- Trek Fuel Ex 5 Review and Buying Guide - September 12, 2022
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You wouldn’t think it now, but I was very late to get into bike riding. I spent many years on cheap bikes, unable to truly tackle exciting terrain. It was only when I bought a handsome bike with sturdy handlebars and better gear adjustment that I understood the true value of what a great bike can do. And that’s even more apparent when you’re hitting trails.
Trek is one of the biggest brands in mountain bikes today. Roughly half of the bikes sold in the United States are by Trek, from full suspension enduro bikes to hardtail bikes for beginners. What drew me to this brand are two things: reliability and value. Unlike many bike brand competitors, Trek tries to balance value and cost, with affordable prices and more upscale models too.
To help you select the best mountain bike, I’ll show you the best Trek models, with their main features explained. Whether you need a sturdy mountain bike for under $1500, an entry-level bike for beginners, or an aerodynamic carbon fiber mountain bike, I have you covered.
My goal is to find you the best mountain bike features at the most affordable price possible.
Bottom Line Up Front Summary: Trek mountain bikes can be expensive- but they’re more modestly priced than other brands, with options under $1500 and even under $1000. Looking at their current models, it’s a pretty interesting lineup- from bikes for beginners to advanced bikes with hydraulic brakes and enhanced gear adjustment. The key to finding the best model for you is sorting through how and where you’ll use your bike.
While many Trek mountain bikes are a good value, if I had to recommend just one model, it would be the Fuel EX 9.7. This is a versatile, all-around trail bike that balances comfort, speed, stability, and performance. While it’s not the flashiest in Trek’s lineup, it’s a mountain bike that great for everyone from beginners to more experienced riders, and it won’t break your break the way upgraded models will.
Table of Contents
My Top Picks
- Slash 9.7: Best Enduro Mountain Bike
- Procaliber 9.7: Best Hardtail (XC) Mountain Bike
- Marlin 7: Best Entry Level Mountain Bike Under $1,500
- Farley 9.6: Best Fat Mountain Bike
- Fuel EX 9.7: Best Trail Mountain Bike
- Top Fuel 9.7: Best Speedy XC Mountain Bike
- Rail 9.8 GX: Best Electric Mountain Bike
- Remedy 9.8: Best Mountain Bike for Jumps, Hills
My Selection Criteria
Trek bikes are known to be fairly reliable. But that doesn’t mean that all their models are equal. Here’s how I selected my favorite Trek mountain bikes in their current lineup and made sure there was an option no matter if you’re a beginner or an experienced rider, and no matter if you have a tight budget or a more generous one.
Durable Fork and Frame
When you’re on a budget, it can be tempting to opt for a cheaper frame. One reason why Trek mountain bikes have budget options is that they’ll use a material like aluminum. I’ve had an aluminum frame bike before, and while it’s okay for light use, it’s prone to damage from true mountain biking. Instead, I looked for Trek mountain bikes that are made with steel, titanium, and carbon fiber. I like the shock absorption carbon provides, but I prefer titanium for a heavier frame.
**I made one exception for an aluminum bike because you cannot get a Trek mountain bike for under $1500 otherwise. Just please use this bike on level trains with few obstacles- and know it may require more upkeep
A Great Saddle
I’m pretty picky about my bike saddle, and for good reason. A saddle isn’t just about comfort, but also performance. I’ve seen mountain bikes with a great frame but a lackluster saddle. And while that isn’t the worst thing, it does separate some of the better Trek mountain bikes.
I’m including both upright and lower rise saddles, as well as firm and flexible- but with a focus on breathable fabric that’s meant to last. I like carbon fire for lightweight performance, but breathable mesh materials for most mountain biking. A narrow saddle is going to be the best bet for technical trails.
Bike Geometry and Reach
A great mountain bike needs great geometry and a setup to allow you to tackle those more technical trails. Trek bikes are usually pretty much within normal range, but I tried to stay within the range of mid to low 70s for seat angles; a wheelbase of roughly fifty inches; and a chain length that is at least 16 inches long.
I prefer a mid-way reach, rather than a short or long reach for most of my selections. It’s a great balance between control and comfort. Head angles are usually best around 65 to 67 for most- but I considered a little outside this range for different needs.
Minding the Brakes
I’ve made the mistake of riding a cheap bike with less than stellar brakes. The good news is that Trek’s models are usually fairly reliable, but I did want to include models with extra smooth features. I’m skipping mechanical brakes and opting for disc brakes- even better if they’re hydraulic brakes.
Why I’m Including Both Full Suspension and Hardtail
I’ll be upfront: for the vast majority of people, I think a full-suspension Trek bike is worth the upgrade. It provides a smoother ride, is suited for technical trails, and gives you the traction you need. However, I did want to include a hardtail option for beginners who need something cheaper, easier to maintain, and lightweight for level trails.
Reliable Drivetrains, Cassettes and Derailleurs
I love the Shimano and SRAM brands for drivetrains, cassettes, and derailleurs- and the good news is that Trek loves to use some solid brands. In addition to the brand, I wanted to see shifters with adequate speed settings- preferably 10 or more- for mountain biking.
A Bike for Everyone (Dimensions & Bike Types)
I’m sneaking in both 27.5” and 29” wheels, some with low profile knobs (XC) and higher profile (trailer, enduro, downhill). I like a balance of medium sidewalls- lightweight but still durable.
I also wanted to make sure I was recommending a bike for everyone. So while you can find your perfect size using the Trek Sizing Chart, I wanted to include both men’s and women’s models, and for shorter and taller individuals alike. For a balance of lightweight performance, a comfortable ride, and stability, I opted for Trek mountain bikes between 27 and 32 pounds.
I’m including different mountain bike types: cross country, trail, downhill, enduro, and fat bikes- and all at a range of price points. (I choose long travel around 150 to 168 mm for enduro and trail, and shorter travel- around 120 mm for XC bikes).
I don’t think these are must-haves, but extra features can make your mountain biking that much more enjoyable. Some features I looked for in the Trek model lineup include:
- Guards/ other frame protectors
- Adjustable Fork
- Unique Colors/ Style
- Discounted/ Extra Great Deal Prices
- Rear Shock- air sprung is best; coil works with more affordable options
- Dropped Handlebars for the aerodynamic ride
Trek Mountain Bikes: My Top Picks
With that said, here are my top picks for the best Trek mountain bikes you can purchase today. Looking through the models offered, I’m showcasing a Trek mountain bike for everyone- from those looking for the fastest, to bikes for beginners to those looking for an affordable option under $1,500. (Please note that many bikes cannot be ordered online and now must be ordered through your closet’s store, due to inventory availability).
There’s a reason why I’m excited about this bike- and turns out others are too. Slash 9.7 warned an award for Enduro Bike of the Year. Relentless momentum, a hearty, long travel frame, and excellent traction are all packed into this incredible bike- for a fraction of the price of competitors. Adjustable geometry allows you to tackle the toughest and technically challenging trails, and I love the specialized shocks for even rugged conditions.
- All mountain, rugged trails
- Small through X-large (see Trek Sizing Here)
- Carbon Blue Smoke, Trek Black
- Tubeless ready
- Storage Compartment
- Generous dropper seat
- Excellent For Rough Trails
- Maintenance Costs
Related reads: How to Find the Best All-Mountain MTBs.
While I still argue that a full suspension Trek bike is the way to go for most, beginners and anyone who doesn’t want the cost and upkeep should consider this bike. The best hardtail mountain bike Trek currently offers in its lineup, the Procaliber is a sleek, versatile, and agile XC bike.
I love this bike for racing and getting in long hours of training on smooth trails. The carbon frame provides that great stiff support you want, but is surprisingly light, equipped with tubeless wheels. Trek did a nice job with this model, upgrading to more responsive springs and responsive gears.
- Racing, long and smooth rides
- Small Through 2XL (View Size Charts Here)
- Blue Carbon Smoke
- Lightweight, Low Maintenance
- Responsive Spring
- XC Groupset for Racing
- Not as Smooth as Full Suspension
- Less Traction
I’d be lying if I said the Marlin 7 didn’t catch my attention with its vivid, playful colors. In a line of navy, black and gray mountain bikes, Marlin 7 is a playful entry in Trek’s lineup. Luckily, there’s more to this bike than looks alone! This is probably the best entry-level mountain bike for under $1,500 that Trek offers.
Marlin 7 impressed me with upgrades from previous models. Though it’s a lightweight XC bike, the new and improved shocks make your ride much smoother, paired with hydraulic disc brakes. The 11-46 cassette is nothing to sneeze at either- all for an incredible price.
Check out this guide to learn how the Marlin 7 compares to the Marlin 6.
- XC biking, entry-level mountain biking
- XS to 2XL (View Size Chart Here)
- Nautical Navy and Anthracite; Marigold and Radioactive Red Fade; Gloss Miami Green
- Excellent Price
- Upgraded Shocks for Smoother Ride
- Impressive Range for Drive Train
- Not Suited For Rough Conditions
- Seatpost Isn’t Super Comfortable
Fat bikes are great alternatives to a traditional mountain bike- and it’s good to see a solid model in Trek’s lineup. In case you didn’t know, fat bikes are used for off-roading and can tackle any terrain, from sand to snow. That’s why it’s a great pick if you live in a snowy region and want something you can use, no matter the weather.
The Farley 9.6 features a bright, sturdy frame with year-round performance in mind. The risk of some fat bikes is that they’re heavy and impractical; this one features a lightweight carbon frame with a dropper post for a balance of comfort and control. What stands out is the special low climbing gear and the generous grip on the tire tread.
- Snowy, winter riding
- S to XL (See Sizing Chart Here)
- Radioactive Red with Navy Teal Fade
- All Weather Riding
- All Terrains
- Low Climbing Gear
- Can be Sluggish
- Restricted Tire Choice
Don’t get me wrong: Trek makes many solid general trail mountain bikes. But looking at their models compared, the Fuel EX 9.7 stood out for its overall value. Neither the cheapest nor the most expensive model, this bike provides a lot of what I’m looking for without costing a fortune. Even better, if you can’t decide between a lightweight, fast break and one with a bit more traction to tackle trails, this gives you a bit of both. The 140mm fork is hardy, yet Trek keeps the carbon frame light.
- All-around versatility: singletracks, downhills
- XS to XL (View Size Chart Here)
- Matte Raw/ Carbon; Carbon Blue Smoke
- Lightweight Stability
- Efficient Suspension
- Capable Steering
- Not as Good for Uphills
- Not For Rugged Weather Conditions
A brighter cobalt blue is a perfect choice for showcasing one of the fastest Trek bikes you can buy at a reasonable price. The Top Fuel 9.7 gets my top pick for a speedy XC bike if you plan on doing any racing. While there are more expensive models in the Fuel line, I think this bike is a perfect choice for overall value. The carbon suspension is responsive, with a great turnaround for faster times for both uphill and flat trails.
- Racing, technical and flowing trails
- XS to XL (See Sizing Chart Here)
- Matte Raw Carbon; Blue Smoke with Quick Silver Fade
- Efficient Suspension
- Internal Storage
- Quick and Responsive
- Less Traction (Slick Conditions)
- Less Comfortable Seatpost
I’ll say this right up front: an electric mountain bike is not for everyone, for a certain set of riders. E-mountain bikes provide power up steep inclines- with less effort on your part. With their innovative design, they’re quiet, provide more consistent performance, and can even double as a way to commute to work (and cut back on gas!). But even my top Trek pick- the Rail 9.8- will require charging, and upkeep, and it’s going to be heavier than your average mountain bike.
With that in mind, this is your best bet for an e-mountain bike from Trek. The long travel, carbon frame provides fluid control for the most difficult trails. The deeper dropper post from previous models is natural for performance and I love how well-integrated (and hidden) the battery system is. With LED lights and Bluetooth technology, this smart e-bike is pure fun.
- High-tech experience; rugged trails, commuting
- S to XL (See Size Chart Here)
- Trek Black with Marigold and Red Fade; Dark Prismatic with Trek Black; Carbon Red Smoke and Viper Red
- Bluetooth Connection
- LED Lights
- Upgrade Frame for Techy Trails
- Cost and Upkeep
- Charging Requirements
You didn’t think a list of top mountain bikes would be complete without one meant for jumps, did you? The Remedy 9.8 is one of the most aerodynamic bikes in Treks’ lineup, and this model is natural for airborne performance. A specialized Float X shock is paired with the newest SRAM Eagle drivetrain designed to handle intense downhills.
What’s incredible about this model is how it’s at once substantial enough for aggressive riding and also incredibly responsive for quick acceleration. Perhaps one of the biggest standout features is the Mino Link, which gives you control over your bike geometry even while you’re riding.
- Jumps, tricks, and uphills
- S to XL (See Trek Size Chart Here)
- Matte Trek Black
- Mino Link- Adjustanbble Geometry
- Responsive Drivetrain
- Float X Shock for Smoother Landings
- Difficult For Beginners
- No Adjustable Dial for Shock
Frequently Asked Questions
Answer: Trek is one of the most popular and respected mountain bike brands, and they’re especially popular for casual biking and traveling to work or school. Most of their bikes are known to hold their value well, and you can expect at least a good 4 to 5 years if you take proper care of your Trek bike. As the largest bike company in the United States, Trek is also known for casual bikes and kids’ bikes. It’s reliable if not a luxurious brand.
Answer: While Trek is a US-based company, the majority of its bikes are produced outside of the United States. Germany, Taiwan, China, and the Netherlands are all locations where Trek bikes are manufactured. They also have manufacturing headquarters in Waterloo and Whitewater (both Wisconsin). The truth is, though Trek is an American company- accounting for nearly half of all bikes in the US- they are not American-made. They do produce some parts in the US, including carbon frames.
Answer: One of the reasons why Trek bikes are so popular is because they appeal to a wide consumer base. While Trek is a go-to for some mountain biking needs, it’s also a brand that makes bikes for casual road riding, the community, and even kids. It’s also a good brand if you want a bike with overall value and reliability but doesn’t need all the bells and whistles common with an upscale luxury bike brand. Trek is also known for its selection of easy-to-ride and lightweight bikes.
Answer: Trek bikes last an average of up to 5 years- but it depends a lot on how you use them. Heavier use may shorten the lifespan, while proper maintenance will keep your bike functioning well for longer. The frame of a Trek bike is known to last a long time and be quite reliable. The problem- and where you may pay some for repairs- lies in smaller parts of your bike. Expect that you made need some repairs within a year, but a full replacement shouldn’t be necessary for several years.
Trek is a fairly reliable and fairly -priced brand for mountain bikes. What I like about this brand is that you can find something for everyone- from hardtail to full suspension and bikes priced under $500 to bikes in the $6,000 and up range. Practical and versatile, Trek mountain bikes are a good place to start if you’ve never ridden before. Hopefully one of my choices is a good fit for you- and you’ll be enjoying some of the best trails in no time.
You can also build a custom mountain bike using the Project One tool. You start with a base model, then select frame materials, colors, features, and more!
Still, searching for the best Trek mountain bike for you? While all these models have merit, my recommendation for a first-time buyer is a staple, middle-ground mountain bike like the Fuel EX 9.7.
This is what a classic but updated trail bike looks like. Versatile, responsive, and lightweight enough to maneuver, you can take this bike on a variety of trails and use it for a faster route or a more technical loop.