Weight: 175 lbs
Height: 6’ 1”
Weight: 163 lbs
We have had both the Rail and Fuel EXe in our test fleet for a long time, so we will be using our personal experiences over a wide variety of terrain to speak to the feel of the bikes while also using this particular range test as the data for our takeaways from the test period we have had. Each lap on this test loop has a mix of flat, higher speed singletrack, some tighter, more technical singletrack as well as steep and ultra-steep fire road tech. Once at the top all routes down are very steep, loose, and chunky rock singletracks with plenty of obstacles and tight switchback turns.
CLIMBING – When it comes to mileage and vertical feet, the Trek Fuel EXe tapped out quicker than the Rail, as you’d expect. At 163 pounds, Sourpatch Sean was able to squeak out 4 total laps on our test loop (10.5 miles / 3,172 feet of vert per Strava) in one hour and 13 minutes, with a caveat. About a quarter mile from the top of the trailhead, the Fuel EXe’s 360wh battery hit 10% kicking in the battery saver mode. This mode essentially makes any assistance non-existent on steep climbs and made the final push to the top an absolute mission. Each lap before the last consistently took around 15 minutes to complete, no matter how much effort Sourpatch exerted. The last lap obviously took a little longer, and the battery actually died about 200 feet before he made it to the truck.
Drew had a similar experience on board the Fuel EXe, however he was only able to confidently complete three laps in Boost, although a couple minutes slower than Sourpatch. The fourth lap was managed with some power mode shifting just to ensure he had some assist for the final crux portion of the climb. Clearly, the small weight difference between the two riders played a role in the slightly quicker battery depletion and is something to note if you’re a heavier rider looking at an eBike Light or low-power eMTB.
Moving on to the full-power Trek Rail. In about 25 minutes less time, we were able to successfully complete the same four laps on the Rail while still having 53% life remaining in the 750wh battery. Make sense since the Rail’s battery is twice the size as the Fuel EXe’s battery. Eight laps were completed before the battery reached the no go zone, however a couple brief drops to eMTB or Tour were required for the last few minutes. The Rail was able to cover twice as much ground (21.2 miles / 6,244 feet of elevation) before the battery could go no further.
*Editor’s Note: Drew wore a heart rate monitor and actually held a higher average heart rate and max heart rate aboard the Trek Rail compared to the Fuel EXe and analog, non-ebike rides on the same loop. So, if you’re friends say they want a workout and that’s why they can’t ride an eBike, tell them they’re not trying hard enough.
TRAVERSING – While the full power Trek Rail climbed about 20-25% faster than the Fuel EXe, it was on the flatter and traverse’y bits of trail where the bikes had a bit more back and forth. On lower grade trails the Fuel EXe climbs surprisingly quickly and maintains speeds well. The Rail does as well, with slightly less effort, but if you really put the power down it will pull away from the EXe time and again. The Rail could easily tackle flatter, mellow climbs in the 13-16MPH range if you had the legs to push it, the Fuel EXe would hang on, but with more effort from the rider. As soon as you turn a sharp corner and the trail pointed up however, the Rail would drop the EXe and whichever rider was trying to keep up.
DESCENDING – There’s no denying the Trek Fuel EXe is a more fun, playful and “better” bike. What we mean by better is, it rides a lot more like a regular mountain bike and will offer users a more traditional feel on the trail. Braking points, hopping, cornering and traction of the EXe are closer to what an unassisted bike feels like than the heavy-duty Trek Rail. That meant if we evaluated fun in the way of playing around on the trail, getting the bike out sideways or hopping and snapping around, the Fuel EXe is the clear winner. If you find yourself saying that eight DH laps is more fun than four, then perhaps the Rail will be the winner in your book!
If we removed the feeling based, playful element and focused the clock as a racer would, we found that both the Rail and Fuel EXe are neck and neck. Of course, this will depend on the type of descending you do, but we found the differences in race times from top to bottom were greater between riders and their skillsets than the bikes. What we mean is a faster rider will be faster no matter which bike they’re on and the race times were very close between the two.
THE VERDICT | WHICH BIKE WOULD WE PICK?
So, quantity or “Quality,” which bike are we picking? As we mentioned above, it entirely depends on the trails we’re riding, who we’re going out with and what our goals for the ride are.
We really like the way that the Fuel EXe rides downhill, and it’s a ton more fun on jumpy flow trails. It feels a lot more like a heavy enduro bike than an eMTB and that’s something we loved about it. When it comes to eBikes, the Fuel EXe is nimble, playful and can be redirected on the trail with ease. With 50Nm of torque, the TQ drive unit provides plenty of power, but the 360wh battery is a bit on the small side. Still, an hour minimum of ride time in boost with 3,000 feet of vert is pretty solid.
The Trek Rail has been one of our top three favorite eBikes for the last couple of years for a reason. The powerful Bosch Smart System’s 85Nm of torque provides the ability to maintain a high average speed and cover more miles or more DH laps. Not to mention, the full-power Rail was minutes faster getting to the top of the trail over its mid-power brother. Descending the Rail though, isn’t as fun with its heavier weight, it provides a much more planted, bulldozer-like feel as it charges down the trail. However, you do get to ride twice as many laps and it gets down just as fast, if not faster than the Fuel EXe in some conditions.
Sourpatch’s Thoughts: If I were just going out for a solo ride or riding with friends on analog bikes or other lightweight eMTBs, I would pick the Fuel EXe hands down. I like the way the bike rides over its full-power brother. The mid-power bikes do require a change in riding style to maximize battery life, and you certainly feel the saddle time a bit more on this particular lightweight eMTB. Now, if I were riding with a group on Trek Rails or other full-power eBikes, I would lean toward the Rail. Keeping up with the pack would be near impossible on the Fuel EXe…in fact, I tried and found myself wanting to throw up as the Fuel EXe doesn’t reward the rider enough if they are putting in extra power. Certain trail networks might also have me picking the full-power Rail over the Fuel EXe but those are few and far between as I have more free time to ride and value the playful, lower weight feel the EXe offers.
Drew’s Thoughts: In a perfect world I’d be able to own both bikes as they offer very different experiences, but that’s not the reality for me and many other consumers out there. I came into the test as a full power convert and although the Fuel EXe put up a valiant fight, I don’t think I’ve changed my mind. Although I do think the Fuel EXe with a range extender could have me weighing pros and cons a lot closer. Also, if I was riding lower grade trails that were full of jumps and corners opposed to self-shuttling DH laps, I’d maybe lean towards the EXe. But, as a new father, overworked business owner and someone who just generally doesn’t have any free time, the ability to bang out more laps faster is very high on my list of priorities. Four laps on the EXe took about 1.25 hours whereas four laps on the Rail took me 50 minutes. That extra 25-30 minutes could mean the difference between getting out for a ride or not in my world. Of course, I could just get less laps aboard the EXe, but every time I rode the EXe I found myself out there knowing I could get more downhills if I was just riding a full power eMTB. I guess my takeaway is, while I love the light and fun feel of the EXe, the battery range and higher average speed of the Rail are apparently more important to me as I want the most downhills possible whenever I can get myself out on the trail.
Ultimately, the decision is up to you and should be based on what you prioritize as a rider, who you ride with and the type of trails you ride. Hopefully this test gave you some usable information and things to evaluate in your own decision-making journey. Let us know what you think and what’s most valuable to you.
Visit Trekbikes.com to check out all the Rail and Fuel EXe options.