The 2016 Trek Stache has been getting a lot of attention with its 29+ wheels and 3in “semi-fat” tyres, but the previous version of the bike seemed to fly under the radar in the UK.
That’s probably because aluminium is just not as cool a frame material as steel, titanium or carbon fibre – and maybe also ‘cos the big T (as nobody is calling it) just isn’t as cool as some of its rival bike companies.
The bike initially came to my attention via a review on a US website raving about it being a 29er hardtail that you could “rally”, which I gather means the same as “shred” or “ride fast on downhill bits”.
It just so happened that at the same time there was a little-used 2013 Stache 7 for sale on Pinkbike so I made a bit of an impulse buy, if only to satisfy my curiosity about 29ers.
Some candy talking
I’d sort of been hoping to get a Stache 8 in the understated grey and green colourscheme, but as soon as I set eyes on the metallic candy red/orange frame I was delighted – it looked much classier in the flesh and appears to be more of a coloured lacquer than a paint.
The low weight and high quality of the frameset was also obvious as soon as I lifted it out of the box it arrived in, with neat welding and clever hydroforming all over the place.
Putting the bike together as it came and taking it for a quick spin down the street and into the woods was my first experience of wagon wheels and it was a real eye-opener. There was significantly more momentum and stability compared to my 26in hardtail – so the bike just ripped through little patches of mud as if I was on dry ground.
A longer test ride on familiar trails at Rivington Pike was also encouraging, with the big wheels making easy work of the cobbles and skimming over the roots and ruts.
However it soon became clear that the stock Rock Shox Recon Silver fork was lacking in the damping department, spiking so badly that it felt like it’d seized on bumpy trails.
Fortunately I’d foreseen this and had already snapped up a Revelation RCT3 fork and some better wheels in the CRC sale – and these also helped lose a big chunk of weight from the bike.
Like a steamroller, in a good way
With a 68 degree head angle, the bike is relatively slack by 29er standards and the Gary Fisher G2 geometry gave it a nice long top tube a couple of years before most other manufacturers caught up with that particular trend.
This means the bike is impressively composed on steep and/or technical trails – where the big wheels and the 780mm handlebar and 45mm stem I’ve fitted make it feel like a steamroller.
Now steamrollers probably aren’t that much fun to pilot down twisty singletrack, so maybe that’s not the best description – because the Stache certainly is fun in the woods – with the 51mm offset fork providing nimble steering and the long wheelbase meaning the bike can carry a frightening amount of speed when it gets the chance.
Despite it’s long top tube and slack angles, the Stache differs from the new crowd of cool 29ers at the rear, where its 442mm chainstays fit into the “average” rather than “short” category.
The downside of this is that the bike doesn’t snap round corners as quickly as some, but the BB isn’t high so it still corners well enough. The upside is even more stability and an ability to drift a bit when needed.
The big wheels and the high-quality frame take the edge off the bumps to an extent, though there’s no escaping that alu hardtail harshness if you ride it on really rugged terrain.
I tend to use it for local woodsy singletrack rides though – and I even did a few XC races on it this year. While it’s packing a few extra pounds compared to pure XC race bikes, the Stache is light and versatile enough to hold its own – and with some more XC tyres (I had Specialized Purgatory and Butcher in 2.3in) it would have been even more competitive.
In fact its versatility is the thing I like the most about the Stache.
It can eat up trail centres, cover ground and descend confidently in the hills, race XC and pootle along canal towpaths – and in each situation it never gives that much away to more suitable bikes.
That Gary Fisher bloke obviously knows a bit about mountain bike design, whoever he is.