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2015 Trek World Review

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I was lucky enough to be one of the employees selected to attend the Trek Bikes 2015 Trek World Expo.  Our company sent the General Manager, store managers and myself to the event in Madison, Wi and Waterloo, WI.  I was really excited to go because I’ve heard nothing but great things about the event from previous years.

We flew out on Sunday to get there early enough to relax and get used to the surroundings.  We were The All New Trek Top Fuel 9.9SL Mountain BIkelucky enough to get rooms at the Hilton attached to the Convention Center where Trek World was being held.  We had enough time for Ang and I to take the Madison B-Bicycles around town.  Madison is a super cool town and we had fun getting to know Madison.

On Monday, we were part of the first group to head out to the Trek Headquarters to test ride the new bikes.  My goal was to ride the Trek Stache, Top Fuel, ProCaliber and the new Trek Madone. Luckily, I ride the same bike as Nathan and Doug.  We were able to get a Stache 9, ProCaliber 9.8 SL and a Trek EX 9.9 for the first go around.

I was excited to ride the Stache because we’ve heard a lot about the bike, all the typical marketing hype and parking lot rides but I really wanted to know how it rides on the trails.  We left the factory and the first thing that surprised us was that I was able to coast just as fast as the Trek Procaliber and EX 9.  It’s hard to believe that the 29+ tires can roll that well. 

The Trek Stache 5 and Stache 7 at Trek WorldThe ride to get to the Trek Mountain Bike Trails, called the Farm, is a couple miles with a steep road climb on the way out.  I got dropped about half way up the hill and was like, oh-uh… this thing is a tank.  But I caught up on the back side of the hill and we made a turn onto a gravel road that led to the trails.  The first thing I noticed was that the Stache rolled great on the gravel and the Stache wasn’t squirly like a normal mountain bike on a gravel road.  More surprising was that I stayed right on Doug’s wheel riding the Procaliber.

We entered the Farm trail system with a steady climb and I never felt at a disadvantage once off road.  We got to the top of the hill and there was a downhill pump track style trail.  It had lots of bermed corners, whoops and table top jumps.  The Stache felt slow and heavy in the first two turns as I was getting used to the bike, but once I ‘figured it out’, I was right on Doug’s wheel grinning ear to ear.  The bike was perfect, the big tires held their line and only lost traction when I locked up the wheel to either not run over Doug or slide the rear tire into a turn. 

Once we got to the bottom of the hill we entered the single track trail. I thought for sure Doug would drop me on the trail.  The trails were fairly tight single track with the normal root and rock obstacles, nothing that is overly aggressive, but it can catch you off guard.  I jumped on Doug’s wheel and stayed there and never felt like I was getting dropped.  I have to admit, the Stache was 10x faster than I thought it would be in the woods.  The bike even climbs better than I thought with its short chainstays.  There was one section that had a short, rooty climb that they Stache simply ignored and rolled right up – I never felt the roots!

Now I feel confident telling our customers that they can buy the Trek Stache and keep up with their friends.  I found out later that several of the fast guys that work at Trek are riding the Stache as their go to mountain bike.  More proof that the bike is fast, fun and well worth taking into serious consideration if you are buying a new bike.

About half way through the trail, we switched bikes and I jumped on the Procaliber.  I have to admitEmployee Mike holding Trek Procaliber 9.9 SL that this is the bike I really wanted to ride.  I currently ride/race a Trek Superfly and it’s my go to mountain bike.  I really like this bike and wanted to see if the new Trek Procaliber 9.8 SL with the Iso-Speed Technology and Boost 148/100 wheels was worth the investment.

I have to make a quick disclaimer…jumping on the Procaliber right after riding the Stache was probably a bad idea.  Not really, but it did take me a couple minutes to adjust to the quicker steering.  The Stache definitely had slower steering with the big 29+ tires, but once I adjusted I couldn’t believe how light and responsive the front end of the Procaliber felt.  Not light in a bad way, but it took very little effort to turn the handlebars and get the bike to go where I wanted it to.  And it accelerated incredibly quickly.  Once I adjusted to the bike I was able to see if I could feel the Iso-Speed technology working.  I ride standing up a lot so I forced myself to sit down through a couple rough sections and it really works.  Trek says there is 11mm of travel.  It’s not a full suspension bike, but it takes the buzz and jarring out of a hard tail. 

I also believe the new Procaliber feels quicker and faster than my current Superfly.  It doesn’t hurt that the 9.8 is probably a couple pounds lighter than my Superfly 9.8.  I could definitely ride and race this bike.

We headed back to the Factory to see if we could get a Top Fuel 9.8 to ride.  Unfortunately, we waited a few minutes to see if anyone would bring a 19.5” back and it didn’t look promising (I can’t blame anyone, the Farm trails are awesome and I wouldn’t bring it back either).  There was a size 21 available so we grabbed it and Doug and I headed back out.  We dropped the Top Fuel’s handlebars two spacers to get the bike a little more aggressive and more similar to a 19.5”. 

The 21 felt OK, I fit a 19.5” perfect so 21” felt a little strange and I felt a little high on the bike.  Doug was still on the Procaliber and I followed him into the trails – we went straight to the single track this time.  I followed him and was really enjoying the full suspension.  I never ride a full suspension bike so this was a treat.  I tried to find a fault or two and couldn’t.  The bike was super efficient and shockingly comfortable.  I wasn’t losing any speed or power when out of the saddle which was my major concern.

A couple minutes into the trail, I took the lead and we went through a real twisty, up and down section of the trail.  I was having a blast, never feeling like I was riding hard, just getting a feel for the bike and starting to think….maybe it’s time for me to consider a full suspension bike. 

I looked back and noticed that Doug wasn’t behind me so I slowed and waited.  He rolled up to me and said that I was super fast on the Top Fuel.  He said I checked out on him in a couple pedal strokes and that he couldn’t keep up with me.  I think he was kind of bummed, he is a really good mountain biker and I just rolled away from him – ha  ha.  In all honesty, I’m really thinking about a full suspension mountain bike now.

We switched bikes and I went back to the Procaliber.  I had to stop and adjust the saddle height and told my GM to keep going.  It took me a couple minutes to get used to the hard tail.  The two bikes handled similarly, but the Top Fuel allows  the rider to roll over obstacles, whereas the hardtail requires the rider to pick better/smoother lines to keep his/her momentum.

One I got rolling, the Procaliber was simply a fast, crazy-good mountain race bike.  I really like the bike!  I caught Doug after a few minutes of riding hard and then switched back to the Top Fuel.  I have to say, getting off of the hard tail and back on the full suspension bike is a shock.  I realized that the Top Fuel allowed me to charge harder into corners and not have to worry about the rear wheel bouncing and losing traction.  I started day dreaming about having a Top Fuel for the Charlotte Winter Short Track Series.  I can see the rear suspension allowing me to roll through the sweeping corners even faster because I won’t have to worry about the rear wheel sliding out.  That, coupled with a dual lockout button may just make the Top Fuel perfect for any kind of riding/racing.

We headed back to the Factory to get something to eat and see if we could get on the new Madone.  While waiting to ride the Trek Madone, we rode the new Trek Ride+ bikes.  The first bike we rode was Trek Lift+ with the Shimano electric assist motor.  The first thing you notice is, whoa, that little motor has a lot of power.  It’s rated at 250 watts of assist with a maximum speed of 20mph.  The system works by literally assisting you as you pedal.  As soon as you get some resistance, the electric motor kicks in and assists you up the hill or to gain more speed.

You remember the hill I mentioned earlier?  Well on the Lift+ bike, I rode up the hill at 16mph into a 15mph head wind.  Imagine Pee Wee Herman riding a bike and that was what it was like only a lot faster.  The position on the Lift+ bike is that of the ultimate city bike, back straight, barely any weight on your hands and just a good ‘ol bike.   One interesting note, if you are over geared on the bike, the E-assist doesn’t kick in.  For example, if you are in too big of a gear climbing a hill, he E-assist won’t kick in until you shift into the proper gear for climbing.

After riding the Lift+, we rode the Trek XM700 E-assist bike.  The XM700 has a Bosch Performance Speed system that has a max speed of 28mph.  The bike rode almost exactly like the Lift+, only faster.  We were able to get the bike up to 36mph going down one of the hills.  And the bikes handle great.  We took the bike through a turn at 20 mph and never felt like we were out of control.

E-bikes are the talk of the industry right now and Trek is on the right track.  If you commute to work or travel across town a lot in an environment where you aren’t looking for a workout, seriously consider an E-bike.  It’s not a free ride, you still have to pedal, but it takes the ‘workout’ out of the ride.  And with almost a 70 mile range, you shouldn’t run out of ‘e-assist’.

The TFR Trek Madone and DomaneWe were finally able to get on the new Trek Madone.  I typically ride a size 58 Emonda, but the only Madone available was a 56.  We were running out of time so it was going to be a short ride.  What was my impression of the new Madone?  It was interesting.  The wind was blowing and I swear, when I turned into the wind at a certain angle, the bike jumped – it felt like I was on the Lift+ bike.  Now I don’t know if this was because I just came off the Lift+ bike or not, but it happened twice, to the point that I really had to question what was going on and in a really positive way. 

Once out on the road, two things I noticed, (1) it handled much like my Emonda (geometries are exactly the same) and the one piece handlebars felt great and (2) the new Madone felt FAST!  I know that’s hard to explain and/or quantify, but it felt fast and this was after 3 hours of riding bikes.  To me, it didn’t seem to sprint any faster than my Emonda.  BUT, the Iso-Speed decoupler really worked and I was flying when riding hard – even into a headwind. 

The roads in Wisconsin get pretty beat up in the winter so there were some decent ridges in the road to test the Iso-Speed technology.  The Madone is a true race bike and the front end is stiff – meaning you could feel the major bumps in the road.  I’m used to feeling the front end of my bike hit a bump followed by feeling the rear of the bike hit the same bump.  Not so on the Madone,  the Iso-Speed decoupler muted the bumps and the ride was as smooth as perfect pavement.  The Iso-Speed decoupler removed the road harshness.  I can see this paying dividends on a long ride.  You will ride faster if you aren’t as tired from absorbing any road shock.  Coupled with the slippery fast frame, you WILL be faster on the new Trek Madone.  The Madone is the Ferrari of bikes.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get to take the Trek Factory Tour.  I’m pretty bummed about that, but getting to ride the new Trek Bikes was worth it.  We boarded the buses back to Madison definitely dreaming of new bikes.

After the demo, we attended John Burke’s keynote speech.  It was held in the Madison Convention hall and was packed to the gills.  JB’s speech was all about telling the Trek Dealers that in order to survive, you have to run a better business than everyone else.  He wasn’t passing around ‘Trek Kool-aid’, he was serious and to the point.  He detailed what Trek is doing to make Trek retailers better.  The two major investments being made by Trek are updating the website and a new marketing system exclusive to Trek Dealers. 

Tuesday and Wednesday morning were spent attending different seminars.  The presenters were great and were from different departments in Trek including Trek Services, Trek Marketing, Trek Women, Trek Retail Services and more.  For someone attending Trek World the first time, I can say that it is an invaluable resource for Trek Retailers and should give every attendee even more confidence in the Trek Brand.  You leaving knowing that it’s for real, the company will be successful and understanding that Trek Bikes really is one of the best, if not the best bike brand in the business.