Trek’s New Slash Sets A New Standard in Trail

The new Trek Slash 9.8 is a top-of-the-range trail bike that comes in way cheaper than its competitors


Myles Kelsey |

When it comes to trail bikes, tech is everything. On an XC bike you can show up on your R15K hardtail and be competitive but, in trail and enduro geometry, set-up and the ability to fine tune the suspension is key to turning a good ride into a ‘rad’ one.

Trail bikes represented the pinnacle of suspension development and often the tech first seen in trail bikes filters down to faster XC and marathon mountain bikes.

So, enter the Trek Slash 9.8… a bike that will turn every ride into a ‘rad’ ride.

Light enough to be playful, specced to smooth out the most severe of technical trails and priced at a point that most of its competitors can only dream about, the Trek 9.8 is set to be standard bearer in a rapidly expanding competitor set.

The Tech

The bike is laced with technology – much of which is not found on competitor bikes at all. The proprietary rear shock by Rock Shox with Trek’s ‘Thru Shaft’ and RE:aktiv proprietary damping technology coupled with the ABP rear pivot gives this bike top class traction, speed and behaviour on the trail. The steering Knock Block system stops the bars from doing a complete rotation and it allows the frame designers to incorporate a straight down tube which stiffens up the bike. The flip chip allows astute riders to fine tune their BB height (by 10mm) and head angle (by 0.5 degrees) to suit their riding style or trails. Trek have always produced really light bikes and although this Slash is built to withstand most anything a trail can throw at a rider, it’s a lightweight in trail bike terms.

Geometry, Sizing and Fit

At 1,74m tall we opted for a 19,5 inch size frame and used the ‘high BB setting’ for the duration of the test. With a reach of 459mm, BB height of 352mm and head angle of 65,6 we had ample room to relax into a comfortable climbing position and an aggressive attack position for descending. That 150mm dropper post certainly gets the saddle out of the way for most technical conditions but I did feel the need for an extra 10mm drop in order to get the most out of the bike. The Bontrager bar width, sweep and rise are spot on for a bike of this nature, as is the stem length.

…most impressive on the rear end is the level of composure and stability it brings…

Everything fits really well, but we have to question Trek on three things: 1. The seat tube is far too slack which means, with the seat up and in the climbing position, it is just too far behind the BB. The quick fix is to slam the seat forward on the rails and, other than looking a little weird, it worked perfectly well on the trail. 2. We think that long travel trail bikes should be specced with slightly shorter 165mm cranks for increased clearance on the technical trails and, 3. The Bontrager SE4 tyres are a little on the lean side for a bike begging to be boomed.

Ride Impressions

We have tested a lot of long travel trail bikes in our time, a couple of which were not worthy of a review, some good and some excellent. We place the Slash in the ‘ridiculously good’ camp.

The rear suspension system on this bike is simply the best we have ridden, hands down. It tracks the terrain incredibly well, is super smooth on small bumps and handles big hits with laughter – we only managed to feel the end of travel once on a 6-metre huck onto flat tarmac. What is most impressive on the rear end is the level of composure and stability it brings to the bike when the trails become challenging: Roots, rocks, steps and jumps are handled with smoothness and confidence.

Despite all the tech inside that proprietary rear shock, it’s incredibly easy to setup. That means less tinkering and more riding. Coupled with the Fox 36 fork, the overall ride on this bike is extremely well balanced, controlled and you would be hard pressed to find faults. With full lock out at the flick of a switch on the front and rear, the bike is easy to jam up to speed when faced with traverses or climbs that connect the singletrack.

The 1×12 Eagle drive train certainly comes in handy on long days in the saddle and when you are looking for an easier roll up climbs.

The Bontrager SE4 tyres roll really well and help the bike carry speed nicely on smoother trails. However we did cut both the front and rear tyres on separate occasions which is testament to them being a little lean for a bike this capable.

The Bontrager wheelset is super strong and coupled with the stiff chassis and excellent suspension performance this bike is a lot of fun to ride. The low overall weight means the bike is playful on the trail.

Price point is good for a bike of this calibre and represents a solid value package.

The Low Down

Super smooth, confidence-boosting suspension and easily tunable, the Trek Slash 9.8 offers a top class package at a competitive price point.

SPECS

Price: R94 999
Weight: 14.06kg
Style: Trail / Enduro
Drivetrain: SRAM Eagle GX 12 speed
Frame Material: Carbon fibre with alloy chainstay
Travel: 160mm (front),  150mm (rear)
Wheel Size: 29

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