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Review: Trek Slash 9 - Model 523775 (2016)



Trek Slash 9 specifications - Model 523775 (2016)


FRAMESET 
  • Frame - Alpha Platinum Aluminium, ABP Convert, Full Floater, E2 tapered head tube, PF89.5, internal derailleur & dropper post routing, ISCG 05 mount, magnesium EVO Link, Mino Link, 160mm travel
  • Front suspension - Fox Performance 36 Talas, FIT4 3-position damper, E2 tapered steerer, 15QR, 120mm/160mm travel
  • Rear suspension - RockShox Monarch Plus RC3 DebonAir, lockout, tuned by Trek Suspension Lab, 8.25x2.375"
WHEELS
  • Wheels - Bontrager Maverick Pro Tubeless Ready, TLR strips, Stacked Lacing, 15mm front, 142x12 rear
  • Tyres - Bontrager XR4 Team Issue, Tubeless Ready, 120tpi, aramid bead, 27.5x2.35"
DRIVETRAIN
  • Shifters - SRAM X1, 11-speed
  • Rear derailleur - SRAM X1, Type 2
  • Crank - SRAM X1 1000, 32T X-Sync
  • Bottom bracket - PF89.5
  • Cassette - SRAM XG-1150, 10-42, 11-speed
  • Chain - SRAM PC 1130
COMPONENTS
  • Saddle - Bontrager Evoke 2, chromoly rails
  • Seatpost - RockShox Reverb Stealth, 2-bolt head, 31.6mm, zero offset
  • Handlebar - Bontrager Rhythm Elite, 31.8mm, 15mm rise
  • Stem - Bontrager Rhythm Pro, 31.8mm, 0-degree
  • Headset - FSA IS-2 carbon, E2, sealed alloy cartridge
  • Brake set - Shimano Deore XT hydraulic disc
WEIGHT
  • Weight - 17.5" - 12.5 kg

Review 

This review will be different from many others as I will describe unusual “subject headings” as well as then providing a brief “summary” of its ride performance.  As i have not received this bike “for review” from Trek or any retailer - instead this was a bike purchased by myself (after long consideration). 
The Trek Slash is their dedicated Enduro offering, and all mountain bike that has had a run since 2012 according to the Trek archive.  Built to tackle any and all styles of extremely demanding Enduro events and to climb out of them too, the Slash is singular in purpose but varied in application.  The Slash series starts at £2250.00 for the Slash 7 and goes up to £6500.00 for the elite racer specification Slash 9. 
Trek are brave to market a non carbon bike at the Slash 9 level but if you want to avoid the risks of smacking carbon components and frames into hard objects the Slash 9 perhaps is as high-end as you will ever get.  If you aren’t ever planning on racing, I would advise choosing a cheaper model, if this is you then the Trail “Fuel” or “Remedy” series or the Slash 8 would be a good choice. For me, as I plan on doing many events in future, the 9 was the one for me.
Purpose and motivations for purchase. 

My 10+ year old hardtail had seen recent frequent and heavy use after promising myself that I wouldn’t buy a high-end full-suspension (i.e. heavy classification) all-mountain bike until I was worthy of it in terms of technique and fitness improvement.  I said to anyone who would listen that I had physically broken previous bikes and wouldn’t buy another one until I had broken myself this time.  After a promise to my own fitness like that I spent a long while hammering away at that pledge, but that is another story for another time, as well as the story of the “end” of the Hardtail (or its life as we know it Jim).
Buying the Slash was born out of many long conversation with an “Epic” multi-event racer friend who among his bikes stated that he spends all his time on his (older) Slash 8 and finds that as its not super light really serves well for a daily-training steed as well as able to handle any terrain on local trails.
Alright, it’s stealth-black, but really that’s irrelevant.  Motivations were (and are) the intent to enter some local multi-day events in the coming 2 years and wanting to get some serious time in the saddle and learn a new “species” of bike compared to a bike from 10 years ago.
Lastly the “uncomplicated”, resilient and uncluttered component choice for this bike selected by Trek just hit the right balance without any unreliable features to fail when you need them in a long ride or event. 

Summary of real-world component behaviours


I’ll leave detailed review of these components to the many other blogs and magazines out there which review them well, but I wanted to illustrate how the components fit together and in-use. I will work up from the front wheel up to the bars, down through rear suspension and crank (with a brief sojourn to discuss pedal choices(not included with the bike obviously))  Seatpost next and finally derailleur and cassette.
With 650b, the bike isn’t testing out new sizes for the very first time, so it’s now tried and tested, and still theoretically of a dimension where kitty-litter cycle paths and trails won’t seem like a tank driving down a motorway.  Tyres, though specialist on loose rocky surfaces are mud-shedding enough to respond well in winter months.  It loves natural trails like nobody’s business.  Finally if any of the tyres’ slight shortcomings are bothering you, drop the pressure and go tubeless to give that front wheel more stability in some bike parks.

The Fox 36 Talas fork, was chosen because of the widest dimension in the series for a non downhill bike, but with variable lockout and damping independently, which could really help out on the most challenging climbs, whether technical or not.  Key here also is the LACK of a remote cable for either selectable option, which are often said by other reviewers on other brands a key bugbear of unreliability in the most extreme mud-ridden conditions - requiring constant servicing.


Up to the bars, the 31mm stem with a slight raise in the 750mm bars, is quite a change from my previous hardtail, but above all the lightness in the headset and forks is key, enabling a gliding and carving riding sensation free of fatigue on some challenging trails and descents.  You just point and go.
The full floater Trek geometry can be researched for yourself, but the Rockshox RC3 Debonair was again chosen without a remote lockout mechanism included, forcing me to anticipate and if necessary reach down to flip the multi-position adjustment on the fly.  This may seem a hassle and a limiter to trail “flow” or race performance but I will enjoy a clutter-free bar far more.  I’m open to be convinced otherwise on this, so post a comment with your solutions for this?

With 1x11 X1 32T front crank, (and no chain guide) the chain positively “grips” onto the crank which retains the SRAM chain expertly.  I haven’t wanted to fit a chain guide and haven’t had any cause to regret that decision, though the mounts are there for one if you wish. 

Briefly considering the pedal choices, the XTR M9020 SPD.  I have at the time of writing used SPDs for over a year on my hardtail, with some success and enthusiasm (and some tweaking) on a cheaper semi-caged model - but the strength, connection to the bike and smoothness of clipping in and out on the 9020’s are a whole other experience.  I’ve written about SPD pedals previously on the blog, but i think it's worth noting that if you haven’t tried some more expensive SPD’s you should do so.  It’s like spending money on an expensive bed to sleep in with an old blanket to sleep under if you don’t try the XTR’s.  (Perhaps i might need to try full race XTR components in future on this or other bikes).  

Moving on.  The reverb stealth seatpost is internally routed and if properly setup is a dream.  Seeing people struggling on pedal-heavy sections of trails which require the seat to be slammed on other sections is a luxury for certain.  While I often ride technical sections with the seat fully up, if a lot of power is being used to ride them you can’t fault this component and it gets used a lot.  (Remember to use a good suspension lube on it regularly). 

Finally the remainder of the X1 groupset, the SRAM XG-1150, 10-42, 11-speed model.  This will be getting some detailed analysis, as the narrow clearance and close-set chainrings will be noticeable to many riders trying one.  With the precise indexing required for the very small clearances in this cassette, this is a potential unreliable component I hear you cry?  Not really, it resists dust crud and muck well and carries on shifting.  You can slip gears if you aren’t properly setup and the derailleur has quite a wide clearance, as well as an exceptionally long journey to travel to the largest 42T ring.  You certainly need to watch your right turns or rocks passing on your right close to your rear wheel as you can scuff the derailleur as i have, though it’s resilient enough to take a whack without (yet) requiring a new one or a new mech hanger.  All that said the shifting is lightning fast and positive though I am usually quite forgiving on rear cassettes of the power I put down while shifting, though I intend to stress out the XG-1150 in the very near future to see how it puts up with some more sustained power (as I generate more). 

Often overlooked advice for new owners of this bike 

  1. Get the seat height adjusted perfectly for a full ever so slightly leg bent extension.  Get an experienced and multi-discipline rider to help you adjust it perfectly as you ride around.  Don’t be tempted to angle the saddle.
  2. You now have a dropper post, so don’t forget to use it.  Also your “get-home” lights you used to have on your seatpost won’t work.  Grab yourself a saddle-rail mount for a rear flasher/light for that safety net if you just want to do another 20k before you go home and it’s time to show yourself up a bit more to traffic on that final stretch home.
  3. Get all your suspension perfectly adjusted to your weight.  If you don’t know the formula.  Go to your bike dealer and get the sag just right.  If they don’t ask you what sort of riding you will be doing, find another dealer to buy your bike from.
  4. Don’t worry you are pedalling and you haven’t dropped a chain - it’s just your groupset is very quiet.  Remember that your crank will need a proper scrub as it isn’t blade-smoothness in its construction.  Clean, and re-apply lube and remember to fully degrease when it needs it or when switching to a “dry or wet-season lube”.  “Ceramic” lubes seem to suit this crankset.
  5. Your bike is fully rideable with a fully-open suspension fork (correctly setup for sag) the bike can at times feel like a speedboat as it glides over terrain, but if you aren’t a superman descender you will build confidence rapidly on this bike.
  6. Remember to clean your bike, it deserves it.  Avoid high-pressure systems especially on those grease-points, floaters and enduro seals.
  7. The tyres are a dream if setup tubeless.  The lightness is incredible, so get it done and drop the pressures to the low-mid 20's PSI for aggressive red/black trail riding with lots of technical and wet features.
  8. Buy a decent track-pump - perhaps even one with a digital scale (or use your hand-held digital pressure gauge to monitor those pressures).  The XR4’s roll incredibly well at 40PSI on fire roads where your speeds will impress you even on a 1x11 setup.   The bike will reach some beautiful grip and rolling-speed in places with the perfect pressure for the terrain but don’t be afraid to drop the pressure for any bike parks you get to know well.  Keep a record of what pressure you were riding last time you rode a route and don't be afraid to tweak.
Gut-feel summary of how it rides. 

It’s just a hill, get over it!
If you aren’t a strong climber or lacking in power output some climbs on this bike will be a challenge, but with a few well remembered ass-positioning techniques on the saddle and body position you will find a huge range of gears which will get you up there.  You will usually always find a couple of rings on the cassette in reserve on most climbs.  Just remember it’s just a hill… get over it.  

Virgin trails

The bike is a fun explorer for sure.  Ok you can’t mount saddlebags, panniers, kids-seats on the back… but hey what did you expect?  What you can do however is after scores of kilometers of exploring “blind” down tracks which no one ever seems to ride and hopping over countless gates is to find a glorious bit of highly technical terrain which has never had anything other than a tractor or landrover ever cross it.

The impossible - achieved

Yes it is an all-mountain bike.  You will be able to hit a completely unfamiliar hard-red or black run and feel the bike responding seamlessly.  If you don’t have basic weight distribution techniques well established you will not love it, but you may get down.  So feel free to take this bike out all day and come back and tell me if you find something you couldn’t get through, over or around.

Kitty-litter

Scratching around on tiny gritty bike park trails is not what this bike loves.  It’s default tyres are wide and high volume with wide lugs with plenty of visible casing.  Try something more low profile on some of the “litter-tray” surfaces you see for optimum grip.  Alternatively just ride nice low pressures on a tubeless setup or go harder down the trail and drift around and pop over things that get in the way!

Imbue the bike with memories

Try an unusual trick with this bike.  Keep it impeccably clean.  Clean enough to keep indoors, somewhere where you spend a lot of time.  Living room mounted on the wall?  Kitchen near where you eat?  Where your computer is?  Look over at it and then open up your training diary and see if you have any spare time to fill with just opening up on a place you have never ridden before just to see how the bike feels on it.  You’ll soon be looking at it longingly.  No, not that in anticipation of your next big trip, or your next race.

See you on the trails!
JG.


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