Blister Brand Guide: Trek Mountain Bike Lineup, 2020

Intro

When considering a new mountain bike, there are so many similar-looking bikes on the market being made by so many different companies, it is virtually impossible to (1) know where to begin; (2) quickly figure out which one or two products from a given brand might work well for you; and (3) determine what products from other brands might be the most similar and also worth considering.

So in our new “Blister Brand Guide” series, we provide an overview of the entire product lineup of a brand; highlight how each product stands out from the rest of that brand’s lineup; and help you figure out quickly and easily which bike might work best for you.

In our individual product reviews, we go very deep into the details of particular products. With these Brand Guides, the goal is not Depth, but Breadth. Our Brand Guides and full reviews are designed to complement each other — provide a broad overview of entire company lineups, and then also very detailed reviews of individual products. 

Our mountain bike Brand Guides are presented by CBGTrails. Learn more and start planning your trip today at cbgtrails.com, then download the CBG Trails app for info on the 750+ miles of singletrack and 150+ trails in Crested Butte and the Gunnison Valley, Colorado.

See our other MTB Brand Guides

About Trek

Trek was founded in 1975, and they are now one of the largest bicycle manufacturers in the world — they offer many options across the road, gravel, CX, triathlon, e-bike, commuter, and mountain bike categories. Today they produce mountain bikes ranging from entry-level hardtails to World Cup downhill sleds, meaning that there’s a Trek bike for just about anyone.

It’s worth noting that many of Trek’s bikes include the brand’s “Straight Shot” downtube and “Knock Block” integrated stem and headset design, which essentially means that the bike’s downtube is shaped in a straight line from the headtube to the bottom bracket to reportedly increase rigidity, decrease weight, and lower the front end. The consequence of their straighter downtube design is that the fork would contact the downtube after ~80° of rotation to either side, so the “Knock Block” integrated stem and headset design keeps that from happening (in this way, it’s somewhat similar to a dual-crown fork). Most other companies would curve the downtube to prevent the fork crown from impacting it, so Trek is unique in this regard.

Trek is currently based in Waterloo, Wisconsin, USA.

Current Warranty (for the original retail purchaser)

  • Lifetime warranty on all frames (with some exceptions, see below)
  • Five-year warranty on all swingarms on full suspension bikes (except for a few models)
  • Three-year warranty on Session, Scratch, Slash and Ticket aluminum frames and swingarms
  • Two-year warranty on Session and Slash carbon frames and swingarms and all rear suspension linkage components on all bikes
  • One year warranty on paint and decals. 
  • For more information, visit Trek.

Trek’s suspension design: Active Braking Pivot (ABP)

(For more on different suspension designs, see our Suspension 101 article)

Before we get into their specific models and build options, here are some things to keep in mind when deciding on which build level to go with, and why.

First, when looking at complete bikes, suspension and wheels are going to make the biggest difference in how a bike really rides. Spend money on those before other things like higher-end drivetrain parts, cockpit parts (e.g., stem, handlebars, etc.), cranks, etc.

Tires make an enormous difference in performance, but are cheaper and easier to upgrade, especially since they tend to wear down quicker than other components. Upgrading a lower-end front tire to something better — and saving the original for rear-tire use — can be a good way to improve a bike while still making use of the originals, since front tires are generally a lot more important than rear tires when it comes to traction.

Drivetrain parts can be upgraded piecemeal as they wear out, or if you just want to upgrade down the line. Higher-end cassettes are mostly just lighter, while higher-end shifters and derailleurs get lighter, smoother, and sometimes last a bit longer as you go up in price.

We’ll outline here the different models in Trek’s MTB lineup, organized from most cross-country-oriented (XC) to downhill-oriented (DH). In other words, the bikes at the top of the list are optimized to pedal and climb uphill very well, while the bikes at the bottom are optimized to handle very rough, steep, and challenging descents very well.

We’ve included some notable information for each model:

Available build kits & their MSRP

  • Best Budget Build: These are the build kits that we think make the most sense for people trying to spend the least amount without ending up with a build that’s going to immediately break or need to be upgraded.
  • Most Performance for the Price: These are the build kits that we think make the most sense for people seeking the best balance of performance and cost. I.e., if you don’t need to get the cheapest bike, but you also don’t need the absolute lightest bike or all the newest bling, this is the build we think makes sense for you.
  • Suspension travel (e.g., 100 mm of travel, 130 mm of travel, etc.)
  • Wheel size (e.g., 27.5”, 27.5+, 29”)
  • Frame material options (e.g., alloy vs. carbon)
  • A brief description of what the bike was designed for and any notable design details.
  • Some of the bike’s most direct competitors from other brands
  • Which Trek bike it’s most similar to
  • Reasons why you should buy it
  • Reasons why you should not buy it

Trek Mountain Bikes

(Most Cross-Country-Oriented to Most Downhill-Oriented)

Note: bikes and build kits with an asterisk* are from model year 2019, and may not be available throughout the 2020 season.

Blister Brand Guide; Blister provides an overview on Trek's 2020 mountain bike lineup
  • Front: 100 mm
  • Rear: Hardtail
  • 27.5" / 29"
  • Aluminum

Trek’s entry-level XC bike, ideal for beginners or those who prioritize low price over top-of-the-line components, low weight, and performance.

Consider If:

  • You are a beginner looking to get into the sport
  • You race cross-country and are looking for a good entry-level bike
  • You are on a budget

Don’t Bother If:

  • You often ride or race steep, technical, and bumpy trails
  • You like a bike that is forgiving on descents
  • You are willing to spend some more money for more overall performance
  • 7: $1,019.99
  • 8: $1,199.99 
  • 9: $1,579.99 – Best Budget Build & Most Performance for the Price
  • Specialized Chisel
  • Giant Talon 29
  • Kona Kahuna
  • Scott Aspect
Blister Brand Guide; Blister provides an overview on Trek's 2020 mountain bike lineup
  • Front: 100 mm
  • Rear: Hardtail
  • 29" (27.5" on XS, S)
  • Carbon or Aluminum

Trek’s XC race hardtail. Procaliber frames feature Trek’s IsoSpeed decoupler, which is designed to offer more compliance and comfort than traditional hardtails.

More like the Supercaliber than the X-Caliber.

Consider If:

  • You race or ride cross-country style on more smooth trails
  • You appreciate a lightweight hardtail that climbs well
  • You ride or race cross-country-style for long distances on more smooth trails
  • A hardtail with ride-smoothing qualities sounds appealing to you

Don’t Bother If:

  • You often ride or race steep, technical, and bumpy trails
  • You like a bike that is forgiving on descents
  • 6: $1,999.99
  • 9.6: $2,599.99 – Best Budget Build 
  • 9.7: $3,779.99
  • 9.8 SL*: $5,749.99 – Most Performance for the Price 
  • 9.9 SL*: $8,749.99
  • Aluminum Frameset: $1,099.99
  • Carbon Frameset*: $1,729.99
  • Carbon SL Frameset: $2,699.99
  • Specialized Epic HT
  • Scott Scale
  • Giant XTC
  • Norco Revolver HT
  • Pivot Les
  • Santa Cruz Highball
  • Canyon Exceed
Blister Brand Guide; Blister provides an overview on Trek's 2020 mountain bike lineup
  • Front: 100 mm
  • Rear: 60 mm
  • 29"
  • Carbon

Unique XC-race bike designed to offer the best of both hardtail and full suspension designs. It uses Trek’s new “IsoStrut” shock with pivot-less seatstays to provide rear suspension. Every model features Bontrager carbon wheels. Features Straight Shot downtube with Knock Block. It fits 2 water bottles in the front triangle.

More like the Procaliber than the Roscoe.

Consider If:

  • You can’t decide between an XC hardtail or XC full-suspension race bike
  • You appreciate a full-suspension bike that climbs very well
  • You ride or race cross-country-style for long distances on trails that are bumpy and / or slightly technical

Don’t Bother If:

  • You often ride steep, fast, technical, bumpy trails
  • You like a bike that is more forgiving on descents than it is a good climber
  • 9.7: $4,799.99 – Best Budget Build
  • 9.8: $5,899.99 – Most Performance for the Price
  • 9.9: $9,499.99
  • 9.9 AXS: $10,999.99
  • Frameset: $3,699.99
  • Litespeed Unicoi
  • Due to the unique nature of this bike, there aren’t many direct competitors.
Blister Brand Guide; Blister provides an overview on Trek's 2020 mountain bike lineup
  • Front: 120 mm (100 mm, XS)
  • Rear: Hardtail
  • 27.5"+
  • Aluminum

A great option for beginners, this budget-oriented hardtail features plus-sized tires with confidence-inspiring traction.

More like the Stache than the Supercaliber.

Consider If:

  • You are a beginner looking for a confidence-inspiring bike
  • You ride trails that have loose surfaces
  • You are on a budget

Don’t Bother If:

  • You often ride steep, fast, technical, bumpy trails
  • You like a bike that is more forgiving on descents than it is a good climber
  • You are looking for a lightweight, XC race-style hardtail
  • You are willing to spend more money for some more overall performance
  • 6 Women’s: $1,019.99
  • 6: $1,019.99
  • 7 Women’s: $1,259.99 – Best Budget Option
  • 7: $1,259.99 – Best Budget Option
  • 8 Women’s: $1,789.99 – Most Performance for the Price
  • 8: $1,789.99 – Most Performance for the Price
  • Santa Cruz Chameleon 27.5”+
  • Kona Big Honzo
  • Rocky Mountain Growler
  • Devinci Kobain HT
  • Giant Fathom
Blister Brand Guide; Blister provides an overview on Trek's 2020 mountain bike lineup
  • Front: 120 mm
  • Rear: Hardtail
  • 29"+
  • Carbon 0r Aluminum

Trek’s most downhill-capable hardtail. Adjustable chainstay length.

More like the Roscoe than the Top Fuel.

Consider If:

  • You appreciate hardtails, but want one that has slightly more aggressive geometry
  • You often ride trails that are slightly steep, bumpy, and technical
  • You are looking for a bike with plus-sized tires

Don’t Bother If:

  • You often ride steep, fast, technical, bumpy trails
  • You like a bike that is more forgiving on descents than it is a good climber
  • You are looking for a lightweight, cross-country race-style hardtail
  • 7: $2,499.99 – Best Budget Build
  • 9.7: $3,799.99 – Most Performance for the Price
  • Aluminum Frameset*: $1,069.99
  • Carbon Frameset*: $1,729.99
  • Specialized Fuse
  • Santa Cruz Chameleon
  • Kona Honzo
  • Transition Vanquish
  • Nukeproof Scout 290
Blister Brand Guide; Blister provides an overview on Trek's 2020 mountain bike lineup
  • Front: 120 mm
  • Rear: 115 mm
  • 29"
  • Carbon or Aluminum

Designed to be a middle-ground between XC and Trail bikes, the current version of the Top Fuel is designed to offer better downhill performance than the previous models. Geometry is adjustable via flip chip for high / low settings. Features Straight Shot downtube with Knock Block.

More like the Full Stache than the Stache.

Consider If:

  • You are looking for a bit more fun out of a full-suspension cross country bike
  • You appreciate a dropper post
  • You race or ride cross-country style on slightly bumpy, steep, and technical trails

Don’t Bother If:

  • You often ride steep, fast, technical, bumpy trails
  • You like a bike that is more forgiving on descents than it is a good climber
  • 8: $3,299.99
  • 9.7: $3,999.99 – Best Budget Build
  • 9.8: $5,499.99 – Most Performance for the Price
  • 9.9: $8,999.99
  • 9.9 XX1 AXS: $9,999.99
  • Aluminum Frameset: $1,999.99
  • Carbon Frameset: $3,299.99
  • Specialized Epic EVO
  • Santa Cruz Blur (TR Builds), Tallboy / Juliana Joplin Version 3
  • Yeti SB100
  • Pivot Mach 4 SL
  • Giant Trance Advanced Pro 29
  • Kona Hei Hei
  • Rocky Mountain Element
  • Intense Sniper Trail
  • Norco Revolver FS 120
  • Cannondale Scalpel Si-SE
  • Scott Spark
Blister Brand Guide; Blister provides an overview on Trek's 2020 mountain bike lineup
  • Front: 130 mm
  • Rear: 130 mm
  • 29"+
  • Aluminum

Full-suspension Trail bike with 29”+ wheels and tires designed to take on the most rugged backcountry trails. Adjustable high / low geometry settings via flip chip. Features Straight Shot downtube with Knock Block.

More like the Fuel EX than the Top Fuel.

Consider If:

  • You often ride trails with loose, sandy, and / or muddy surfaces
  • A bike with plus-sized wheels and tires sounds appealing to you and you want some more capability and forgiveness
  • You often ride rugged backcountry trails

Don’t Bother If:

  • You appreciate a lightweight bike (the Full Stache weighs ~34 lbs in a Medium)
  • The trails you ride are mostly hardpack
  • 8: $3,849.99
  • Frameset: $1,999.99
  • Salsa Deadwood
  • Funk Cycles La Ruta
  • Lenz Sport Fat Behemoth & Mammoth
Blister Brand Guide; Blister provides an overview on Trek's 2020 mountain bike lineup
  • Front: 140 mm
  • Rear: 130 mm
  • 29" (27.5" on XS, S)
  • Carbon or Aluminum

Trek’s best Quiver Killer. Redone for the 2020 lineup, the Fuel EX now features 10 mm more travel in the fork, updated longer, slacker, and lower geometry, and a storage compartment in the downtube (carbon models only). Adjustable high / low geometry settings via flip chip. Straight shot downtube with Knock Block.

More like the Remedy than the Full Stache.

Consider If:

  • You appreciate a bike that climbs well, but want some more capability than a pure XC bike
  • You want a bike that is relatively well-rounded
  • You ride a mix of terrain and styles

Don’t Bother If:

  • The trails you ride are mostly smooth and flat
  • You’re looking for a bike that is very capable and forgiving in steep, technical, fast, bumpy descents
  • 5: $1,999.99
  • 7: $2,899.99
  • 8: $3,449.99 – Best Budget Build
  • 9.7: $4,099.99 
  • 9.8: $5,499.99 – Most Performance for the Price
  • 9.9: $7,499.99
  • Aluminum Frameset: $1,999.99
  • Carbon Frameset: $3,299.99
  • Specialized Stumpjumper 29
  • Santa Cruz Hightower & Tallboy V4 / Juliana Maverick & Joplin V4
  • Pivot Trail 429
  • Yeti SB130
  • Rocky Mountain Instinct
  • Intense Primer 29
  • Norco Sight 29
  • Canyon Neuron
Blister Brand Guide; Blister provides an overview on Trek's 2020 mountain bike lineup
  • Front: 160 mm
  • Rear: 150 mm
  • 27.5”
  • Carbon or Aluminum

Trek’s 27.5” Enduro / long-travel Trail bike. Adjustable high / low geometry settings via flip chip. Straight Shot downtube with Knock Block.

More like the Slash than the Fuel EX.

Consider If:

  • You want a bike that is capable and forgiving on the descents
  • You like to ride fast and push yourself on descents
  • You race Enduro and / or like to shuttle to the top of descents and / or ride lift-served terrain

Don’t Bother If:

  • You ride mostly smooth and flat trails
  • You are looking for an cross-country-style bike that climbs very well
  • 7: $3,299.99
  • 8: $3,999.99 – Best Budget Build
  • 9.7: $4,499.99
  • 9.8: $5,499.99 – Most Performance for the Price
  • 9.9: $7,499.99 
  • Aluminum Frameset: $1,999.99
  • Carbon Frameset: $3,299.99
  • Specialized Stumpjumper 27.5
  • Santa Cruz Bronson / Juliana Maverick
  • Pivot Mach 6
  • Yeti SB140  
  • Kona Process 153 27.5
  • Rocky Mountain Altitude
  • Norco Sight 27.5”
  • Canyon Spectral
Blister Brand Guide; Blister provides an overview on Trek's 2020 mountain bike lineup
  • Front: 160 mm
  • Rear: 150 mm
  • 29"
  • Carbon or Aluminum

Trek’s 29” Enduro / long-travel Trail bike. Adjustable high / low geometry settings via flip chip. Straight Shot downtube with Knock Block.

More like the Remedy than the Session.

Consider If:

  • You want a bike that is capable and forgiving on the descents
  • You race enduro and / or like to shuttle to the top of descents and / or ride lift-served terrain
  • You want the benefits of fast-rolling 29” wheels
  • You enjoy pushing your limits on fast, steep, chunky, and technical terrain

Don’t Bother If:

  • You ride mostly smooth and flat trails
  • You are looking for an cross-country-style bike that climbs very well
  • You want a more freeride style long-travel bike
  • You’re looking for a long-travel 29er with geometry that is more long, slack, and low
  • 8: $3,699.99 – Best Budget Build
  • 9.7: $4,799.99
  • 9.8: $5,899.99 – $6,399.99 (depending on color options) – Most Performance for the Price
  • 9.8 XT: $5,899.99 – $6,399.99 (depending on color options)
  • 9.9: $7,499.99 – $7,999.99 (depending on color options)
  • 9.9 XTR: $7,499.99 – $7,999.99 (depending on color options)
  • 9.9 XO1 AXS: $8,499.99 – $8,999.99 (depending on color options)
  • Aluminum Frameset: $2,199.99
  • Carbon Frameset: $4,099.99
  • Specialized Stumpjumper 29 / Stumpjumper EVO 29
  • Santa Cruz Megatower 
  • Pivot Switchblade / Firebird 29
  • Yeti SB150
  • Santa Cruz Hightower LT
  • Scott Genius
  • Canyon Strive
Blister Brand Guide; Blister provides an overview on Trek's 2020 mountain bike lineup
  • Front: 200 mm
  • Rear: 210 mm
  • 27.5"
  • Carbon or Aluminum

Trek’s 27.5” DH bike. Adjustable high / low geometry via flip chip.

More like the Session 29 than the Slash.

Consider If:

  • You often ride lift-served bike parks or like to shuttle to the top of descents
  • The trails you ride are fast, steep, technical, rocky, rooty, and / or have large jumps
  • You like the advantage of agile 27.5” wheels
  • You race downhill and prefer 27.5” wheels

Don’t Bother If:

  • You plan on climbing to the top of descents
  • You want the advantage of fast-rolling 29” wheels
  • The trails you ride aren’t very fast, steep, technical, and bumpy
  • 8: $4,729.99
  • Aluminum Frameset: $2,199.99
  • Carbon Frameset: $3,999.99
  • Specialized Demo 8 27.5
  • Santa Cruz V10 27.5”
  • YT Tues 27
  • Giant Glory 
  • Pivot Phoenix
  • Devinci Wilson 27
  • Commencal Supreme DH 27
  • Canyon Sender
Blister Brand Guide; Blister provides an overview on Trek's 2020 mountain bike lineup
  • Front: 190 mm
  • Rear: 190 mm
  • 29"
  • Carbon
Trek’s 29” DH race bike. Adjustable high / low geometry via flip chip.

Consider If:

  • You race downhill and prefer 29” wheels
  • You want the advantages of fast-rolling 29” wheels
  • You often ride lift-served bike parks or like to shuttle to the top of descents
  • The trails you ride are fast, steep, technical, rocky, rooty, and / or have large jumps

Don’t Bother If:

  • You plan on climbing to the top of descents
  • You want the advantage of nimble 27.5” wheels
  • The trails you ride aren’t very fast, steep, technical, and bumpy
  • 9.9: $7,999.99
  • Carbon Frameset*: $4,399.99
  • Specialized Demo 8 29
  • Santa Cruz V10 29
  • YT Tues 29
  • Devinci Wilson 29
  • Commencal Supreme DH 29
  • Pivot Phoenix 29 
  • Scott Gambler

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