Compared to the Devinci Wilson Carbon
The Session is noticeably lighter, and it also feels a bit taller than the Devinci Wilson Carbon. In terms of smashing through rough terrain and braking bumps, the two bikes are actually pretty similar. They’re also similar (both remain quite active) while on the brakes. The Wilson feels a little more composed at high speeds and, presumably due to the more progressive suspension, seems to handle hard hits better. The Trek feels a touch smaller and more maneuverable, even though it actually has a slightly longer wheelbase than the Wilson. Part of this is due to the shorter reach on the Trek (10 mm shorter on the Large), and part of it comes back to the Trek’s light weight.
Compared to the Canfield Jedi
These two bikes ride quite differently. The Jedi is a point and smash kind of bike. It’s slack and heavy, and it does best pointed down the fall line, and it that situation it does very well. The Trek rewards a more active riding style, and while it’ll carry speed through rough patches just fine, it’s more likely to get kicked off line if you try to ride it like a sled. The Trek is far better on jumps, and I found it easier to carry speed through tight berms and awkward corners – both in corners and on jumps, the heavily rearward axle path of the Jedi and its elongating wheelbase make things trickier. The Trek also feels much smaller, so I’m really comparing the Large Session 9.9 to a Medium Jedi.
Compared to the Specialized Demo (old / 2-sided version)
I haven’t been on the new single sided Demo, but compared to the “old” version, the Trek carries speed through chunky terrain a bit better, and the rear wheel is less likely to hang up in holes. I also find the longer rear end makes it a little easier to carry speed through corners. Conversely, it’s easier to be precise with the Demo’s short rear end, and the Demo frame is stiffer. In terms of jumping, I wouldn’t declare a clear winner assuming both bikes are using the same rear shock. I did, however, find that the Ohlins coil shock on the Demo made it tougher to jump compared to a Cane Creek Double Barrel or Fox. Like with the Jedi, since the Trek is pretty small, I’m comparing a Large Session to a Medium Demo.
Compared to the Rocky Mountain Maiden
The Maiden is a heavier, burlier bike, and that extra heft plays out on the trail. The Trek feels more maneuverable, but also not quite as stiff. Through rough terrain, the Maiden hangs up in holes pretty noticeably whereas the Session 9.9 floated through holes without losing speed. The only place where I’d give the nod to the Maiden is on jumps – while the Session isn’t a terrible jumper, the Maiden was more playful and fun. In terms of sizing, by the numbers, a Large Maiden is pretty similar to a Large Session, although I’d say the Session feels a touch bigger.
Aaron Gwin had his best season yet aboard a Session, and I can see why. It’s an extremely competent bike if you want to go fast on technical trails — it holds speed through holes and chunkiness as well as any bike I’ve ridden, and it’s surprisingly easy to ride it fast through corners.
The biggest downside I can come up with is really that, coming off of some bigger, heavier bikes, the Session 9.9 at times felt skittish at speed. I do think, however, that with more time to fiddle with the suspension and get used to the bike, I could minimize that.
If someone’s looking to just hammer out laps on A-Line and isn’t particularly concerned with speed on technical trails, this probably isn’t the bike I’d recommend — I’d lean toward something a bit more playful, and probably with a burlier frame that’d be more likely to withstand some crashes. But if you are looking to go as fast as possible, maybe win some races, and still have a bike that’s fun to ride at a non-race pace, the Session would be pretty high on my list. Just consider sizing up, since the frames feel pretty small.