REVIEWING THE NEW TREK FUEL EXE EMTB

eBIKE LIGHT REDEFINED

Words by Drew Rohde
Photos and Video by Brian Niles/Treeline Cinematic

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When we got word of a new game-changing lightweight eMTB, the Trek Fuel EXe, we were excited to see what it was all about. Admittedly, the mid-power eBike category, or eBike Light as we call it, isn’t our favorite. Our crew has converted to being full-power prophets, preaching that All Boost, All the Time lifestyle. It’s not that we don’t want a lighter and more playful eBike, we absolutely do. It’s just that when it came down to evaluating the available time to ride and the amount of mileage and vert we wanted to conquer in that time, the capabilities of bikes that had been available up until this point just didn’t compel us to give up the extra range (A.K.A DH time) of a full power eBike. After a couple of weeks riding Trek’s Fuel EXe new eMTB, it looks like it could be the first of the next generation eBike Lights to have us considering a switch. Let’s dive into the complete Dissected review of the new Trek Fuel Exe eBike.

For those riders (purists) on the other end of the spectrum – the ones who’ve resisted the E-side because they did not want the monstrous power, bulbous frame shapes and loud electric motor noise – the Trek Fuel EXe may once again be the bike that tempts you to make the switch. Let’s dive into why we think so.

As with all of our Dissected Features, this is not intended to be a long term review or endorsement of a product but is instead a chance for our viewers and readers to get a deep dive look into some of the newest tech and products in the mountain bike space. We thank Trek Bikes for the opportunity to create this feature and getting you some valuable beta on this new, lightweight eMTB.

Trek Fuel EX-e Dissected

Like any other bit of technology or product in the early years, just getting a product to market meant you were likely to be successful. However, as products, consumer demand and companies evolve, simply having an eBike that weighs less than 48lbs isn’t enough to lead the category these days. Riders want more, brands want more, and in this case, Trek’s own staff is full of riders who were motivated to build the eBike they wanted to ride…and so, the Trek Fuel EXe was born.

WHAT’S SO SPECIAL?

That in-house determination to build the eBike Trek’s own employees were dreaming of is what led to this unique and impressive machine. While there’s a lot of tech and features to talk about, some of which other bikes and brands can compete with, we’ll start with Trek’s ace in the hole – the deathly silent TQ HPR50 motor.

TQ is a German robotics manufacturer that has not only a wealth of knowledge in producing impressively complicated components, but also a very high percentage of staffers that are passionate about cycling. Their experience creating technology in use on the Mars Rover, for space travel, aviation, and daily consumer electronics has no doubt been an asset to the development of the Trek Fuel EXe. One component specifically – TQ’s patented Harmonic Pin Ring transmission, or HPR – was developed in TQ’s Drive department. The Drive department is a TQ-Group which is focused on creating the world’s leading drive systems and is a founding partner of the German Aerospace Center.

The Harmonic Pin Ring unit is what makes this drive system (and this entire bike) stand out. Made entirely in Germany, the TQ HPR50 drive unit is incredibly light at only 1,850 grams and delivers 50Nm of torque with up to 300 Watts of peak power. With just a couple of moving parts inside the HPR50 drive unit, reliability and efficiency are claimed to be huge benefits of TQ’s system. Similarly, the tone and sound, or lack thereof, are pleasant side effects. No gear lash: no belts to make noise or wear out; and fewer moving parts within the concentric design, should equal a long-lasting drive unit that we can’t wait to tally miles aboard.

Specialized Levo Gen 3 Dissected

SILENCE IN ACTION

One of the most impressive things we learned about the development of the Trek Fuel EXe emtb, was the acoustical science field and how important it was in refining the eBike. Many of you are likely familiar with decibels (db), or even sones if you’re an audio nerd. Rather than focus on those units however, Trek and TQ worked on tonality, which is a psycho-acoustic measure of how sound is perceived. Essentially, it’s a truer measure of the type of effects that the sounds you are hearing are having on you, the rider. For example, some ranges of sound can be more negatively perceived, even at a lower volume than a more-pleasant louder sound. For myself, the sound of a relentless chirp from a fan belt or the buzz of a lightbulb could be much quieter (db) than the purr of a V8 motor idling, but I can certainly tolerate one sound longer than the other.

Trek Fuel EX-e Dissected | Tonality Chart

What’s crazy is that according to Trek’s studies – and our experiences during the review – the new Fuel EXe is closer in the amount of perceivable sound to a regular mountain bike than any other eBike tested, light or full power. With a tonality reading of just over 0.1, the TQ HPR50 puts the Fuel EXe into the Barely Perceivable range, while other eMTBs range well over 0.4 up to 0.6 and therefore fall into the distracting range. We don’t like to be distracted from the ride, so this can only be a good thing.

Trek Fuel EX-e Dissected

TECHNOLOGY INTEGRATIONS

Being that TQ is a technology company, we shouldn’t be surprised that the integration of the display, corresponding apps and handlebar controller are impressively sleek on the new Trek Fuel EXe. The 2-inch integrated screen sits flush in the top tube and displays the vital information, which can be toggled to suit your preference. At the time of writing this feature and filming our video, neither Trek’s new Central app, nor the TQ app have been finalized to experiment with. However, we’ve been shown samples of the features and what can be done once connected, and we look forward to trying them out for ourselves. Everything from drive unit tuning through to range and trail estimation, and fitness tracking can be done.

Of course, on this top-of-the-line model, SRAM’s AirWhiz and TyreWhiz technologies come included, and SRAM’s app works quite well at allowing you to set up your preferred pressures, giving you a green or red light to indicate if your bike is ready to ride or needs some attention.

AVAILABLE MODELS

Trek will be offering the new Fuel EXe in their OCLV carbon only, with six build options at prices beginning at $6,499.99. All bikes will come with the TQ HPR50 drive unit, a 360Wh internal battery, and will work with a 160Wh range extender that can be purchased separately. We have received the $13,999.99 Trek Fuel EXe 9.9 XX1 AXS model for our Dissected Feature and will be using that to conduct our long-term review moving forward.

Model Builds are located at the bottom of this page.

Trek Fuel EX-e Dissected

THE WOLF’S FIRST IMPRESSION

As with all our Dissected Features, this project was made in collaboration with Trek and is not intended to be an endorsement or full-on product review. We’ve only got about 45 miles on Trek’s Fuel EXe eBike so far and look forward to lots more before we report back for a long-term review.

That being said, this eMTB shows great promise with the few riders who’ve tried it so far having a good time, and we can’t wait to pass it around our whole crew. Now that we’ve got some initial miles on it, we’ll be trimming down the bars and going with a 160mm fork upgrade to get a slightly slacker head tube and some more travel for our type of riding.

Standout features from the get-go include the near instantaneous drive unit engagement, and blissful silence. Whether you’re starting on flat ground or if you’ve bobbled on a techy hill climb and want to restart, the cranks instantly engage. It’s like riding a hub with instant engagement versus a cheaper hub that has several degrees of play before spinning the drivetrain. As far as how loud the bike is, we’re not acoustics experts, but that “Barely Perceivable” rating seems about right. For 90% of our climbing time, we didn’t hear the motor over the sound of our tires on the ground. Only on the steepest of pitches could we hear a little bit of sound, and what we did hear was not nearly as high pitched or electrical sounding as other eMTBs. We hope it stays that way as we ride the bike more, but time will tell.

Trek Fuel EX-e Dissected

We are a bit concerned as to how we’ll adapt to the range of the smaller battery as we admitted earlier, since we are huge fans of Boost, or Turbo mode riding. At one of our favorite spots to test and film, we found that a Boost ride quickly put us in the red and left us with significantly less downhills than the Trek Rail we have. Of course, at 40lbs, the Fuel EXe is a whole lot lighter and more playful than the Rail too, so you do get that benefit to offset the reduced range. Perhaps we’ll have to adjust to dropping power and riding a bit slower on the climbs again until those range extenders come into stock.

If you’re not a full-boost rider and you prefer a lighter bike, with a natural feel and just a little bit of assistance to help take the edge off, then this bike is likely going to be at the top of your list. That increased agility compared with a full fat eMTB is notable and the reduced fatigue when working the bike hard through undulations or tight and techy terrain is greatly appreciated. So far It has proved to be capable of being ridden hard and into terrain far beyond what you’d expect a 140mm bike to feel confident on too. That said, we think a bump up to a 160mm fork is going to level this bike up even further, so we’re excited to make that happen and see what the Fuel EXe is truly capable of.

Though we may sound a little negative about the eBike light category as a whole, after our initial review and film rides, the Trek’s Fuel EXe has our whole crew excited. If things hold up and the bike stays as solid and quiet as it is right now, this bike could truly be the new standard for the eBike Light category. Stay tuned for a long-term review of the Fuel Exe in the coming months, and head to trekbikes.com now to pick yours up if you’ve heard enough.

VISIT TREK’S WEBSITE TO LEARN MORE
Trek Fuel EX-e Dissected

TREK FUEL EXe 9.5

Price: $6,499.99

Trek Fuel EXe 9.5

Frame: OCLV Mountain Carbon | 140mm travel
Fork: RockShox 35 Gold RL DebonAir spring | 150mm travel
Shock: RockShox Deluxe Select+ RT | 205mm x 60mm

Drive Unit: TQ HPR50 | 50nm
Battery: TQ 360Wh
Controller: TQ OLED display with Bluetooth & ANT+ connectivity

Handlebar: Bontrager Rhythm Comp, alloy | 15mm rise, 750mm width
Stem: Bontrager alloy, Blendr compatible | 7 degree, 50mm length
Saddle: Bontrager Arvada, steel rails
Seatpost: TranzX  | 170mm travel | 34.9mm

Rims: Alex MD35 | Tubeless Compatible
Hubs: Bontrager Alloy
Tires: Bontrager XR5 Team Issue, Tubeless Ready, aramid bead, 120 tpi, 29×2.50″

Derailleur: Shimano Deore M6100, long cage
Shifter: Shimano Deore M6100, 12 speed
Crankset: E*thirteen E*spec Plus, 34T | 165mm length
Cassette: Shimano Deore M6100 | 10-51 | 12 speed
Chain: Shimano Deore M6100 | 12 speed
Brakes: Shimano MT420

TREK FUEL EXe 9.7

Price: $8,099

Trek Fuel EXe 9.7

Frame: OCLV Mountain Carbon | 140mm
Fork: Fox Rhythm 36, Float EVOL air spring, GRIP damper | 150mm
Shock: Fox Performance Float X | 205mm x 60mm

Drive Unit: TQ HPR50 | 50nm
Battery: TQ 360Wh
Controller: TQ OLED display with Bluetooth & ANT+ connectivity

Handlebar: Bontrager Line Alloy | 27.5mm rise, 780mm width
Stem: Bontrager Elite | 0 degree, 45mm length
Saddle: Bontrager Arvada, Austenite Rails
Seatpost: TranzX  | 170mm travel | 34.9mm

Wheels: Bontrager Line Comp 30 | Tubeless Ready
Tires: Bontrager XR5 Team Issue, Tubeless Ready, aramid bead, 120 tpi, 29×2.50″

Derailleur: Shimano XT M8100
Shifter: Shimano SLX M7100
Crankset: E*thirteen E*spec Race alloy, 34T | 170mm
Cassette: Shimano SLX M7100, 10-51 | 12 speed
Chain: Shimano SLX M7100 | 12 speed
Brakes: Shimano M6120

TREK FUEL EXe 9.8
XT & GX AXS Options

Price: $9,199.99 (XT) | $10,999 (GX AXS)

Frame: OCLV Mountain Carbon | 140mm
Fork: RockShox Lyrik Select+, DebonAir spring, Charger 2.1 RC damper | 150mm
Shock: RockShox Super Deluxe Select+ RT | 205mm x 60mm

Drive Unit: TQ HPR50 | 50nm
Battery: TQ 360Wh
Controller: TQ OLED display with Bluetooth & ANT+ connectivity

Bar/Stem Combo: Bontrager RSL OCLV Carbon, 27.5mm rise, 820mm width, 45mm stem length
Saddle: Bontrager Arvada, Austenite Rails
Seatpost: Bontrager Line Elite Dropper | 200mm

Wheels: Bontrager Line Elite 30, OCLV Mountain Carbon, Tubeless Ready
Tires: Bontrager SE5 Team Issue, Tubeless Ready, Core Strength sidewalls, aramid bead, 120 tpi, 29×2.50″

XT DRIVETRAIN
Derailleur:
Shimano XT M8100
Shifter: Shimano XT M8100
Crankset: E*thirteen E*spec Race Carbon, 34T | 165mm
Cassette: Shimano XT M8100 | 10-51, 12 speed
Chain: Shimano Ultegra/XT M8100
Brakes: Shimano XT M8120

GX AXS DRIVETRAIN
Derailleur:
SRAM GX Eagle AXS
Shifter: SRAM GX Eagle AXS
Crankset: E*thirteen E*spec Race Carbon, 34T | 165mm
Cassette: SRAM Eagle XG-1275 | 10-52, 12 speed
Chain: SRAM GX Eagle
Brakes: SRAM Code R

TREK FUEL EXe 9.9
XTR & XX1 AXS Options

Price: $12,999 (XTR) | $13,999 (XX1 AXS)

Frame: OCLV Mountain Carbon | 140mm
Fork: RockShox Lyrik Ultimate, AirWiz, DebonAir spring, Charger 3 RC2 damper | 150mm
Shock: RockShox Super Deluxe Ultimate AirWiz, RCT2 damper | 205mm x 60mm

Drive Unit: TQ HPR50 | 50nm
Battery: TQ 360Wh
Controller: TQ OLED display with Bluetooth & ANT+ connectivity

Bar/Stem Combo: Bontrager RSL OCLV Carbon, 27.5mm rise, 820mm width, 45mm stem length
Saddle: Bontrager Arvada Pro, Carbon rails
Seatpost: Bontrager Line Elite Dropper | 200mm

Wheels: Bontrager Line Pro 30, OCLV Mountain Carbon, Tubeless Ready
Tires: Bontrager SE5 Team Issue, Tubeless Ready, Core Strength sidewalls, aramid bead, 120 tpi, 29×2.50″

XTR DRIVETRAIN
Derailleur:
Shimano XTR M9100
Shifter: Shimano XTR M9100 Shadow Plus
Crankset: E*thirteen E*spec Race Carbon, 34T | 165mm
Cassette: Shimano XTR M9101 | 10-51
Chain: Shimano Dura-Ace/XTR M9100
Brakes: Shimano XTR M9120

XX1 AXS DRIVETRAIN
Derailleur:
SRAM XX1 Eagle AXS
Shifter: SRAM Eagle AXS
Crankset: E*thirteen E*spec Race Carbon, 34T | 165mm
Cassette: SRAM Eagle XG-1299 | 10-52
Chain: SRAM XX1 Eagle
Brakes: SRAM Code RSC

Trek Fuel EXe Dissected