames they had used previously.

The frame retains the Mino link geometry adjustment in the seatstay from previous frames, but it serves a dual-purpose to also allow for adjustment from dual 29” wheels, through to a mixed 29/27.5 setup and even dual 27.5” wheels with an external headset cup fitted. This allows the Session to be set up as a wagon wheeled race machine, or with the smaller wheels for those looking for some extra agility and maneuverability in the bike park. Further adjustment is offered with the Mino Link on the lower shock mount, which lets the progression of the suspension to be switched between 20% and 25% and provide a plusher or more efficient suspension feel, with both offering adequate progression to use a coil or high-volume air shock.

Trek has all the details well covered by this point, with options provided for internal or cleanly executed external cable routing; a generous bolt-on downtube guard for protection from ride and shuttle damage; two ISCG05 mounts to attach a lower guide and bash guard, and some generous chainstay protection to keep noise to a minimum. The rear axle is the downhill 157x12mm standard, with a ZS49/56 headset and 83mm BSA threaded BB. A 13t idler pulley is fitted with a serviceable sealed cartridge bearing, to keep it spinning smoothly for longer.

2022 Trek Session 9 X01 Rear Triangle

Another new feature on this year’s Trek Session is the adoption of a reach-based sizing system, with conventional Small, Medium and Large being replaced with R1, R2 and R3. This is a result of the low and consistent 425mm seat tube length allowing riders to focus solely on the length of the fit when choosing their bike size. This will offer most riders the choice between two sizes, so they can tailor their preference of out-and-out stability with the longer size or increased agility on the smaller size. Trek has opted to go the route of size-specific chainstays, which helps to keep weight balance more consistent throughout the size range. Shared across the size range in the Low Mino link setting with dual 29” wheels are the 63-degree head angle, 21mm bb drop, 639mm stack and aforementioned 425mm seat tube. At 5’11 – 6’1” we opted to go with the R2 size since we prefer a more maneuverable bike for tighter, technical terrain. The R2 tested had a 465mm reach paired with a 445mm chainstay, producing a lengthy overall wheelbase of 1,277mm. Flipping the Mino link into the High setting steepens the head angle by 0.6 degrees, with a 9mm bb height increase and 7mm increase in reach.

Trek offers the Session in a choice of two complete builds or as a $2,999/£2750 frame only. The Session 8 retails for $4,999/£4500 and is spec’d with a solid SRAM GX level kit featuring their 7spd GX DH drivetrain, Code R brakes with 200/180mm Centerline rotors, RockShox Boxxer Select fork, Fox Van Performance coil shock, Bontrager Line DH 30 wheelset with Rapid drive 108 hub and Bontrager alloy finishing kit.

Opting for the higher spec Session 9 (tested) will run you $6,999/£6300. For that money, you get an upgrade to the Charger 2.1 RC2 equipped RockShox Boxxer Ultimate paired to an air sprung Super Deluxe Ultimate DH with RC damper. The gearing is provided by SRAM’s X01 DH 7spd setup with an X01 DH carbon crank, and braking is controlled by their Code RSC’s. You get the same Bontrager Line 30 DH wheelset with Rapid drive 108 hub, but get upgraded to a Line Pro carbon bar to input your control to their Line Pro stem. This adds up to a total weight of 36.6lbs for our size R2.

2022 Trek Session 9 X01 Review

THE DIRT
We were quite impressed with the new Session after our first run but had to reserve any detailed feedback until after we completed our Dissected feature. Since then, we’ve grown to like this bike more and more. Although it took us ditching the 820mm wide bars that almost seem to have a drop to them, to eliminate the diving passenger feeling on steep, double black diamond downhill trails. Once we got some 780mm bars and slid the forks down a bit to raise the front end, it rode as if we unlocked a cheat code in MTB DH video game land.

Now, before we get into all the places the Session 9 excels, lets address a couple of nitpicks. We’d like to see one more size added to the lineup. At 5’11 we found ourselves split on thinking a 465 may be a touch short but knowing we’d not be happy with how long a 495mm reach would feel. A 480mm reach option with a 505mm XL or are R4 would be our suggestion. Next up is the choice to go with a 180mm rear rotor. We’re not sure if Reece Wilson, Loris Vergier or the rest of the Trek Race team are using 180mm rear rotors, but we’d absolutely like to see a 200mm out back. We reached out to Trek and while they said they choose a 180 for a more balanced braking feel, they hinted that next year we may be seeing larger rotors getting spec’d, which is definitely a smart move.

Third on our short list of criticisms is the bike’s behavior on slower speed technical corners, specifically switchbacks. During our testing we exclusively ran the Session 9 in full 29er mode and noticed that trying to get the back tire to snap late into corners or squaring up switchbacks, was a bit of an awkward effort. It seems that the 445mm long chainstays, that get even longer once into the travel, combined with the G5 tire’s Velcro-like traction meant we had a bit of a learning curve. It wasn’t the easiest rear end to correct with a simple slide or twist of the hips. Picking the race line through corners worked much better than coming inside and trying to get the back end to come around. Something we find ourselves doing a lot in the loose, rocky trails of Mt. Bachelor.

2022 Trek Session 9 X01 Review

If you’ve got open trails and corners that don’t close off awkwardly, then it likely won’t be an issue you’ll have to deal with. We don’t see too many World Cup DH courses that have corners like that, but sadly, we don’t always get to ride World Cup DH courses, instead we ride trails built 20 years ago before modern geometry was a thing.

Once out of the tight stuff and charging at speed, the Trek Session 9 let’s you know how happy it is. The high pivot Session rewards riders who keep their fingers off the brakes and want to ride faster than their brain wants them to. It is fast and does an incredible job of smoothing out choppy terrain, obstacles and even slower riders who won’t get out of your way. Just kidding, don’t run over other trail users! In all seriousness though, this bike continually had us playing a game of chicken as we’d see a corner approaching yet it felt so good eating the braking bumps that we DID NOT want to touch the brakes and slow down. I hate braking bumps. My fingers hate braking bumps. My feet hate braking bumps. Yet, this bike somehow made me feel like Eli Tomac grazing the top of a supercross whoop section.

2022 Trek Session 9 X01 Review

Similarly, small to medium-sized trail obstacles like rocks and roots were no match for the Trek Session 9’s suspension. The mid-high pivot and wheel path worked so well at moving out of the way that foot feedback was almost non-existent and we were able to maintain our attack position on the bike without feeling like we were getting bucked or bounced around and fighting to keep in a stable position. The Boxxer fork definitely needed some volume reducers added but the rear shock tune and OE-spec’d spacers in the Super Deluxe Ultimate DH are spot on for our 170-175lb rider weight and advanced riders. We couldn’t have wanted anything more out of the rear suspension when it came to plowing terrain and going fast.

When it came time to hit jump trails, the new Trek Session 9 is plenty capable. It’s not going to be the bike Trek’s C3 athletes choose to ride at Rampage, Crankworx events like A-Line Race or other jumpy days, but if you don’t want to buy a Session Park and a Session race bike, it will do. Where some DH bikes favor jumpy, bike park riders, the Session 9 is designed to go fast! There are some great bikes that offer impressive performance in both areas, the Canyon Sender comes to mind, but we think riders who are looking at the Session 9 will likely be focusing their time and energy on racing raw, high speed chunk rather than sessioning flow trails.

2022 Trek Session 9 X01 Review

The Wolf’s Last Word

Last year we made a pretty bold claim when we reviewed the Canyon Sender and said it was the best downhill bike out. The Trek Session had us questioning that claim so much that we spent the last month riding both bikes in a head to head format with timed runs and we’re working on finalizing now, so be sure you stay tuned. Even without the final verdict in, the fact we questioned how the Session stacks up against the Sender means it’s a helluva downhill bike!

Trek have made a big leap with the new Session 9, and while we were already fans of previous generation Sessions, they took the couple little areas that it struggled in and eliminated them. No more shuttering at high-speed, hard compression hits, no more struggling to find the right balance in the rear shock to battle blowing through travel and maintaining compliance off the top, the Session 9’s suspension is dialed and absolutely ready to charge anything. We would definitely say this bike is designed to be a downhill race machine first and foremost. Beyond our few criticisms discussed above, the Trek Session 9 has been a highlight bike for us this year. It had us leaving our DH gear in the van and sneaking out for bike park laps any time we could get away. If you’re looking for a bad ass downhill bike that will literally have you taking your fingers off the brakes longer as it floats over the chunder beneath you, the Session 9 is worth a solid look.

Price: $6999/£6300
Weight: Size R2 – 36.6lbs
Website: Trekbikes.com

SHOP SESSION @ TREK BIKES

SPECIFICATIONS

CHASSIS
Frame: Alpha Platinum Aluminum | high main pivot | idler pulley | 200mm

Fork: RockShox Boxxer Ultimate | 200mm
Shock: RockShox Super Deluxe Ultimate DH

COCKPIT
Handlebar: Bontrager Line Pro | OCLV Carbon | 820mm – 15mm Rise

Stem: Bontrager Line Pro | 50mm
Shifters: SRAM X01 DH, 7-Speed
Brakes: SRAM Code RSC
Saddle: Bontrager Arvada
Seatpost: Bontrager Rhythm Elite

WHEELS
Wheels: Bontrager Line DH 30

Tires: Bontrager G5 Team Issue | 29×2.5″

DRIVETRAIN
Bottom Bracket:
SRAM DUB

Derailleur: SRAM X01 DH
Crankset: SRAM X01 DH | 34t | 165mm
Cassette: SRAM PG-720 | 11-25 | 7-Speed
Chain: SRAM PC-1110

2022 Trek Session 9 X01 Review

We Dig

Holy Moly Fast!
Smooth as butter
Fair value
Inspires confidence like few others
Looks good, paint splatter!
G5 Tires

We Don’t

180mm rear brake rotor
Rear end can be awkward, long feeling in tight, slow corners
Handlebar sweep/lack of rise

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