Day 2 at the new school- Trek Remedy 9.8 29 Review
Following up on my head to head review of the new Transition & Banshee, the next weekend was time to take the 3rd of 3 out to test; the Trek Remedy 9.8 29. To be honest I didn’t expect to be able to track down such an elusive beast for a test, but thanks to a bit of Twitter detective work, Criterium Cycles came up trumps with the managers own bike, which was also available for demo, or in this case a Descent-World review.. The Remedy isn’t quite at the aggressive end of the new wave of 29er geometry in the same way as the Transition or Banshee, in fact its aluminium cousin felt very much the opposite when I tried it earlier in the year- Short, high, and probably furthest from what I was after as I could have got, which was a shame as I’ve owned 2 26er Remedy’s and love the bikes. However when I heard that Trek had developed the geometry of the carbon version along with input from their enduro race team, it seemed worth a shot, after all if it’s good enough for an enduro world champ, it’s probably good enough for me.
True to their word, the Remedy in carbon form is longer and lower than aluminium. On paper lower only in the top tube, though unless I’ve got a dodgy tape measure I’m pretty certain lower in the BB too, I made it nearer 345mm than the published 350mm, though what’s 5mm between friends. The Remedy 9.8 was totally stock spec, on reflection it was probably one size too small for me- I’m 6’1” and was on a 19.5” but I’ve got a long upper body and having since sat on the 21”, it feels a little more comfortable in length. Along with some tweaks in geometry, the 2015 carbon model also brings with it some F1 technology in the rear shock courtesy of Penske racing, along with yet another rear hub standard in the form of the new Boost 148 spacing.
Fortunately, for accuracy’s sake, the conditions were near identical to the previous weeks test, the test loop was the same, so a good back to back.
Climbing the Trek is an absolute weapon. It’s not to say that the other bikes I’ve tried are bad climbers by any means but the Remedy was a rocket on both tech, steep, short, long, basically everything. Thinking about the key differences between my current bike, the aluminium 29er Remedy and this, I’d put the main factor in the climbing performance down to the weight of the carbon frame and the excellent new Reaktiv shock on the Trek in keeping the bike high in its travel and minimising bob during seated climbing. It’s worth pointing out the Trek had lighter, narrower wheels and more XC tyres than I’m used to, which did help overall but I’ve had enough saddle time on various Remedy’s to be able to know how much of a difference those made to the performance and isolate the benefits between the bikes to the shock and weight.
On fast descending the Remedy was really nice; it was balanced and carved fast turns quicker than anything I have ridden in a long while, it was as things started to get tighter and more tech that my doubts crept in. On the tight stuff I think the marginally longer chainstays and higher BB on the Trek versus the previous weeks bikes made it less chuckable. However I’d say the biggest driver of it being behind as things got twisty was the spec- narrow rims, less aggressive rubber, longer stem and narrower bars than other bikes I’d put this up against such as the previously tested Transition & Banshee, along with the likes of the class leading Specialized Stumpjumper Evo. The steeper and more tech things go, the more the bike got held back by this setup and I felt the likes of the Transition, Banshee and Stumpy moved ahead. Don’t get me wrong, it was still really good, but I strongly feel that it could have excelled here with some changes. One thing that is worth pulling out is a positive on the descents was the stiffness- The carbon helps here, but really noteworthy was the rear end stiffness from the Boost 148 Hub. Pretty confident in saying this new standard is not marketing guff, it’s a real benefit that I would love to see other companies using on their 29ers.
So my only grumble with the Remedy comes down to the spec. The Remedy is a really good bike for going downhill fast, but it has the potential to be outstanding, it’s no surprise as the bike was developed with Tracy Moseley and Justin Leov with going downhill very fast and winning world titles in mind. However the way it is specced up for joe public to buy seems out of line with the huge capability of the frame- 760mm bars, 70mm stem, 21mm wide rims shod with trail rubber are, by current standards, are a bit more in the realms of general trail riding than going downhill really fast (can you tell I’m desperately avoiding the E word here). With comparable spec to say a Stumpy Evo or indeed either of the two bikes tested earlier on in the week, I think the Remedy would absolutely rip. Don’t get me wrong, if you want an all round trail bike that goes down well without compromise in the climbing then the Remedy is a great buy and the spec is ideal, but that doesn’t feel like the original intended purpose of this bike, and I’m fairly certain that for most people who happen to read Descent-World, it’s more likely not what they are after either. Heck even if they offered a frame only option to build your own or better still did the equivalent of the Specialized Evo line, it would unleash a beast..
So while I really liked the bike, for me it kinda missed the mark as an overall package, if the components were more to my liking then I’d have already ordered the Remedy however £4k is a big chunk to shell out only to have to replace wheels, tires, bars and stem, even if you have a friendly LBS willing to help with the cost. Perhaps even if the aluminium Remedy had the same sizing and geometry I’d be tempted by its lower price to allow budget to make the necessary changes.
I feel I’ve been overly negative about a platform that I’ve loved riding for the last 5 years, and a bike I still enjoyed riding, but it’s only because I’m a big fan and I’d love to see a spec on the bikes that really make them shine. That said, if you want a general trail riding bike then the Remedy won’t disappoint, however if you want to do your best Tracy Moseley impression at your local enduro races, it’s going to need a bit of work first.