Trek Rail is the perfect bike to help you rediscover your love of the gnarlier side of mountain biking, as our owner Jamie found out recently. Read on to find out how this monster truck of a bike got him hooked again, some awesome pimping and his future upgrade path.
Back in 2004, I lusted after a long travel trail bike. My weapon of choice was the Orange Patriot (pictured below). Steve Peat was riding as an Orange Factory sponsored rider and was winning downhill events. I was working in DIY retail marketing and convinced myself that I could somehow make up for my lack of skill with a bike that would do it all for me, making me like my mountain biking hero. So I searched on my dial up internet connection for the Orange website and bought an ex-demo Patriot from the factory in Halifax. I was one happy boy.
The bike was sweet 150mm travel and, like Trigger’s broom, I upgraded every part, from the forks to coil over shock, Thompson seatpost, riser bars, SDG saddle and more variations of rubber tread than I care to imagine, ultimately upgrading the frame to a lighter model! I was never knowingly underbiked and the machine outclassed my riding skills by a significant margin. I took the bike down to local forest trails before such things as bike parks; Chicksands, Woburn Sands and Sherwood Pines. Then to Exmoor and the Quantocks where I raced endurance events and rode the local rock bridleways. I loved that big, bad heavy brute of a machine.
Rediscovering a lust for full sus
Jump forward nearly 20 years and the desire for a long travel, full suspension, orange-coloured bike is back, along with the need - ok “want” - to upgrade parts to my taste and style. My off-road skills haven't improved, but my desire to have a bike I lust after is still there. Today my choice is the 2023 Trek Rail 9.8 Gen 4. Like my choice in the early 2000s, it’s a monster truck of a bright orange bike, has 150mm travel and is shod with 2.5" rubber. Unlike its predecessor, it’s got Bosch electric assist, OCLV mountain carbon frame and SRAM AXS wireless electronic gears. The world has moved on and so have dream bikes!
Trek Rail’s standard spec
The bike is a great spec out of the box, but having been a sucker for the Flamme Rouge demo day, I rode one of Trek's demo Rails and had to have one myself. The demo bikes had the RSL bars (pictured above) and SRAM AXS wireless gearing and my choice was a Gen 4 bike with a similar gearing and cockpit setup. The Gen 4 Bosch system means the motor is wirelessly configurable using the SRAM Flow app, the AXS gears are driven from the main bike battery and it has a seemingly endless range, as a result of the 750Wh battery. I had the choice of black (boring), yellow (wait 97 days) or Lava Orange (in stock and in the shop within five days). DId I mention that I like orange bikes??
Pimping my ride
Before even swinging a tentative leg over the machine, I had planned a few upgrades:
- RSL bar/stem combo - I loved the look of these on the demo bikes and although a purely cosmetic upgrade, as saving 100g on a 23kg bike is kind of pointless, I think they look great!
- Crank Bros Mallet DH pedals (pictured below) - Black and gold trimmed pedals, with matching Mallet E shoes. I've never been able to bunny hop unless clipped in so these have a functional benefit. The gold choice is purely pimping!
- Matching Crank Bros gold trimmed Cobalt Grips - OK, so these were to just match the pedals.
In summary I have to admit it - I'm an upgrade tart!
An unexpected upgrade
I set about setting up the bike to my riding style, adjusting the cockpit, seating and suspension. I soon realised that at the wrong side of a hefty weight, the rear shock set-up was reaching its max (I blame a recent period off the bike due to surgery: my wife blames beer) . The high pressure in the shock was making the set-up near impossible as every setting was at its max.
Step in our friends at Plush Suspension, who we work with on suspension servicing and tuning. These guys are real experts and with one brief visit late on Saturday they furnished the bike with a new Cane Creek shock (pictured above), along with the conveniently colour matched Ohlins shock spring set for my weight. Like Salt Bae, Mat set about his seasoning magic, fettling the shock compression and rebound settings with a flourish; I was impressed. When the bike rolled out from their workshop, I couldn't have been happier. Not only did the suspension work like a treat and had loads of adjustment, and it also matched the gold accents on the bike I'd already fitted. Result!
First ride on my Trek Rail
My first ride was a 36km loop to Chicksands Woods, a couple of exploratory laps of the outer trails and then back. The XC route to the woods gave me a chance to shake down the bike, get used to the ride and play with the power settings. On getting to the twisty trails in the woods, the bike came alive. Combining the slick gearing, power settings and dropper meant anything was tackleable. The shock meant the traction and handling of the bike were spot on. The brakes were bedding in nicely and I was getting used to the bike’s handling on the twists and turns. Even the Bontrager SE6 2.5" rubber was well behaved and was confidence inspiring. If you've read my previous Fuel EXe blog, you'll know I'm not a fan of the Bontrager XR5 tyres that came on that bike, and this rubber upgrade was a welcome surprise. My first ride was over too soon but got me thinking, what would I look to upgrade in the future? I was on a mission!
Ride Wrap protection - A new listing for Flamme Rouge, and increasingly essential for high-end off-road bikes. We will be adding protective Ride Wrap to the bike to protect its deep orangey red paintjob.
AXS wireless dropper - The clean look of the front end of any mountain bike is often spoiled by the innumerable cables and hoses at the front. The wireless gearing on the 9.8 means this is reduced right down, but it can go further. I've opted for an AXS wireless dropper seat post, which should arrive in a couple of weeks.
T-Type SRAM AXS gearing - The recently announced new standard T-Type gearing gets rid of the need for a gear mech hanger. In reality mech hangers on carbon mountain bikes have become somewhat redundant recently as their purpose of saving a frame is often misplaced when a mech breaks off and smashes through chain and seat stays in a crash. The Rail 9.8 is compatible with the universal hanger standard and so a new gear set will be on the list.
Thule EPOS Bike Carrier - Not officially a bike upgrade, more a car accessory. But this is going to be an essential part of my travels to bike parks and trails across the country. As a new model Flamme Rouge have an exclusive ranging of this product.
I’ll be looking into other upgrades and adding to the shortlist in due course but I’ve not decided on the wheels and forks. We’ll keep you informed as these upgrades are added and share more of the ride experience of the Rail over the coming months.
Thinking of upgrading your ride?
If you’d like help and advice on going e-bike, Trek Rail in particular or upgrading your current bike, whatever your kind of riding, drop into the shop or call us on 01234 266204.
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