Muddymoles mountain biking in the Surrey Hills and Mole Valley

Trek Fuel EX 8 2009 review

Posted by Tony | March 9, 2009 | 36 comments so far

Trek Fuel EX 8 2009
Buying a new bike is often a slightly nervous time. It’s a big financial decision for most of us and you want to get it right. Have I picked the right model? The right size? the right spec? Even the right colour?

Well I’ve now had my Trek Fuel EX 8 for two months and after numerous of rides around Surrey and two trips to South Wales finest trails I have no doubts that the Trek Fuel EX 8 was a very good buy.

Like most of us I guess that my new-bike-decision-making process is a mix of pouring over new bike reviews in the MTB mags, bike fondling at the LBS, nabbing rides of mates bikes and maybe even attending a demo day. The Trek Fuel EX 8 got good reviews and was on the top of my bike list along with a few usual suspects, the Orange 5, Specialized Stumpjumper FSR, Commencal Meta 5.5, Lapierre Zesty. All 4-5inch full sussers which fitted the bill for my requirements of a bike for the more gnarly Surrey tracks and frequent trips to the South Wales MTB centres.

The only ones I could get a test ride on were the Orange (thanks Matt), Trek and Specialized, so the Commencal and Lapierre were out of the reckoning – well, would you buy a bike without riding it? The Orange was next out since my bike shop owning friend Guy at Pearson Cycles couldn’t source one, which was a pity since I’m a big fan of Orange.

That left the Trek and Specialized. Both are good bikes but the Specialized just didn’t do it for me, plus for my size Trek did an ‘in between’ size 17.5 – 18.5 – 19.5 that was just right for me.

Then it was the delicious business of looking through the specs for the right model. The choices for me were EX 7, EX 8 or EX 9. The EX 7 is good value for money but I wanted the Fox Float on the EX 8 rather than the Rockshox Recon on the EX 7.

The EX 8 seemed to be the right one for me, with a Fox Float front fork, Fox RP2 rear shock, plus SLX drivetrain, Juicy 5’s and mainly Bontrager in-house finishing kit the spec had no weak points that I could see. On the other hand, the EX 9 was another £450 for an XT drivetrain and a few small shock upgrades. This was the point where the law of diminishing returns was too much for my pocket. Most of the recent drivetrain reviews report SLX being too close in performance to XT to justify this expense.

Lastly, the all-important colour choice – would it be black and white or ‘Root Beer’. Root beer is a strange orangy-brown and although Colin has gone 1970’s British Leyland retro with his Dialled Alpine, for me this was the easiest decision of the whole bike buying process. No way was I having root beer!

Getting the EX 8 back home I showed the bike to my five year old. His reaction was ‘Dad, cool bike – that’s what a Clone Trooper (Star Wars) would ride!’ It has to be said, aesthetically Trek seem to have got this bike just right. I’ve had lots of comments about how good this bike looks and no negative comments (or you Moles have been too polite!) and more than one person has asked me if it’s carbon rather than aluminium, I guess due to the high level of tube manipulation.

Trek Fuel EX 8 rocker linkage

In fact Trek seem to have upped their game right across their ranges in terms of bike looks. The best bits for me on the EX 8 are the sculptured magnesium linkage, which looks like it could come from a far more expensive bike, plus the rear drop out pivot which cleans up the whole dropout area. Although the legend ‘free floater’ on the non-drive chainstay – lets be polite – probably hasn’t traveled across the Atlantic with the same meaning. It does give me a chuckle every time I ride it.

Talking of ride, how does it ride? Well after only one ride fettling shock pressures (easy with the super neat sag gauge) and bedding in the Fox Float, it’s been excellent since then. The suspension seems to soak up everything I can throw at it with my abilities. Supple, comfy, rigid, with no peddle bob to speak of (I never switch on the pro-pedal off road), I’ve never felt the suspension seem to bottom out.

What more could you ask for? Well it seems to climb very well too (or at least it did whilst I waited at the top of all the climbs for everyone at our recent trip to Afan and Cwmcarn) and descends to a point that I felt in complete control and as fast as anyone on the South Wales trip on the downhills. It’s only a shame that I fell over and banged my knee in the Afan carpark, but that wasn’t the Trek’s fault, just the idiot on it!

As for negative points, well if you have read my Slime Lite tube post you will know that ‘tubeless ready’ could be a contravention of consumer law. Plus the Jones XR 2.3 tyres, although fast and fairly grippy are definitely a tyre for faster hardpack than February in Surrey. Otherwise apart from a change to my favourite saddle and the addition of a nice shiny bell, I’ve made no changes – unusually for me.

So if you are looking for a 4-5inch full susser, then I can heartily recommend the Trek Fuel EX 8. Although with the 2009 model consignments mostly sold out and new imports likely to be hit by price increases, you’d best get them quick.

Filed under Bikes, Reviews in March 2009


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  1. dominic says:


    I got mt EX8 in May last year and have loved it, apart from the tyres.

    Got to try the 2009 version on Suanday from Head for the Hills as mine is in for a brake sorting (warante).

    Agree with everything you have said with the addition of saying that a 10 or 15mm axel on the front would realy help in some of the rockyer bits down hill.

    I tryed out a wolf ridge, Enduro, DB Alpine (geting one later this year when the frames come back in stock) Orange STD4 (??!!) Giant Trance x thing and still kept coming back to the ex8.

    One of the other lads I ride with got an EX9.0 after riding mine…



  2. Matt says:

    Buying a new bike is often a slightly nervous time

    Tony, judging from the number of bikes you have confessed to having in your warehouse/shed, you have nerves of steel!!

  3. Dave says:


    Actually he’s a nervous wreck. His speed is down to pure nervous energy!


  4. Tony says:


    It’s bicycle cognitive therapy. The only way to get over the anxiety is repeat again, again and again…

  5. Muddymoles says:

    The most useless piece of plastic in mountain biking?

    Shimano SPD plastic pedal adaptors are possibly the most pointless bit of mountain bike kit around.

  6. brandon rubio says:


    just beginning to get into the sport. don’t know much about anything. been reading reviews and looking for as much info i could possibly find. i’ve never owned a mountain bike before. (besides the walmart specials) i think i have narrowed my decision down to the ex 7. is this a good bike to get started on? i’ve race semi-pro moto-x, so i think i have the nerve to shred up an intermediate down hill. will this bike handle some jumps, turns, bumps, ect…

    you seem like a source with good info. thanks for any help.


  7. tony says:

    Hi Brandon

    The Fuel Ex7 will be a great bike to start on. It’s a do anything sort of bike. I’m sure having ridden moto-X you’ll be a good bike handler and you’ll get the most out of the bike, you’ll just have to practise the (human) engine part a bit!

  8. brandon says:

    should i spend the extra 400 or so dollars and get the fuel ex 8 or is the ex7 enough?

  9. tony says:

    Hi Brandon

    If you can afford the extra cash then the Ex8 is a very good deal. The Fox Float is a big step up performance wise compaired to the RockShox, although both are great bikes.

    Let us know how you get on!


  10. brandon says:

    Hey Tony,

    Just wanted to thank you for the help. You as well as this site have been a big part of my decision making process. After checking how deep my pockets were and comparing the EX 7 and 8 a little more, I opted for the 8.

    Found a really good deal on it and the dealer employed some individuals that were actually into the sport (unlike the other three dealers I had spoken to). So that also helped me feel a little more comfortable about the purchase.

    It had to be ordered and should be in my hands by Tuesday or Wednesday. I’ll give you guys the update as soon as I get some time on it. Needless to say I am very excited and ready to hit the trails!

    This website rules!!


  11. Geoff Mead says:

    Hi Tony

    Great to read the review of the EX8 – after years of hardtailing on a Fisher Mount Tam I am taking the plunge to a full sus. Apart from the EX8, I have Giant Trance X2 on the list, Fisher Roscoe 1 and Fisher Hi Fi Pro and maybe a Specialised Stumpy Elite. I have ridden (on road only) an EX7, but was not too impressed, specially with the weight and the R/Shox. But the 8 sounds a better bet anyway.

    My problem – living in Cornwall – is that I cannot test ride any of these bikes off road – the dealers will not allow it, even if they have any of these bikes in stock (which they don’t!!).

    So any ideas how I get around this? I have friends in Bristol area who ride and have been to Afan, Forest of Dean and Brecfer? with them, but do not know if there are any test centres there where I can try a bike in its proper environment.

    Hope someone can help!


  12. tony says:

    Hi Geoff

    I think that the best thing that you can do is get to a demo day for the Trek (Fisher too) products if you you want to test these models in the dirt or check your (less)local bike shops to see if they have demo bikes. Lots of bike shops still have demo models. All the bikes you mention are very good. The thing that put me off the Roscoe is that it’s a fairly poor spec for the money and the fork is specific (offset) to the bike, hence this might cause replacement problems in the future. All good bikes though.



  13. Geoff says:

    Hi Tony

    Many thanks for getting back to me, really appreciated!!

    I am definitely of the opinion now that I want a bike that is Fox sus all round – did not like the Trek EX7 with R/Shox as a comparison. Will check out the demo days – who knows, there might be one only 100 miles away!!! (ie Exeter).

    Do you guys do the Exmoor Explorer?? Always first sunday of August and the most killer x country you can find – also really well organised.

    Maybe see you there!!



  14. Todd says:

    Hi Tony and anyone else interested in the EX8’s

    I got my 2009 Fuel Ex8 a few months ago and have only ridden it 3 times!

    I had a fabulous Kona Caldera hardtail that was totaled when it came off a friends roof rack, and was driven over by the 4×4 behind!

    Luckily, I had good insurance, and they settled very quickly and easily. Unfortunately, the replacement bike came from South Wales, and I live in Surrey. They had to order my Trek in especially, so I couldn’t demo it first.

    As you put it, I agonised over the frame size and colour before chosing. As Geoff Mead said, it’s difficult enough geting a LBS to let you demo a bike off road, even more so if you’re not going to be buying it from them.

    So, I compared and checked the geometries and specs with my beloved Kona, and went for the 18.5″ frame in Root Beer.

    After the first ride, I knew it was wrong. After the second ride, I knew it was wronger. It’s just to small. I’ve since ridden a friends new 19.5″ and it’s perfect. That extra inch makes all the difference!!

    Unfortunately, it’s got a tiny cable rub on the seat tube, so the supplier won’t take it back for an exchange.

    So, the long and short of it is, does anyone want a pristine condition 2009 Trek Fuel EX8, 18.5″ frame, in the very snazzy and striking Root Beer colour (not 1970’2 British Leyland at all) for a knock down price of £1400?

    Before my short rides, the tyres, cassete, chain and grips were all replaced with my own. These are now back on, so it’s as new..

    I can’t aford to make a big loss on it as I want to buy the 19.5″ ASAP, so £1400 is the lowest I could go, and that undercuts and LBS deals by a good £150 plus..

    Any interest?


  15. Geoff says:

    Hi Todd

    Damm – if only it was the other way around – ie you bought a 19.5 and it was too big!! 18.5 won’t fit me either, otherwise you would have had an instant sale.

    Sorry can’t help, but I am sure you’ll find a good home for it at that price.

  16. Todd says:

    Hi Geoff

    I hope so, as I’ve had it for a few months now and haven’t ridden it for fear of trashing it! I’m itching to get out riding again so may have to succumb to sticking in a layback seatpost and wheelieing up all the hills!

    Any ideas of other good sites to post my adverts on? I’ve already got ads on bikeradar

    and singletrackworld

    and help would help



  17. Todd says:

    Thanks everyone for your interest, advice and offers of swaps.

    I’ve sold my old Trek, and have now ordered my new, larger, Trek..


  18. tony says:

    Hi Todd

    I hope that you enjoy your 19inch Fuel Ex8. Not many manufacturers make models in such small increment steps – this is probably a case of a manufacturer giving too much choice in your case!

  19. Trek Dan says:

    I bought my EX8 from Pedal On in Tadley (UK). As this is one of the best bikes out there i found that no one would discount it for a cash sale. So Pedal on it was due to their podium points scheme. £350 worth of free bike bits. New shoes (ones that I would never pay £100 for), helmet, camel bak etc.

    Just becarful of sizes of the Fuels.

    I am 5ft 10″ and tried a 17.5 Virtual/16.5 Actual and this felt fine, but I got my girlfriend to take a picture to check my riding position and it was totally wrong. Went for the 18.5 virtual/17.5 Actual and OH MY GOD THE BIKE IS AMAZING.

    I used to ride a Giant Trance 2 2006 and loved it until I started doing more XC based rides so looked for a hardtail. Bought a hardtail and then relised that I needed a full sus for wales and hardtail for XC riding but didn’t want 2 bikes so got the EX8 as it is light (28.4lbs with crank bro candys on) and got top reviews.

    Wouldn’t be surprised if this or the Lapierre Zesty gets bike of the year.

  20. tony says:

    Hi TrekDan

    Glad you like it too. It is a double edge sword of Trek to offer so many sizes since it gives you more choices which can be wrong, or right. Being a bit of a roadie too I always go by the effective (horizontal) top tube length since this is a constant frame measurement and the best way of giving you the correct fit and feel. I have a 19inch Clockwork Orange, an On-One Inbred and the Trek. All with the same effective TT but all with different “frame” sizes due to slope of the top tube.

    Yes no discounts (unless you have a mate with a cycle shop – thanks Guy – Pearson Cycles) and next years will be quite alot more expensive. Have you seen the price increases in Shimano prices.


  21. Trek Dan says:

    Yes, 25%+ on this years price.

    I exprect the frame to be the same and the components to be Deore/SLX.

  22. Muddymoles says:

    Ride report: Wednesday 6 May – Pitch (Hill) and a Pint

    The Moles resurrect their popular Pitch and a Pint night rides over Pitch Hill.

  23. TrekDan says:

    Has anyone experienced creaking on the rear pivot from new?

    I found last night that neither the upper or lower pivot rods that hold the rear shock are greased. Should they be?

    I have greased them both and the noise has gone and it runs perfectly.

    Could Trek have missed this during construction?

    The only thing I am now worried about is the rods shaft has some ruts and rub marks from the inside of the shock bushing.

    Does anyone have contact details for Trek so I can get a new pair of rods to replace the damaged ones?


  24. tony says:

    Hi Dan

    I did get some creaking from the shock pivot bushings when I got the Trek new. Neither were greased but I suspect that since these are bushings they don’t need to be. That was during the really frozen / snowy snap earlier this year. I suspected that this might have been due to the different metals freezing at different rates. I tightened up the shock bushes and when the weather warmed up the creak went. It’s been almost silent (for a full susser) since then. One of the guys out last night had a particularly noisy gaint which reminded me how quiet my Trek is.



  25. Richard Bromley says:

    I also am a proud owner of the EX 8 and also experienced creaking noises from the rear suss. It went away after a few rides, so I presumed was all part of bedding in etc??. But what I did get at weekend after completing the Dyfi Enduro (this was only 6th time I had ridden bike) was that one of the securing bolts for the rear suss had come loose.

    Only noticed when I picked bike up by seat post and felt some play in suspension. Took it back to LBS as only had a few weeks. They confirmed that bolt was loose and checked out for damage to bushings etc. They said that I should periodically check.

    Now from my side I would have thought that those bolts are pre-torqued at man’f and would be checked by LBS before selling. And would not expect them to come loose after a few rides.

    Anyway no damage done but guess could have been a lot worse if something happened during mid race.

    But well pleased with bike !!!

  26. Peter Capparelli says:

    Hi, all fellow bike riders!

    I read with interest all comments on Trek EX bikes, I decided to go the route of buying an EX 7 after testing it out. I bought it in February a week before going out to Spain for a weeks biking, I found that I could not get on with it. I was told that a 17.5 was my size (height 5’9).

    After returning home I took it in for it’s first service, back to where I bought the bike, Phil Corley Cycles in Milton Keynes. I decided that I would go for tubeless set up at the same time so left it with them to complete along with first service, went to pick the bike up a few days later but it was not ready. I was going away that wk-end to the South Coast, so I was given a loan bike, an 18.5″ EX 8.

    As you can imagine this was just perfect I was riding the way I felt a bike like this would merit, my friends also commented on this, so on my return I went back to the bike store & said that I would like to exchange my EX 7 for an EX 8. It cost me an additional £400, but it was worth it!

    I can only say that they have been very accommodating, I would highly reccomend them.

    Pete, Harpenden

  27. TrekDan says:

    Guys, here is an update on my pivot problem. Two fantastic rides down and no creak after the pivot bolt and bushes were greased. Also had this response from Trek customer services.

    Thanks for the email. What I would do is have your local dealer where you purchased the bike do a warranty claim on the damaged pivot bolt and they can then apply the proper lub and loctite on the bolts once they have the new ones. I hope this helps, thanks and have a great day.

    Ride on,

  28. matt says:

    Hi guys, I’m interested in an EX 8 at the moment but cant get out for a test ride for a while due to a broken leg.

    What sizing would you recommend from your experiences, Im 6’1″ but have reletivley short inside leg of about 31″.

    Thanks for your help.


  29. tony says:


    At 6’1” I’d definitely say a 19 to get the reach. Although reading the previous posts should tell you one thing – try before you buy! Get to a demo day.

  30. Muddymoles says:

    2010 Trek Fuel EX 8 review

    A comparison of 2010 Trek Fuel EX 8 specifications versus the 2009 model

  31. Muddymoles says:

    Ahhh! chainsuck!!!

    What is chainsuck and why do some bikes suffer from it more than others. The answer is not as simple as you’d think

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