2020 Trek Top Fuel reviewed

Head down country on this quick and nimble bike

February 4th, 2020 by | Posted in MTB | Tags: , , , ,

The Trek Top Fuel was once the pinnacle of the Madison, Wisc.-brand’s line of dual-suspension cross country racing bikes. It’s since been replaced by the new and innovative design of the Supercaliber. The company, however, has kept the Top Fuel in the line for 2020.

So where does this new model fit in? If you look at its geometry chart, you can see similarities with the Yeti SB100 and Intense Sniper. Both are established bikes in the “down country” category. I wanted to see how the Trek compared with others within this new breed of more aggressive cross country race bikes.

RELATED: Trek uncovers new Supercaliber XC race bike

2020 Trek Top Fuel
2020 Trek Top Fuel. Photo: Matt Stetson

Based on looks, the new 2020 Top Fuel appears more of an XC race bike as opposed to a more aggressive trail slayer. Full carbon everything, including very slight seatstays, means a medium-size frame comes in at a featherweight 2.5 kg. Paired with a full XTR build and 29″ Bontrager Kovee XXX wheels, my test bike was hovering around 10 kg.

On trail with the 2020 Trek Top Fuel

I never once complained about the bike while climbing, not only because of the weight, but also because the rear suspension has amazing small-bump performance. The Top Fuel eats up roots and rocks on climbs. It even rewards you for standing up out of the saddle and powering over bigger obstacles. I could lean really far forward without losing traction in the rear, which seems to be the Achilles heel of some bikes in the same category. I suspect the slightly longer chainstays help with the bike’s climbing abilities. Many brands seem to have been caught in a shorter-is-better competition to achieve the most compact chainstays. Trek and the Top Fuel have reminded me that for those of us who climb as much as we descend, a little extra length out back really helps.

RELATED: Trek ups the octane for 2020 Top Fuel bikes

One of the biggest changes with the new Top Fuel is its geometry. Trek gave the bike a slacker front end to help manage descents better and offer more stability at speed. The bike certainly handles steep trails much better than the previous version and feels more composed ripping through fast sections of trail. When things start to get really rough, though, the bike did tend to go through its rear travel rather quickly. I felt like it took more effort to keep the bike online in rough sections of trail when compared with similar bikes. Those bikes, however, don’t climb as well as the Top Fuel does.

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Where I think the Top Fuel really shines is in marathon and stage racing – events in which you need a light and efficient bike to pedal for long distances, but also need to manage technical trails. A lot of gravity- focused tech is spilling into cross country bikes recently, which is great, but is sometimes a detriment to a bike’s climbing abilities. It’s good to see that Trek thinks balance is impor- tant for a bike meant to go up as much as it’s meant to go down.

2020 Trek Top Fuel C

Frame: Trek Top Fuel C

Suspension: Fox Fox Performance Float (120 mm), tested with Fox Factory 34 fork (120 mm)

Wheels: Bontrager Kovee XXX Boost TLR 29 MTB

Sizes: S, M, M/L, L, XL

Price: $4,000 (frame, shock, stem and headset only)