Trek Stache 9We got the 29+ Stache 9 Out Of the Box here and then Grannygear did the somewhat controversial mid-term here.  To get another perspective, JeffJ spent a good amount of quality time on the Mid Fat version of Trek’s trail hardtail.  And while his words will do all the explaining, from my viewpoint that bike was made for him.  Here we go.  gg

Trek Stache: Clyde Rated?  By JeffJ

Having been a fan of the original Trek Stache since we tested it back in 2013 (I liked it so much I bought one for myself, and have been very happy with it), I was excited to hear that we would be testing the 2nd generation Stache. I was a little perplexed as to why they were making such a big change to a bike that I thought was already awesome, and apparently abandoning the original. I still feel like they could have retained the original, and perhaps released this bike with a different model name, but that is for another time.

Before we proceed…I had some ‘burning questions’:

  • Are the plus size wheels somewhat of a niche novelty choice, or are they actually a viable option for riding on a wide variety of trails?
  • Could such a bike serve as an ‘only bike’, or fulfill the role of a trail bike without feeling the need for something similar that just has skinnier wheels (like the original Stache)?
  • Is the allure of super-short chainstays worth the tradeoff of not being able to run a front derailleur?
  • Is it a fun bike to ride?

As with the original Stache released in 2013, the latest incarnation also has scads of well thought out design features. The forward thinking choice of Boost hubs helps to shoehorn that big wheel into the frame, theoretically allows for building of stronger wheels, and helps to future-proof the Stache with respect to wheelset options. The replaceable Stranglehold dropouts make it a versatile platform that can be customized to several different wheel sizes and drivetrain setups. While we were not afforded the time or resources to see how all of those different options would work in the real world, I applaud the designers for making a bike that offers so much freedom to customize the setup to your liking should you choose to.

I like that the dropper post comes standard on this iteration of the Stache. The Stache 9 and a dropper post go together like peas and carrots. The KS eThirty Integra proved to be a solid reliable choice that gave me no problems during the test period.

As for the rest of the component choices, I think they did a pretty good job for the most part, but I think a couple of small things could elevate those choices from a pretty good rating to excellent.

I feel like a bike that has tires that are three inches wide has the potential to test the mettle of just about any braking system, and the larger sizes should come with a 203 mm front rotor, and an RT99 version rather than the RT81 would be even better for keeping the binders from getting too toasty. I was able to make them protest audibly on long descents.

Toward the end of our test, I began to notice some noise coming from the drivetrain. After riding alongside of me, Grannygear suggested that I remove the cassette so I could clean and grease the cassette and freehub body. His diagnosis proved to be on-point, and so with about 15 minutes worth of cleaning work and a few small dabs of grease spread around on the outside of the freehub body and the cassette spider where they mate together, the noise issue was remediated.

Trek Stache 9

Stache 9 resting above Big Bear Lake, Ca.

The next issue is a relatively minor one, but seems to be one of those things that keeps happening, and probably won’t change if nothing gets said. One size grip does not fit all. Grips are one of the three contact points on a bicycle, and they are important to all riders, not just those with average size hands. Larger humans have larger hands. Larger bikes are made for larger humans. There are some bikes that come with larger grips on larger size models (just like some come with longer stems, and sometimes wider handlebars among a few other parts that are different sizes for different size bikes), and I would like to see that become the norm rather than the exception.

One other thing that may have been agonized over or not, but the bottle mounts on the seat tube on the XL frame are not quite low enough to accommodate the larger size of my favorite water bottle due to the prominent tip on that particular bottle. Looking at the seat tube, and where it starts to really curve, it may have required that a standoff be used on the lower mount if were any lower. A half inch or so lower would probably do the trick. Some riders could not care less about water bottle, and for others, bottle mount issues can approach deal breaker status. YMMV.

The good news is that a couple of the preceding nits that were picked could easily fall into the ‘first world problems’ category when considering the big picture. Accommodations can be made for all but one, that being the lack of front derailleur options. If you need the lower gears for the type of riding you do, you may not be able to get down quite that far.

To geek out by the numbers, it goes something like this. Compared to the original 2013 Stache 8 (which came with a 24/38 chainring set and an 11-36 cassette, you essentially lose a full gear at the low end, and about half of a gear off the top end. I have included screenshots of my gear calculator spreadsheet showing three different options for the single chainring setup that the Stache 9 29+ could take advantage of, with the middle chart showing the stock 30t setup. The next screen grab shows the 2013 Stache 8 drivetrain gear numbers with the 2×10 drivetrain. The 2×10 drivetrain yields an even more limited range than the standard 3×10 drivetrains of the past. So, relatively speaking, 1x drivetrains have a noticeably narrower range from other drivetrains that use a front derailleur.

Stache8-9_GearCalcIf you’re trying to produce a 29+ frame with 420 mm chainstays, concessions have to be made, and when push came to shove, the option to run a front derailleur was the casualty. If the bike isn’t a hoot to ride, the range and number of gears is sort of a moot point.

Since I have no frame of reference of how the bike would ride with longer chainstays, I am in no position to declare they should have done what they had to do to be able to run a 2x drivetrain. I could picture a few scenarios where the relatively limited gearing options could detract from the bike’s suitability for some conditions, I think it could cover most common situations very adequately, with a higher than average reliability factor considering that there is no front derailleur, no front shifter, and the narrow/wide chainring that helps keep the chain where it’s supposed to be (on the chainring).

At the end of the day, a choice has to be made with respect to being able to run a front derailleur, or getting the chainstays as short as possible. There are lots of bikes out there with the ability to run front derailleurs. If you need one, get one. As for the new Stache, I think they made the right choice. I’ll go ahead and say it here; the Stache 9 29+ is a hoot to ride.

What all of that adds up to on the trail is a super reliable drivetrain with somewhat limited gearing options, and I can sign off on that prioritization on a bike like the Stache. It’s a good match for the type of conditions you can take on with this bike, which takes us into what the Stache is like on the trail.

Being a rider that falls solidly into the ‘clyde’ category, I found the stock wheels and Bontrager Chupacabra tires ran best for me at about 17 to 18 psi (we were running tubeless for this test). If I got down to 16 psi or below, I got a little too much bounce to the ride while pedaling briskly. The tires didn’t threaten to roll under my hulking girth until I went down below 13 psi, where they would also protest while cornering aggressively.

On our local trails (loose over hardpack, and mostly higher speed descending), I found myself saying over and over that “I don’t think I have ever descended that section of trail as fast as I just did.” It’s a blend of speed and confidence this bike afforded me that made it so much fun to bomb down the hills like a coyote chasing down a rabbit.

The situation where it most acted the same way other hardtails do, is when riding at 5 to 10 m.p.h. on false flat type sections of recently cut trail. If you were pedaling while seated, and that trail had not bedded in yet, the trail surfaces are still kinda lumpy, as though a small herd of cattle had trampled over it a couple days after it rained. Trails that are kinda ‘rumbly’  (I think I just created a new trail-word) but not really rough would have the same effect. The trail is not rough enough to make you feel quite like you should get up off of that thang, and I wouldn’t need to if I were on a full suspension bike, are just rough enough to throw me off a bit as I am pedaling along. If I were going faster or slower, it probably wouldn’t be an issue. . . . . . . well, maybe I just solved my own problem.  Pedal harder JejjJ.

Once you get the big wheels turning on flat ground, this bike can really motor along. Sandy, loose spots on trails must get much sandier and looser before they become a concern. (I can attest to this, trying to keep up with JJ on long, sandy and loose stretches of canyon bottom road.  gg)

I usually get the climbing section of a review out of the way before I get to the descending, but sometimes it’s OK to eat your dessert first. Not that climbing on this Stache was awful by any stretch. The wheels were not super snappy when accelerating, but they were better than I thought they would be. The fact is that this bike is in the 28 lb range, but the wheels are lighter than most expect them to be. Climbing over rocks and roots had me dodging them less than I normally would, and made maintaining my line up the hill a simple affair. Loose, steep climbs were noticeably less challenging as well, in spite of the limited gear range.

More than one rider that knows me well has commented that the Stache, with it’s 29” x 3 tires”, ‘looks normal’ with me riding it. After spending a good bit of time riding it, it does indeed feel normal to me, not the niche bike semi-novelty rig I was expecting. It is a distinct possibility that my clydeness plays a part in me feeling that way, and for those that fall a ways lower on the Sasquatch scale, this may not be the case.

Trek Stache 9

JeffJ making the Stache 9 look ‘normal’.

That brings me back to my burning questions:

Are the plus size wheels somewhat of a niche novelty choice, or are they actually a viable option for riding on a wide variety of trails?

Before the test, I honestly though the Stache 9 29+ would fall more toward being a ‘niche bike’ like the full on fat bikes do (for me).

Could such a bike serve as an ‘only bike’, or fulfill the role of a trail bike without feeling the need for something similar that just has skinnier wheels (like the original Stache)?

The more I rode this bike, the more I had to come to terms with the fact that for me, it absolutely could be an ‘only‘ hardtail, and the cornerstone of my quiver. And, if by chance there came a situation where I could only have one mountain bike . . . . . well . . . . . . I could see the Stache 9 29+ being the sole survivor in my stable.

Is the allure of super-short chainstays worth the tradeoff of not being able to run a front derailleur?

I believe the Stache 9 29+ makes a pretty good case for answering that question with a qualified ‘yes’. Maybe not a definitive yes for everyone, but I think that most riders could make the 1x work for them, although they may need to modify it a little in this case.

Is it a fun bike to ride?

Drops the mic. . .

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Note: Trek sent over this bike at no charge to Twenty Nine Inches for test and review. We are not being paid, nor bribed for these reviews and we will strive to give our honest thoughts and opinions throughout.