Trek Stache AndrewM
Re-Review

Trek Stache 29+ Retrial

Words Andrew Major
Photos Andrew Major (Unless Noted)
Date Aug 10, 2017

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. 

Forking Upgrades

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. 

Shredding

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.  

Trek Stache AndrewM

Descending I prefer the balance of the Stache with the rear center set as long as possible. Climbing traction is also increased. Win - Win. If this was a custom frame I'd have a straighter seat tube and my shortest chainstay length would be the longest option shown here. 

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. 

Trek Stache AndrewM

I also used the Stache as part of my SQlab handlebar review and the upcoming TRS+ coil-sprung dropper post review. I love riding this machine. 

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. 

Comments

oldmanbike
+1
OldManBike  - Aug. 9, 2017, 7:24 a.m.

Wait, did Trek just do to NSMB the same thing it did to Bike a few years ago?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0XVZqyl_2Q4

Reply

AndrewMajor
+1
Andrew Major  - Aug. 9, 2017, 7:35 a.m.

No, they definitely did not. 

I think I'm very clear the catalyst of this piece was in fact Manitou sending a Mattoc (Magnum) Pro for testing?

The conclusion that I am walking back is not about the capabilities of the stock Stache 7 - which I maintain are location specific - but rather my conclusion that as a package the Stache was best purchased/ridden for the intended terrain and would not be substantially improved with upgrades.

Reply

oldmanbike
+3
OldManBike  - Aug. 9, 2017, 7:53 a.m.

But you were not clear about whether the idea of a re-review came from NSMB or Trek.

And the general premise of this re-review -- 'now that I changed out half the parts, I realize how wrong I was about the frame' -- is strange. Have you ever done that for any other brand's bike? I read a lot of MTB media and I don't remember ever seeing anything similar (and by similar I mean a re-do of a published review, not swapping parts during an initial review.)

So when you go from describing the seat-stay design in the original review as "certainly ... a deal breaker for me" to describing the same design in the re-review as "not enough of a concern to reduce my love for the Stache," it reinforces the impression that NSMB was pressured by Trek here.

And, finally, when you go from before saying that "on steeper terrain ... it is the least pleasing bike I've ridden in years," to now saying "the heart of the fastest descending hardtail I've ridden is Trek's 29+ chassis," I lack confidence in the independence of your revised conclusion.

Reply

AndrewMajor
+1
Andrew Major  - Aug. 9, 2017, 8:05 a.m.

I regularly swap out parts and discuss how they improve performance in every review I write - the Stache was the exception. I've done multi-part reviews with part swaps in the past (Cannondale Jeckyl for example) but this certainly is not a common thing nor would I expect it to be.

I never would have thought it necessary  - so I apologize for not discussing impetus. I have had no contact from Trek and this submission originated 100% from me so if Trek had any concerns about my original review then they were not shared with me by NSMB.

Tire, brakes, suspension fork and a 150mm Dropper post completely changed my experience with the bike which is why I pitched a re-review to NSMB.

Reply

whatyouthink
0
whatyouthink  - Aug. 9, 2017, 11 a.m.

I basically lost all respect for bikemag after that happened. too bad.

Reply

AndrewMajor
+2
Andrew Major  - Aug. 9, 2017, 2:46 p.m.

I engage with reader feedback consistently and often challenge - and sometimes rethink - my positions based on what I read. For example, I put aside my years-old contention that 7-9 degree sweep bars are optimum for mountain biking based on a comment in an article I wrote and then threw it out entirely after the ensuing product test. 

I think specifically being able/willing to re-visit conclusions - especially long and vehemently held ones - and generally being open to changing ones opinion are good traits. 

Am I missing some information re. the Bikemag clip posted above? The reviewers clearly state they decided their conclusions were invalid because they were trying to ride a bike that was too small (I always have to upsize on Trek bikes so I can see how that mistake could happen). They don't say anywhere that Trek was party to that discussion. Why the automatic assumption that they are bowing to pressure?

Reply

oldmanbike
+3
OldManBike  - Aug. 9, 2017, 8:12 a.m.

I appreciate your responses and your clarification.

Reply

AndrewMajor
+4
Andrew Major  - Aug. 9, 2017, 8:16 a.m.

I appreciate you keeping me honest - my product reviews are only as valuable as the trust I build and maintain.

Thanks for reading!

Reply

mel22b
-1
mel22b  - Aug. 9, 2017, 1:56 p.m.

I gotta say this is a weird one.  You reviewed the bike, then swapped out parts, then reviewed it again?  Also on a bike that likely less than 1% of the riders on The Shore would ever ride?  Why not just review the fork?

Sorry but I have to call a spade-a-spade here cus it looks like you're working very hard to make Trek happy.  

I wanna say 'Andrew, you're better than this', but it just makes me feel like an ol' dad.

Is the Editor on summer holidays???

Reply

AndrewMajor
+1
Andrew Major  - Aug. 9, 2017, 2:35 p.m.

As I mentioned above I felt the difference after I swapped the brakes, tire, post and fork was such that it directly refuted the conclusion in my first review. Normally I swap out parts as part of a review and in this case I didn't do so due to wrongly held convictions about the Stache. 

It would not have made any difference if I had heard from Trek but also to restate the point I've had no communication with the brand. Both Cam and Pete - the editors at NSMB - questioned my desire to put together this piece (for obvious reasons now) but I maintain that in reading this review and my first (linked at the top of this piece) it is clear why I feel it is of interest - specifically because it is a bike that few riders on the Shore will ever experience. 

The difference in speed, usability and fun was enormous. 

I truly appreciate how many people read and interact with what I write. Not every piece is going to work for every reader. Some NSMB readers can't stand my thoughts, writing, humour, experience or whatever in general and don't read anything I write - that's totally okay too. I get that collusion is on everyone's mind for 2017 so I don't take any offense to being questioned on motivations - I think if you read the interaction above I thoroughly responded to all questions/concerns which I always endeavor to do. 

.

I am working on a long term review of the Manitou fork. 

.

On a personal note re the anonymous comment: "Andrew, you're better than this". It's pretty obvious you don't know me if you think so little of the price and foundation of my integrity. 

You can freely disagree with my conclusions (ymmv afterall), the premise or the quality of this article and I'm happy to discuss all and any questions or concerns but I think the barrier to judging me as a person should be higher than bicycle media you consume online for free.

Reply

oldmanbike
0
OldManBike  - Aug. 10, 2017, 6:51 a.m.

Fair enough, but think about how silly the opposite situation would be.

Suppose you wrote a review that said something like 'this frame is amazing, it's the secret sauce behind the downhill prowess of the whole bike. I recognize that all bikes are fairly adaptable, but this one seems especially so.' But then you tried the bike with a fork that was different from the stock fork -- and while you were at it, you swapped out the stock tires and seatpost -- and lo, now it sucked derriere.

Would you write a re-do? The new parts completely changed your experience with the bike and disproved a conclusion of your original review, right? But I feel mortally certain the answer is that you would not. Nor should you. It would look like a contrived effort to bash the bike, and we'd all wonder what was really going on.

Reply

AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Aug. 10, 2017, 8:46 a.m.

Where that juxtaposition falls down is that it is very common for riders to upgrade their bikes - what I've done with the Stache - but it's hard to imagine for example removing a Mattoc Pro and installing a Comp instead? 

The response to this piece has certainly generated a lot of food for thought. Since, with this exception, I swap parts as part of bike reviews it is a stand alone situation I would not anticipate coming up again. 

Based on my conclusion in my first Stache review - which was positive - I feel a re-review was warranted and would certainly still pen this followup but I would be much more careful to highlight the 'why' factor. 

I think at that point it would be a fair discussion of the validity of the premise rather than the motivation behind the piece.

Reply

oldmanbike
0
OldManBike  - Aug. 10, 2017, 8:55 a.m.

Yes, I agree that your (and Cam's) responses clear up the concern I initially raised about motivation.

Reply

cam@nsmb.com
+2
Cam McRae  - Aug. 9, 2017, 3:54 p.m.

This may not hold much water but I can confirm that the initiative to take another look at this bike came from Andrew. Both Pete and I questioned the need and Andrew's motivation to do this and in the end we felt his reasoning was sound. 

A difference between us and bike mag is that Trek has never bought any advertising from us. Beyond that the initial review wasn't negative and we didn't get any feedback at all from Trek about it.

Personally I appreciate the fact that our audience calls us on this sort of thing and holds us to a high standard. I sometimes wish some of our competitors had the same kind of intelligent, critical and savvy audience.

Reply

LWK
+2
LWK  - Aug. 9, 2017, 4:25 p.m.

owning a Stache (rigid 5) and providing my 2 cents to the original review I have to say I thought this was a reasonable follow up and that your reasoning for doing so was clearly stated.  I certainly didnt get the sense you were being pressured by someone to change your tune.  I think its a great, but very rider and terrain specific bike in stock form.   that a better fork and  tires better suited to your terrain made a big difference in a bike's utility isnt exactly a shocking conclusion...

Reply

kos
+1
Kos  - Aug. 9, 2017, 8:15 p.m.

I think it's great that you re-reviewed a bike that a fork change transformed, or at least hugely expanded its perceived range of ability.

But dude, watch your back, Putin is coming for you!

Reply

oldmanbike
+2
OldManBike  - Aug. 10, 2017, 6:24 a.m.

I raised the concern that Trek pressured NSMB into this re-review, but based on Andrew's and Cam's cogent responses I'm entirely satisfied that that wasn't what really happened.

To be honest I still don't love the re-review. In my view, the concept and the execution both were flawed.

But I loved the original review and think it exemplifies why Andrew has worked his way into the tippy-top tier of MTB reviewers.

Reply

jt
+2
JT  - Aug. 10, 2017, 6:53 a.m.

I think if anything a re-review isn't a bad idea on a lot of bikes. How many times has a bike's performance been deemed unsatisfactory due to tires, brakes, or suspension? Many. Understandably, there are components on a midlevel bike that won't be up to our particular snuff. The more experienced and active of a rider you are, the more likely that you aren't rolling on a stock bike, even if it was purchased as such. Bikes in this range at least get the purchaser most of the way there, and reviewing a rig with common upgrades/changes seems like a better way to provide a fuller review of the merits (or lack thereof) of the design. But, that may be my bias as I tend to ride midrange bikes with near the same type of changes as what Andrew made.

Reply

AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Aug. 10, 2017, 8:57 a.m.

I don't think the issue was swapping the parts and writing about it - I do that to varying levels in all bike reviews I write - but rather that I didn't do that as part of the original review this time - for reasons noted - as I normally would.

It was a unique set of circumstances - Lessons learned! 

Journeyman bikes with key upgrades for the win. 

Thanks,

Reply

metacomet
+1
Metacomet  - Aug. 10, 2017, 10:04 a.m.

I really appreciated the re-review.   I actually wish this was done more often.  Separate from the original review or not, I don't really mind so much.   But if you have been living with a bike for a long time, your relationship with it is going to change over time and that is a key piece that is overlooked.  You have first looks, long terms, but very rarely do you have the  "I've been living with this bike for a long time and have learned a couple new things about it".   The latter is truly the most insightful.   Long term reviews focus on the out of the box bike, which lets face it, only lasts for so long in the real world before you begin breaking/replacing/tweaking/tuning as you learn more about the bike and as new things become available.  So I say, trust your gut like you did here.  And it goes both ways.  If something you praised and loved in the beginning turns out to be a total nuisance in the long run, tell us about it please.  

Maybe I trust my grey matter more than my tin hat, but this never smelled like a sponsored piece to me.

Reply

kos
+1
Kos  - Aug. 10, 2017, 10:20 a.m.

This re-review makes me want a Stache 9.8!

Reply

pete@nsmb.com
0
Pete Roggeman  - Aug. 10, 2017, 12:25 p.m.

Had Andrew called that a 'long term review' rather than a re-trial, would those of you who expressed reservations have thought the same thing?

Reply

benripley
0
benripley  - Aug. 10, 2017, 1:30 p.m.

Andrew,

Thanks I enjoyed this piece as I did the original review. Makes sense to me to amend original conclusions. I've been looking at a Stache myself and am caught in a size-up trap to get the reach I want but then running a higher-than-ideal seat tube, which may restrict me to a 125mm dropper, which for me is less than ideal.

I couldn't find the details in the reviews so I hope you don't mind me asking how tall are you, what size Stache do you run and did you mean that once you removed the seat tube bottle cage bolt the ethirteen dropper fitted ok?

Thanks in anticipation.

Ben

Reply

AndrewMajor
+1
Andrew Major  - Aug. 10, 2017, 4:23 p.m.

Hi Ben - thank you,

I'm 5'9" and riding the 18.5" Stache with a 50mm stem and a 780 bar. It's a fairly upright fit and was roomier for climbing with the 60mm and 70mm stems I tried but the weight balance descending is perfect with the 50mm and the wheelbase set full-long. I prefer it full long for climbing.

A 125mm post was no problem. The 150mm was a stretch with my tallest shoe and pedal combo and lowest profile saddle. There's tonnes of room for adjustment since the top braze-on loosened off from contact with the post - I then removed it. 

Hope that helps! Keep in mind Trek does spec the bike around a longer stem than is trendy hence the shorter than average reach per size than is trendy.

Reply

benripley
+1
benripley  - Aug. 11, 2017, 6:23 a.m.

Thanks Andrew - all makes perfect sense.

Reply

TowerStache17
0
Rodney Pryor  - Aug. 10, 2017, 8:02 p.m.

I own a 16 Stache 7 and like it so much I am getting the 2017 carbon frame and transplanting the parts over!  I like the re-review. I have not been a reader of this site for long but nothing I have read so far suggests to me that the reviewers would review a product again without a good reason.  In the initial review it was suggested to upgrade the Comp fork with the Dorado air system from the pro.  For the life of me I cannot find online how I would go about this.  Any chance I can be pointed in the right direction because I would like to try this!

Reply

AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Aug. 10, 2017, 8:28 p.m.

Hi Rodney, thank you I need to make that correction in the initial review. 

The 29+ version of Magnum/Mattoc Pro uses butted stanchions so the internal diameter is actually different from the Comp fork and it is - unfortunately - not possible to move across the Pro air system. Apologies for the incorrect information. 

Thank you for reading!

Reply

goose8
0
goose8  - Nov. 30, 2017, 7:40 a.m.

I know this is a bit dated, but I wanted to leave something here for anyone that is considering upgrading their comp to the dorado air spring from the pro. Manitou figured out a way to make it work, but it's a little bit more complex than a simple swap. 

The change requires two parts. They're the Magnum Pro 27.5+ 120/140 air spring (141-32155-K023) and the Mastodon Comp air piston (141-30996-K024). Manitou can provide guidance about the conversion process if you need it. They went the extra mile to make this work and deserve massive kudos for doing so.

I had my shop convert my fork since I was having difficulty with the air spring on the comp (I'm 100kg with gear). It was ok, but difficult to get full travel out of unless the air pressure was really low (which caused lots of dive). It is a completely different fork now that it has the dorado spring, much plusher and fun to ride. Cheers!

Reply

AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Nov. 30, 2017, 8:39 a.m.

Thank you for following up - excellent information!

Reply

TowerStache17
0
Rodney Pryor  - Aug. 11, 2017, 3:51 p.m.

Ok, thank you for the follow up and clarification.

Reply

fartymarty
+1
fartymarty  - Aug. 13, 2017, 1:11 p.m.

I completely get where the reviewer is coming from.  I am also a member of the 29+ club with a Krampus which I have had for 3 years now.  It started off rigid with 29x3 Knards (relatively small block tyres) and now has 140mm Pikes and 2.4 DHR2s and a 65HA.  It has had many incarnations with the same frame.

A lot of the changes to the Stache are similar to what I have done with my Krampus.  They are incredible versatile and fun bikes and not one trick ponies like a lot of the full squish super bikes that are normally reviewed.  

As such I have no issues with a revisit / long term test / what ever you want to call it.  Versatile bikes need it.

Reply

syncro
0
Mark  - Aug. 15, 2017, 4:48 p.m.

I'm wondering if it's fair to call this a re-review considering the parts you've swapped out. With it being a hardtail the fork in particular is a huge thing and as you stated in the review it made a significant difference to the performance and fun of the bike. I think it's great that you've gone back and shown how significantly the bike can be improved, but I have to question whether this can be considered a review of the Stache 7 anymore? In terms of the replacement parts costs to the avg consumer, what would that push the price of the Stache up to and then how does it compare to other bikes at that price point?

cheers

Reply

AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Aug. 16, 2017, 8:49 a.m.

Hi Mark - thanks for reading!

The reason from my perspective that it's a re-review is because of my conclusion in my original piece that the Stache was great for its intended purpose but not a bike that would be worthy of upgrading.

To your point re cost I think it makes the case for looking at the Stache 5 and upgrading vs. a 7.

29+ is a funny size and I think the Chupacabra and Minion 3c sum it up well. 

The first is basically a light, fast rolling and high volume Fatbike tire. 26x5 / 27x4 / 29x3 sort of layout.

The Minion is an aggressive Plus MTB tire. Basically a bigger 27+ setup.

It is an interesting category to me because the bikes are essentially where Fatbikes meet aggressive technical mountain bikes. I put the Stache too far into the former category in my first piece.

Reply

syncro
0
Mark  - Aug. 18, 2017, 12:08 p.m.

Hey Andrew, I realized after my post that it would have been good to read the original review too to get a better perspective of the new piece. . Thanks for your explanation. This is a bike that appeals to me on a number of levels.

Reply

tashi
+3
tashi  - Aug. 18, 2017, 9:57 a.m.

In light of the criticism you've received I'd like to voice my appreciation for this article.  To me it reads like a "real world" type of review - describing how someone who actually bought the bike would modify it to their preferences.  To me it's particularly interesting because it's about one of the new formats that's cropped up in the last few years.  It appears that small differences (tire construction for example) seem to be make or break as to whether or not these plus size bikes work well, particularly under experienced riders on aggressive terrain.  By documenting the changes you've made you address the limitations of the new wheel formats and how to grab their benefits.  The differences that the fork and brake changes made also help highlight where it's worth spending the dollars on the good stuff (suspension and brakes) and where you can skimp a bit.  

I like your gear articles, it's clear that you have a passion for the gear AND riding, and you articulate it well without getting involved in the hype and excitement over the shiny shiny new stuff that many in the industry succumb to.  Your articles are one of the best changes that's occurred around here in the last little while, their an excellent execution of how NSMB manages to generally stand apart from the hype machine froth of the industry without being crusty luddites.  Please keep up the good work, and NSMB, please keep trusting Andrew's instincts - his articles are what keep me coming back to your page.

Reply

AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Aug. 18, 2017, 10:53 a.m.

Thank you the props, reading and engaging. I really appreciate it.

AM

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