Trek Slash 29 review
GEAR REVIEW

2017 Trek Slash 9.9 Review

Words Perry Schebel
Photos Dave Smith
Date Feb 16, 2017

Winter this year has been a bit anomalous. We’re typically blessed with at least a passable selection of snow free trails throughout the dark season; this year even the lowest riding zones were ensconced in frozen horridness for over a month. So the red shred sled gathered dust in favour of the snowboard. Proper tools for the job, etc. The rains briefly returned recently, granting a reprieve from the grim frostbitten gloom; it was time to get tires on dirt again, blow off the cobwebs, and ruminate a bit about this bike. Detailed specs, geometry, and pretty pictures of the 2017 Trek Slash can be found in the First Impressions installment.

2017 Trek Slash 9.9 Review

Reveling in a momentary lack of snow. Much to my delight, this frame fits a large water bottle. Photo – Perry Schebel

Creature comforts (front): The cockpit is nicely functional, if not blingy. All Bontrager, all the time, is the theme. The lock-on small diameter grips were grippy. The 780mm carbon bar shape felt fine, though I’d like a shade more length; everything should come in a fashionable 800mm. The 50mm stem fit well, though I might go 40mm if I was living with the bike. Personal fit preference. While we’re here let’s chat about the Lock Block. While I’m not entirely convinced this needs to exist (ie, the plump tubed front triangle is so stiff, I can’t imagine there’d be a tangible difference with a bit of contouring to clear a fork crown), I didn’t find it to be detrimental in any way on the trail. There was never a want for more steering lock on the tightest of switchbacks, just my x-up wheelies that were hindered. The keyed mechanism is simple enough and requires using the proprietary upper headset and spacers, but you can use any stem you please.

2017 Trek Slash 9.9 Review

The Knockblock keeps the fork from knocking the straight downtube.

Creature comforts (rear): No complaints about the Bontrager Evoke saddle. Reasonably minimalistic, with adequate padding. Though the Bontrager Drop Line dropper post worked great out of the box, with a nice ergonomic, low effort lever, the post movement began to feel a bit sticky at the 1.5 month mark, getting progressively worse with time (albeit variably so; it’s nearly seized on a few occasions, only to loosen up again). Regardless, whether a breakdown of lubrication, ingress of contamination due to poor sealing, or a combination of both, the post needs some loving. A bit disappointing. And while the 125mm of travel is adequate for my tastes, I’m sure heaps of people that would rather see a 150mm post on a big bruiser bike like this.

2017 Trek Slash 9.9 Review

This long legged wagon wheeler turned out to be more nimble than expected; anti-fun this is not.

Brakes: I really like the performance of the Guide Ultimate brakes. Great lever feel with effective reach and engagement adjustment to get things just right. Though the reach adjustment feels a bit unrefined to these fingers (if you’re going to call them “Ultimate”, they should be dialed, no?). The stoppers provide good, consistent power and modulation throughout the review period. No performance complaints.

2017 Trek Slash 9.9 Review

There is a rotor over there. It’s just hiding behind the 50t Eagle pie plate.

Tires: A bike of this stature probably deserves meatier rubber. The relatively small knobbed 2.4″ Bontrager ES4 Team Issue treads work decently on harder surfaces, and roll well, but more aggressive knobs are in order when things get steep, deep, and chunky.  On second thought, I’d probably just toss a big front tire on, and burn through the stockers on the back; I don’t mind a drifty rear.

2017 Trek Slash 9.9 Review

Given Dave’s choice of shooting positions, I’m convinced he fears my avoidance abilities.

Wheels: Again with the Bontrager here – the Line Elite 30 wheelset sports aluminum rims with a 28mm inner width. 28 straight-pull spokes are utilized per wheel. I remember back in the old days when a 28 spoke count was relegated to xc use (on wee 26″ wheels). That these few spokes can successfully support a basher 29″ wheel impresses me. The future is rad. Wheels are nicely built – they stayed true and well tensioned for the duration of the test. The rims are decently robust, not picking up any significant dents, which I found a bit surprising, really. Though I haven’t spent huge time on 29ers, evidently the improved rollover has the added benefit of impacting square edges less severely and/or frequently, resulting in less abused rims than I’m accustomed to. I suppose that’s pretty intuitive, and shouldn’t come as a surprise. The hubs functioned just fine, with no appreciable bearing degradation. So: not terribly sexy, but effective hoops.

2017 Trek Slash 9.9 Review

Much to my delight, big wheels + slack angles do not necessarily equate to an inability to handle tight tech turns tremendously.

Drivetrain: I like the Eagle. I’ve gotten accustomed to the aesthetics of monstercogs, and have embraced the wide range gearing. We have our share of long tech climbs in this part of the world, where even billygoats can make use of the 50T big cog; I was certainly happy to have the bail out gear, and am not ashamed to say it was used frequently. Shifting was spot on right through the test period, and the chain stayed put on both ends. And yes, you can backpedal in the big cog. The derailleur is extra dangly, but big wheels give additional ground clearance; I only tagged the thing once, with no functional damage. It’s worth noting (the thrifty man that I am) that maintaining this drivetrain will put a hurt on your wallet – the X01 derailleur is $220 USD and the XG-1295 cassette is a hefty $360USD.

2017 Trek Slash 9.9 Review

The big 36 is a great match for this burly chassis.

Fork: I like the Fox 36; stout, well supported, with a useful range of fluid flow adjustability. Trek chose to spec the travel adjust (130/160mm) Talas iteration on this bike. I’m split on the merits of this vs the non-adjustable Float. As a long-legged technical trail slayer, having the ability to dump the front for super tight & steep climbs can be useful. I found no need to drop the fork on moderate climbs but it worked well to help balance weight distribution when climbing walls, as well as tighten up the front a bit for intestinally tight switchbacks. That said, as a race machine you’re more likely to be conserving energy and walking bits steep enough to benefit from this, and would probably be better served with the Float fork that offers the ability to tune the spring rate curve (via volume spacers) to better dial in downhill performance. I’d prefer a tad more ramp in the Talus’ air spring, but volume spacers are not available for this fork. More a nitpick than a deal breaker, though; it’s still a more than capable device.

2017 Trek Slash 9.9 Review

” I like the Fox 36; stout, well supported, with a useful range of fluid flow adjustability.”

Shock: I’m pretty happy with the Fox X2 air shock. It’s jam-packed with a plethora of tuning adjustments that will keep the most neurotic of tweakers entertained – including low & high speed compression as well as low & high speed rebound, all with a huge range of adjustability, from locked out to pogo. It does take a bit of work to get things sorted. I started with the Fox recommended settings to get things in the ballpark and fettled from there. Supple and supportive, with a very coil-esque, relatively linear air spring, this one of the best shocks I’ve tried.

Here are the numbers again for handy reference. Click to embiggen.

2017 Trek Slash 9.9

Frame bits & bobs: This is a nicely refined, well constructed piece of carbon (as it should be for the price). Cable routing is clean and rattle free (though there is a bit of rubbing at the lower swingarm pivot), and protection is nicely integrated at all the right spots. All the pivots remained tight until I returned the bike. The angle tweaking upper seatstay pivot flip chips are easy enough to swap, though I left it in the slack (65.1°) position after a couple rides in the steeper (65.6°) setting. I prefer my BBs on the lower side; in steep mode it sits at a highish 14″; slack mode drops it to about 13.5″. Not as slammed as some other rigs of this ilk, but a bit of extra pedal clearance is nice to have when stuffing a plow friendly bike into the chunder. Fewer neurons need to be allocated to pedal position awareness.

2017 Trek Slash 9.9 Review

Local builders really get into the spirit of the season. Climbing on this bike: surprisingly effective.

This bike is a worthy facilitator to stepping up your game.

Ascension: I was pleasantly surprised how well such a long-legged rig could climb – even on steep tech. I did make use of the two climbing aids in various situations however. For most climbs I’d use the compression tweaking lever on the Fox X2 shock – which adds a good bit of mid stroke support, reducing suspension movement and sag when things get steep, but still offering enough traction for grinding up techgnar sections. Without the climbing switch engaged, there’s a good bit of suspension movement under hammering; an xc platform this is not. Unsurprisingly, big wheels plus low gearing conspire to make steep tech climbs a less hateful experience. The effective seat angle and reasonably lengthy reach was spot on for my body geometry; a nicely balanced, decently efficient position to grind out the vertical meters.  

2017 Trek Slash 9.9 Review

Opened up is the Slash’s happy place.

Declination: Though I’m relatively new to wagon wheels, I’m sold on their efficacy on rough & rugged trails. Hard to deny physics, they’re smoother and less fatiguing in the chunder, which is where I spend a good bit of my time. As an enduro race rig, the combination of long travel (150mm rear / 160mm front), big wheels, and slack angles makes this a supremely forgiving machine – especially welcome on unfamiliar trails. No need for surgical line precision – point and shoot and this will deliver your ass down the hill in speedy fashion with minimal drama. The rear suspension is skewed a bit more towards plush than pop and doesn’t offer as firm a platform as something like the Yeti 5.5c, so it’s less adept at pumping features or putting the power down sprinting. It’s not terribly wallowy per se, just quite active. It does however, beg to be smashed through the rough. It’s fair to say it may not provide the input stimulus of a shorter, steeper, smaller wheeled device at similar speeds, but it’s certainly planted and confidence inspiring. This bike is a worthy facilitator to stepping up your game.

2017 Trek Slash 9.9 Review

Gas to flat. No need to step gingerly, this bike lives to be mashed into the terra.

That said, this bike is still fun at less than race mode speeds, and not the unwieldy thing some might assume. The North shore is relatively tight / not so fast and the leggy bike handles this stuff well, as long as you’re not taking the back seat. This bike rewards a centered, aggressive riding position. Don’t be afraid of pushing the front and it will carve nicely. It even handles janky stunt-laden trail surprisingly well. It’s a nicely balanced, neutral handling chassis, that ended up being more versatile than expected.

2017 Trek Slash 9.9 Review

Yes, we made extensive use of a small riding zone for this shoot. Now buried in snow again, much to my chagrin.

Final Thoughts: The bike snob in me is a little underwhelmed with the extensive use of house brand parts on a 5-figure superbike ($11k CAD / $8k USD – bit of a spread there). While these components work quite well, the bike lacks the boutique-ness that some other brands offer at similar price points by hanging trick brand name bits. At an eye-watering $4.8k CAD / $4K USD, the frameset price doesn’t encourage custom builds. That said, this is a ridiculously capable chunder pig that would make a fantastic big hit trail slayer, or ripper enduro race rig. If you prefer your bikes on the smashy end of the spectrum, this is worthy of serious consideration.

For more on the Trek Slash visit trekbikes.com/slash


Feeling Slashy?

Comments

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Feb. 21, 2017, 8:58 p.m. -  Muzz

Great review of a beautiful bike, but what are those sunglasses on Perry?

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Feb. 22, 2017, 6:49 a.m. -  Perry Schebel

Thanks! Ryders Thorn antifog. Yellow lenses, but they look really dark in the photos. Weird.

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Feb. 21, 2017, 4:44 p.m. -  Morgan Heater

Interrupted seat-tubes are a real bummer if you like to get your seat low and out of the way on steep terrain. Old school riders like my uncle can do anything with their seatpost up by their eyebrows, but I can barely ride off a curb without my seat dropped.

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Feb. 20, 2017, 7:01 p.m. -  Garrett Thibault

I thought this was a great review. I like how clear your opinion of the bike was, as well as what differentiates it from other bikes in its class.

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Feb. 22, 2017, 6:51 a.m. -  Perry Schebel

Thanks Garrett.

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Feb. 19, 2017, 8:42 a.m. -  Timothy Price

Insane pricing when you look at rivals like YT. These big bike companies offer nothing more for the 60% or more higher price IMO. Profit on this bike must be massive… as for knock block - solution to a problem that never existed.

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Feb. 20, 2017, 4:02 a.m. -  Neil Carnegie

The profit on this bike to Trek will be just the same as YT make (roughly). Trek sell the bike to a dealer, YT sells it to you instead. That's how the whole direct sales thing "works". I don't understand why people find this so hard to grasp.

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Feb. 20, 2017, 5:36 a.m. -  Timothy Price

I am dumb Neil. That's why. You are clever, and clever people like dumb people so they can answer questions and behave condescendingly. Its quite easy to grasp.

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Feb. 20, 2017, 8:22 a.m. -  Neil Carnegie

I'm just trying to re-read your post in a way where it doesn't seem like you think Trek are profiteering in a way YT are not and failing to do so. If that wasn't what your point was then I'm not sure what it was. You don't have like buying through the supply chain that is the mainstream bicycle industry, but many less experienced (or invested) people do, or lack the confidence to deal with an online direct sales brand.

I'm fully with you on the knock block thing though.

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Feb. 20, 2017, 11:18 a.m. -  Cam McRae

The Knock Block allows for a straight, and therefore stronger downtube, allowing for an improved strength to weight ratio. This video explains it further. There doesn't seem to be any downside riding the bike. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2gR0ClsDgck

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Feb. 21, 2017, 7:06 a.m. -  Neil Carnegie

I've heard the pitch Trek make for it before. The most amazing thing about it is that on the larger (19.5 and up) bikes with it, the fork very, very nearly clears the downtube if you remove the chip. If they'd just made the headtube a few mm longer at the bottom (or set the bike up for an external lower headset, or you fit an bigger crown race) they could have had their straight downtubes and not needed it at all. I agree it's not noticeable riding the bikes, it just "solves" a non-problem and I worry about damaging it and/or the frame in a decent crash. It's not a big deal for me, but it is a classic bike industry "feature" if ever I saw one.

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Feb. 21, 2017, 7:17 a.m. -  Timothy Price

Okay lets look at the facts YT arguably use better/more expensive finishing kit on their bikes. Its all brand name stuff like DT Swiss, Reverb dropper, E13, RF Next cranks, for instance. The Jeffsy CF Pro Race goes for E4499. Some of this is pretty important like the longer length quality dropper post.

Surely this finishing kit pushes their costs up and profits down? Maybe the frame is much cheaper and that cancels these costs out. I don't know.

Trek on the other hand have finished the Slash with in house brand Bontrager parts in the main. I am sure they are top quality but as part of the Trek stable there must be cost benefits which surely translate into an even bigger margin for Trek. The same bike costs E3000 more than the YT I mention above and it has cheaper finishing kit.

Now i doubt the dealers markup in Europe is 66% which is what you'd have to add to the Jeffsy price to get the Trek price. Say its 30%, that gives you a dealer price of E5850 or so. That's still a lot cheaper than the Trek which has cheaper finishing kit.

The facts as I understand them appear to support my initial comment.

So, unless you know something I don't I think my point stands. The 66% difference in price represents a hefty bit of extra change for Trek over YT.

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Feb. 21, 2017, 10:38 a.m. -  Pete Roggeman

I haven't ridden the Slash yet but I have been riding the Remedy, and it is insanely stiff. The strength they built into the frame is astounding. A few mm on the HT at some sizes may have done it as you suggest, however we have seen over and over that 'a few mm here and there' can greatly change frame geo and therefore handling. Also, you're talking about the size L frame, but all companies sell the most in size M.

I'm not saying they could not have made a great frame without Knock Block, but if you believe their stiffness and strength claims, it provided a great benefit.

Regarding your pricing woes, I will say that in a similar vein, what's on the inside of a Trek vs a YT frame has to be considered. I'm not super knowledgeable about YT's carbon 'quality' but that is something that most consumers don't pay a lot of attention to, but it's very important. So, don't just judge pricing based on the componentry draped on a bike is all I'm saying - the frame counts for a lot and the early returns on Trek's newest bikes are very positive.

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Feb. 21, 2017, 1:04 p.m. -  Neil Carnegie

Hey Tim. Without saying anything that would get me in too much trouble at work, Trek dealer margins (and perhaps costs to run bike shops, given that most Trek dealers aren't rolling in the dough) are quite a bit higher than you suggest above. No idea what YT pay for OEM parts but it might also be a lot cheaper than you imagine. It does seem likely the Bontrager stuff costs Trek very little as you say though. Having worked on both brands, I think is it quite likely the 9.9 framesets are more expensive to produce. That's my last words - no interest in getting into a fight over it.

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Feb. 22, 2017, 1:25 a.m. -  Timothy Price

Agree, as i said above, the frame may well be in a different league of quality vs the YT. That said I haven't read any complaints re stiffness or reliability of late with YT (There were a few early issues with the chain stays I think) BTW, I am not a YT fanboy. I ride an old 26er Sworks Enduro. The front of that bike seems plenty stiff, knock block or not. 🙂

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Feb. 22, 2017, 1:53 p.m. -  Pete Roggeman

I also have a 26er S-Works Enduro (and love it). I didn't think it lacked stiffness either - until I rode newer bikes. The new Enduro, the Slash, the Remedy, the Nomad, the SB6, the Reign, etc….all stiffer. Stiffness is not the be-all end-all, but it can make a difference. For example on steeps with a chundery exit or when holding a nasty line in a corner, it is noticeable.

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Feb. 22, 2017, 9:50 p.m. -  Salespunk

Take the Trek price and multiply it by .64 and you get the dealer buy price. This means that Trek is selling to their dealer for about $5100 vs the $5600 that the top of the line Capra sells for direct. Some dealers might get as much as a 40% discount instead of 36%. Not quite the price difference you talk about.

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Feb. 17, 2017, 12:22 p.m. -  JT

Have a DropLine post that got a bit screwy early too. Cartridge was the issue. It felt rough when removed from the post and would get its own ideas about when to rise or fall from time to time. Trek was quick on the warranty cartridge and it has been good for a month so far, even in less than freezing conditions. Maybe it's the functioning of a good cartridge, but the return speed sped up. Can't say it was the cartridge, the Slickoleum treatment, or both. Look forward to more time on it when the temps head north of ice forming.

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Feb. 17, 2017, 9:02 a.m. -  MJ

Also add, Trail Slayer, Trail Smasher, Trail Ripper, Enduro Ripper, Trail Tamer, and now Chunder Pig?..It's all so pretentious, they're just bicycles.

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Feb. 17, 2017, 9:11 a.m. -  james

i thought 'chunder pig' was a novel and humourously refreshing descriptor. especially after 'weapon' ugh.

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Feb. 17, 2017, 11:12 a.m. -  WNCmotard

I kinda found it funny as well.

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Feb. 17, 2017, 6 p.m. -  Tehllama42

I think that's especially apt, as a non-trivial portion of these are going to get sold to riders who proceed to take them on trails accessible to competent 11-year-olds on Hotrocks most of the time - but with the suspension well dialed they will be fantastic at making chunder sections

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Feb. 19, 2017, 5:49 p.m. -  Dave Smith

Chunder Pig was something that Perry called it while we were shooting. It made us laugh and glad he thought to put it into the article when we were talking about the whole "weapon " thing. Lighten up.

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Feb. 20, 2017, 11:08 a.m. -  Pete Roggeman

Pretentious. Right. More or less pretentious than commenting on a reviewer's use of a creative adjective? Would you rather we just use the same tired words and have reviews that sound like everyone else's? What did you think of the rest of the review? Never mind, you're trolling. Carry on to someone else's bridge, they'll poop out language you'll find easier to digest, I'm sure.

"We put the (bike brand) (model) through its paces…" - every second bike review ever written.

Do a search for any bike - this bike even, open the links, and count how many reviewers used "put it through its paces". I'll bet the number is higher than two.

"This (component, technology, idea) is a game changer!" - one out of three articles written in 2016.

That expression was ruined years ago by people who lack imagination or creativity. The creativity that leads to expressions like Chunder Pig. I want a #chunderpig sticker. I think I'll get some made. You can have one for free, MJ.

"just bicycles". Well, yeah, depending on who you ask. On an enthusiast's site, this is far from it. This is a Porsche. Not just a 911, but a GT3. Shall we just use boring language, then? "This is just a bicycle that costs $10,000 and employs the pinnacle of MTB technology, but we're going to avoid interesting language to describe it because certain readers would rather that we resort to exhausted clichés and words that google could assemble on its own. In a time when small minds howl at the 'elites' and their words, we're going to boil our bike reviews down to grunts instead. One grunt = buy this thing. Two grunts = do not buy."

Unggghhhh

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Feb. 17, 2017, 7:44 a.m. -  DJ

i'm not one to focus on the price in a good review like this but OMG is that expensive. wow. one has to really think this bike is the ideal solution to one's needs i reckon. one persnicketty point if i may; in the age of endless violence, i find the near constant bike media use of the term 'trail weapon' distasteful.

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Feb. 17, 2017, 9:16 a.m. -  Cr4w

Also, *TALAS

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Feb. 17, 2017, 6:57 p.m. -  KRad

Totally agree. Lose the destruction monikers and keep on riding…

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Feb. 18, 2017, 9:17 a.m. -  anok

Ya im fine with different build prices but $4000 USD for a frame only??? That's just crazy. would have been a nice bike to build but the frame price discourages that.

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Feb. 20, 2017, 11:20 a.m. -  Cam McRae

Point taken. Thanks for the feedback.

I've been playing with trail snowflake, trail doctor and trail fluffer. 😉

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