I thought I would take some time to write a simple review. If your like me and need to justify and research any big purchases (almost like an obsession) than you will understand. I write this not because I am a "wealth of knowledge, but because I couldn't find a D*** thing about it when I Needed the right answers before my big purchase. So I did something I never have before and took a $1000 stab (With a great return policy from my LBS). I am hoping this will help folks down the line who would like to know more about this bike.
I purchased a 2014 Trek X-Caliber 8 29er mountain bike. I weigh 280 pounds at 5' 11" and am a first time 29er rider. Out of many of the bikes I got to test drive at the bike shop, I liked this version the best. It was a very comfortable ride with unexpected speed. I Took this bike out for a spin, and initially had to get over the shock and nervousness of feeling a higher center of gravity over my old school 26er, and my other hybrid. After a few minutes of nervousness I found a few things that I really enjoy about this bike, first is the great traction on dirt. Due to it's size I was expecting a clumsy and somewhat difficult navigation on the bike. It could not be farther from my expectations. The bike is incredibly solid, and maneauvered with great ease. I was able to easily navigate several sharp turns. The more I rode the bike, the more I enjoyed how comfortable of a ride it was. For the singletrack I like to ride at the local trails, it's a great fit.
Another reason I chose this bike was the amount of value for components to dollars. IT was the only decent ride I could find with a Rock Shox fork and hydralic brakes for the money. I tried many models before I landed on this beauty, a Specialized model came very close to monetary value. My absolute minnimum requirement for my purchase was a Rox Shox or higher rated fork for increased durability.
I chose the X-caliber 8 over the 9 solely because of weight restrictions on the fork. The solo air fork on the x-cal 9 was 210 pounds. With the appropriate spring on the Rock Shox fork on the x-cal 8, I have a weight limit of up to 300 pounds. I find that the preload on the fork makes somewhat of a small difference for my mammoth weight.
When I got this bike home, one of the things I immediately had an issue with, was the first gear on the crank causing the chain to derail. After taking the bike back to the shop, they noticed that the derailleur was not properly set, 5 minutes of adjustment and the issue dissapeared.
My favorite features of the bike, are the hydraulic brakes, and the lockout on the fork. They both work very well. I appreciate the Shimano brakes, as a small amount of pressure slows you down right away. There is not a lot of travel on the brake before you notice the effect like standard cantilever brakes. I can lock the fork at any point of travel, which I found to be really interesting and usefull. When braking though, a distinct Pads-on-metal sound is heard.
The thing that bugs me the most about this bike is the hideous blue paint job, this is defenitely not a bike I purchased for looks, but instead for components. I am tempted to spray paint the frame black (kidding of course).
Another annoyance that could be mentioned are the two bolts in the frame directly behind the seat post on the rear wheel arms. I find these to be especcialy painful when riding if I lose proper posture. I had a professional fit when I purchased the bike, however the little bruises being caused by these two screws really frustrated me. The bolts in the frame are clearly for some sort of accesory. I removed the bolts and found a couple rubber stoppers at Home Depot to put in their place. The problem is now resolved. If you know what these are used for please let me know.
I ride with gel padded cycling gloves, so the grips don't bother me, and are nothing to special. I am told by a couple friends that the seat is uncomfortable. I do not particularly find this to be true, as I primarily ride a road bike, with a skinnier seat.
The bike is overal rather sturdy, and I did experience skipping gears when the cables started to stretch, this is normal, and requires a follow up after 50 or so miles for an adjustment, which is usually free from the shop you purchase your bike at.
I tried out the 27.5 bikes and traditional 26 as well and fell in love with the 29er due to how efficient and speedy it was.
If your on the fence, I hope my experience will help you with your decision. Please do not take my word for purchasing this particular brand. Purchase the bike, that is MOST comfortable, and has the BEST fit for you. Which may or may not be this model/bike.
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