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  1. #1
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    '09 Fuel Ex 9.9 vs '09 Top Fuel 9;9 SSL

    Actually, I need some advice.
    I've been racing Road and Mt. for many years. I love to go very fast up hill. I like to go fast on most level terrain. Compared to "real" downhillers it would be fair to say I'm somewhat timid, although I have many race/battle wounds that might suggest I'm willing to push it for the sake of crawling up on to the podium. Anyway, like most passionate cycling fanatics I would rather spend saved bucks on the ultimate ride machine rather than, let say, an attractive young lady. And I happen to be eyeballing the 2009 Trek Fuel Ex 9.9 and the 2009 Trek Top Fuel 9.9 SSL. Anybody have some advice on one over the other? I'm also a weightweenie. Looking for the 20 pound machine. $7000 seems to be pushing the financial envelope, but hey, what else is there? I was also considering the Scott Spark Limited, but $10K+ is evil and "they" should be investigated for crimes against humanity.

    PS Any other full suspension 20 pounders that might be recommended?

  2. #2
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    You'll have a tough time getting the EX 9.9 down to 20 pounds if it is even possible. Mine was delivered a little more than a week ago and weighed 24.55 pounds right out of the box, without pedals. It weights 23.5 pounds with my Stan's ZTR 355 wheels, Maxxis Crossmark Exception tires, eggbeater pedals, the 11 tooth piece from the rear cassette removed, and the seat collar replaced with a lighter one (a seat collar without the lever).

    So far I love the EX 9.9. I'm still getting it dialed in just how I want it, but I love the bike.
    The bike just eats up bumps like they aren't even there.

    Like you, I was getting either the Top Fuel 9.9 or the EX 9.9, and went with the EX for multiple different reasons. With the Top Fuel I was worried about the 2x9 drivetrain with extended climbing when in the mountains, the standover height for the frame size was going to be a problem and I'd have to get a small frame and then purchase a long stem, the bike wasn't going to be available until late February, there are rumors that the carbon wheels won't be available so you might end up with Bontrager X-Lites (which are not that lite) and I'm more interested in endurance racing than flat out cross country so I preferred a more upright position.

    For what you describe, however, a 20 pound full suspension bike, I think you are going to need to get the Top Fuel and then put your own, light set of wheels on it along with some really light pedals. I think the Specialized S-Works Epic is also an option for you in addition to the Scott Spark Ltd. I haven't seen other full suspension bikes which weigh in the 20 pound range. Unfortunately, if you want a 20 pound dual suspension bike it is probably going to cost you.

  3. #3
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    thanks for your feedback, Gatorback. I am curious, what is your height? and weight? What size bike? What kind of terrain have you been riding on over the last week? Do you feel a quick response when you climb or does it feel heavy at all?
    I think I might agree and opt for the ssl. I have been wanting a 2x9 since I never use the small ring on my present mt bike (litespeed). What price did you pay? What bike did you have before and how much travel with both bikes?

  4. #4
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    Price--I got a fair discount--about 15%--I'm a loyal customer at the local shop, but the lbs still made a fair profit.

    I'm 5' 8" tall, but have shorter legs and a longer torso. The standover height on the 17.5" EX is 29.2 inches--which is right at my limit. The standover on the 17.5" Top Fuel is almost 30 inches. I weigh 144 right now, which is about normal for me.

    So far I have only ridden trails where I live--in Florida. I have ridden the bike on very technical terrain with nasty rocks and roots, on tight, twisty singletrack, and on flowing singletrack. It just eats up the bumps on the technical terrain. On the tight, twisty stuff it is a little more sluggish feeling than my old bike (an '07 Fisher Hi-Fi Pro, aluminum frame). The EX is more stable and not as twitchy, but that also means not quite as nimble. The Hi-Fi Pro wins out only in the tight, twisty stuff with the EX performing better on the technical terrain and on the flowing singletrack.

    The EX also climbs better than my Fisher. It definitely feels quick, not sluggish, compared to the Hi-Fi. Our climbs in Florida are the short, steep kind. You try to go in with speed and then stand and power up when you start to lose momentum. I felt a noticeable difference in climbing with the EX winning out. (My Hi-Fi weighed less than 25 lbs. with the modifications I had done, so it wasn't much heavier than the EX).

    The Fisher and the EX are both 4.75" travel bikes front and back, so travel is the same. I always ride in the propedal setting in Florida, switching to the open position only when doing descents when riding in the mountains.

    I never use the granny ring here in Florida, but I get to ride in North Carolina several times a year and unless you are just a great rider you need the granny ring up there for extended singletrack climbs. I climb all the fire roads up there in my middle ring, but the tough singletrack climbs are a different matter.

    I'm still trying to dial in the bike and plan to flip my stem over to make the position a little less upright. I am also using a lot higher air pressure in the rear shock than what is recommended. It was definitely too squishy with the factory recommended setting, even using the stiffest propedal setting. I have about 130 lbs. of pressure in the rear shock right now and may even add a little more. It still has a very plush ride even with more air pressure than recommended for my weight. First I'm going to play with the rebound some and see how that affects the ride. The way I am setting up the EX it will ride more like an XC bike than a very plush trail bike. If I want to convert to a more plush ride, I can always just switch off the propedal.

    Is the bike faster than the Hi-Fi, which very much leans XC as opposed to trailbike? I definitely think so. On Friday I did my own personal time trial ride, which I often do alone as a training ride, and rode my best time ever. I've never been able to break 50 minutes on that course, coming close twice and often riding it in about 52 minutes. I rode it in 49 minutes, 10 seconds on Friday on the EX.

    One thing I think you should think about with the Top Fuel is the shock. If you get the 9.9, it will have the carbon rear shock that only has the lockout or open settings. That was going to be a little bit of an unknown for me and I was comfortable with the Fox RP23 that has the 3 levels of propedal plus the open setting. So that was also a factor in my decision.

  5. #5
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    I just went through the same dilemma trying to choose between the Fuel Ex 9.9 and Top Fuel 9.9 SSL. I decided I like a slightly more stretched out position due to a road biking background. My current bike is very long and low. The Fuel EX feels too upright. Plus, the difference in travel is not enough to feel hindered by the Top Fuel on rougher trails. I ride in Colorado and find my older bike with only 2.5-3 inches of travel does just fine so 4 inches of more plush travel should be perfect with tubeless tires. I may buy a used Remedy if I decide I want an AM bike also.

    I didn't like the shimano triggers, rear non-platform carbon shock, and carbon wheels (>1450 grams on the recently updated Bontrager website!!!!) on the 9.9 SSL so I went a different route. I bought a 9.8 Top Fuel and had the entire drive train switched to Sram XO triggers and XTR. I am putting Avid Elixir CR brakes and a Easton Monkeylite SL riser on as well. The LBS is even switching the front fork to the SID Team model to gain the blackbox damping system. My frequent customer discount brought the final tally to well less than the price of the 9.9 model. I still have plenty of money left over to put ZTR Race 7000 wheels on it for race days. The bike should be plenty light. Hoping to be under 21.5pounds on race day. Doing something similar might be an option for you. Let us know what you decide. I'll post pictures when mine arrives.

    Now, if only I could decide on the pedals: Time ATAC titanium or Eggbeater 2Ti vs 4Ti!
    Any thoughts guys? My current Time ATACs have lasted nine years and still work.

  6. #6
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    Thanks for your input, muaddib. What is your height/weight? and what is the size of your 9.8? I am 6 foot and between 158 and 165 pounds depending on the time of year. I have a long torso and average length legs. I like the position of being more stretched out, too, like road biking. I usually find myself in that position on the mt bike most of the time. Is the 9.8 the same frame as the ssl? same weight? was the 9.8 an '09 model? Excuse me for my ignorance, but what is "AM bike", "LBS"? I'd like to see pictures of your bike when available. Sounds well thought out and very cool.

  7. #7
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    I am 5'9" with a shorter torso and long femurs and inseam. My racing weight is 138 pounds. I ordered a 2009 9.8 in size 17.5. I would think a 17.5 would be quite cramped for you and a 18.5 or 19.5 would probably fit best with me leaning toward a 19.5 if I was betting. I put my saddle very far back on the rails to obtain the proper knee position relative to the crank. This always adds 1.5-2 cm of length to the top tube length so I can get away with the smaller frame as long as the handlebars can be brought high enough (hence the riser handlebar). It's always tough to know for sure till you sit on a few bikes. For example, Lance Armstrong rides a 19.5 with a 120 stem and he is ~ 5'10.5" with average leg length and slightly longer torso I think. He doesn't look particularly stretched out either. The Top Fuels are hard to find in stores to size a frame. I sat on the Fuel EX in various sizes and made my best guess that way. Just remember that the Top Fuel has a 73.5 seat tube angle versus 72.5 for the Fuel Ex. Basically, this means even though the top tube lengths are nearly the same on paper for a given size, the Top Fuel will be slightly longer if the saddle is placed in the same position relative to the crank. I would compare measurements on your old bike and see how it stacks up with the geometry tables on trekbikes.com.

    The red carbon frame of the 9.9 SSL is ~ 60 grams lighter than the 9.8 black carbon frame, at least that is what I read somewhere on the internet. I think there is not too much of a weight difference overall. Not worth the price difference in my opinion. Lance just finished second at Leadville on a black carbon frame so the engine is definitely what matters most.

    AM means all-mountain. Think of it as heavy duty trail riding. LBS is local bike shop. A good LBS will work with you on swapping parts if they really want your business. Hope this helps.

  8. #8
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    I agree with mauddib's suggestion on looking at the Top Fuel 9.8 and then upgrading components. It comes with the Fox RP23 shock instead of the carbon shock with just the open v. pure lockout settings. The frame is slightly heavier than the 9.9, but you are talking a very small amount. You can take that bike, upgrade some components, and end up with a light bike. I had looked for weights on the 9.8, but wasn't able to ever find anything, but if he got his down to 21.5 pounds then you have a good idea of weight with some upgrades.

    One thing that is a bummer is the lack of availability of the Top Fuels in bike shops to sit on them for sizing. I spent a whole lot of time testing the standover height on different bikes in shops, then looking up the info on the Trek and Fisher websites. From what I hear, don't expect the lack of availability in shops to change because the demand is high. So don't expect to find them sitting around in the shops. It is my understanding the 9.8s will be on the demo vans soon, and may have already arrived now, so if you can find a demo day near you then you could get to try out a few sizes.

    Another reason to go with the 9.8 if you want the Top Fuel is timing and knowing what you are getting. The latest rumor I heard, which was rumor but from some people who have reason to know what they are talking about, is that the Bontrager carbon xxx-lite wheels may be scrapped for 2009 on the 9.9 because they may not be ready for production. There were some other issues that apparently keep pushing the delivery date back on the 9.9.

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