Trek Stache 29+ Retrial
Rode the Stache. Wrote the review. Returned it to NSMB HQ. End of story.
As I said in my review I loved the Trek Stache 7 in the situations where I felt the bike was awesome. Well-chosen terrain that was within the bike's capabilities allowed it to shine. Then Manitou shipped up their top end Mattoc* Pro 29+ fork and everything changed.
I borrowed the Stache back from Trek (thanks Trek!) installed the top end Manitou Mattoc and 30 seconds into my first technical downhill I knew I'd be swapping out a bunch of parts and re-writing my Stache review.
I was most certainly wrong about potential adaptability and upgrade potential of the Stache frame.
With 25% sag, middle of the road damper settings and the Mattoc Pro's hydraulic bottom out set at its firmest I was immediately impressed by the improved support, traction and speed I was carrying. It's not just a huge upgrade from the Mattoc Comp, it's an awesome fork period.
With the fork upgraded, carrying extra speed into steep sections or corners with greasy, bone dry or even superhero trail conditions immediately exposed the Bontrager Chupacabra tires as the weakest link in the Stache 7 package when it comes to aggressive riding.
With the fork, front tire and brakes upgraded and the e*thirteen TRS+ dropper post installed the Stache 7 is a monster. I don't ride with gizmos but hard data aside I definitely move faster down trails on the Stache than any other hardtail I've owned.
If I was keeping the bike I'd eventually swap in some ARC 40 rims and dump the rear Chupacabra for a 29+ Maxxis DHRII.
The 11spd SRAM GX drivetrain has been faultless. With the heavier rubber I'd also drop down a couple of teeth on the front chainring.
There is no secret formula for riding fast on 29+ wheels. Like every other meat powered bicycle it's all about converting momentum. With trustworthy rubber, top end suspension and good brakes the Stache rips down technical trails. It's suddenly an easy bike to flow through chunky root or rock sections and it holds a line better than any other hardtail I've ridden.
The Mattoc Pro smoothly uses all of its 120mm of travel but it also stands up and recovers much better than the Comp version. The effect on the Stache's sagged geometry is abrupt and shredding down trails that bike feels like the head tube angle is a couple of degrees slacker.
I Really Love Stache
No caveats. The seat stays still bite me once in a while but it's not enough of a concern to reduce my love for the Stache. The geometry reminds me of my friends' original Chromag Samurai (the ultimate hardtail compliment?). The combination of the well-designed aluminum frame and the 3" rear tire it is a surprisingly forgiving bike to rip.
If it was my money I'd likely start off with a Trek Stache 5 and put the price difference towards an immediate fork and tire upgrade. Although, that would mean giving up the awesome GX drivetrain.
A great bike is always more than the sum of its parts. The Manitou Mattoc, brakes and tires all made a huge impact on my Stache experience but the heart of the fastest descending hardtail I've ridden is Trek's 29+ chassis.
For more information on the very upgradeable Stache 7 check here.
*Due to a recent model name change the test fork is branded as a Magnum.