Bike: 2014 Trek Session 9.9
Size Tested: Medium
Geometry: (see section below)
BIke Weight: 36.5 lbs (16.56 kg) with Deity Compound Nylon Pedals (339g)
Complete Build: (Here)
- Drivetrain: Shimano Saint
- Brakes: Shimano Saint
- Fork: 40 Float 26 FIT RC2
- Shock: Fox DHX RC4
Reviewer Info: 5’8”, 165 lbs.
Days Tested: 7
Test Location: Whistler, BC
Trek first released the Session back in 2009. Since then, they’ve introduced a carbon triangle and seatstay and the bike’s rear travel has been bumped up to 210mm. Throughout those revisions, the Session has remained one of the most popular downhill bikes on the market and has taken its fair share of world cup podiums.
The 2014 version of the Session 9.9, reviewed here, is supposed to wallow less and handle square edge hits better than its previous iterations. Situated at the top of Trek’s gravity bike pecking order, the Session 9.9 is one of the lighter weight DH bikes out there.
Construction and Frame Design
The Session 9.9’s rear suspension linkage features Trek’s Active Braking Pivot (ABP DH) design, in which the pivot to the rear axle. This is intended to separate braking forces from suspension forces, and allow for a floating rear shock.
The Session 9.9’s frame design also lets you make minor tweaks to its geometry, via an eccentric pivot mount at the back of the carbon rocker link. Trek calls this the Mino Link, and it allows for a half-degree head angle adjustment and a 4mm change in bottom bracket height. (I rode the bike in the most slack setting for this test.)
At the front of the frame, built in fork bumpers help route cables internally, emerging on the top of the down tube in front of the bottom bracket. A downtube guard helps allay concerns about the durability of a carbon fiber downhill bike.
Geometry and Sizing
For the most part, the Session 9.9’s geometry is pretty average. It’s bottom bracket height is 14.02” (when in the slack setting), the chainstays measure a fairly typical 17.36”, and the 63.6 degree head angle is also pretty middle of the road. However, the Session 9.9’s 15.51” reach is a bit unusual.
I’m 5’8”, and this bike felt short in a size Medium (my lower back even started cramping while riding the Session 9.9). Tight turns were easier on the Session 9.9 than on the Specialized S-Works Demo 8 or Knolly Podium. However, the Session 9.9’s shorter 46.61” wheelbase seemed to sacrifice some stability at speed and made it more difficult to roll over stair-step features (which the Demo 8 is especially good at).
I do have a longer than average torso and arm length, but would still strongly recommend checking out the Session 9.9 in a larger frame size than what you would usually typically go for.
The Session 9.9 is decked out with a full Shimano Saint build kit (brakes and drivetrain). I’ve always had good experiences with Saint components, and my experience here was no different.
The bike is spec’d with DT Swiss FR 600 rims and a standard 157mm rear hub that allows for guides on the frame to hold the hub in place while you insert the axle.
The biggest concern I always have with downhill wheels is their durability. And though I don’t have enough time on the Session 9.9 to really get a sense of how sturdy (or not) the FR 600’s are, the wheels performed well—they felt fairly light and stiff.
The Session 9.9 is set up with a Fox 40 Float 26 Fit RC2 fork up front and a DHX RC4 shock in the rear, both tuned in conjunction with Fox to suit the bike.
The Session’s cockpit and tires are Bontrager items. I was unsure about the Bontrager bar, which is a very flat, fairly swept piece. I’d heard good things about the Bontrager G4 tires though, so I was excited to give them a shot. I’ll say more below about both.
The Fox Float 40 (with air spring) felt fantastic; its performance was much better than the RockShox Mission Control Damper I rode on the Specialized S-Works Demo. Performance through large bumps and big impacts was comparable, but hand fatigue and arm pump were much reduced on the Float 40, and traction was improved.
The Fox RC4 rear shock matched the fork well. At first the shock blew through its travel much more quickly than the shocks on either the Specialized Demo or Knolly Podium. However, I was able to decrease the air chamber volume using the bottom out adjustment knob, and this made a world of difference.
The Session 9.9 still used most of its shock’s stroke more frequently than either the Specialized or Knolly, but no longer bottomed out unexpectedly after this adjustment.
(Alternatively, i could have moved to a stiffer spring, but that would have shifted my weight more to the front of the bike, and I liked the balance of the front and rear suspension as it was.)
I did feel the Session 9.9‘s rear end get hung up on some hits and larger holes that hadn’t fazed the Demo of the Podium (due to the Session 9.9’s more inward curving wheel path).