2022 eMTB SHOOTOUT

TREK RAIL 9.9 XX1 AXS EMTB

Video by Brian Niles / Treeline Cinematic
Photos by Dusten Ryen

Trek’s Rail 9.9 is a tech-loaded eMTB with 29” wheels and 160/150mm travel, which offers mannerisms that let it hang with both the Trail and Enduro category bikes without feeling out of place. Since the Trek Rail has already been featured in our Dissected series before our 4th Annual eMTB Shootout, we’re going to keep this write up a bit shorter and more focused on the ride impressions and who we think the ideal buyer of this bike might be. If you want to see the longer, full-length feature of the Trek Rail 9.9 AXS, be sure to watch our full-length eBike Shootout video to see what we think are the best eBikes on the market for 2022.

QUICK HITS

• 150mm Linkage Driven Single Pivot + ABP Suspension
• REACH 487 (Large)
• HTA 64.2
• STA 76.7 (effective)

Price: $9,199 (9.8 GX/XT) – $13,799 (9.9 AXS)
Website: Trek.com

THE LAB

Trek Bicycles updated their top-tier Rail 9.8 and 9.9 models for 2022, incorporating the Bosch Smart System with the CX G4 85Nm motor along with some polarizing geometry changes. The new Trek Rail is powered by a 750Wh Powertube Removable Integrated Battery (RIB) and a whole load of other techy bits. A Bosch LED-equipped remote on the bars controls the system on the go and provides a view of the selected mode and battery in a quick glance. When combined with the Bosch Kiox 300 color display on the top tube, the Rail 9.9 certainly has an impressive amount of gadgetry to satisfy tech-nerds.

Trek Rail 9.9 XX1 AXS Profile Shot - 2022 eMTB Shootout

Along with the Bosch Smart System other tech features include a Trek and RockShox suspension exclusive AirWiz pressure monitoring tech, and SRAM’s TyreWiz pressure monitors, giving you some peace of mind that everything is inflated to the optimal pressure and good to drop.

The Trek Rail 9.8 and 9.9 share the same full OCLV Mountain carbon fiber frame with magnesium rocker link, which delivers 150mm of travel with a rocker-driven single pivot suspension system, featuring the Active Braking Pivot (ABP) on the rear axle and a RE:aktiv Thru Shaft rear shock.

A pair of 29” wheels is fitted across the size range, with no provisions to run a mullet setup, but there’s a Mino Link adjustment chip on the seatstays to quickly tweak the geometry to suit the ride.

Trek Rail 9.9 XX1 AXS Rear Triangle - 2022 eMTB Shootout

The flagship Rail 9.9 XX1 AXS tested features a build worthy of flagship status, with a retail of $13,799. Suspension is handled by an AirWiz-equipped RockShox ZEB Ultimate 160mm fork and Super Deluxe Thru Shaft shock. SRAM provides the CODE RSC brakes and XX1 Eagle AXS drivetrain, with an e*thirteen e*spec Race carbon crank. Trek’s in-house component brand Bontrager rounds out the spec, with their Line Pro Carbon handlebar and alloy stem;  Avada saddle, and Line Pro carbon wheelset wrapped in a SE6/SE5 Team Issue tire pairing equipped with TireWiz pressure monitoring tech.

For the 2022 eMTB shootout we had Schwalbe on board as an official sponsor, so all Trail category bikes were equipped with their Eddy Current eBike specific tires. This ensured a consistent and dependable tire performance across the board, letting us focus on the character of each of the bikes on test.

2022 eMTB Shootout Trail Bike Geometry

Trek looked to bring the geometry of the new Rail up to date, extending the reach by 25mm across the size range into the stretched-out territory. Most of our testers preferred the sizing of the previous generation Rail and think the new geometry will polarize a lot of riders, but it’s clear to see the improvements in high-speed stability that will suit riders who don’t often ride tight and technical trails.

 

Trek Rail 9.9 XX1 AXS - 2022 eMTB Shootout

THE DIRT

The tech-heavy Trek Rail 9.9 gives the user some unique features that can offer peace of mind out on the trail. Unfortunately, the TyreWiz pressure monitoring tech was a bit hard to get right after we removed the Bontrager plastic rim strips as they do not work with Schwalbe tires. It was a bummer losing the more useful (in our opinion) of the two “Wiz” systems found on the Rail.

The need for the AirWiz tech on the suspension was lost on our crew, and honestly we didn’t bother setting it up, because the suspension air pressure changed frequently as the bike was passed between our test riders on the hill. If the AirWiz incorporated tech along the lines of the ShockWiz suspension tuning tech, we’d be thrilled. But as it stands – a simple yes/no indicator to ensure the suspension units haven’t dropped pressure between rides – we’d rather save the money and weight from the bike.

Moving onto the undeniably useful features. The Smart System-equipped Bosch motor has more mid-range “grunt” than the EP8 systems as standard, giving the feeling of a slightly more powerful motor overall. The smart eMTB mode is impressive for delivering usable grip on loose or slick surfaces, though sometimes the rail 9.9 dropped the power more than we would have liked. Even in eMTB mode the delivery of power feels more artificial than the EP8 system, which can give you the “superhuman” feeling but was a touch less predictable than Shimano units at times. This led to the occasional “push” wide on an uphill switchback or beginnings of a loop out when cranking up a shelf edge but was manageable after extended trail time to become familiar with the system. Battery management was a strength of the Bosch system, with the 750Wh battery regularly ending up with a bar or two to spare at the end of a good day out on the trails.

Trek Rail 9.9 XX1 AXS Review - 2022 eMTB Shootout

In terms of integration, the Bosch remote on the bar is excessive in our opinion, protruding far off of the bar in a zone that’s at constant threat of a wayward knee, and proving to be less ergonomic than the simpler and sleeker alternatives. We also found that all the bikes equipped with this remote had a tendency to change power modes mysteriously. Either we were bumping their sensitive buttons without knowing, or the bumpy terrain causes them to shift on their own. Regardless, it happened on all Smart System bikes enough times for it to be a talking point.

That said, once the different remote colors have been committed to memory, it serves well for a quick visual check of the mode selected. The top tube display location is good, but the way it protrudes means it’s also in the danger zone, so it falls short of the Specialized and Rocky Mountain systems who have their displays neatly integrated into the top tube.

Trek’s Rail 9.9 suspension platform is relatively firm and efficient, however it has enough compliance when on the gas to generate great grip. It felt like the all-round best compromise for climbing steep tech, making it the hill climb bike of choice and conquering an impossible looking rocky climb under the capable hands (and feet) of our hill climb champ, Drew. Combining this motor and suspension performance with the stretched out seated position produced by the long effective top tube (longest in test) made the Trek the bike we’d likely pick for an all-day epic in the backcountry, too.

Trek Rail 9.9 XX1 AXS Review - 2022 eMTB Shootout

On the descents, the stability and surefootedness of the Rail 9.9 had riders regularly forgetting this was a Trail category bike. Similar to the Yeti in the Enduro class though, there was more trail feedback compared with some softer off-the-top rigs, and so the Rail 9.9 was a handful to ride in a relaxed manner or on slower and chunkier trails. Let ‘er go though, and the Rail provided an absolute demon to attack the descents, only becoming overwhelmed by the heaviest repeated hits that we’d usually reserve for enduro bikes anyway.

This same notion carried through with the geometry, with stable handling that thrives as speeds increase, wide lines are needed through tighter turns and more effort is needed to swap directions. The feel of the stability and suspension mean the Rail is one of the less playful bikes in the category, and focuses on speed and attack rather than slowing down to seek a side hit or thrashing quick corners. Give it a faster jump or drop and it was happy to get airborne however, giving a controlled take off thanks to the supportive suspension platform and comfortable landings with the reasonable end stroke progression.

After a week of being pushed to the limits, an excess of oil on the Thrushaft rear shock indicated that it wasn’t particularly happy about the abuse sustained, which could also have played a role in our impressions of a slightly stiffer than usual (for Trek) rear suspension feel.

In terms of durability otherwise, the Trek Rail 9.9 suffered from a little bit of cable rattle, but was a rather quiet and tight feeling bike. After having some hardware issues on previous generation Rails and other Trek bikes, we’re happy to say every nut and bolt stayed put on this bike. We know it doesn’t sound like something to brag about but we had so many that either rattled apart, lost bolts or were constantly coming loose that we found it worth commending. The spec was faultless beyond our shock issue, as you would hope from the $13,799 price tag that placed it near the top of the price list for the shootout. Would we spend nearly $14k on this bike to receive the tech? Honestly, we’re struggling to see a situation where we wouldn’t prefer to save over $3k by opting for the Trek Rail 9.8, but for riders who demand the most tech on their bike then it may be worth it. Further to this, the majority of our testers would likely opt to save even more by purchasing the Rail 9.7 with the same geometry as last year’s eMTB shootout Trail category winner, which would retain the playful nature that we once loved in Trek’s Rail eBikes.

Trek Rail 9.9 XX1 AXS Review - 2022 eMTB Shootout

The Wolf’s Last Word

Trek’s updated 2022 Rail 9.9 represents a significant departure from the outgoing model, with a plethora of speed and tech-focused updates that have transformed the character of the bike. While these changes will wonderfully serve riders who ride more modern and high-speed trails, the loss of agility as a result of heavily extended reach numbers and wheelbase means the new Rail 9.9 is no longer our go-to eMTB for slower, tighter, and more technical terrain. That said, Trek has produced a high-quality machine with some unique features, which crushes technical climbs and long days in the saddle and provides a speed hungry machine to attack wider open trails with confidence. It is a bad ass bike when you point it straight and let it eat chunky trails, riding faster than many other Trail category bikes on downhill tracks…but, nothing comes for free.

We believe that sizing is the major culprit in how the bike now handles and perhaps an in-between Med/Large size or less drastic jumps would be ideal as many riders we’ve talked to are now struggling to figure out where they fit in the current Trek sizing structure. If you’re a rider who fits in a happy spot within the given reach numbers then you may really enjoy the Trek Rail 9.9, but we’d rather buy last year’s Rail or a lower-model Rail that hasn’t been treated to the new frame redesign.

Price: $13,799
Weight: 51.9 lbs
Website:
Trekbikes.com

VISIT TREK BIKES TO GET YOURS!

TREK RAIL 9.9 XX1 AXS SPEC:

CHASSIS
Frame: NEW OCLV Mountain Carbon main frame | 150mm
Fork: RockShox ZEB Ultimate with AirWiz, DebonAir spring, Charger 2.1 RC2 damper | 160mm
Shock: RockShox Super Deluxe Ultimate RT3 with AirWiz, DebonAir spring

ELECTRONICS
Drive Unit: Bosch Performance Line CX | smart system, 250 watt, 85 Nm
Battery: Bosch PowerTube 750
Display: Bosch Kiox 300 | Bosch smart system LED remote

COCKPIT
Handlebar: Bontrager Line Pro, 35mm, 27.5mm rise, 780mm width
Stem: Bontrager Line Pro
Headset: Knock Block 2.0 Integrated
Shifters: SRAM Eagle AXS, wireless, 12 speed
Brakes: SRAM Code RSC
Saddle: Bontrager Arvada, austenite rails, 138mm width
Seatpost: RockShox Reverb AXS | 34.9mm, S: 100mm, M: 150mm, L: 170mm, XL: 200mm

WHEELS
Wheelset: Bontrager Line Pro 30 | TyreWiz

DRIVETRAIN
Derailleur: SRAM XX1 Eagle AXS
Crankset: E*thirteen E*spec Race carbon, 34T, 165mm length
Cassette: SRAM Eagle XG-1299, 10-52, 12 speed
Chain: SRAM XX1 Eagle, 12 speed

Trek Rail 9.9 XX1 AXS Review - 2022 eMTB Shootout

We Dig

Bosch Smart System power and control
Loves to go fast
Category blending capability
Technical climbing prowess

We Don’t

Lengthy reach numbers are polarizing, sizing jumps
Firm suspension feel at slower speeds
Limited playfulness in tighter trails

OUR 2022 eMTB SHOOTOUT WAS MADE POSSIBLE
THANKS TO THESE GREAT SPONSORS:

Trek Rail 9.9 XX1 AXS Review - 2022 eMTB Shootout

LEAVE A COMMENT | WIN FREE STUFF

Want to win some free schwag? Leave a comment and vote up the most thoughtful comments and each month we’ll pick a winner. The person with the smartest and most helpful replies will earn some sweet new gear. Join the Pack and get the latest news and read the latest reviews on the top mountain and electric mountain bikes.