PINKBIKE FIELD TEST
Words by Mike Kazimer, photography by Tom Richards
The Slash was updated for 2021 with 10mm more travel, along with the expected longer, slacker geometry changes, and a few bonus frame features. It's still rolling on 29” wheels, with 160mm of rear travel and a 170mm fork. Its intended purpose hasn't changed at all - it's still meant to be an enduro race bike.
That 160mm of travel comes from Trek's ABP suspension layout, which uses a concentric pivot at the rear axle. The overall layout hasn't deviated much from the previous version, but what's new is the RockShox Super Deluxe ThruShaft shock. The shock uses Trek's ThruShaft design, where the damper shaft exits out the bottom of the shock, which means the damper valve assembly is moving through one column of oil.
• Travel: 160mm rear / 170mm front
• Wheel size: 29"
• Head angle: 64.1-degrees (low)
• Seat tube angle: 75.6-degrees (low)
• Reach: 486mm (lrg)
• Chainstay length: 437mm
• Sizes: S, M, ML, L (tested), XL
• Weight: 32.5 lb / 14.7 kg (as pictured)
• Price: $8,000 USD
The shock was developed specifically for Trek, but it does share some similarities with the current inline Deluxe shock, like the ability to select from three low-speed compression settings, along with an extra-firm locked out position. A turn of the dial can firm up the shock for smoother, flowier trails, or turning it the other way can be useful for slippery conditions when traction is a high priority. There's also a numbered rebound knob, one of those “Why hasn't everyone been doing this?” features that should help speed up setup.
Trek debuted their in-frame snack storage on the Fuel EX last year, and that's now been carried over to the Slash. Flipping a lever underneath the water bottle cage unlatches a panel that covers the downtube, where a tube and snacks can easily be stored. Perhaps best of all, the feature is also found on the aluminum Slash frames.
Along with the snack compartment, the Slash has a threaded bottom bracket, a 34.9mm seatpost diameter, and Knock Block 2.0. For those that aren't familiar, the Knock Block system uses a a small stop chip in the headtube and a special headset top cap and stem spacers to prevent the handlbar from being turned too far in either direction. The previous version only allowed 58-degrees of rotation in either direction, while the new one allows 72-degrees of rotation. Even better, the feature can be completely removed, since the downtube now has a slight curve in it that allows the forks crown to pass underneath without any issues.
The Slash's head tube angle has been slackened by 1-degree, and now sits at 64.1-degrees in the low geometry setting. It's possible to steepen that to 64.6-degrees via the flip chips in the seatstays, but I have a feeling most riders will stick to the slacker setting. Along with the slacker head angle, the bike's reach has grown by 20-30mm per size – the reach on a size large now measures 486mm. Speaking of sizes, there's now an ML option in the mix, which means there's a total of five sizes – S, M, ML, L, and XL.
The seat angle has been steepened to 75.6-degrees. That's slightly slacker than what we're seeing from other companies, especially when combined with the bike's relatively slack actual seat tube angle. The chainstay length remains the same across the board for all sizes, at 437mm in the low setting.
The Slash 9.9 X01 version reviewed here retails for $8,000 USD. Parts kit highlights include a RockShox Zeb Ultimate fork, SRAM X01 12-speed drivetrain, Code RSC brakes, and Bontrager Line Elite carbon wheels. That's a lot of money, but you can get an alloy version starting at $3,500 for the aluminum Slash 7.
The total weight is 32.5 lb with our Maxxis Assegai / DHR II control tires installed, making it the second lightest bike out of the 5 on hand for this test.Climbing
Trek bumped up the anti-squat on the Trek, and for the most part I was happy leaving the shock alone while climbing, especially when it was in the middle or firmer compression setting of the 'open' position.
As it is, the Slash is a good climber, but you can notice that front center length when things get really tight; at times I felt I was a little further back than I wanted. Otherwise, the reasonable weight and good traction from the Super Deluxe shock make it relatively easy to get the climbing out of the way before the fun really begins. Sure, you won't mistake it for an extra-nimble trail bike, but doesn't turn into a cumbersome sled on mellower terrain.
In regards to sizing, the Slash has the longest top tube length out of all five bikes being reviewed, at 649mm. Yes, it also has the longest reach to go along at that, but if you look at the Norco Shore, that bike has a 480mm reach and 617mm top tube length - the seat tube angle makes a big difference in how well the longer front center is hidden while climbing. Now, I was able to achieve a pretty comfortable climbing position by sliding the seat forward in the rails, but I wouldn't have complained if the seat tube angle was a couple degrees steeper. Interestingly, that’s pretty much what I said about the Specialized Enduro last year, and the two have similar reach and top tube lengths.Descending
I spent a lot of time on the previous Slash, and one thing's for certain – it hasn't lost anything when it comes to speed and precision. Out of all the bikes, this one felt the fastest, even if that wasn't totally reflected in the timed laps. I like bikes that make you want to go fast, the kind where it doesn't feel like there's a speed limit, and this is one of them.
Have you ever rented a car, and then somehow found yourself going 90mph because of how smooth the ride was? That's a fitting analogy for the Slash - it's stiff without being harsh, and the tune on the Super Deluxe is excellent. I didn't need to play with volume spacers at all, and the three positions are all very effective. While I used it in the fully open position most of the time, it's nice to be able to firm it up for different terrain and trails.
The chainstay length is the same across all sizes, something that's becoming less common. I wouldn't have minded the option to lengthen things, just to be able to experiment, and I'm sure taller riders than myself would appreciate the ability to fine-tune the back end length a little bit. However, that longer front / shorter back end balance is a good time in the steeps, where it gives the bike a nice blend of stability and maneuverability.
That's sort of the theme with this bike – it's stiff and fast, but it's also really great at jumping and slapping through corners. Overall, the Slash would make a great race bike, or an all-rounder for someone who's focused on rowdier trails and is looking for a precise speed machine.