• Climbing Ability 80% 80%
  • Downhill Ability 80% 80%
  • Overall Fun 80% 80%

Travel: 130mm rear/ 140mm fork

Head Tube Angle: 66

Seat Tube Angle: 75

Reach: 470mm (large frame)

Weight: 28.94 lbs

Price: $5,499

What We Like: Down tube storage

What We Don’t: Suspension sag while climbing

With more travel than most of the bikes on the list, the Trek Fuel EX is a very versatile ride. It has a neutral riding position to keep you comfortable on long all day rides and is fairly light. This bike is a very well rounded—and I hate to say it but—“safe” bike. It is built for smooth trails and long days, but the bike will help keep it under control when the trail gets bumpy. Also who doesn’t love a downtube storage pocket, so your friends can see what cool snacks you brought on the ride?
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  • Climbing Ability 90% 90%
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The Best Short Travel Mountain Bikes: Trek Fuel EX - Gear Hacker

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  • Climbing Ability 80% 80%
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If you’ve ever ridden bikes at all, you know about Trek. Trek bikes have been sold since the 70s, and even the name Trek, as the company states, gives off a vibe of “the spirit of adventure, the promise of greatness on the horizon.” Isn’t that everything we want in a bike and more? Trek’s best-selling trail bike the Fuel EX has only improved since its inception, and they continue to innovate and advance their bikes to maintain their position as some of the best on the market.
The Best Short Travel Mountain Bikes: Trek Fuel EX - Gear Hacker

The Bike

A new frame design is one of the first things that you notice on the Fuel EX, making for a much better-looking bike, in my humble opinion. The geo has also, as with most bikes this year, become slacker and longer. With a reach on a large frame of 470mm, it is not as long as some of the other bikes on the list, but it is longer than the predecessor. A decently slack 66.5-degree head tube angle coupled with a 75.5-degree seat tube angle adds the requisite steeper and slacker parts of the equation. Throw in a 435mm chainstay on every frame, and the geo starts to sound pretty interesting.

The Trek Fuel EX has 130mm of rear travel and a 140mm fork. Now with the new frame design, they have added a Knock Block in the head tube. This keeps the crown of the fork from smacking against the downtube of your shiny new bike. Trek does state that it is light, and that makes for a more precise front end. We’ll let you be the judge of that.

The Best Short Travel Mountain Bikes: Trek Fuel EX - Gear Hacker
The bike comes with Trek’s Mino Link adjustable geometry. You can adjust the head tube angle by half of a degree and the bottom bracket height by up to 10mm, depending on the terrain that you normally ride. The cable management system is also upgraded and keeps things nice and quiet—and easy to replace.
Trek has even added a downtube pocket that is hidden under the bottle cage and is opened with a latch. Sure, Specialized has done this before, but it’s still a great place to hide snacks from your friends in case you don’t want to share. As you can see, Trek put some thought into the new Fuel series, and it shows. This is a rad trail bike that could be a one quiver bike for those in the right areas.
The Best Short Travel Mountain Bikes: Trek Fuel EX - Gear Hacker

Climbing

With 130mm of rear travel, there will likely be some suspension sag while grinding up a steep FSR. Trek also designed the rear suspension with the pedal-assist lever in mind, so you may be reaching for the lockout switch more often than on other bikes. Is this a game-changer? I don’t think so, as it takes less effort than grabbing your water bottle and can help save your legs for the sprint to the cooler at the end of the ride.

The suspension will help to eat up some technical rooty climbs and keep you in your seat. For smooth and easy climbs, you can lock in the pedal assist and really make sure your pedaling energy is going into the back wheel and not into the rear suspension. Now the Trek may not be as sporty as the Ibis Ripley or Evil the Following, but it’s light, comes with beefy, full of traction tires, and will still get you to the top of the hill whereas the added suspension will get you down the hill that much more comfortably.
The Best Short Travel Mountain Bikes: Trek Fuel EX - Gear Hacker

Downhill

The new Fox suspension designed for the Trek seems to mute the small rattly roots and rocks that can zap your body of energy over a long day of riding. Though it adds some sag during the climb, it really shines in the descent.

As with all of the new bikes with modern geometry, the world that the Trek belongs in just got a whole lot wider. The confidence-inspiring head tube angle and 36 fork give the rider a lot of forgiveness when the descents get spicy. The Bontrager tires that come on the Trek also add a lot of traction and help to keep the front end pointed down the trail or on the correct line around a safety berm when the geo gives you more confidence than it should have. This bike can be poppy too and may keep you in the air longer than you expected, but that’s only ever a bad thing sometimes. We say—enjoy the freedom of flight!

The Shimano brakes are also solid and keep the speed in check for when the descents get steep and the rider gets confident. This Fuel EX is more versatile than its predecessor but may feel almost too safe for some riders. It is a great bike for someone looking for a capable and comfortable mountain bike for long days in the saddle that will keep you in check if the trail gets squirrely.

The Best Short Travel Mountain Bikes: Trek Fuel EX - Gear Hacker

Build Options

As you can expect with Trek there are about a thousand build options for the Fuel EX. The bonus of that is that there really is a Trek for every price range and component conscious buyer. Starting with the fancy pants, Trek does offer a wireless drivetrain build using SRAM’s latest and greatest X01 Eagle AXS drivetrain, and it will only set you back $11,999. The Trek Fuel carbon frame family ranges from $5,299 up to $10,649. The aluminum framing options range from $2,499 up to $4,299. There are also four frame only options ranging from $2,499 up to $3,999. So, really there is a Fuel for every wallet size, and the company’s scale does help to get as many people on bikes as they can.

The Best Short Travel Mountain Bikes: Trek Fuel EX - Gear Hacker

The Bottom Line

Is this a bike for adrenaline junky, speed demons who want to pick the gnarliest line and dance their way down it? Well no. The Trek Fuel EX is a safe buy for riders who want to know that their bike can handle the ups as well as the downs but which, during the downs, has enough suspension and traction to really keep them out of trouble. It will feel almost like the bike isn’t beneath you, which for some riders is great and for others who like the feel of the trail cruising along under them can be a negative.

With bigger tires and newer geo that could have been even a little more progressive, the Trek is a good climber—not a great climber. The suspension lockout switch will play a large role in a variety of climbing situations and will likely be used more on the Fuel than any other bike on our list, but that really isn’t a deal-breaker. This spongier suspension will keep the fun of the downhill but won’t rattle your arms out of your shoulder sockets, something I think we can all appreciate. When you get to the bottom of the ride and feel like a snack, you will find that you forgot one in the downtube pocket on your last ride, so—ta-da—you’re good to go!
The Best Short Travel Mountain Bikes: Trek Fuel EX - Gear Hacker

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We participate in affiliate programs to help us fund Gear Hacker. Some of the links in this website are affiliate links, which means that if you purchase a product using our link, we will earn a small commission. Don’t worry! This comes at no additional cost to you, and we will never base our reviews on whether or not we earn a commission off of a product. With that said, if you find our review helpful and decide to purchase an item we review, we would be very appreciative if you use our links to do so. It will help us bring you more awesome content in the future!