What is it? 29+, oh no not another wheel size I hear you say? The Trek Stache is a hardtail based around the 29” wheel platform utilising 3.0” tyres. Trek have spent the last 4 years developing what was called 'Project Weird', an in-house research project based around frame geometry and trying to figure out just how short a chainstay length was possible with a larger tyre. These experiments led to developments that would eventually make their way onto the Stache, including the sliding Stranglehold dropouts that allow the bike to have 420mm chainstays, which is short even for bikes with 'normal' sized tires, and extremely impressive when considering the wheel dimensions of the Stache. To enable these short stays, Trek have worked with SRAM to develop the new Boost wheel spacing offering. The goal with the new bike was to have something that was enjoyable to ride everywhere (this is NOT a fat bike), although with an admittedly different on-trail feel than what most riders are used to. The model in review here is the Stache 5 which is totally rigid, albeit fitted with a carbon rigid fork taken from the popular Trek Superfly (US only model). The Stache 5 does come with a 1x10 drivetrain but my intention was always to make this Single Speed. Reasons for purchase For many years I have ridden and raced Single Speed – we’re not going to discuss the merits of gears ‘v’ single speed in this review! It was at the European Single Speed Championship I first became aware of the 29+ format as the then (and current) World SS Champion was riding a custom made frame with the larger tyres. Yes, they do look quite a bit larger than a standard 29er tyre but they really do look in proportion with the rest of the bike. This had me thinking: one of the biggest advantages of riding 29” over 26” is momentum, which is critical for single speeding. As 29+ has a theoretical overall diameter of 31” then this would surely make an amazing single speed bike, right? Initial investigations found that it was possible to have custom titanium frame manufactured or go with a heavy steel frame from a more main stream manufacturer. Ultimately neither option was ideal due to cost and a resistance to have an unwieldy bike in the fleet. When Trek announced their 2016 bikes part way through 2015, I placed my order to secure one of the first bikes into the country. The main reason for the purchase was 29+ but I was intrigued by the Stranglehold drop out adjustment which would allow me to run the bike as single speed without the need for a chain tensioner. Initial impressions WOW those tyres are BIG! The bike is a real eye turner. This is mainly down to the colour but when you look at the thought that has gone into the frame design it is easy to understand where the 4 years of development has gone. It just looks right as the proportions are spot on. Out of the box this bike comes in at 26lb, which considering the price (£1300), the width of the rims and size of the tyres is a really good weight. Immediately 2lbs can be shed by going tubeless (yes the tubes do weigh 1lb each!) but it should be noted that the bike comes with tubeless ready rims, tubeless ready tyres, rim tape is already fitted and the tubeless valves are supplied with the accessories so it’s a relatively easy fix. Removing the gears, adding carbon bars, swapping out for a shorter stem and a layback seatpost has taken the total bike weight to 22lbs which would be deemed light for a 29+ bike. How it rides… Looking down on to that front tyre is very strange at first but you soon adapt. It does take a little bit more effort to get up to speed, but once it gains momentum it'll cruise right along, with nowhere near the amount of rolling resistance I'd anticipated despite the massive footprint of each tyre. When it comes to technical sections, the extra rollover ability that 29ers possess is one of their biggest strengths, and the Stache’s supersized dimensions take this to the next level. Roots and rocks simply disappear under the wheels, squashed beneath the 3” Chupacabra rubber. The traction available is truly unbelievable, again proving why this makes a perfect single speed bike as you need as much help as possible to push the gearing on the climbs – the footprint is almost 50% larger than a standard 29er tyre which explains why the tread pattern is pretty minimal. The tyres have a very round, low profile tread and the high volume allows them to be run at much lower pressures than normal – I have found 11 psi to be perfect for my local trails. The front end is dialed in to fun mode. With a 50mm stem fitted, the 730mm bars allow you to muscle the wheels into bends and through roots and rock gardens. Handling is accurate and it is great fun to ride. The low bottom bracket height keeps your weight low, meaning the bike is happy being pushed deep into corners. Grip in the corners is so high that you will have to recalibrate your senses – this bike just keeps on gripping, well passed what would be deemed acceptable on a standard 29er tyre. It is important to note that swapping back to ride a standard 29er bike could be quite alarming as it will not offer the grip levels you have become accustomed to! Verdict The Trek Stache is a fun bike and I would challenge anyone who doesn’t agree. From the levels of grip and compliance of the larger volume tyres, to the playful nature of the geometry, this a worthy bike to own. These assets provide a fun bike with a great spec for a compelling price. I am sure that Trek will sellout of Stache’s in the coming months. For the Stache 5, I think setting this up as single speed has allowed further exploitation of those assets as they emphasise what is important (and necessary) to single speed effectively: grip, momentum, responsiveness and an effective chain tensioning mechanism. Could I ride 29+ all the time? Yes, but what would I do with my other bikes…….
Friday 20th November 2015