Trek Fuel EX 9.9 Project One: Why This Bike.

I loved the Superfish.  An amazing bike that, at 24 pounds, handled wonderfully and was a blast to ride.  However, as I started riding more diverse terrain, I started to feel that the geometry was a bit off from what I wanted.  After riding a number of other bikes, I also came to realize that one didn’t have to sacrifice travel (the SF had 80mm of rear travel) in order to have an efficient ride.  Time on the Fuel EX that I demo’d at Brown County, and bikes like the split pivot Horsethief convinced me of that.  So I was looking for something that was a bit slacker in the handling department, with more travel, and without picking up a lot of weight.

I can honestly say that while I was intrigued by the lefty, I never was fully comfortable with the appearance or the handling, either.

I wanted to find a bike from a shop that would give excellent service, so I wanted to find something local.  I ruled Specialized out because it’s Specialized.  As I started thinking about what traits I wanted, I realized that I was comparing everything I saw and rode to the Fuel and the Horsethief.

I wanted a carbon frame based upon the weight, stiffness and design advantages that it has.  While Titanium is my favorite metal, it isn’t the best for a FS bike (hence Moots’ use of aluminum in their MX Divide).  Well-designed carbon has many advantages over aluminum, and that point’s been well enough explored elsewhere that I don’t have to beat it to death here.

I really like the Horsethief.  I really do.  But the problems with the Horsethief became evident when I started thinking about what components I wanted.  The Horsethief XTR is a $7,000 bike.  At that price point, you should be getting exactly what you want.  However, in looking at the spec, I wasn’t thrilled about a 2x drivetrain.  I wasn’t thrilled by the Fox F29 fork–incongruous with the rest of the bike’s spec.  And I may be a terribly shallow person for saying this one, but wowzers.  Orange decals on a white frameset are just not my thing.  If I’m going to love a bike, I have to love the way it looks.  Many years, and on many bikes, Salsa’s design team knocks it out of the park.  The Fargos and El Mariachis this year are delicious.  The Horsethief XTR just isn’t, to me.  I looked at the Horsethief Carbon 1, and had the same problems.  For a bike of that price, the suspension pieces seem low rent, as does the drivetrain and brake setup.  And once again, the design was just not my thing.

I briefly looked at the new carbon Spearfish and felt that it didn’t meet my needs.  Wrong bike for what I was wanting, and the Carbon 1 has the exact same issues as the Carbon 1 Horsethief.  The Carbon RS-1 has great component spec, but again is the wrong frame for what I wanted, and did I mention that it’s purple on black?

So I started looking hard at the Fuel.  I thought about how amazing the ride was at Brown County, and what a confidence-inspiring bike it was.  And then I started to think about spec.  I wanted to get a bike that was set up exactly how I wanted it–down to the last detail.  With Trek, Project One serves that exact purpose.  You pick every component, down to the grips.  You pick every color, from the fork decals to the frame.  You pick everything.  It’s a premium product–but you get exactly what you want.

The ‘what bike to get’ question was solved by a bike that checked every box for me…because it was the exact bike that I spec’d.

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5 thoughts on “Trek Fuel EX 9.9 Project One: Why This Bike.

  1. Beautiful bike! Might be time to get over the Spesh hate. I believe Trek has a few black marks on their record and didn’t Salsa take liberties with Blackcat and their dropouts?

    Interesting rim choice for this set up. Did you go with the super narrow Enve XC because you had them or for another reason? That bike screams for something with some more girth,

    • I went with the XC predominantly because I had them. That said, at my weight, durability isn’t a concern…and with 2.3″ tires, the difference in width between the XC and the AM or 50/50 is pretty insignificant in terms of what the tire profile ends up as.

  2. Kind of surprised you felt the need for a 5″ travel bike in IL… the Spearfish seems like a better bet to me…based on the shitty trails in your area. Sounds like another trip to CO is in your near future with this bike. That’s a 7 hour drive for you?

    I agree with you on the lack luster Fox suspension. Not sure I’d be game for an RS-1 though. Too unique of a hub, too expensive, too small of a difference from a good fork. A Rock Shox Pike or Revelation would be at the top of my list based on their pedigree alone. Will be curious to see if it’s was worth the retarded amount of money.

    I’ll echo the last comment…. XC rim? Ugh. Even better…. XC rim laced to a POS bonty hub.

    I look forward to follow up reviews. Strong work!

    • Regarding the RS-1, I had really positive feedback from a number of people who had ridden it. We’ll see how it goes.

      Regarding the XC rims: 1) I had them (and wasn’t going to get a new set); 2) the width difference is relatively small when a 2.3″ tire is mounted; 3) at my weight, durability isn’t an issue; and, 4) there are no bonty hubs. SRAM up front and DT Swiss in the back.

      You need at least 5″ of travel when you’re shredding the gnar in Illinois.

  3. Kudos for the gnar shredding! Enve wheels are an investment so I can see why you would re-use them. That said the XC wheel is narrow. I currently am using the Roval Control SL which is 22mm wide internally and the benefits are enormous. I believe the XC is 17mm wide internally which just creates bulbous tire which can squirm under desired low psi. The new 50/50 is 21mm. Nox Skyline are 23mm. Having read previous blog entries and recognizing your fondness for fat tires a wide rim would have a substantial impact on your gnar shredding.

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