A couple of summers back I purchased a new road bike, the first I had owned in a number of years, and began getting reacquainted with my love for the speed and agility that comes with road cycling. After just a few rides I remembered how much fun it was to hit the open road and go for miles. But riding that fancy new bike made me realize how much my aging, but much loved mountain bike was really showing its years. That bike is now more than 10 years old, and the technology that goes into bikes has changed dramatically in that time frame. It was with that in mind that I decided this summer it was time to upgrade my mountain bike to something new as well.
After much deliberation, and number of test rides, I ended up going with the Trek Fuel 5
, a dual suspension bike that had everything I was looking for and more. Now, I have to admit, when I started shopping, I was in the market for another hardtail. It was what I knew, and loved, and I was hoping to avoid the added weight that comes with a dual suspension. But when my local bike shop Mellow Johnny’s
, which happens to be owned by Austin’s favorite rider Lance Armstrong, had a sale a few weeks back, I found myself spending a few extra dollars to take home a more full featured bike than I had originally anticipated. I got a heck of a deal on the Fuel 5, and the good folks at MJ’s were awesome to work with.
I’ve now had a chance to take the bike on several rides and get a feel for it, and I have to say, it was everything I had hoped for and more. When I took it for a test drive on a trail not far from bike shop, I wasn’t sure what to make of it. I hadn’t ridden a full suspension bike before, and it just felt odd, for lack of a better word. Plus, it was heavier than the hardtail I was use to. But, once I got the bike fitted for me personally, and adjusted the suspension properly, the bike immediately started to perform better, and I was starting to see the value of this type of bike.
My first couple of rides were on a mix of road and trail, with the trail offering almost no technical challenges. These shakedown cruises helped me to get acquainted with how the bike handled, getting use to how it shifts, climbs, and transitioned from one surface to another. During those rides, I came to understand the value of the lockout system on the front suspension, something that was absent on my older bike, but makes a huge difference when riding on paved surfaces. It’s almost like owning two different bikes with how much the performance changes from trail to road, and while the Trek will never match my road bike, a Specialized Allez, it sure can hold its own when it has to.
Where the Fuel really shines however is when you get it off the road and on some real trails. The dual suspensions really make a huge difference, with the bike rolling over obstacles without missing a beat, and without beating the hell out of the rider. Trek has made a fine machine here that handles well and gives the rider plenty of room to grow, and its component set allows for plenty of room for error. The SRAM shifters are smooth and amazingly fast, while the hydraulic disc break system offers a level of control that gives you far more confidence in the saddle.
I was pleasantly surprised at how well this bike climbs as well. Usually, a full suspension bike means a heavier frame, which can cause it to be slow and ponderous on a climb, but in this case of the Trek Fuel, I’ve been more than happy with its ability to handle hills. In fact, it doesn’t feel incredibly different than my old hardtail, at least not until you crest the hill and go bombing down the other side, which is when this bike really shines.
As I mentioned earlier, I knew that technology had changed dramatically since I had last purchased a new mountain bike, and I also knew that those improvements would really have an impact on the way I ride. But, what I didn’t expect was that it would have such an immediate and direct impact on my rides. The Trek Fuel isn’t just a good bike, it’s a great one, and even after just a few “get acquainted” rides, I can already feel that it is making me a better, more confident rider.
It also doesn’t hurt that at that after an hour and a half of hard riding, I don’t feel nearly as beat up on this bike as I did with the old hardtail. The dual suspension really does help in that area, and now I’m very glad I elected to go with this bike.
If you’re in the market for a new mountain bike, you could do a lot worse than one of the Trek Fuel bikes. They are a wonderful ride so far, and I can’t wait to hit the trail again soon. (MSRP: $1699)
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