TREK SLASH 9.8 29 TEST

TREK SLASH 9.8 29

Fast, Versatile, Enduro-Bred

The Slash has been Trek’s flagship, long-travel, aggressive trail machine with a reputation for climbing just as well as it descends. Last summer Trek invited us to check out its new machines in Squamish, British Columbia, and surprised us with a new 29er version of its do-it-all enduro rig. After getting a small taste for the redesigned platform, we couldn’t wait to put the King of the Mountain to the test on our trails in SoCal.

Slay it: From aggressive trail riding to all-around “sendage,” the Slash will do it. This machine is ready to defy any presuppositions riders may have about long-travel 29ers.

WHO IS IT MADE FOR?

The Slash has historically leaned heavily towards aggressive trail riding. The newest iteration falls into the aggressive trail-riding category with the aspiration of being a full-fledged enduro race bike. With its aggressive geometry, larger 29-inch wheels and long travel, the Slash was designed to charge downhill and quickly pedal back up to the top of the mountain.

If you need to stop: Trek’s Active Brake Pivot has been at the heart of their suspension design, eliminating brake jack during technical descents, keeping the rear wheel planted on the trail.

WHAT IS IT MADE FROM?

Trek’s Slash 29 includes some new concepts, along with proven technologies from the previous generation. The frame is Trek’s proprietary OCLV (Optimum Compaction Low Void). This process presses the carbon layers together to eliminate small, unwanted spaces that can compromise the integrity of the finished product. The frame uses Trek’s Control Freak internal cable routing and tapered E2 head tube. Along with the carbon fiber frame and rear triangle is Trek’s new Straight Shot downtube that increases frame stiffness. The rear triangle uses Boost spacing and 1x-specific chainstays.

The Slash has 150 millimeters of rear travel with 160 millimeters up front. Our test bike came with a RockShox Super Deluxe  and Trek’s Mino Link that will adjust the geometry and ABP (Active Braking Pivot) to help keep the rear tire on the trail under hard braking efforts. Trek passed on using its Full Floater design with the new Slash. This allowed for a lower mount with a stiffer bottom bracket shell.

There are two versions of the Slash available, with the top-end version being the RSL. Our test bike has a price tag of $5500. Riders can opt for a frame that comes with a Fox Factory Float X2 for $3700.

So many possibilities: The RockShox Super Deluxe was a big game-changer for suspension designers last year. The new shock uses Trunnion spacing gave the Slash an incredibly smooth ride with small-bump and big-hit sensitivity.

WHICH COMPONENTS STAND OUT?

Our test bike came equipped with RockShox suspension and a full-SRAM X1 build kit that provided smooth performance during our testing. The Lyrik fork and Super Deluxe shock had plenty of adjustability and complemented the Slash’s suspension design. The Bontrager Line Comp 30 wheels are a tad heavy but were stiff and strong. Given the amount of abuse we put these wheels through, we were impressed with just how well they held up.

Get to the top: Our test bike came equipped with a 130–160mm-travel RockShox Lyrik fork. On long climbs our test riders switched into the 130mm setting, lowering the front end for a more aggressive position.

HOW DOES IT PERFORM?

Moving Out:

Trek sent us their 19.5” frame, which they claim is effectively an 18.5. The fit is smaller than a typical large. Thankfully, Trek makes 5 sizes, which will fit nearly any rider. The stock bar width of 780 millimeters combined with the 50-millimeter stem was a comfortable setup for general trail hucking and technical riding. The Mino Link has a high and low setting that changes the head angle and bottom bracket height. We spent 95 percent of our riding in the low setting with the front end slackest. On mellower rides, some might appreciate the high setting.

Easy to lean: Long-travel 29ers had a reputation of riding like overloaded freight trains. With a compact geometry and tight wheelbase, the Slash is easy to push through tight turns and lean over for a nimble ride.

Suspension Setup:

We spent a lot of time dialing in our suspension to fine-tune the ride. Trek has a suspension calculator on its website that we used as a guideline for our initial setup. In the fork, we ran 20-percent sag with three volume spacers and the rebound 10 clicks out. We started the Super Deluxe at 25-percent sag, but after one ride decreased our air pressure to put the sag at 30 percent with eight clicks of rebound. Our preferred settings were very close to what Trek recommended.

Cornering:

The Slash was designed to handle the adversity of EWS courses, including the tightest switchbacks and turns. Considering the long travel and big 29-inch wheels, our test riders were surprised at just how easily the Slash could be pushed over in turns. The front end felt stiff and stable and wasn’t sluggish when changing direction at high or low speeds.

It pedals: During our testing we were constantly amazed at just how well the Slash could climb. Steep sections of singletrack or long fire-road grind, the Slash was ready to fly to the top and rip back down.

Climbing:

Trek The Slash can climb; there is no doubt about it. Trek spec’d our test bike with a 130–160-millimeter adjustable-travel Lyrik that made a substantial difference in the climbing. With the fork dropped to the 130-millimeter setting, the front end was low and aggressive, mimicking a cross-country race bike. The suspension characteristics were pronounced with each shock setting, stiffening up the rear end for a very responsive ride. On fire roads and more technical trails, our test riders preferred the middle shock setting. The firmest setting felt a little harsh, but some riders will appreciate the extra support.

Descending: This enduro ripper was made for plowing down the trail and floating over anything in its path. The big wheels can eat up just about any chunder that the trail may offer. “Confidence-inspiring” is a term that doesn’t do the handling characteristics and suspension justice. The suspension platform is lively and soaks up small bumps and big hits effortlessly, allowing riders to utilize all 150 millimeters of rear travel effectively. The geometry is comfortable, and the tight chainstays allowed our test riders to shift their weight back behind the wheel on steep pitches oftrail.

TRICKS, TIPS OR UPGRADES?

The frame and suspension on our test bike were top-notch and offered solid performance during our testing. This version had a good component package for the price. The Bontrager Line Comp 30 wheels were sturdy but a touch heavy. This would be one of the first upgrades we would recommend down the trail to shed a little bit of weight. The stock Bontrager SE4 tires worked well for all-around trail riding, but an SE5 on the front would give riders that extra bit of traction they might need on slick roots and in daunting rock gardens. The Drop Line post worked well during our testing, but all of our test riders agreed the 125 millimeters of travel hindered the descending abilities of the bike.

BUYING ADVICE

The overall performance of the Slash was impressive to say the least. It was one of the most versatile trailbikes our test riders have ridden in recent memory, with climbing characteristics that reminded us of XC racing, and descending capabilities that could happily conquer any EWS course. If you crave steep, B.C.-style descending as much as climbing, the Slash 29 has all the tools to do both in one of the most effective packages currently on the trail. www.trekbikes.com


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