When we asked Shawn Tevendale, owner of Blue Ridge Cyclery, to recommend a killer trail bike to feature, he emailed a link back within a minute to the mechanical wonder you see here. “It’s like a monster truck,” Tevendale says. “It’ll go anywhere you want it to, and crush it.”
Tevendale also gives the Slash high marks for durability, which is good, since it costs more than $5,000. “This isn’t your first mountain bike,” he says. “Maintain it properly and it’ll last for a good five or six years of hard riding.”
Money matters and endurance aside, we’re keen on this bike for its purpose-driven design, high-tech fabrication, on-the-fly adaptability, and safety features, including hydraulic disc brakes.
It also looks pretty sweet, which is good, because who wants to ride an ugly bike?
Trek Slash 9.8 specs
Frame material Carbon fiber from stem to stern. “It’s the miracle material,” Tevendale says. “Optimal weight-to-strength ratio.”
Frame fabrication The carbon fiber is laid up in different directions at various points, providing rigidity and strength where they’re needed most, and a degree of flexibility to facilitate responsiveness and make the rider feel more connected to the terrain.
Downtube and chain shields Armor deflects potential hits to the damage-prone chain and lower part of the frame.
Drive train A single-trigger system allows for quick changes through 11 gears.
Wheels Light, stiff, and more durable than metal, the carbon-fiber wheels provide a strong foundation. They are also 29 inches in diameter, for higher ground clearance and a smoother ride, owing to the better approach angle on obstacles such as roots and rocks.
Tires The knobby treads form a traction pattern that grips well in loose
leaves, slippery rocks, gravel, and more.
Front fork Dual air shocks with high-performance dampering systems are super responsive and can be tuned for better handling, but also absorb hard hits while riders descend.
Dropper post Adjustable by several inches—down for a lower center of gravity when descending, up for a better pedaling angle when climbing or on flat terrain.
Dual hydraulic pistons drive the caliper to provide strong stopping power, and the discs are specially shaped and perforated to dissipate heat caused by friction with the pads.
A traditional shock absorber is a canister that’s sealed on one end and has an internal, spring-loaded shaft extending out of the other end. Upon impact, pressure exerted on the shaft compresses the spring, which then rebounds. This process takes time. It causes lag and a rougher ride. The Trek shock, developed with race-car engineers, is open on both ends, and the shaft extends all the way through. During and after impact, the shock’s internal pressure remains constant, eliminating lag, smoothing out the ride, and increasing control.
They’re made of carbon fiber for weight reduction. “They also have some flex to take a bit of the sting out of your hands on impacts, but with the suspension this bike has, you really shouldn’t feel much sting in your hands, anyway,” Tevendale says.
Five great places to ride
Rivanna Trail: “It’s right here in the city, and you can do anywhere from one to 35 miles,” says Daniel Sebring of Blue Ridge Cyclery. He recommends O-Hill for “technical stuff” and Carter Mountain for “good climbs.” rivannatrails.org
Sherando Lake Recreational Area: Sebring calls it a “gold mine of trails” in the George Washington National Forest, with “lots of big climbs, 360-degree views, and expert rides.” fs.usda.gov/gwj
Claudius Crozet Park: “Start at Claudius Crozet Park and follow the trail down past the dog park along Licking Hole Creek,” says Cor Carelesen of Crozet Bicycle Shop. “The loop is about seven miles total.” crozetpark.org
Mint Springs Park: “Features various loop trails, about five to six miles in total,” Carelsen says. “It’s very accessible and has lots of elevation changes, so you can really challenge yourself.” albemarle.org
Preddy Creek Trail Park: It offers more than eight and a half miles of trails, with plenty of beginner rides, in 571 acres of wilderness, says Dave Stackhouse, former president of the Charlottesville Area Mountain Biking Club. albemarle.org