There was a time when your mountain bike did everything because there was just ‘the mountain bike’. Now, there are subcategories of subcategories of mountain bikes, each designed to fulfil demands of a certain type of riding. Different bikes for different rides? Arrgh! Then there’s the Top Fuel, TREK’s supreme allrounder.
Marathons and stage races are the most popular mountain bike events in South Africa. And you can see why. Well organised with thoughtfully designed routes that are challenging and rewarding in some of the most beautiful places; and a great pre- and post-race vibe with fellow mountain bikers that some consider priceless.
These routes usually contain a good blend of climbing and descending over various surfaces, including hardpack, loose over hardpack, traditional gravel, rock, loam (in the forests), some roots and, in the rainy season, mud patches. Distances range from 60-100km which, depending on the gradient and rider conditioning, can take anything from 3-9 hours to complete.
That amount of time on a bike, especially at a stage race which requires a tomorrow and day-after-tomorrow repeat, can be hard on your body. It’s all very well having a svelte full-suspension bike that’s light and snappy on the acceleration, but when you’re an average Joe/Jo, comfort and control are far more important than speed.
There’s also an increasing move towards trails or section of trail that include obstacles like jumps, drop-offs, rock gardens and berms. Trails built to be re-ridden because they’re challenging and fun. But unless you’re a super-skilled rider, trails that are difficult to really enjoy on a pure XCO/marathon bike.
TREK’s Top Fuel has proven itself as a full-sus 29er that can conquer the most demanding South African mountain bike race routes. At the 2019 Absa Cape Epic, Trek Selle San Marco’s Damiano Ferraro and Samuele Porro finished third overall and in the top five on six of the eight stages on their Trek Top Fuels. That kind of consistency is significant and comes from a combination of strong, smart riders and reliable bikes and gear.
Both James Reid (2013 and 2104) and Robyn de Groot (2014) have won South African marathon titles on TREK bikes and the brand’s momentum in the country since being directly managed by TREK USA since 2016 (?) has seen a steady growth, with the brand moving into the top 5 at Sani2c (2018) and fourth most popular bike brand at the 2019 Absa Cape Epic, moving from 4% share in 2016 to 8% in 2020.
The standout features on the Top Fuel include:
Modern XC geometry: The 68-degree headtube angle (67.5 if you switch the Mino Link flip chip) delivers more rider confidence on descents
Dropper seatpost: Allows for more rider movement when the trail gets gnarly.
Generous suspension travel: 115mm at the rear and 120mm up front deliver superior comfort and control
Dual remote suspension control: No need to remove your hands from the bars to adjust the suspension to suit the terrain/gradient.
1×12 drivetrain: Simplicity and precision to minimise drivetrain drama and maximise pedalling efficiency
KnockBlock Integrated Headset: to protect your toptube from damage if/when you take a tumble
Six frame sizes: With Small, Medium, Medium/Large, Large, Extra Large anyone can ride a Top Fuel. The Medium/Large caters for that large percentage that fall in between sizes, but don’t want to compromise.
With new model year bikes now available, there are some great specials on 2019 model year TREK Top Fuel bikes.
TREK Top Fuel 8
Top Fuel 8 fuses the lightweight efficiency of a cross country bike with the capability and forgiveness of a trail bike. It’s quick, nimble, and dishes out serious fun on flow trails and techy descents alike, with a 120 mm RockShox fork, 115 mm of rear travel and a dropper post for getting low on the rough stuff. This bike is fully capable of shredding singletrack, racing gruelling endurance events and even holds its own on the XC course.
TREK Top Fuel 9.8
Top Fuel 9.8 is a high-performance full suspension mountain bike for endurance racers and riders who don’t settle for one style of riding. It combines the best qualities of XC and trail bikes for an unbelievably fun, efficient and capable rig. It’s fast on flow, shreds big singletrack and conquers endurance events. The 9.8 is built with an OCLV Mountain Carbon frame and across-the-board parts upgrades, including a 120 mm Fox Performance 34 Step-Cast fork, SRAM GX Eagle drivetrain and carbon wheels and bars.
TREK Top Fuel 9.8SL
Top Fuel 9.8 SL is the full-suspension XC mountain bike for riders who want every lightweight advantage. An OCLV Mountain Carbon frame, Bontrager carbon wheels, 100 mm of suspension travel and lightweight performance parts make this bike the perfect sidekick for serious XC riders who want a lightweight, durable rig for speed and efficiency on race day.
TREK Top Fuel 9.9
Top Fuel 9.9 is the top-of-the-line full suspension mountain bike for endurance racers and multi-discipline riders. This down-country rig is built with an OCLV Mountain Carbon frame and spec’d to the hilt with high-performance parts, including a Fox Factory 34 Step-Cast fork, a SRAM XX1 Eagle drivetrain, carbon wheels and SRAM Level Ultimate brakes. Top Fuel 9.9 flies through singletrack and rips descents, but it really shines when pushed to its full potential during gruelling endurance races.
TREK Top Fuel 9.9 XX1 AXS
Top Fuel 9.9 XX1 AXS is the top-of-the-line full suspension carbon mountain bike for endurance racers and multi-discipline riders. This down-country rig is built with the latest in fully wireless components like the SRAM XX1 Eagle AXS drive train and RockShox Reverb AXS dropper. It’s also spec’d with high-end RockShox suspension and lots of carbon – including the wheels, bars and shift levers. You’ll fly through singletrack and rip descents on this bike, but it really shines when pushed to its full potential during gruelling endurance races.
For more on TREK bikes in South Africa, visit https://www.trekbikes.com/za/en_ZA/
Paid partnership with Trek South Africa.