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Lightweight Trek Fuel EXe re-imagines eMTB

Small-but-mighty motor aims to add pep without overpowering.

Trek Fuel EXe Photo by: Sterling Lorence

Modern eMTB have developed to the point where they are more powerful and longer-lasting than some riders need, or want. With the new Trek Fuel EXe, the Wisconsin brand is aiming to create an e-bike for those riders that want an assist without being overpowered or putting up with unnecessary extra weight.

Mountain bikers that don’t want the bulk of a full-power eMTB, or are regularly finishing rides with a half-charge remaining on the latest-greatest super battery. That’s not to say there’s anything wrong with the full-powered eMTB. Just that Trek is trying to do something different with the EXe.

Trek’s aim with the Fuel EXe is to create a mid-powered e-bike that drops the bulk without losing functionality. The key to that is an all-new and lightweight motor from the German brand TQ. It’s lighter, still delivers sufficient power and, as a big bonus, doesn’t sound like most eMTB motors.

TQ HPR50 Trek Fuel EXe
The tiny TQ HPR50 motor in a Trek Fuel EXe. Photo: Julian Mittelstaedt

The motor: TQ HPR50

It feels weird to start a bike launch with the motor, but TQ’s HPR50 is so central to Trek’s EXe design that it’s the only way to start that makes sense. Without it, the EXe wouldn’t be able to hit Trek’s target balance of weight and power.

So, what makes it so special? It’s light, first of all. The battery and motor, combined, weigh just 3,900 grams. That’s with 50Nm of Torque and a 360-Wh in-tube removable battery. There’s also a 160-Wh range-extender option if you want to go further than the two-to-five-hour ride time Trek says the EXe gets off a full charge.

TQ gets the HPR50 to this meeting point of low weight and solid power by using a different design. HPR stands for Harmonic Pin Ring system. This enables TQ to make the motor smaller and lighter. While it sounds new, TQ has been around for a while. The company was founded in 1994 and has over 1,000 employees.

Since the HPR system has only two moving parts, and operates at a lower RPM than most eMTB motors, it also has a quieter and more mechanical sound. Trek claims the HPR50 operates at 0.1 “tonality units” – a unit separate from decibels that measures sound quality. Trek isn’t the only brand using low RPM motors to get away from the high-pitched whirr of some drive units, but the TQ design is much smaller than any other similarly-mechanical sounding motors.

One final bonus of the TQ design is that it brings the Q-factor back closer to what you can get on analog bikes. So, if you have an eMTB and a meat-powered bike, you can get your fit close enough that moving between them is more seamless.

Trek Fuel EXe
Trek Fuel EXe 9.9 AXS

Back to bikes: Trek Fuel EXe

That is a lot of talk about motors for a bike launch. The most important part of this is what Trek does with TQ’s design. That is the EXe.

EXe is a 29″ trail bike with a carbon fiber frame, 140 mm of rear-wheel travel and a 150 mm fork. Trek says the EXe geo is designed for stability on steeps and at high speeds, with a head angle that sits just either side of 65-degrees, depending on which way the Mino flip-chip is set.

What sets the EXe apart is the weight. The top-end Shimano XTR build tips the scales at just 17.5 kg (38.5 lbs). That’s just shy of the lightest eMTB trail bike on the market, but, with the TQ motor, delivers more torque than its lightweight competitors. It’s also not as light as Trek’s own e-Caliber electric XC bike, but the EXe  is a bigger bike and comes with more battery.

The lighter weight isn’t just nice for lifting the EXe onto a rack or into a truck. It should make this eMTB handle, and feel more like a normal mountain bike.

The TQ system also lets Trek make the EXe look more like, well, a mountain bike. The downtube, where the 360-Wh battery is stored, is 39 per cent smaller than Trek’s Rail eMTB. That gives the EXe a more traditional (i.e. analog) look that blends the Fuel EX and Trek’s larger Slash model in appearance.

For riders that want to add a bit more party to their ride, and liven up the handling, the EXe is mullet-approved. All you have to do to switch out the stock 29″ wheel for a 27.5″ is keep the Mino-link in the high setting. Trek does add that the smaller wheel circumference will affect the accuracy of the spread reading, which cannot be adjusted. But the brand doesn’t say if that will effect when the EXe stops providing support at its max speed.

Trek Central app
Trek Central app.

Trek Central app

Modern eMTB are getting more refined, as are the riders. The new Trek Central app (available for Google and iOS) that rolls out with the EXe lets riders customize the tune of their HPR50 motor. It also builds on the outgoing Trek app, adding options to track activities, map rides and, on the top-end 9.9 and Project One models, monitor tire and suspension pressure through the TyreWiz and AirWiz accessories.

The Fuel EXe can also connect and pair with most Bluetooth or ANT+ cycling computers, like a Garmin.

Trek Fuel EXe 9.9 XTR
Trek Fuel EXe 9.9 XTR

2022 Trek Fuel EXe: models and pricing

Trek is offering the Fuel EXe in a range from 9.5 to 9.9 and in Project 1 Now, and in mechanical and wireless drivetrains. The new lightweight eMTB should be available directly through Trek or at local dealers.

The SRAM AXS-equipped bikes will come with Trek’s “extension cable” to run AXS off of the TQ battery. If the motor drains, Trek says the derailleur will get about 200 shifts before it also cuts out.

Pricing starts from $8,400 for the Shimano Deore and RockShox Gold-equipped EXe 9.5. From there, it escalates all the way to a staggering $18,300 for the EXe 9.9 XX1 AXS, with Bontrager Line Pro 30 carbon fiber wheels, integrated carbon fiber bar-stem combo, SRAM’s top-end XX1 Eagle AXS wireless drivetrain and RockShox’ combo of Lyric Ultimate fork and Super Deluxe Ultimate shock, both with AirWiz.

All models use the same TQ HPR50 motor and 360 Wh battery.

Fuel EXe 9.5 $8,400.00
Fuel EXe 9.7 $9,400.00
Fuel EXe 9.7 (P1 N) $10,050.00
Fuel EXe 9.8 XT $11,200.00
Fuel EXe 9.8 XT (P1 N) $11,850.00
Fuel EXe 9.8 GX AXS (P1 N) $14,200.00
Fuel EXe 9.9 XTR (P1 N) $16,800.00
Fuel EXe 9.9 XX1 AXS (P1 N) $18,300.00