I've gained a lot of information from this forum, so I want to pay it back with my initial impressions of my Trek DualSport 8.5. The 8.5 I have is a 2012 model. With the 2013s on the way, this review may only apply to those picking up the last of the stock or buying used.
My 8.5 is completely stock except for the addition of the Wellgo pedals, Bontrager 4w trip computer and an under-the-seat saddlebag.
My first ride was a 36 mile round trip on a paved trail. For most of the ride, I locked out the front fork. I found that I was able to accelerate and corner very quickly with the fork locked. It was also very convenient to remotely lock the fork on the fly. When I was shopping for a bike, I would say to the sales person, "I want a fast bike." I now realize how fast the bike will go depends not on the mechanics of the bike (about 15-20%) but the engine, (80-85%) you. During the the ride I was able to max out at 26 mph under my own propulsion on a flat straightaway that lasted about 1/5 mile. When we reached the half way point, we stopped to rest and snack before heading back. When I got off the bike, my legs felt like jello. My bum was sore. I wore padded biking shorts, but it didn't help much. As we started back, I could feel my left thigh starting to cramp. Needless to say the ride home was much slower.
Yesterday, I took the 8.5 out for a second ride. this time it was a 15 mile ride on mountainous fire-roads. It may have been longer then 15 miles, because I hiked the bike through a lot of the uphills. With the frequent stops and slow uphill hike, I'm not sure the bike computer was calculating correctly. From the parking lot there was an initial drop for about 200 yards, then it was all uphill from there. The climbing didn't stop for the better part of the next hour. Then I realized I must have been going the wrong way. All the other bikers and hikers were going the opposite way. I finally got to some fun downhill sections. This is where I wished the 8.5 had wider tires. Some parts were so rocky, I just let off on the brakes and let the 8.5 roll right through. Oh, then I realized I was lost and had to ride/hike the bike back up the same trail I was so happy to fly down. I shifted a lot from the smallest to the middle front gears. The shifts were seamless. I did accidentally shift into the biggest front gear for one section, and the gears were slipping. I will have to take it back to the LBS to see if they can fix it. I eventually doubled back the way I came in, never finding the "fun" downhill section I read about in reviews. Heading back down the sttep tail I walked up earlier, I was very clad I had good hydraulic brakes. Some parts were so steep, I had to get off and walk the bike down.
My impressions, I really like this bike. It's the first hardtail I have taken mountain biking. I have Wellgo pedals with clipless on one side. I wish I would have worn my biking shoes so I could clipped-in for certain parts of the trail. The shifts are quick, and I like that the index shifter can me engaged with the index going back or the thumb going forward. The brakes are great. It only squeaked under very heavy braking going down very steep sections. I was able to come to a complete stop on loose dirt and rocks without a problem. What made the bike smooth and fast on the paved trail was what made me uncomfortable on the mountain, the tires. Depending what I find myself riding the next few times out, I may consider switching out the tires for wider ones. If I find that I am really getting back into mountain biking, I will just keep the 8.5 mostly stock, and buy a 29er FS bike.
I thought about waiting until September to get the 2013 8.5. I like to have the latest and greatest. I'm glad I didn't. There are always going to be better bikes out there. I think it is more important to just ride.