Page 10/12 > Our choice of the top race-ready bikes under 13k. Words: Oli Munnik | Photography: Nick Muzik
Intro/Testers | Merida Big Nine 500 | Giant Talon 27.5 1 | GT Zaskar 9R Sport | Silverback Sola 2 | Momsen AL429 29er | Titan 29R Elite | KTM Ultra Sport | Specialized Rockhopper Comp | Trek X-Caliber 8 | Avalanche Envi 29 MTB Tandem | Final Verdict
Trek X-Caliber 8
Although Bianchi were the first to offer 29-inch-wheeled mountain bikes, Trek – under the guidance of Gary Fischer – is widely considered to be the pioneering brand that truly catapulted 29ers into the mass market. The X-Caliber hardtail range is descended from over 15 years of 29er R&D, in which Trek have been refining their big-wheeled mountain bikes to offer handling to suit the bigger wheels. Trek’s answer to those who complain that 29ers are sluggish in tight sections or at low speeds is G2 geometry, featuring a custom-offset fork and advanced frame geometry.
The X-Caliber 8 instantly stood out from the rest of the test fleet with its simple-but-strong blue frame colour. The handlebar, stem, seatpost, saddle and wheels are all made by Bontrager, Trek’s reliable in-house componentry brand. The tyres, also by Bontrager, were high-volume, and impressed us with a comfortable ride and good grip. The rest of the spec, comprising 9-speed SRAM X7 and X5 components, was slightly less exciting when compared to the
Despite the slightly lower spec, after testing it at both high and low speeds we found that the X-Caliber 8, which features Trek’s G2 custom-offset fork, handled superbly; offering a predictable yet lively and engaging ride in every instance, no matter how hard we pushed it. We found that the X-Caliber 8 was the best performer in terms of ‘out-the-box’ handling and ride experience. Another plus is that it’s the cheapest of the test bikes; so if you can stretch budget, think about trading up to the X-Caliber 9.
RIDE EXPERIENCE: 5/5
FORK: RockShox XC32, coil spring, 100mm
WHEELSET: Bontrager AT-850 double-walled rims laced to Shimano RM66
TYRES: Bontrager XR1 29”x2.2” front and 29”x2.0” rear, folding bead
WEIGHT: 14,1 kg
[*This article was first published in the April 2014 issue of Bicycling Magazine. Prices are subject to change. All prices were correct at the time of going to print]