Announcing the new 2015 carbon version of the Slash at Crankworks Whistler last week seemed appropriate as Trek continues to tweak their quiver to satisfy a diverse group of riders, in this case the ever-growing Enduro crowd. I was fortunate enough to demo the 2015 Slash Carbon 9.8, which should be available for order in the coming weeks. The Slash Carbon borrows the majority of its engineering from its highly-acclaimed aluminum brother, with a lighter, stiffer frame and a few minor changes.
The Deets (from Trek):
- Frame: OCLV Mountain Carbon main frame & seatstay, alloy chainstay, Carbon Armor, ABP Convert, Full Floater, E2 tapered head tube, BB95, internal derailleur & dropper post routing, ISCG 05 mount, magnesium EVO link, Mino Link, 160mm travel
- Fork: RockShox Pike RC, 2-position Solo Air spring, rebound, adjustable compression damping, E2 tapered steerer, 15mm Maxle Lite, 130mm/160mm travel
- Rear Suspension: RockShox Monarch Plus RC3 DebonAir, rebound, lockout, 8.25×2.375
- Rear Derailleur: SRAM X1, Type 2
- Shifters: SRAM X1, 11 speed
- Chainset: SRAM X1 1400 X-Sync, 32T
- Bottom Bracket: BB95
- Chain: SRAM PC-1130
- Cassette: SRAM XG-1180, 10-42, 11 speed
- Headset: FSA NO.57E, E2, sealed bearings
- Stem: Bontrager Rhythm Pro, 31.8mm, 0 degree
- Handlebars: Bontrager Rhythm Pro Carbon Riser, 31.8mm, 15mm rise
- Front Brake: Shimano XT hydraulic disc
- Rear Brake: Shimano XT hydraulic disc
- Brake Levers: Shimano XT hydraulic disc
- Rims: Bontrager Maverick Pro Tubeless Ready w/TLR strips
- Front Hub: Bontrager Maverick Pro, Stacked Lacing 15mm front
- Rear Hub: Bontrager Maverick Pro Tubeless Ready w/TLR strips, Stacked Lacing, 142×12 rear
- Tires: Bontrager XR4 Team Issue, Tubeless Ready, 27.5×2.35
- Saddle: Bontrager Evoke 3, hollow titanium rails
- Seatpost: RockShox Reverb Stealth, 2-bolt head, 31.6mm, zero offset
- Grips: Bontrager Race Lite, lock-on
Note: you won’t find this model on the Trek site yet, but the geometry and fit for the Slash 9 aluminum can be found on their site here.
The fit and finish of the Slash C is breathtaking, with a beautiful dark carbon layup and murdered out parts that go well with the green 9.8 and red 9.9 . It’s light (27-28lb range)… I didn’t have the opportunity to weigh it myself, but I was surprised by how feathery this 160mm enduro monster felt when I lifted it, and on the climbs.
The adjustable Rockshox Pike, Reverb dropper post, and SRAM X1 drivetrain illustrates that Trek engineers are listening to their riders and paying attention.
After a few initial adjustments (saddle, post height, brake levers, etc.) this bike felt dialed from the get-go. The Trek rep asked me if about 45 minutes sounded about right for the demo, and I reassured him that I would not be back anywhere close to that… and I wasn’t. The demo was setup as part of a mass event on the west side of Denver, and I elected to climb Dakota Ridge and test every function of this medium-framed bike that I could.
Quick to accelerate, the bike was a crisp climber despite the 32T ring on the relatively-steep Zorro climb to the Hogback, though I quickly had to drop the adjustable Pike from 160mm to 130mm. The front end continued to wander even at 130mm, but it was manageable on all but the steepest sections. Then it wasn’t.
Still, the XO1 drivetrain was smooth, quiet, and flawless. Tight switchbacks proved to be a chore for this bike, even with a 43.3in wheelbase and 17.05in chainstays. I had to get off and pivot around two switchbacks that I usually clear on my own bike, but keep in mind they are insanely steep and tight… and they are not what most riders encounter. If you have ever ridden Dakota Ridge from north to south, you will undoubtedly remember the stairs, which has two sections: the lower section which can be cleared by strong riders, and the upper section which is out of reach for mere mortals. This bike was not designed for either, so bring a good pair of Enduro-approved shoes.
The infinitely-adjustable Pike makes it easy to find the sweet spot on trails that are pedally, and the Rockshox Debonair is also well suited for flatter sections of trail with three settings. If you ever have the opportunity to demo the Slash C, you will quickly notice that this bike was designed for, and rewards, speed. I found it difficult to “crawl” over chunkier sections of trail, unless I picked up the pace, leaned back, and just let the bike do what it was engineered to do.
Not surprisingly, the Slash carbon was made to go downhill fast over rocks and roots and all manner of trail trash. Also not surprisingly, this bike excelled when pointed in the general downhill direction. The suspension was dialed and plush, the frame was stiff and quiet, and the Slash plowed unfazed through billowing rocks.
I have noticed on this particular stretch of technical trail, which I have come to know quite well, that 650b bikes (and 26ers as well) tend to get hung up in holes or gaps that 29ers bridge with relative ease. It is surprising that such a small difference can make a large difference in performance, but again, the Slash C will overcome this the faster you go, floating over gaps and wiggling tighter corners (that 29ers struggle with) if you are willing to bike the bullet and put the pedal to the metal.
Jumps, rollers, and kickers
Eager to test the suspension, I tackled the hardest features that my gut would allow on this uber-techy stretch of God-made singletrack. The Slash C did not disappoint, with soft, controlled landings and remarkable flick-ability in the air given it’s geometry. Bottom line: this bike likes to fly.
Trek continues to prove that Wisconsin has much more to offer the world than great cheese, cheap beer, and an insanely cool indoor bike park. One quick ride around the block can in no way do this bike justice, but it is clearly and squarely aimed at the Enduro crowd. It climbs ok. It hates going slow, especially over technical terrain. It comes alive the faster you go. It is a low, slack, gunslinger aiming straight for the podium. It fits the bill for the up-and-coming “mini-downhill” bike category that kills it as an all-mountain/trail bike that leads a double life as a lighter bike in the park and downhill courses. If you are looking for a light, stiff bike to race Enduro or go bigger than your friends on your local trails, the Slash C is a bike worth trying.