Monday, June 22, 2015

Trek Bike Demo Comparison: Remedy 9.8 vs. Fuel EX 9.8

Yesterday I went to the most epic of all demo bike rides, as my fave place City Cycle in Corte Madera hosted a Trek Factory Demo event at China Camp State Park, my favourite mountain biking spot in the Bay Area!

Last November I posted some thoughts about the Fuel EX 9.8 here, after riding it around Tamarancho:

In that post I was also on the fence about whether the Remedy or the Fuel EX would be right choice for me. And I tell ya, I went into this demo ready to try each bike on the same trail, one after the other, full-on expecting the Fuel to be the winner. I was pleasantly surprised that the Remedy came out swinging, and I think I will actually go with the Remedy when I finally buy my new bike. Here's more details... but first, a look at the two bikes I demo'd this weekend.
Trek Remedy 9.8 27.5 (MSRP $5829.99)

Trek Fuel EX 9.8 27.5 (MSRP $5459.99)

Yes, they are both gorgeous beasts ready to be unleashed on the mountains of Northern California. They are also the price of a small car, so... yeah... I am going to get one of these but not a model this fancy. These are both Carbon Fiber frames, thus the high cost -- I will be getting an Aluminum version instead, perhaps the nicest Aluminum one (best components) just below the Carbon frame, as it's a big jump in cost to go from Aluminum to Carbon. Buying right below that threshold will save a lot of money (almost 1/2) and still yield an epic new ride.

Now for some more details about the two rides.

The first ride I did was on the Remedy.

I was expecting a few things on the Remedy ride. I figured that I would be a bit nervous of the roots and rocks and not super confident on the ride, as usually the first time back on a trail I am a little more cautious than the 2nd time. I also figured I would get tired quickly on the uphill, as people had told me that the Remedy climbs hills a lot slower than the Fuel given it's more of a "Downhill-friendly" trail bike.

To my utter surprise, neither of these two things were true. I am *so* glad I tried the bikes in this order -- just by chance -- as it totally was different than what I was expecting.

First off, I found I was zooming up the hills on the Remedy. Maybe it's just because I was excited to ride or my legs were well rested, but I found I had no problem scaling the hills and I enjoyed it immensely without feeling like I was pumping all my energy into the bike shocks or the weight of the bike.

Next, I found I had a lot of confidence (much more, in fact, than I did on the 2nd ride with the Fuel -- utterly surprising). I saw big rocks and rolled right over them as if this was a 29er bike. I had no problem with most things I might second-guess in other cases. The mid-trail section and downward section of this hill were a total delight -- fast, exciting, and smooth as silk with these beautiful shocks. I loved it, every single minute. The Remedy just slayed the hills with grace and beauty like only a thoroughbred stallion like the Remedy could!

On the downside, I did find I had a little more trouble cornering on the Remedy than I did on the Fuel -- this could easily be because it was my first of two rides on the hill -- I tend to have more confidence with handling the switchbacks on the 2nd run... and on the first with the Remedy I did walk a few more than I would have liked.

This Remedy was also a 17.5" frame (rather than the 18.5" frame they had for the demo Fuel). I am VERY clearly a 17.5" frame. I have ridden both, but now I tried one after the other, it does not feel "close enough" or "the same" as I had felt. I am definitely much more comfortable on a 17.5", the handlebars are way too much of a stretch on the 18.5" while the 17.5" feels very relaxed and comfortable.

Interestingly, I felt at first when getting on the Remedy that I might be a bit "too close" to the handlebars, and also that the seat had a bit of an odd angle (it's a little more of a "Downhill" trail bike than the Fuel is)... but I got comfortable on it pretty quickly and it was a breeze.

The Remedy overall felt very "relaxed", a laid-back fit, and like a "real mountain bike". Biking on this reminded me of biking on Duthie Hill Park in Washington -- it just made biking so damn fun and exciting and enjoyable. I loved every second. What an awesome bike.

I asked the guys after if I was dreaming it or were these handlebars a little wider than the Fuel? They said, yes, in fact they were a bit wider. That kind of grip is necessary when you have more travel on the front shock as the Remedy has. It did definitely feel that way -- both in that cornering was a little harder for me to figure out, and that it felt like I was driving a real machine here rather than a sort of "nicer version" of my current hardtail bike (as I felt with the Fuel). I also asked why it felt so much smoother and softer on the bumps than with the Fuel, and they said this was also expected. The Remedy should have "plushier" shocks as compared with the Fuel, as it's more "Downhill" of a trail bike. Ahh. Very nice. Presumably the tech from Trek had correctly tuned the shocks to my weight... but I felt much more comfortable on the Remedy than the Fuel, significantly so.

I finished the ride and it was epic. Then took a short break and got ready for Ride 2 on the Fuel EX.

For the Fuel they only had the 18.5" frame available. As I mentioned this was immediately uncomfortable as compared to the 17.5" frame Remedy I had. The seat was also slightly too high so I lowered it with the dropper post a little, but that I only helped a little -- the handlebars were just too far from me and it was not nearly as comfortable right off the bat compared to the Remedy.

This is also a beautiful bike as you can see, but when I compared it side-by-side to the Remedy, the Remedy won.

I felt right off the bat as well that this bike felt a little more "upright" than the Remedy. I was sitting up taller, and it felt almost immediately as if I "knew" this bike -- it felt very familiar. It kindof felt a lot like a nicer version of my current Gary Fisher Hardtail. In a way, that was nice -- this bike felt like an old friend who I knew well and I understood how it would approach the trail. But, on the other hand, it felt like I was getting "a lot more Bike" out of the Remedy. The Remedy feels like a "mountain" Mountain Bike, whereas the Fuel compared to it feels like just a pimped-out version of what I already own.

This is an odd realization to come to after my glowing review of the Fuel from last Nov, but I do feel like comparing the one against the other on the same hill and one after the other was a great call and allows me to fine-tune my feelings about each model. Also, in Nov I rode a 17.5" Fuel so that probably made a difference too. I was keen to come away from this bike demo with some decisions made, and the fact that I want a Trek 650b Full-Suspension 17.5" bike is now obvious.

The Fuel as I mentioned was a little better at cornering than the Remedy (but perhaps that was due to this being Ride #2 of the day). I also felt the seat/position significantly more uncomfortable than the Remedy -- the seat was a little high, but even after lowering it a bit this felt like a stretch. This is partially due to the 18.5" over the 17.5", but also perhaps related to the geometry of the bike a bit.

The other thing that was surprising to me was how I second-guessed myself a few times on the Fuel. I skidded to a stop a few times before some tree roots and rocks which I easily just rolled over in the Remedy. This is perhaps one of the biggest wins for the Remedy over the Fuel: I was more confident on the Remedy. This means that biking will be more enjoyable, and I will also grow more and try more challenging trails if I have a bike that can handle it better.

The Remedy drove a lot better/smoother than the Fuel, and I wonder also if that had something to do with the wear-and-tear on one vs. the other. Seems unlikely as Trek would want to put their best foot forwards with their demo bikes.

When I buy one of these I'm going to get the Aluminum over the Carbon, so that will add a bit of weight. I suppose that adds to the argument that the Remedy will be harder to bike up hills, but hopefully it's roughly the same as the Fuel but with more downwards fun and flexibility.

I went into the day assuming the Remedy would be too hard to pedal up the hills, and it was not. Turns out that it felt basically the same as the Fuel, but just a lot more comfortable, and opens up more opportunities for more challenging trails like Downieville and Tahoe. The Remedy has more travel than the Fuel, so the guys said the Fuel is good for "around here" but you'll feel like you've run out of travel if you take it to another spot.

Given the absolutely stellar performance of the Remedy yesterday, I am pretty sure that is going to be my new steed. Now to wait for a good price :)


Eric said...

What's your height? I'm also in between the 17.5 and 18.5 sizes

IMSully said...

I have the same question as Eric.
I am 5'-10" tall and right at the end of the 17.5 size.
I've wondered about which of the two sizes will fit best.

Eric said...

Go 18.5. I rode both and the 17.5 was tight on the Fuel, and even smaller on the Remedy. Plus it'll give you the opportunity to run a shorter stem, if desired.