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Trek Top Fuel: First Ride Impressions & Review

Peak Sports' General Manager, Jim, recently added the Trek Top Fuel 9.7 to his stable, and after a handful of rides and some time dialing in the components, he compiled his first impressions. Read on for Jim's review of Trek's full-suspension mountain bike that fuses the flat-out speed of a cross country bike with the trail-munching appetite of a trail bike.

I love long, backcountry epics, but pushing my enduro bike up steep climbs was getting old. Admittedly, I prefer black diamonds over green circles, so I was surprised to find myself interested in Trek’s Top Fuel 9.7 when I started searching for the perfect bike to fit my needs. The Top Fuel seemed like a good solution–a bike designed to combine the climbing efficiency of a cross-country bike with the descending capability of an enduro bike.

There's More to Climbing Than Weight

One of my primary concerns when considering the Top Fuel was its weight, and that concern wasn’t alleviated when I lifted the 30+ pound bike out of my truck. The Top Fuel is among the heaviest in its class, but reviews suggested that it was a worthy trade off for its downhill capability. Fortunately, while climbing up a long gravel road, I didn’t notice the weight, but I did notice the aggressive climbing position, courtesy of a very steep seat tube and relatively short reach. This bike proves that there’s more to climbing efficiency than weight. In fact, after zooming ahead and losing sight of my riding partners during our ascent, I had to pull over and make sure the Top Fuel didn’t have a motor.

First Reactions

I dropped into my first descent on lower Playtime–a short, fast, and flowy trail. By the time I made it to the bottom a few short minutes later, I was in love. The handling felt like an impossible balance of stability and responsiveness. Inspired by my first descent and fueled by gushy feelings of new-found love, I rushed to my next trail, Word to Your Mother. On this techier trail, I quickly used up all 120mm of suspension and stopped to add air with my shock pump to hopefully add some compliance. Increasing the pressure didn’t solve my problems–it just made the ride harsher, and I was still bottoming out the suspension. Was it my riding style or the suspension set up? There was only one way to find out.

Getting Dialed

Before my next ride at Alsea Falls, I spent some time tuning the suspension. After flying up the climb, I paused at the top to remind myself that I was on a shorter travel bike, so I’d better take it easy. Those thoughts dissolved as I flew over the first set of jumps. The suspension was dialed, and the short reach put me into a more up-front position on the bike, resulting in more boost than I was expecting and ample travel for smooth landings. As I flew head-long into more technical parts of the trail, the Top Fuel felt as capable as my enduro bike in spite of its short travel, eating up the chunky sections and accelerating through corners with ease.

Versatility for Days...

If you’re looking for a bike that climbs like a goat without sacrificing any fun on descents, the Top Fuel should be on your short list. This bike has got me dreaming of bikepacking overnights, shuttle days in Oakridge, and after-work hot laps in the Mac. And if it’s not the bike for you, maybe you want to buy my enduro bike?

Want to learn more?

Stop by the Peak Sports Bike Shop, and one of our friendly sales guides can offer you an in-person glimpse at the Top Fuel and even set you up for a test ride! If you're not sure if this is the bike for you, we'd love to discuss your riding goals and determine whether this or another bike would make the best addition to your cycling quiver. Visit us today!