There are lots of opinions and rumors about plus bikes. The two most heard are that they are best suited for intermediate riders and that they are not for racing, but I disagree. Fun is fun whether or not you are a hard charging rider or just along for a pleasure cruise of your favorite local trail. As manufactures have started producing narrower plus rims and appear to be migrating to 2.8″ tire widths, the weight difference (vs a “skinny” 2.35″ tire) is marginal and the traction and control gains are very good.
Whether you like it or not plus bikes are here and are dominating much of the new product development. It’s obvious that plus is important for Trek with the update of the newest Fuel EX 27.5 Plus ahead of normal tire models. I had the opportunity to throw a leg over the new Fuel EX 9.8 Plus recently and came away from the ride quite impressed.
Tire and wheel choice makes a huge difference in the ride quality of a plus bike, and this is where Trek has nailed it with a rim that isn’t too wide and heavy (40mm internal) mounted to a fast rolling 2.8″ tire that still has bite. The low rolling resistance and traction were the first thing I noticed when riding the Fuel. With the small short knob’s, you would expect not to have that great of traction, but that’s where the added volume of the 2.8″ tire and 40mm rims come in.
The Trek Re:Aktive and ABP suspension worked very nicely. I wasn’t blow away by any specific characteristics that were better than my personal Ibis Mojo 3’s DW link suspension, but it seem’s to compare well.
One cool thing about the new Fuel is the ability to run 29″ wheels and tires without affecting the geometry too negatively. The bottom bracket height on the bike is very low at 12.8″ with 27.5 plus, so going to 29 will bring the BB height up to a reasonable level.
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One thing I thought was a bit weird was Trek’s choice to increase downtube stiffness by straightening and widening the downtube – this creates the need for another engineered fix so the fork doesn’t hit the downtube when turning sharply. The fix is a keyed headset to prevent the fork from hitting the oversized downtube. Just in case this system fails, they added a piece of rubber on the downtube. Over engineered marketing hype? It seems adding 40 grams of carbon to a standard tube could have given the same result without the need for the added mess.
The Fuel EX 9.8 Plus would be a great choice for those looking for a new bike that includes great geometry, ability to run plus or 29″ tires and is priced well for its component spec. The Fuel’s plus setup gives away very little to a normal 2.35″ setup in speed, yet gives a reasonable amount more traction and fun factor.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]