Here's my 2nd ride review. I'll add an update after a bit more time on the bike.
Full disclosure, I repair bikes for a living and currently work for a Trek dealer. That being said, I've worked at dealers that sell pretty much all of the major brands and try to remain as unbiased as possible when having interactions on message boards. Yes, I typically buy what I can get a deal on, but have payed retail while working at a shop (a cardinal sin for us shop folk) to get a bike if my shop didn't carry a brand that offered what I was looking for at the time. So, even though I do work for a Trek dealer, please trust that when I review a bike, I'm doing if from the standpoint of someone who's been riding mountain bikes for 20 years and has been wrenching on them professionally for 15 years. I bring all of that history to a review, and try to keep the fact that I work for a dealer that sells the brand I'm reviewing out of my mind while writing a review.
I tend to have one favorite bike that I keep for many years while cycling through a bunch of others, trying to find the next favorite. My last 3 primary bikes were a 2005 Santa Cruz Chameleon that I bought in 2005 and rode through 2011 (it was my backup bike for 2011), a 2011 Xcal that I bought and rode for the 2011 season and a 2012 rumblefish elite bought this year and rode till August. During that time I also had 7 other mountain bikes pass through the quiver. Even though I hadnít found a suitable replacement for the Chameleon, I sold it at the end of the 2011 season because I felt Iíd been on it long enough.
There's something about hardtails that keep me going back to them. Every couple years I buy a new full suspension bike and try it out. I can totally see the benefits, and for going downhill, they're the best. I've raced downhill in the past and if I had better access to lift/shuttle riding, I'd have another dh bike. I've just not found a full suspension bike that I have as much fun riding on my day to day trails. My latest full suspension bike was the 2012 Trek Rumblefish elite. If I lived somewhere with more descending I think I would like that bike a whole lot more, but as it is I ride the flat lands and occasionally make the drive to lift or shuttle served riding. It was a great bike, it just made my local trails too easy but it wasn't burly enough for those dedicated downhill days. So I sold it in August and was planning on riding my rigid single speed for the remainder of the season.
I've owned 17 mountain bikes in 20 years of riding and ridden many more. My most favorite bike so far was my Santa Cruz Chameleon. It was also one of only a handful of bikes that stayed in my quiver longer than a season. That is a hardtail that makes you feel like you can do anything.
After 17 years on 26" wheels only, and a couple years going back and forth between 26" and 29" wheels I've become very sold on the idea of 29' wheels for my all-around trail bike. I do have some time on 650b wheels as well. I won't go into detail, but right now, they're not for me. The Xcal felt like a race bike. It was fast and agile, and it handled more technical stuff than I expected, but I never found it to be confidence inspiring and it didn't put as big a grin on my face as the Chameleon. In fact no 29er that I've ridden prior to the Stache came close to the playfulness of the Chameleon. Granted, I haven't gotten on a Canfield, Banshee or Transition. If you want to read my whole write up on the Xcal, you can refer back to here First Impressions of the 2011 Trek/GF X Caliber So, I knew I wanted a 29" wheeled hardtail with a burly build, slacker angles and a longer fork than a typical XC 29er. What I wanted was the 29" version of my SC Chameleon.
When the Stache was leaked prior to the full release of Trekís 2013 line, it piqued my interest. I was going to buy a Banshee or Transition next spring. But the Stache seemed to be the same concept, plus I can get in through my shop . I got to make the trip from my shop in NE Wisconsin down to Trek for Trek World, the unveiling of the new model year to their dealers. The former service manager from my shop works at Trek so he arranged for a couple of us to take out some demo bikes after the official demos were over, meaning we got to spend more time on them. I opted for the Stache of course. The short version is, I liked it soo much I ordered one the next day. Dealer employees were offered a frame/fork only deal that would be shipping much earlier than complete bikes so I went with that. I only mention it so I donít have to answer as many questions as to why my built isnít stock.
Before I get on with the build, thereís just a bit more you need to know. Iím what I like to refer to as ďfestively plump,Ē and I like and seek out technical riding. Those two traits mean I need a burlier build than typical or Iím constantly breaking and replacing stuff.
- 2013 Stache 8 Frame/Fork - 120mm Fox Evolution 32mm, G2, 15mm thru axle
- Bontrager Rhythm Elite bars 820mm cut down to 740mm
- Bontrager Rhythm Pro Stem 80mm 7 degree flipped down
- SLX Shifters
- SLX Shadow Plus rear derailleur
- XT direct mount front derailleur
- Raceface Evolve DH crank. 22-36-Bash.
- Sram Elixir XX brakes 185mm front 160mm rear rotors
- Wheels - Azonic recoil hubs, 36 hole, 142x12 rear, 15mm front, Eighthinch Bueller rims. My shop has a house brand called Eighthinch (more info at eighthinch.com). Itís a fixie brand. These rims are sold for Fixie Freestyle, but they are an off the shelf all-mountain 29er rim. Since we buy them at OEM pricing, they were a screaming deal for me.
- Tires, Bontrager 29.4 up front, 29.2 in the back.
- Crank Bros Joplin post.
- Bontrager evoke saddle
When I got on the Stache I instantly felt at home. It's exactly what they say it is, a trail bike. The difference in ride between the Xcal and Stache is far greater than the sum of the geometry tweaks. The front and rear thru axles, wider rims, meatier tires, longer fork, stiffer bottom bracket and frame all add up to a very different ride from the race bikes. With the Xcal, I always felt awkward getting it off the ground and noticed flex in the frame and fork when ripping corners. 5 minutes after getting on the Stache I was wheelie dropping stairs. 20 minutes into the ride I was hitting doubles and casing some, following my guide off unknown-to-me drops and over skinnies while pinning it through corners. This bike taunts you into doing stupid things then uses the longer travel and big wheels to make up for any shortcomings. This thing loves to carve corners. Itís forgiving of mistakes. Itís far more playful than the race bikes.
Thoughts on the build:
My build is a bit heavier than stock. Most of it is in the wheels. The stock wheels (rhytm elite 29er) are strong and decently light given their intended use. I can feel the extra weight in my wheels, mostly on the climbs. I prefer the SLX brakes that the stock bike comes with over the XX brakes Iím running. Shadow plus derailleurs are one of the most substantial new technologies to come along in the last several years. I canít see ever buying a rear derailleur that doesnít have this technology. Between the new brakes and the shadow plus derailleurs, Iím firmly back on the Shimano bandwagon.
I like the new 29.3 tires that come on the stock bike. The 29.4 I have on the front now is much like a kenda nevegal. It sticks like glue to the trail, but also rolls like itís stuck to the trail with glue. Slow. Iíll probably swap it for a 29.3 and keep the 29.2 in the back. The 29.3 fits in with Kenda Slant 6 tires. Its a great compromise between rolling resistance and traction.
The last several times Iíve bought bars Iíve gone longer. They always feel weird at first, but I end up liking them. Iíve been through 680mm, 710mm, 725mm and now 740mm. Iím very happy with this width.
For most of my riding, a dropper post is unnecessary. But I have really liked having it on more technical rides. The joplin functions as itís intended, but Iím lusting after a Rock Shox Reverb with stealth routing.
I just had my AC joint reconstructed this morning and Iím off the bike for 3 months. When I get some more time on the bike in the spring Iíll add to this review.
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Thread: Review: Trek Stache 8ish.
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