Hello everyone. As promised, a little review on my brand new Trek DS 8.4. As I mentioned, I upgraded the components because i knew i would take this to the Fullerton Loop, which is a great trail here in Orange County, Ca and an awesome testing ground for new offroad bikes. It has varying surfaces like Asphalt, Single Track, Trails, Hills, and pretty knarly Downhills. All in a 13.4 mile loop. My test was to see if it can handle all of this and manage to take whatever the Loop gave. I am new to the whole riding scene, but as you can see, very excited to tell about it. I got back into riding for fitness reasons. Nine months ago, I was at my all time high weight of 294lbs! I had a ton of health issues, hypertension, shortness of breath, 2 congestive heart failure attacks..I was in bad shape. I decided to change my life around and started going to the gym, eating right, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. I got my weight down to 255lbs. but reached my plateau. I rediscovered biking especially mountain biking and lost another 25 lbs. This was a little over a month ago. I was hooked and although I had an older bike, a Rigid '91 GT Avalanche, it gave me motivation. It was old though, chain would come off when i would torque it hard, gears skipped..it was time to research a new bike. I looked at many, including a 2012 GT Avalanche, then narrowed it down to the Trek FX 7.5 and the DS 8.4. After many nights of reading on it and Deathly Hollow's review, it was clear, the DS won my choice.
Trek Dual Sport 8.4 Gary Fisher Collection
Weight As Tested:
The reason for my upgrades was to try to have the Dualsport 8.5's components with the 8.4's paint scheme. That and there was no 8.5's in stock ANYWHERE in my area. I know, silly as it may seem or not as practical, I am a visual person with a background in Art and Graphics. Looks matter to me, as well as performance. So I upgraded the Hays Hydraulic Disc Brakes to Shimano Hydraulics, Changed the Shifters to Deore as well as the Crank. The Rear derailleur was upgraded to a Shimano SLX. The only other upgrade on the components are the SRAM Rear Cassette which was an 11-34, instead of an 11-32. I finally added some Profile Design Bar Ends. I didn't, however upgrade to the Suntour Fork with Remote like the 8.5, partly because After numerous calls to Suntour, i finally got through and tried to see if i can just purchase the Remote Switch separately. The customer service rep was very hesitant and finally suggested to buy a fork that already had a remote switch because the parts just to convert to the remote would cost over $400. REALLY????? For $400 I can get Rockshox online with Remote Lockout!
First Initial Thoughts(On Road):
So take my new ride out for a spin to the local college by my house, Cypress College. On the way there I start to do some testing.
Ride: Pretty smooth considering it has the Bonty knobbies on there, it isn't bad at all. This is with the Suntour Fork in locked position. The tires are definitely not as smooth as slicks, but they are fine for street use. For speed on the road i would definitely go to a more slick pattern instead of the knobbies. I went from Sidewalks to the street, going up the curbs and anything i can think of safely. So far, so good. I then changed the fork to the unlocked position and wanted to see how that felt. This is my first suspension fork bike so the feeling is really new to me. I have ridden for a minute other friend's bikes but never really RODE them to actually see how they felt. The experience is definitely different. It almost feels like I’m riding with a flat tire in front. I know it will take some getting used to if I kept it on open but also, it does absorb the bumps so much better than my rigid fork '91 GT Avalanche.
Brakes: The brakes were outstanding. So smooth and you don't have to muscle it like my old V-Brakes. I caught on to the feeling quick fast...Disc Brakes ROCK!
Shifting: Shifting was pretty smooth and went through all the gears great except the smallest gear in the rear, where it took an extra second or 2 to engage. No big deal for me though. I do know I am WAY faster on this bike than my 21 speed GT Avalanche. The gears (27 speed) give you all kinds of options. I almost feel guilty when going on an uphill and not really putting much effort. So much for fitness right? The big gear in front (gear 3) definitely is the hardest to pedal and takes a quite a bit of leg to go fast. Once you do though, you are flying! The biggest gear in the rear (Gear 1) along with the smallest in front(Gear 1) almost feels like you don't have a chain on the road. I can only imagine how it feels like when i take it to the trails!
Saddle: Although the saddle on my old bike wasn't the greatest, the stock saddle wasn't that much better. Maybe I just have to get used to it. However, looking around on the net with the different types of saddles, I’m considering getting an Allay "air saddle" where you can pump the saddle to your liking. They are not a balloon looking saddle, they actual look pretty sporty, but i just think i need something more comfortable.
Onroad Conclusion: Although it looks more like a mountain bike with skinny knobby tires, don't be fooled. The bike is FAST. It will pretty much take anything the road has to offer and doing it smoothly. Other than the knobbies on the road, the bike gets 4.5 outta 5 in my book.
Now for the REAL test: (OFFROAD):
I have to admit, although i whined about the knobbies on the road, i was getting nervous about taking the 8.4 to the trails ESPECIALLY the down hills. I knew it would do fine on the grass and the single track, but the downhills, well...that's another story.
Ride: As I started the Fullerton Loop with a few fellow STR members(5 to be exact) I noticed one thing right off the bat. The 8.4 ROLLS much more than the other bikes with 26" tires in my opinion. The 8.4's tires are a 700x38 but are equivalent to a 29'er tire. When I coast, i pass the other riders no problem. I turned the lock out knob to "open" position to get FULL TRAVEL off the Suntour Fork.
Single Track. When we approached the SINGLE TRACK SECTION, I wanted to see what it can do. WOW! Comparing it to my Rigid fork, it is a night and day difference. The singletrack at the Fullerton Loop is FAST. When I tried to go fast on my Rigid, the bumps would make my front tires leave the ground which took away traction, therefore, I would have to slow down a lot to stay on track. Because the 8.4 has a front suspension, my tires pretty much stayed glued to the packed dirt, allowing me to faster and faster, not need to use the brakes anymore or as much i should say. This rates a perfect 10 on my smile factor! Now I know it really isn't JUST leg strength and stamina on the single track. There really is a reason for suspension bikes..DUH!! It carved the corners much better than my Rigid and was just all smiles after that.
The Hill Climbs: After the single track, there is a small series of small hills. With my Rigid, I automatically went to 1/1 gears to go up those hills. By the time I went to the 3rd one, I would have to take a break and catch my breath. Not so much with the 8.4. I didn't go to 1/1 on the 8.4, but 2/3 and it climbed fine. Less effort and the larger tires make peddling much less. As I watched the other riders with 26" wheels, they would peddle like 100 mph while I was cruisin'. I wish I learned how to take advantage of my Cateye computer which has cadance on it. I know better now. After the series of hills was a LONG hill climb which gets steeper towards the top. I went on my regular pace then tested the 1/1 gears to see how easy/hard it would be to get to the top. It wasn't that bad at all. Actually, it was a lot less effort than before. Still an effort, but definitely was a lot easier. I’m glad i upgraded to the 11-34 cassette..it was a world of a difference from the 11-28 i had on the Rigid. The rest of the climbs were pretty much the same deal, still an effort, but LESS effort than before. Awesome!
Traction:Traction was surprisingly very good uphill as well. I don't think I slipped once, unlike my Rigid with the Kenda the SB8's, if I stood up at all to climb, I’d lose traction. I also think the non slippage is due to the larger 700x38 tires. More surface to contact to the ground.
The Down Hills. Now this is the part where I was a little sketchy about with the bike. So far, on the road, on the single track, and the climbs were awesome. Will it hold up doing downhill or would my front tires push and fly off the side of the mountain? This was the part i was always cautious, when I was with my Rigid. Especially with my Rigid, going fast downhill with a bunch of bumps and drop off is pretty scary to a newbie, even with the front tire slightly deflated. I have always been athletic, playing numerous sports in high school and college and some after, so I am no wimp when it comes to being athletic. But even then, when I felt my Rigid start to catch some air on the downhill, I naturally would want to slow down so I could steer the bike and control it. Not so fun. It was a different story with the 8.4. I now understood why so many other riders flew through the down hills so much faster than me. It wasn't just "Cajones Of Steel." The Suntour fork the 8.4 came with did its job! It soaked the bumps and allowed me to put the bike where I wanted..with no brakes! Well, i still used some brakes, but not like before. When you have total control of your bike, you can take it anywhere. If gives you more confidence as a rider and puts waaay less stress on you. I couldn't believe how fast i was going. I managed to look down a couple of times on the fork while going downhill and saw that the fork would bottom out. This is due to the short travel(only 63mm). 2.5 inches or so. It really doesn't sound a lot but it does it's job. I also think if you go to a fork with more travel (80mm) or about 3 inches or more (120mm) or about 5 inches, the geometry will change in the bike. That and it will look like a lowrider with a saggy back. I do plan on upgrading to either an 80mm or 100mm with remote lock out, but i also would have to take about 1 inch to 1.5 inches off the stem to fix the geometry(somewhat). That and so i wouldn't do a back flip while climbing up a steep hill. I don’t think a longer travel forks is needed if you only plan on doing trails and no major downhills that are very fast and bumpy. As far as grip, the skinny tires held its own, actually much better than I expected. With the combination of the larger tires and front shock, it was a good match between the two to make it a more than capable bike on the Fullerton Loop.
Sure, there are much better mountain bikes out there, with better front shocks and better tires MEANT for hard core trail riding, but remember, this is a DUAL SPORT. It's meant to be able to handle both, which to me it did quite well. Could it be better? I think so. It could use the wider tires and a larger front shock, but that is up to whoever rides the 8.4 and wants to lean more towards the Mountain Bike Aspect or the Road Bike aspect of the bike. Quite honestly, with the way the 8.5 is now, I think it is just fine for someone who just wants to do a little of BOTH.
Overall, the 8.4 did its job. Most riders told me I should have just gotten a mountain bike since I ride the mountain at least twice a week, get a purpose-built bike, etc., etc. I think that is just what I have done. Its purpose WAS to do BOTH Road and Mountain. And to test the 8.4 on the Loop is a great indicator of how the 8.4 can handle the abuse. At the last part of the trail was a little downhill but because of the rain, cracks on the packed dirt got deeper and my front tires got caught in between them sending me flying off the bike. I knew it was a pretty hard crash when I hit my head on the ground and my helmet flew off my head. (yikes). Like any machismo mentality, the first thing that came to my mind was "is my bike broken?" It wasn't...even though I did a front flip and both my arms and legs have man trail-rash on them now. The 8.4 survived and it did it with flying colors. The tires held up, but would definitely change them to wider tires if you plan on going mountain biking a lot. Same thing with on-road, if you plan on going faster, more on the road, go with the skinnier slicks. So to conclude my review and thoughts, the Trek DualSport 8.4 devlivered. Those Trek Engineers along with Mr. Fisher himself did a great job! The only other thing that happened was the lock out switch popping off after bunny hopping over a branch. I didn’t notice this until I was done with the ride and saw it was gone. Luckily, it was on the ground at the beginning of the ride, but been run over by bikes and whatever else that went on the path. I can totally see why the remote lock out would be the better choice..the switch is plain CHEAP. Fail on this part. Nothing to hold the switch in but friction..so i put silicon on it to prevent it from popping out..hopefully it stays. I do like the remote lock out idea. For now, now that I know the 8.4 can take what I have to give it, I will be happy going to the Fullerton Loop and the Santa Ana River Trail for a while, enjoying the ride and staying fit.
PS..ill post pics on Sunday..sorry again for such a long review..i just had a lot to say. =)