Blister Brand Guide: Trek Mountain Bike Lineup, 2021

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 huge product offerings across the road, gravel, CX, triathalon, 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 / or “Knock Block” integrated stem and headset design, which keeps the bars from turning past roughly 70° to either side, in an effort to keep the bars from scratching the frame, pulling out cables, etc. during a crash from happening. On a few of their 2021 bikes (like the new Slash), the Knock Block system is removable since they don’t feature the Straight Shot downtube design that would cause the fork to hit the downtube, though many other Trek bikes do not provide the option to go with a more traditional stem / headset, given their Straight Shot downtubes. Also, many Trek build kits feature a frame paint-job option that is an additional $500 due to their unique colors and tones, available through their “Project One” program.

For 2021, Trek’s overall lineup stays pretty similar to their 2020 lineup, with some new colorways, adjusted pricing, and overhaul of the Slash, and the removal of the Stache and Full Stache from their lineup. Those last two bikes can be found in our 2020 Trek MTB Brand Guide

Trek is currently based in Waterloo, Wisconsin, USA.

Current Warranty (for the original retail purchaser, model year 2020 and newer bikes)

  • Lifetime warranty on all frames.
  • Two-year warranty on all rear suspension linkage components as well as paint and decals on all bikes.
  • Subsequent owners (second or later) are entitled to a three-year warranty from the date of original purchase from the retailer.
  • For more information, visit Trek.

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

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)

Trek Marlin

Trek’s budget hardtail, complete with knobby tires designed for off-road use and disc brakes. Ideal for those on a tight budget or those looking for a mountain bike that could double as a commuter.

Consider If:

Don’t Bother If:

  • 4: $499.99
  • 5: $569.99
  • 5 Women’s: $569.99
  • 6: $669.99
  • 6 Women’s: $669.99
  • 7: $849.99 – Best Budget Build & Most Performance for the Price
  • Specialized Rockhopper
  • Giant Talon
  • Kona Hardtails
  • Cannondale Trail / Tango
  • Scott Aspect
  • Rocky Mountain Fusion & Soul
  • Norco Storm & Fluid HT
Trek X-Caliber

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.

More like the Marlin than the Procaliber.

Consider If:

Don’t Bother If:

  • 7: $1,039.99
  • 8: $1,269.99 
  • 9: $1,579.99 – Best Budget Build & Most Performance for the Price
  • Specialized Chisel
  • Giant XTC SLR
  • Kona Kahuna
  • Scott Aspect
Blister Brand Guide; Blister provides an overview on Trek's 2021 mountain bike lineup

Trek’s XC race hardtail. Procaliber frames feature Trek’s IsoSpeed decoupler, which is designed to offer more compliance and comfort than traditional hardtails. Also features straight shot downtube with Knock Block.

More like the Supercaliber than the X-Caliber.

Consider If:

Don’t Bother If:

  • 9.5: $1,999.99
  • 9.6: $2,649.99 – Best Budget Build 
  • 9.7: $3,999.99 – Most Performance for the Price
  • Specialized Epic HT
  • Scott Scale
  • Giant XTC
  • Norco Revolver HT
  • Pivot Les
  • Santa Cruz Highball
  • Canyon Exceed
  • Cannondale F-Si
  • Ibis DV9
  • Mondraker Chrono Carbon & Podium Carbon
Blister Brand Guide; Blister provides an overview on Trek's 2021 mountain bike lineup

Unique XC race bike designed to take the best of both hardtail and full suspension designs. It uses Trek’s “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:

Don’t Bother If:

  • 9.7: $4,799.99 – Best Budget Build
  • 9.8 GX: $$6,299.99
  • 9.8 XT: $6,299.99 – Most Performance for the Price
  • 9.9 XTR: $8,999.99
  • 9.9 XX1: $9,499.99
  • 9.9 XX1 AXS: $10,499.99
  • Litespeed Unicoi
  • Cannondale Scalpel
  • Due to the unique nature of this bike, there aren’t many direct competitors.
Blister Brand Guide; Blister provides an overview on Trek's 2021 mountain bike lineup

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

More like the Top Fuel than the Supercaliber.

Consider If:

Don’t Bother If:

  • 6: $1,049.99
  • 7: $1,279.99
  • 8: $1,789.99 – Best Budget Build &  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 2021 mountain bike lineup

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 Fuel EX than the Roscoe.

Consider If:

Don’t Bother If:

  • 7 SX: $2,699.99
  • 8 NX: $3,199.99 – Best Budget Build
  • 9.7: $3,999.99
  • 9.8  GX: $5,699.99 
  • 9.8 XT: $5,699.99 – Most Performance for the Price
  • 9.9 XO1: $7,999.99
  • 9.9 XTR: $7,999.99
  • 9.9 XX1 AXS: $9,499.99
  • Specialized Epic EVO
  • Santa Cruz Tallboy / Juliana Joplin
  • Yeti SB115
  • Pivot Mach 4 SL
  • Giant Trance 29
  • Transition Spur
  • Kona Hei Hei
  • Ibis Ripley
  • Intense Sniper Trail
  • Norco Revolver FS 120
  • Devinci Django 29
  • Cannondale Scalpel SE
  • Scott Spark
  • Mondraker F-Podium DC
  • Banshee Phantom
  • Evil The Following
Blister Brand Guide; Blister provides an overview on Trek's 2021 mountain bike lineup

Trek’s best Quiver Killer. Designed as a trail bike that can do it all well. Features a storage compartment in the downtube (carbon models only). Adjustable high / low geometry settings via flip chip. Features Straight Shot downtube with Knock Block.. (Check out our First Look and initial on-trail impressions of the Fuel EX)

More like the Top Fuel than the Remedy.

Consider If:

Don’t Bother If:

  • 5 Deore: $2,099.99
  • 7 NX: $2,899.99 – Best Budget Build
  • 8 GX: $3,499.99 
  • 8 XT: $3,499.99
  • 9.7: $4,299.99 
  • 9.8 GX: $5,499.99
  • 9.8 XT: $5,499.99 – Most Performance for the Price
  • 9.9 XO1: $7,499.99
  • 9.9 XTR: $7,999.99
  • 9.9 XO1 AXS: $8,499.99
  • Specialized Stumpjumper 
  • Santa Cruz Hightower & Tallboy / Juliana Maverick & Joplin
  • Pivot Trail 429
  • Yeti SB130
  • Kona Process 134 29”
  • Pivot Switchblade
  • Giant Trance X 29
  • Rocky Mountain Instinct
  • Intense Primer 29
  • Norco Optic
  • Devinci Troy 29
  • Cannondale Habit
  • YT Jeffsy 29
  • Evil The Following MB
  • Canyon Neuron
Blister Brand Guide; Blister provides an overview on Trek's 2021 mountain bike lineup

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

More like the Slash than the Fuel EX.

Consider If:

Don’t Bother If:

  • 8: $4,099.99 – Best Budget Build
  • 9.8: $5,699.99 – Most Performance for the Price
  • Santa Cruz Bronson / Juliana Maverick
  • Pivot Mach 6
  • Yeti SB140  
  • Kona Process 153 27.5
  • Rocky Mountain Altitude 27.5”
  • Giant Trance
  • Norco Sight 27.5”
  • Canyon Spectral
  • Transition Scout
  • Intense Primer 27.5
  • YT Jeffsy 27
Blister Brand Guide; Blister provides an overview on Trek's 2021 mountain bike lineup

New for 2021, the Slash received 10 mm more travel front and rear, longer and slacker geometry, and a new Rock Shox Super Deluxe Thru Shaft rear shock designed completely around the bike. Also new is storage in the downtube on both alloy and carbon models. Additionally, it features the updated Knock Block 2.0, which has a greater range of steering and is removable (this bike does not have a Straight Shot downtube, so the fork crown cannot impact the downtube even with Knock Block removed). Adjustable high / low geometry settings via flip chip. (Check out our full review of the Slash)

More like the Remedy than the Session.

Consider If:

Don’t Bother If:

  • 7: $3,499.99 – Best Budget Build
  • 8: $3,999.99 
  • 9.7: $4,799.99
  • 9.8 GX: $5,999.99
  • 9.8 XT: $5,999.99 – Most Performance for the Price
  • 9.9 XO1: $7,999.99
  • 9.9 XTR: $8,499.99
  • Specialized Enduro
  • Santa Cruz Megatower 
  • Pivot Firebird 29
  • Yeti SB150
  • Giant Reign 29
  • Rocky Mountain Altitude 29”
  • Scott Ransom
  • Intense Carbine
  • Commencal Meta AM 29
  • YT Capra 29
  • Devinci Spartan 29
  • Evil The Wreckoning
  • Nukeproof Mega 290
  • Norco Range 29”
  • Canyon Strive
  • Mondraker SuperFoxy
Blister Brand Guide; Blister provides an overview on Trek's 2021 mountain bike lineup

Trek’s dedicated downhill bike. Adjustable high / low geometry via flip chip.

Consider If:

Don’t Bother If:

  • 8 27.5: $4,799.99
  • 9.9 29: $7,999.99
  • Aluminum 27.5 Frameset: $2,199.99
  • Carbon 27.5 Frameset: $3,999.99
  • Specialized Demo
  • Santa Cruz V10 
  • YT Tues 
  • Giant Glory 
  • Pivot Phoenix
  • Devinci Wilson 
  • Commencal Supreme DH
  • Canyon Sender
  • Scott Gambler
  • Kona Operator

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