Review: 2014 Trek Remedy 9 29
You may have heard a fair bit about the Trek Remedy lately. It could be that the promise of 650B models for 2014 has you stashing spare nickels away for their release date. Maybe pictures of Andrew Shandro shredding the new 29er option have you desperate to find him on the trails. Or – if you’re anything like me – you’ve ignored the recent press releases because the 26” wheel is good enough and most new bikes are priced too high anyway. Fortunately for you the Remedy lineup includes five 26” wheeled models with a starting price of $2,799 CAD. And fortunately for me, regardless of my reluctance to ride the big wheels, I spent the last half of my summer on the Remedy 9 29 and I had my best rides of the season on this bike. Up and down, the big wheeled Remedy has been a great companion for everything outside of the Whistler bike park.
The Remedy’s ability to pedal has been a huge factor in my enjoyment. There was never an excuse for me not to explore every nook and cranny of the surrounding mountains, and the ability to do so gave me the opportunity to make epic descents. The fact that the bike was fully capable on those descents was the other reason I enjoyed my time on it so much, but I’ll get into that later on. Right now I’ll focus on the up.
My favourite way to describe the Remedy’s climbing ability is in the words of my mother who took the wagon wheeler out onto some mellow trails and reported back that “it feels like it’s going downhill both ways – very pedally.” A more experienced rider could tell you that the suspension stays active while you pedal, but I never had the feeling my energy was being sucked up. Even in the granny ring I still agreed with my mother that the bike pedaled well. In other words, Trek’s suspension platform is active, but supportive while pedaling. This meant I rarely felt the need to run the CTD damper in anything other than the descend setting. It was only because I could switch between the settings on the fork and shock without leaving my seat that I fiddled enough to form the opinion that the damper works exactly as advertised. Climb mode is almost rigid and I reserved it for the paved or almost paved climbs. Trail mode is middle ground: it provides a slightly stiffer platform to pedal on without feeling too rigid. However, you will know you’re not in D on the first big hit down the trail.
Beyond the suspension platform, big wheels and light weight contributed to the overall good climbing characteristics. I was surprised with what I could roll over permitting I had enough momentum. It certainly added confidence when punching into technical climbs. I did expect the 38 tooth big ring without a bash guard to suffer some abuse during my monster trucking, but it very rarely posed a problem. That being said, even without clearance issues I would still prefer a smaller outer ring. On trails that continuously rise and fall, I feel like a few less teeth would have kept me from constantly shifting between the two front rings.
As for the weight, the bike came in at 30.1 pounds without pedals on my scale. Certainly light enough for me to add an extra lap on the local hill or bang out all day epics, eat lunch, and then go ride park. The lack of fatigue that came from pedalling this bike was what really had me grinning ear to ear each ride, and riding almost every day. The only concern I’ve seen come up about pedalling the Remedy around all day is that the seat angle is too slack. Having spent time on bikes with seat angles on either side of the Remedy’s, I thought Trek tilted the seat tube just the right amount. I can’t say I spent much time analyzing the geometry chart, but I did log a lot of time in the saddle and never made a complaint about the seat angle. Number crunchers may want to sit on the bike before they write it off completely. (The Remedy 9 29er has a 68 degree seat angle in the high geometry position and 69 in low, while head angle is 67.5 and 68.2 respectively – Ed)
The seat height itself was something that I ran into a bit of trouble with. I put it as low as it could go, and found it got on my way on descents when I was riding the 80mm stem. A 50mm stem was on hand and a quick swap let me get far enough back. My stem choice is arguably a little short for climbing, but I was happy with it and you may find a happy medium in between. . You won’t have any issues dropping the saddle with this Remedy – the Reverb drops all the way in so I thought this experience should be mentioned, but in reality the average rider runs their seat much higher than I do and probably wouldn’t have noticed it.
The stem and the bar were they only bits I swapped out, everything else on the Remedy 9 29 stayed put for the duration of the test period. I was not expecting the fast rolling Bontrager XR3 Team Issue tires to stay on, but they proved grippy enough in both dry and slightly damp conditions. I didn’t manage to put the Remedy in winter-like mud, but I suspect some more aggressive tread would need to be mounted once the rain really started coming down. I only had one bad experience where I skated over a wet rockface right into a pointy rock at the bottom, resulting in a dented rim and a flat front tire. I redeemed the rubber on multiple damp rockfaces in Whistler the next day and concluded that I was just unlucky the day before.
Aside from this one experience, the Bontrager Rhythm Elite wheelset also held up well. I was expecting the 28 spoke wheels to have some side to side flex, but I’m happy to report none was discernible. The rear spokes stayed tight and the rear rim stayed true. The front rim hopped pretty hard after meeting the aforementioned rock with no tube infront and no travel left in the fork. I was impressed that it was salvageable though; I rode it hard for another week after it probably should have been retired.
I spent a fair amount of time pushing this bike on the descents. On my first ride I was not accustomed to the wagon wheeler. I felt the bike rode better when I stopped trying to man handle it and I just held on. On the second ride I unconsciously figured everything out, and was able to push the 29er down the trail. 140mm is not a small amount of travel, and paired with the big wheels The Remedy 9 29 rolled over everything quite well. I was comfortable to let it go full blast and take new lines at speed.
The bigger wheels obviously made it easier to hold speed over bumpy terrain, but gaining speed was also quite easy. The light weight build combined with Trek’s active but supportive ABP suspension platform meant pedalling brought the bike up to speed quickly and efficiently. Even though I’ve already critiqued the 38 big ring for climbing purposes, on descents it meant I was able to go very fast. On all but the widest trails, it was faster than I was able to go. Regardless, the pedalling efficiency of the Remedy had me constantly turning the cranks.
The easy rolling Remedy performed well on more than just the fast singletrack. On technical trails with big steep rock faces, I was immediately at home and rode almost everything I came across. I really let it go on some fairly steep and unfamiliar trails. I even got comfortable on skinnies which is one aspect of mountain biking I have hated with a passion my entire life. I also made a conscious effort to send the 29er over 29 feet. The big wheeled Trek jumped surprisingly well. It wouldn’t be my first choice to go jump all day, but it’s certainly capable of getting airborne. In order to get to the jumps I had to rail a fair amount of corners which I also enjoyed doing on the Remedy. In other words, even where I should have been a little out of my element on the Remedy 9 29, I took it there and was never disappointed.
Not all credit for a comfortable ride can be given to the frame design and big wheels. Fox took care of the suspension with a 34 Float up front and a Float shock with Trek’s Dual Rate Control Valve in the rear. Although I’ve already run through many of the suspension characteristics I enjoyed above, I do have a few more to add. As advertised, I never felt the rear end give a harsh bottom out with the DRCV feature. Up front I did occasionally feel the fork bottom, just like every fork I’ve ever owned. The 34 has a linear feeling I have come to like. It rides high in the travel and keeps me rolling through the big hits. The 34mm stanchions and 15mm quick release axle were certainly stiff enough for these hits as well. I haven’t spent much time on 32mm stanchioned forks, but my experience with the 34 stanchions left me with the impression that Fox found the solution to the flex being reported with their previous 29er forks.
The other big name that appears all over the Remedy is Shimano. Full XT drivetrain and brakes make for a budget conscious build that doesn’t sacrifice features. I’ve had my hate on for Shimano brakes for years – mostly due to the temperature sensitive mineral oil they run – but I really liked the brakes on this bike. Set-up was easy, I only ever had to make one more adjustment which was easy again, and the brakes never started to feel weird. The bigger bonus was that I didn’t have to bleed them or even change the pads. Most importantly, performance on the trail was perfect for the Remedy. They were powerful enough without ever feeling like too much brake, and modulation was great.
The XT drivetrain is a similar success story, with the minor difference that I’ve never had a problem with Shimano drivetrains in the past. Once the front derailleur was set up, I never dropped the chain and had no difficulty shifting between gears. The rear derailleur stayed in good shape and I didn’t have to replace one cable or fiddle with the barrel adjuster. Though the Remedy wasn’t silent down the trail, the Shadow Plus does have an off switch so you can prove to yourself that it really does do something. I didn’t put up with the extra noise long enough to try to lose the chain without the Shadow Plus, but I honestly wasn’t that upset about keeping my chain on for the whole test period.
Last but not least, Rock Shox makes an appearance with the Stealth Reverb. The cable routing kept everything problem free and performance was consistently good throughout the test. The 125mm drop was enough for me to have a comfortable pedalling position at full extension, and a comfortable descending position at 0mm. My originally disappointment that the Remedy was not specced with the 150mm Reverb disappeared since I would not have been able to use all of it on this bike. I’m not 100% sure the frame would fit the full length of the post, but even in the likely situation that it did my legs would have be too short to use the extra 25mm.
In conclusion, the $4,999 Remedy 9 29 is a well spec’ed bike that’s fully capable of making you smile on the vast majority of your up and down adventures. While my experiences have been good not everyone will be happy on a Remedy. Riders who prefer their bike to firm up under pedalling may not appreciate the active pedalling platform. Those after a carbon long travel 29er won’t get it from Trek. And even with the adjustable geometry, some people may not like the Remedy’s numbers. On the other end of the spectrum, those in the 29er trail bike market that are looking for a reasonably priced ride that won’t hold them back should certainly add the Remedy 9 29 to their short list. It may also be a good option for riders who haven’t jumped into the world of new standards and wheel sizes yet. Upgrading eventually stops being reasonable, and buying a new bike with a build you won’t need to swap a lot of parts on, has all the newest features, and doesn’t break the bank becomes the best option. The last group is the one I belong to, and I’ve already begun to miss many of the Remedy 9 29’s desirable characteristics. It might just pull me out of the used bike market for next season.