Trek Fuel EXe – Less is More, is More!

We got a chance to play on the Trek Fuel EXe 'lite' ebike, and discovered that less really is more. What a blast!

The Bicycling Editors |

  • Find the perfect balance between a traditional and electric ride, with adaptive assist that disappears under you on climbs, and a nimble ride that feels natural and playful on descents
  • The tiny-but-mighty TQ motor is tuned for the trail, keeping things quiet so you can stay in the moment, and ramps up power with you for a natural ride feel
  • The smart charge port, sleek integrated display and discreet controls keep the bike looking and feeling like a traditional mountain bike
  •  150 mm of buttery-smooth front travel pairs with 140 mm of rear suspension to eat up rocks and roots for a ride that’s ready to tackle anything
  • Add on a range extender when you want a little extra fuel in the tank for big days on the bike
Are you all about assist, or more of a traditionalist? Whatever your pedalling preference, the EXe, from the Trek Fuel EX family, has you covered with the all-mountain capability you need to blast berms and slay technical sections. If adding some pep to your pedals tickles your fancy, the Fuel EXe will give you just the assist you need.

While the usual e-bike story is about more power, battery, and range, the EX-e falls into the intriguing e-light category where the story is less.

The EX-e is lighter, a lot lighter—4kg or so lighter—than a full-power e-bike because it uses a less powerful motor requiring a smaller battery. That makes it appealing to riders who want an e-bike but also want the feel and handling of an unpowered e-bike. It should also interest lighter and less powerful riders put off by riding a 20+kg eMTB. As we found out, being less powerful doesn’t mean less fun. The EX-e proves that the old Less Is More axiom works for e-bikes too.

Most of the e-bikes we ride are motorised versions of a brand’s existing unpowered frame platform, which there’s a better-than-good chance we’ve already ridden. However, with this new Fuel EX-e, Trek flipped the script on me because the powered version came first. With the Fuel EX-e, Trek debuts an all-new frame platform which we’ve never ridden before, which seems likely to become (in an unpowered version) the next version of Trek’s Fuel EX trail bike. Plus, the EX-e uses the all-new TQ motor and boasting some 2023 fork and shock tech we hadn’t had the chance to ride yet.

Our test bike was the most expensive model: The huge-dollar 9.9 not even available in South Africa. But, good enough to learn the basics of this all-new setup… The parts were, as you would hope for a bike this expensive, flawless.  The Bontrager SE5 Team Issue tires are the best Bontrager trail tires we’ve ever ridden, and I feel like the company has a rubber compound that lets them compete with the best on the market. Also impressive were the 2023 RockShox parts which are a step forward in smoothness for the brand, and operate silently.

While much of this bike is new to us, the Fuel EX-e is such a harmonious package that we got comfortable with it very quickly, and it wasn’t much longer before we were in love with this bike. In fact, we’re going to declare that this is one of the best mountain bikes—powered or unpowered—we’ve recently ridden.

Everything makes this bike good, but let’s start with the frame. The chassis has a modern fit and balanced handling that lets the rider climb comfortably and let it run on the descents, yet it’s still agreeable on mid-speed and flatter trails. There’s nothing particularly unique or different about the EX-e’s geometry numbers, which we think is the point: It finds an equilibrium that works well on many kinds of climbs and flavours of descent without neglecting that some trails are flatter. If anything, it’s snappier and livelier—things I don’t think I’ve ever said about an e-mountain bike—than the average 140/150mm bike, and enough that we legitimately forgot that we were on an e-bike at times.

The motor is so quiet and well-mannered. We couldn’t hear it over our breathing on climbs, and it’s so smooth that there are almost no vibrations or buzzing to feel in the frame. Plus, it is entirely free of clunking and lash.

It’s the most natural feeling motor we’ve yet ridden, by which we mean it doles out the power in an approximately human way. It is also so quick that there’s almost no lag between when you start and stop pedalling; the motor power flows in and out. It legitimately feels like you’re just having a really great day when you pedal this bike. We felt less surging and pushing from this motor, even in the highest assist mode, than we’ve experienced from any other e-bike motor system.

The EX-e’s motor feels exceptionally well-tuned, and the experience is refined, eclipsing even Specialized’s excellent motors. Some of this smoothness likely results from the TQ’s lower torque. By keeping the system quiet, the bike tricks the brain a bit—quieter is perceived as smoother. But riding the EX-e was such a pleasant experience that I never missed the extra boost of a “full power” e-bike.

The EX-e has a 360 Wh internal battery, which is enough for “two to five hours” of riding, according to Trek. While frustratingly vague, it’s accurate as many factors influence battery range. Riding in the “mid” assist mode, a 40km ride with almost 1000m of climbing took two hours and 40 minutes and finished with under 30 percent battery remaining, so we think the two-to-five hour estimate is accurate.

This e-lite mountain bike might provide a superior experience for many riders, even committed e-bike riders. Yeah, it’s not going to hurl you up the climbs the way a full-power e-bike will. Yes, we did wish for more range—if only because riding the EX-e is so damn fun—but there’s enough power and range here to offer some substantial assist, yet the bike remains agile and doesn’t punish the upper body on the descents. It is an e-bike experience that doesn’t overwhelm the mountain bike experience. The experience of transitioning from a mountain bike to a full-power e-bike is pretty extreme and can be jarring.

Full-power e-bikes are a lot: A lot of power and a lot of weight. Many riders adapt and are completely happy with their full-power e-bikes. But if you’ve tried a full-power e-bike and thought it was a bit much, the EX-e will be a revelation.

It’s right for you if…

You’re a trail rider who wants the best of both traditional and e-mountain bikes. You don’t want to compromise on nimble control for power, but want a little assist on the ups. You appreciate the latest technology and want upgrades where they matter most. You don’t want to lose out on the natural experience of mountain biking and want a refined motor that quietly assists while you ride.

The tech you get

An OCLV Mountain Carbon frame equipped with a fully encased 360 Wh battery and TQ harmonic pin ring transmission with a smart charging port, integrated LED display and discreet handlebar remote. Plus, a 150 mm travel up front and 140mm rear suspension, all wrapped up with the precise shifting and modulation of carefully-specced drivetrain, wheels, tubeless-ready setups and finishing kits.

The final word

The Fuel EXe s an e-bike that evolved for the trail, with a lively and playful ride on descents and intuitive assist that adapts to your riding on the climbs. Its equipped with a tiny and powerful TQ transmission that tucks away quietly so you can stay in the moment on the trail. Now ity’s up to you to make the most of it.

The Models

The new Fuel EXe is available in three models in South Africa, buy yours today RIGHT HERE

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