I'd been itching to take Trek's new Slash 29
out for a ride ever since the veil of secrecy surrounding it was lifted at the beginning of June. The Slash is one of those bikes that looks fast standing still, a carbon fiber beast poised and ready to pounce and devour its unsuspecting prey. On paper, the numbers are positively drool-inducing: 29” wheels, 150mm of rear travel matched with a 160mm fork, 434mm chainstays, and a slack 65-degree head angle.
As luck would have it, Trek had a few Slash 29s on hand at Crankworx Whistler, and I was able to take one out for some quality time on some of the best trails in the world. 'Best in the world' isn't a phrase I toss around lightly, but when it comes to the gems that are hidden in the woods surrounding Whistler, it's entirely true. Climbing
The ride started with a steep climb up the side of Blackcomb Mountain, a fire road grind that's full of loose gravel, perfectly placed to cause rear tires to spin out and riders to curse, especially under the merciless heat of the summer sun. With the Float X2 in the full open position, out of the saddle climbing is met with a fair bit of bobbing, but that's where the shock's little blue lever comes in handy. It's easy to reach, and once it's turned to the firmest position any unwanted movement is drastically reduced. There's still enough shock movement to allow the rear wheel to absorb bumps and stay planted to the ground, but the increased compression damping makes the bike feel much more efficient on the climbs.
Even though the Fox 36 TALAS can be switched dropped down to 130mm of travel from 160mm, I never felt the need to reduce the amount of travel – I was perfectly comfortable spinning away with it in the fully-extended setting. There are some riders that swear by dual-position forks, but I'm not one of them – I find that the weight shift caused by the lowered front end makes climbing feel more, not less, difficult. Because the climb was mainly on a chewed up dirt road, I can't comment on the Slash's handling on tighter, more technical climbs, but once we get our hands on one for a long-term test there will be plenty of tricky ascents in its future. Descending
Once the climb was over it was time to reap the reward – a descent down the same terrain used for the recent Enduro World Series, full of steep straightlines, loose turns, and enough roots and rocks to keep it interesting – exactly the stuff the Slash 29 was designed for. As aggressive as its geometry numbers are, the Slash was surprisingly nimble in the tighter sections of trail. It's certainly happiest plowing through anything and everything at warp speed, but it'll also whip around sharper corners without putting up a fuss. Compared to the Nukeproof Mega 290, the Slash is less demanding to ride - it doesn't require as much muscle to get through slower speed sections of trail. There's a very satisfying amount of grip in the corners, and even in the looser, dustier portions of trail I was able to push hard with minimal loss of traction.
The Slash proved itself on that particular trail, but I was still curious about how it would do in a bike park setting, so I headed over to the lift to find out. It turns out the Slash is no slouch hitting jumps either, and in fact, I preferred its handling to that of the 2017 Trek Remedy I'd been riding the previous day. The slacker head angle and slightly longer wheelbase (not to mention the bigger wheels) made the Slash feel more stable, with trail manners that were more reminiscent of a downhill bike than a trail bike. More to Come
Now, half a day on a bike is just starting to scratch the surface, and there are plenty of questions that will require more ride time to figure out, including how the Slash 29 handles on techy climbs and slower, less steep descents. Is this a one trick pony, suited only to the gnarliest terrain around, or is there enough depth to its handling to make it a feasible option for less aggressive riders, or those who don't have the wild trails of British Columbia in their backyards? Keep an eye out for a long term review later this year.
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