The Top Fuel had a period of 15 years where it was not only Trek’s staple XC race bike, but also arguably one of the most renowned and name-checked models you would find at the highest level of World Cup competition. However, in 2019 a new bike broke cover to potentially replace the Top Fuel as the Trek Factory race team's bike of choice. We subsequently came to know this new bike, with its interesting sliding suspension design, as the new Supercaliber. It’s a bike that occupies the space between the Procaliber, Trek's hardtail that features a decoupling link around the seat tube junction, and the Top Fuel, the bike that we’ll be looking at today.
Trek Top FuelFrame material:
Carbon or AlloyIntentions:
120mm (120mm fork)Wheelsize:
XS 27.5” - S / M / ML / L / XL / XXL 29"Head Tube Angle:
$2,559 - $10,999 USDMore info: trekbikes.com
So, what was to become of the Top Fuel? Had it been superseded or dare I say replaced by the Supercaliber? Well, no. In fact, the Top Fuel has undergone a whole raft of changes in recent years that aim to keep it at the forefront of short travel full suspension bikes that pack a punch. The new 2022 version is no different and sees many of these ideas developed further.
When I spoke to some of the team at Trek, they were very comfortable with the fact that this wasn’t a race bike anymore and isn’t there to try and satisfy the brand’s racing aspirations - they have the Supercaliber to do that. This is a bike, if you were to race it, that will be more suited to the BC Bike Race, but all in all is aimed squarely at trail riders who want something very efficient that can also enable them to ride more technical trails with confidence.Frame Details
The new Top Fuel’s travel increases by 5mm to a 120mm platform, with the option of a 130mm fork, but now features far more progressive geometry and some refined features. For instance, the new model features Knock Block 2.0 that gives you a larger 72 degrees of turning radius. You can also remove this feature, should you wish to. However, in the few rides I’ve had on this bike I have never found it to be a hindrance.
It also has features internal storage on all bikes, including the alloy ones. This is via a door in the downtube that you might have seen on Trek’s other models. It seems more robust than other some other brands' versions and has a reassuringly sturdy lever. The frame also sees a seat tube internal diameter increase to 34.9mm. As the travel of droppers gets longer, having a larger diameter can increase the post's reliability and performance from associated gains in stiffness and reducing the load on the bushes inside the post.
The bike uses fully guided internal routing inside the front triangle. However, as with a lot of brands in recent years, this means they forgo neat routing for any left-hand-rear-brake riders. With mechanics in mind, the Top Fuel has a 73mm BSA threaded bottom bracket.
The frame also has a rather healthy 2.5” rear tire clearance for more aggressive or comfortable rubber. 29” wheels will be found throughout the range except for the extra small which uses the smaller 27.5” size.Geometry
The geometry undergoes the slacker treatment to reduce the head angle by a degree and a half to 66-degrees. There is a flip-chip that can steepen the geometry by 0.4 degrees.
The seat tube on the previous version was already comparatively steep compared to some other short travel bikes, but now sees it steepen by a degree to 76 degrees in the low setting. Again, with that chip this could increase to 76.4 degrees.
The bike is also compatible with a 130mm fork. Assuming all other things are equal, the additional 10mm would reduce the head and seat tube angle by around half a degree.
All bikes use a 435mm length chainstay and, when using a 120mm fork, that’s matched to reaches that start at 400mm on the 27.5” wheeled XS and go all the way up to 520mm for the XXL. In fact, Trek offers 7 different sizes, including a very well-placed ML with a 465mm reach. This should mean everyone can find a bike that works well for them. On average, these reach values have grown by about 10mm per size compared to the outgoing model.Suspension Design
The bike, rather unsurprisingly, uses Trek's Active Braking Pivot suspension design. The system, which essentially comprises a chainstay that doubles as a swingarm and also incorporates a bearing system to connect it to the seatstay on the same axis as the rear axle. This, Trek say, is the best way to maximise braking performance by keeping the forces independent of one another and letting the brake caliper essentially float. It’s become a staple of Trek’s design over the last decade and features on their bikes of all travel categories.
The seatstay then drives a rocker link which in turn drives the shock.Models
The Trek Top Fuel range will feature a whole myriad of different models. In fact, there are 9 in total thanks to Trek offering both Shimano and SRAM build kits on their higher end carbon build. I think this is great and means that whatever your flavour or drivetrain preference, you’re probably going to find something that suits your needs.
The bike is also available through their Project One system. This essentially means you can customise everything from the componentry to the paint job on your new bike.
The alloy models start with the Top Fuel 5
, which features a Rockshox Recon fork, XFusion XPro2 shock and a Shimano Deore drivetrain. There is also the Top Fuel 7
which see’s upgrades across the board, including the Recon Gold fork, an SLX and XT mix and Bontrager Line Comp wheels. The highest spec alloy bike, the Top Fuel 8
, features a similar spec but higher level RockShox suspension, a SID fork and Deluxe Ultimate shock, and better Shimano M6120 4-pot brakes. These bikes range from $2,599.99 to $3,799.99 US.
Any higher spec than that and you’re onto the carbon models. These chiefly feature a Fox or RockShox build depending on your preferred model and also give you the choice of XT, GX, GX AXS, XX1 AXS or XTR. The Fox and RockShox models climb the spec-chart accordingly, starting with Fox Performance and RockShox Select+ models and going all the way to Factory and Ultimate respectively. The carbon bikes range from $4,199.99 to $10,999.99.
There are frame only
versions, in both alloy and carbon, for $2,299.99 and $3699.99.Initial Impressions
I’ve been lucky enough to ride the Trek for a few days and some things have become immediately apparent. However, I’m excited to put it through its paces in an upcoming field test so I’ll keep it brief.
Firstly, this bike has transitioned smoothly from a World Cup race bike to a marathon bike and now trail ripper. It’s certainly happy to be pushed hard and benefits greatly from both progressive geometry and modern, adequately supportive damping. It’s a bike that feels alive, precise and efficient. Whether it’s been on longer rides that have constituted hours in the saddle or shorter rips that involved reasonably technical and chunky trails, the Trek has risen to the occasion.
The one-piece bar and stem, while not being everyone’s choice, on first impressions suits me quite well and I like the geometry of them. Interestingly enough Trek have done blind testing with riders to see if people can consistently set up their own bars in regards to the roll and found that people aren’t often as accurate as they think - they often failed to get them to within a handful of degrees. Personally, I think they're a pretty good shape and I like the short 45mm effective stem length and clean look. Either way, I'm looking forward to arguing their case, or maybe even their drawbacks, with the team at the upcoming field test.