First Impressions REVIEW
2022 Trek Top Fuel
The Trek Top Fuel has historically been a platform focused on winning World Cup Cross Country races under the likes of Emily Batty and Jolanda Neff, garnering 17 wins from 2016-2018 alone. From there, it morphed into a bit of a marathon bike - a bit more relaxed and comfortable geometry - where it was probably a bit less put out if you wore baggies or had a couple extra pints after the local beer league XC crit. Forget most of that, though. The press kit for the new Top Fuel outlines everything you’ve come to expect in 2022: it’s a 120mm (+5mm) platform that’s now longer (~10mm), slacker (1.5 deg), steeper seat tube (1.0 deg) with internal storage, internal routing, a flip chip, and rolls on 27.5” wheels in size XS and 29s for the six sizes above that. And yes, even the XS fits a water bottle, and is adamant it's no longer cross country.
As far as genre goes… apparently it's “Fast Trail.” Sure.
2022 Trek Top Fuel Highlights
- 120mm rear / 120mm front suspension travel
- 26.4 lbs – size large review bike, with XT M8020 pedals
- Rubber downtube & chainstay protectors
- Knock Block 2.0
- Alloy Pricing: C$3,479.99 – C$4,829.99
- Carbon Pricing: C$5,899.99 – C$14,699.99
There are a lot of options across the Top Fuel range of stock builds: pick your price point (and thereby frame material), preferred drivetrain and suspension manufacturer from the big two in each, and you’re set. Or, if you fancy yourself a connoisseur, go factory custom with Trek’s Project One configurator where the world is your oyster with components and sparkle paint. Unlike some brands, Project One configuration is only available for higher-end builds, so you can’t get too aggressive with your min/maxing.
|Fork||RockShox SID Ultimate, 44mm offset|
|Shock||RockShox Deluxe Ulitmate RCT, 185mm x 50mm|
|Wheels||Bontrager Line Pro 30, OCLV Mountain Carbon|
|Tires||Bontrager XR4 Team Issue, 120tpi, 29.x2.40"|
|Derailler||SRAM XX1 Eagle AXS|
|Crankset||SRAM XX1 Eagle, DUB, 30T alloy ring, 55mm chainline|
|Cassette||SRAM Eagle XG-1299, 10-52, 12 speed|
|Saddle||Bontrager Arvada, austenite rails, 138mm width|
|Seatpost||Bontrager Line Elite Dropper,34.9mm, (S - 100mm; M, ML - 150mm; L - 170mm; XL - 200mm)|
|Cockpit||Bontrager RSL Integrated handlebar/stem, 27.5mm rise, 820mm width, 45mm stem (S - 35mm)|
|Brakes||SRAM G2 Ultimate hydraulic disc|
The review bike I’ve got is the 9.9 XX1 AXS build (sans AXS Reverb, welcome to media bike spec oddities), which would retail for an eye watering 13,974 CAD. The upshot to this is there probably isn't going to be much to comment on during the review period – the components are top tier and we’ll focus on the frame that holds it all together.
Frame Geometry and Suspension
Two years ago, a 66 degree head tube angle on anything with a SiD was very cutting edge; in 2022 it’s de rigueur. If we’re splitting hairs – which we’ll have to here – the Top Fuel geometry is slightly closer to its cross country roots than some of its competitors with significantly less stack height. This is down to a combination of a higher bottom bracket and shorter head tube. Will this mean it’s less comfortable at speed descending than some of its competitors like the new Rocky Mountain Element, or a personal favourite of mine, the Transition Spur? The Top Fuel seems aggressive enough to tread dangerously on the heels of its bigger sibling the Fuel EX.
There are lots of small upgrades over the previous Top Fuel. Both aluminum and carbon frames get an internal storage compartment in the downtube, there's a 34.9mm seat tube, and the Knock Block 2.0 gives a wider turning radius than the previous edition, as well as the option to remove it entirely. In theory, the Knock Block was originally conceived by engineers as a way to protect downtubes from fork contact, however this isn't the case here, which begs the question; "If the Knock Block doesn't need to protect the downtube, why is it there?" Personally I'd run a system like this on all my bikes given the option. It would alleviate concerns about brake hose damage in case of a crash, can make for tidier cables, and generally prevent some banging around and shuttle damage.
Top Fuel Geometry
|XS - 27.5||SML||MED||ML||LRG||XL||XXL|
|Effective Top Tube||539||568||598||615||631||654||676|
|Effective Seat Tube Angle||76||76||76||76||76||76||76|
Geometry listed here is for the low ‘Mino Link’ position, with 120mm fork. Flipping the chip yields a roughly 0.5 degrees steeper head tube angle, and 6mm higher bottom bracket. Trek also suggests the Top Fuel is fully compatible with 130mm forks which yields numbers roughly 0.5 degree steeper.
There’s a broad range of sizing, and the extra effort that went into the XS is good to see, but it's a bit disappointing to see the same chainstay length and seat tube angle used across the full range. Reach grows by 120mm from XS-XXL and it’d be nice to see rear centres change proportionally. But for me, as a very average-sized male, 435mm chainstays are pretty standard for a size large. I might like to see something slightly longer, but being in the middle of the bell curve has its advantages.
Trek bills the Top Fuel as focused 60% on climbing, 40% on descending, and unsurprisingly it’s built around their split-pivot ABP system that's meant to decouple braking from suspension movement. Anti-squat is relatively constant at a touch over 100% throughout the range of travel in the hopes that whenever you put watts down, it motivates you forward.
This is a first look and I don’t have more than a handful of rides on the Top Fuel. So far, getting acclimatized has been simple and I've felt comfortable straight away. I’ve settled in around 30% sag in the rear and 25% up front. This may seem like a lot for an XC derived platform, but I’ve found there’s enough progression in the suspension and air springs that this is a good balance of traction, stability, and efficiency. I’ve ridden some pretty aggressive trails so far and I can’t say the lower stack is noticeably detrimental yet, but I’ll be doing some back to back days with the Spur to refine that opinion.
Two component quibbles have arisen: the Team Issue TR4 tires are a hard compound that’s sketchy here in the winter and on my first ride I ripped a hole in the centre of the rear tire. I patched it and kept riding, but I’ll be swapping tires around to find something a bit more comfortable and, if I still have this bike once it dries out, I’ll try them again. They do roll quite fast, considering I’m out of shape (holiday beer drinking, snow, COVID, etc…) but still managed to set a bunch of climbing PRs. The Bontrager seatpost is also glacially slow and I’m guessing there’s an issue.
Overall I’ve been getting along well with the Trek Top Fuel in its stock form, but it’s time to swap a few personal component preferences around and get some more saddle time to see where it excels (or doesn’t), and why you’d pick this over the myriad of other 120mm travel dadcountry bikes out there for your Shorecountry (or Othercountry) adventures.
Size medium millennial.
Reformed downhiller, now rides all the bikes.