Trek’s New E-Caliber is Light, Fast, and Sporty
The Takeaway: The Trek E-Caliber is a lightweight, XC-oriented electric mountain bike for riders who want a nimble and agile machine that excels on a wide range of trails.
- Trek claims the 15.8kg E-caliber 9.9 XX1 AXS is the lightest full-suspension eMTB.
- 60mm carbon frame, 120mm fork, and aggressive geometry
- Fazua Evation pedal-assist motor can be removed for unassisted riding
Weight: 16kg. (size Large)
A light and efficient 60mm carbon frame, cross country-oriented geometry, a 120mm fork, and…a Fazua Evation pedal assist motor?
Trek thinks there is an unserved group of riders who want electric mountain bikes but don’t like the feel and handling of mid-travel rigs so it built the E-Caliber, a lightweight, short-travel bike with aggressive geometry, pushes the boundaries of the e-mountain category into the world of cross-country riding. This is aimed squarely at riders who like ripping all manner of trails, not just shredding downhills. Travis Ott, mountain bike marketing manager at Trek, confirmed this when he told me: “The focus has thus far been more on trail riding or flow trail laps, and the E-Caliber is certainly focused more on cross-country. I don’t necessarily mean cross-country racing but just that cross-country style of riding.” Trek is banking on the idea that there are mountain bikers who are disinterested in the current crop of more trail-oriented bikes and are instead looking for something with the tight and agile handling more typical of the lightweight machines found between the tape on XCO courses. For that underserved ridership, this new bike promises the ability to ride a bit faster or a bit farther than they otherwise would be able to do under their own power without compromising the way they like to ride.
5 Things We Love About the Trek E-Caliber 9.9 XTR
The lightweight, single-pivot design allows just 60mm of travel.
Bontrager Kovee XXX hoops are light, stiff, and very durable.
The battery and drive unit can be taken out of the downtube.
The buttons for the Fazua motor blend nicely into the handlebar.
Lightweight rear suspension offers great pedaling efficiency.
The E-Caliber was borne from Trek’s full-suspension XC racer, the Supercaliber. The Fazua Evation motor neatly integrated in the downtube gives riders three levels of pedal assist. Besides being very light (3.4kg on my scale), the battery and drive system are removable and can be replaced with a dummy battery that doubles as a storage compartment, leaving me with a 13.5kg (for size Large) bike that should pedal like a non-electric bike.
Class 1 Fazua Evation Motor
The Fazua Evation motor is powered by a 250-Wh battery with a claimed range of 30-80km. As with all e-bikes, that depends heavily on what mode you use, how much you weigh, and how hilly the terrain is. The more power you demand, the quicker the battery drains.
That motor itself represents a departure for Trek, as we’re more accustomed to seeing bikes from the Wisconsin-based brand with Bosch’s stellar Performance Line CX motor. Ott attributed that move to the new Black Pepper Tune, “which we felt took a good bike and made it a great bike for us,” he said, because it refines power delivery over a broader cadence range. Ott also told me the new tune improved responsiveness, making the pedal assist engage sooner.
The system has three power modes with very Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance names. Breeze is the economy mode and gives riders a constant 100 watts of help. River provides progressive assistance where the motor’s software attempts to match the amount of assist with what you’re putting into the pedals, but only up to 210 watts. The full gas mode is called Rocket, which gives riders an extra 250 watts regardless of how much effort they put into the pedals. But because this is a Class 1 e-bike, additional power cuts out when speed tops 32 kilometres per hour regardless of mode.
Fazua plans to release an app in April that will give riders complete freedom to customise the power curve in all levels of assist.
The E-Caliber retains the IsoStrut single-pivot suspension design from the Supercaliber, giving the bike just 60mm of rear wheel travel and exceptionally low weight due to the lack of pivots and linkage. But things change on the front end to handle the extra speed and hard riding the motor adds to the equation. Front suspension goes up to 120mm, giving the bike a more adventurous feel like the Cannondale Scalpel SE and Specialized Epic EVO. Head angle is kicked out to 67.5 degrees, the result of bumping travel up by 20mm. That’s still aggressive by trail standards but within the realm of modern XC geometry like we see on the Scalpel, Specialized Epic, and BMC Twostroke 01. Reach got longer than the Supercaliber’s, in this case by 15mm (440mm for a Large).
Those three changes represent the main geometry differences between the E-Caliber and its analog sibling. As with other bikes that get the longer/lower/slacker treatment, the idea was to add stability at high speed and make the bike handle better on rougher terrain.
Trek E-Caliber 9.9 XTR Details
Style: E-mountain bike
Wheel Size: 29er
Fork: Fox SC34 Factory 120mm
Shock: Trek IsoStrut 60mm
Drivetrain: Shimano XTR
Cranks: E*thirteen E*spec Race Carbon
Cassette: Shimano XTR 10-51
Brakes: Shimano XTR M9120 4-piston
Wheels: Bontrager Kovee XXX 30 Carbon
Tyres: 2.4-inch Bontrager XR3 Team Issue
Saddle: Bontrager Verse Pro
Seatpost: Bontrager XXX OCLV Carbon
Handlebar: 750mm Bontrager Line Pro OCLV Carbon
Stem: 70mm Bontrager Kovee Pro
Tire Clearance: 29 x 2.4-inches
Where Does This Bike Fit In?
Mid-travel e-bikes have proven to be great options for a wide range of uses, not the least of which are shuttling enduro runs, ripping flow trails, and making any hard, mountainous trail more accessible to riders who have less than professional-level fitness. However, those bikes can quickly lose their appeal for riders who enjoy taking a more active role in piloting because the heavy frames, big tyres, and longer travel have a way of letting you steamroll over obstacles. The E-Caliber is still a 16kg bike, which, while light for an electric mountain bike, is hefty. I don’t expect it to behave exactly like my XC bike that weighs 30 percent less, but I’ll be looking very carefully to see if it holds onto the spirit of that style of riding. I’m cautiously optimistic that the combination of short travel, light weight, and aggressive geometry will make for a bike that opens up the joys of long trail adventures and ripping fast singletrack to a segment of riders that may not otherwise get to experience that thrill.
The E-Caliber is available in five models priced from the entry-level (!) E-Caliber 9.6 all the way to the range-topping, jaw-dropping, 15.8kg pound E-Caliber 9.9 XX1 AXS. All models share the same full-carbon, 60mm frame with a 120mm fork. Interestingly, the top-tier 9.9 XTR and 9.9 XX1 AXS builds do not come with dropper posts. That’s disappointing, but it’s a move we often see on new XC bikes, where droppers are omitted for the sake of keeping the weight as low as possible. As ubiquitous as dropper posts are these days, it feels like an artificial way to claim a lower weight. If you’d like a dropper stock on your bike, look to any of the three lower priced options. You can also add a dropper to any of the higher priced models through Trek’s Project One options.
The cheapest E-Caliber, the 9.6, features a drivetrain that’s a mix of Shimano XT and Deore, with a 120mm RockShox Gold fork and Bontrager Kovee Comp wheels. The E-Caliber 9.8 gives you Bontrager Kovee Pro carbon wheels, a 120mm RockShox SID Select+ fork and the choice of either a SRAM GX or Shimano XT drivetrain. The next jump is a steep one: the E-Caliber 9.9 XTR with a 120m Fox Factory 34 SC fork and Bontrager Kovee XXX Carbon wheels. The top spot is reserved for riders willing to open their wallets for a dreamy bike, the E-Caliber 9.9 XX1 AXS, resplendent with SRAM’s wireless shifting and a 120mm RockShox Sid Ultimate fork.