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2017 Trek Remedy 9 RSL

Performance

I got the Remedy just before I headed south for my annual-ish spring pilgrimage to Moab, and that’s fantastic, because there are very few better places to put a long-travel bike through its paces than on the rocky chunder of Moab.

Climbing

Yes, the Remedy is mostly designed with descending in mind, but I’m going to talk about climbing first, because the Remedy is a spectacularly good technical climber. If I’m going up something super rooty, rocky, or similarly problematic, the Remedy is one of the best I’ve ever ridden. And I’m not saying it’s one of the best technical climbers in the all-mountain / enduro category. I’m saying it’s one of the best technical climbers I’ve ridden, period.

The Remedy has a really low front end for how much travel it has, and the suspension design combined with the RE:aktiv rear shock make for a pretty active rear end that does a superb job at maintaining traction. Combine that with longer-than-average chainstays and a reasonably steep seat angle, and the Remedy can smash, crawl, and otherwise work its way up super bumpy climbs really, really well. I think I can best sum it up this way: there are climbs on my local trails that I’ve ridden many, many times that I’ve never cleaned on any other bike, but I cleaned them on the Remedy. And that’s with the fork at full travel; I very, very rarely drop the fork down into 130 mm travel mode, because the abrupt change in handling screws me up on techy climbs.

All this gushing does, however, come with some caveats: while the Remedy is extraordinarily good on techy climbs, it’s pretty average on less steep, less rocky grunts. While the active rear end maintains traction on tricky rock problems, it also means the Remedy has some pretty noticeable pedal bob. The RE:aktiv shock and its inertia damper do an ok job of minimizing that, but the Remedy’s suspension still likes to bounce around a bit on smoother road climbs.

And there’s also the fact that the Remedy is a pretty big, slack bike that isn’t setting any records for its weight. So if you’re used to climbing on big, slack, fairly porky bikes, this won’t be a problem. But if you’re coming from a more XC-ish bike (or a bike with older geometry), the Remedy’s handling is going to feel less-than-sporty on climbs.

Descending

Ok, so the Remedy can go uphill. But anyone looking at this bike is probably a bit more concerned about how it fares on the way down.

To put it briefly, this thing crushes. There is no bike that I’ve ridden with this little travel that has the ability to make square-edged hits and truly rough terrain utterly disappear. I’ve ridden DH bikes that don’t do this well in rough terrain.

I’ll get into comparisons at the end, but I’ll say it again: in terms of descending prowess, the Remedy is a notch above any other bike that I’ve ridden that has this little travel. Part of the credit for that goes to the fork — the Lyrik thrives in rowdy shit. But that slack frame, longer wheelbase, and longer chainstays make for a bike that comes into its element when pointed down steep, rough trails.

Noah Bodman reviews the Trek Remedy 9 RSL for Blister Gear Review.

Noah Bodman on the Trek Remedy 9 RSL. (photo by Marc O’Brien)

A lot of the credit for the Remedy’s ability to level rough trail goes to the RE:aktiv shock. The compression damping holds the shock high in most situations, keeping the bike from feeling like it’s wallowing deep into its travel. But once you smack a big square-edged rock, the damping pops wide open and allows the bike to make significant obstacles in the trail utterly vanish.

I do, however, find the threshold where the shock “lets go” and transitions from supportive to “bump-swallowing” is fairly abrupt, and much more noticeable than on most other shocks. Turning up the low-speed compression on a high-quality shock kind of has the same effect, but the cutoff as the damping opens up and allows the shock to use more of its stroke is much more severe on the RE:aktiv.

And that abrupt transition in how the shock performs really impacts how this bike rides, both for good and for ill. The good (as I said above) is that the Remedy has the ability to do a ridiculously good job of leveling the trail, especially when considering that it doesn’t quite have as much travel as many of the enduro bikes on the market that inevitably become comparison points on a bike like this.

The downside, however, is that I found the setup of the shock to be fairly critical. My initial setup was right around 30% sag in the rear, which is my normal starting point for most long-ish travel bikes. But with that amount of sag, I found that it was really, really hard to make the Remedy leave the ground.

(A scenario: there’s a short, rocky section of trail coming up with a nice little wedge-shaped rock at the beginning of it. I figure I can pop off that rock and skim over the rest of that section. But as I go to pop off the rock, the rear shock kicks into “bump-swallowing” mode, and it absorbs the rock, along with all of my efforts to load up the suspension and pop the bike off the ground.)

But Trek actually recommends slightly less sag — about 28%. And by the end of my time on the bike, I was down to running around 25% sag. And at that sag setting, the Remedy retains 90% of its trail-leveling prowess, but was also a pretty lively bike that would readily pop off of anything and everything.

So basically what it comes down to is that a 5% difference in the sag effectively changes the blow-off threshold for the inertia damper in the rear shock, which makes a huge difference in how the bike rides. And if that last sentence got a bit too technical, let me put it this way: a 5% difference in sag changed the bike from a bump-sucking monster that wanted to stick to the ground and plow through everything, to a fairly lively bike that was impressively good at popping, pumping, and leaving the ground at every opportunity.

All other attributes of the Remedy aside, this was the part that was most impressive to me. With a small tweak to the suspension, the bike could offer ride qualities that were substantially different. Sure, reducing sag on any bike is going to make it feel a bit poppier at the cost of plow-ability. But the degree of difference that you get out of minor changes to the sag on the Remedy was far greater than any other bike I’ve ever ridden. It does, however, mean that setting the suspension correctly is going to matter a bit more.

Aside from the RE:aktiv shock, the Remedy’s suspension did exactly what I wanted it to, which is to say, it didn’t do anything weird. The Remedy is decently progressive, which helps out with that small-bump suppleness while also keeping the bike from bottoming out too hard on big hits. And the leverage ratio is pretty straightforward, meaning that the Remedy doesn’t tend to wallow around in the middle of its stroke; it’s just a nice, smooth ramp-up throughout the travel.

It’s also worth noting that Trek has put a bunch of effort into stiffening up the Remedy, and those efforts seem to have paid off. Past Treks I’ve ridden have been acceptable-ish in this department, but certainly not impressive — bigger riders were no doubt getting some flex out of the frames.

The new Remedy isn’t the absolute stiffest bike I’ve ever ridden, but I never noticed any flex. So while I wouldn’t call the Remedy overbuilt, I certainly wouldn’t call it underbuilt, either. Unless you’re a behemoth who destroys corners and frames all in one fell swoop, I think the Remedy will get the job done quite well for 99.9% of riders.

NEXT: Comparisons, Bottom Line

2 Comments

  1. Blister Member
    Tom June 26, 2017 Reply

    Great, detailed (yikes!) review on a great bike, Noah. I’ve got the predecessor in 29 and love it. Kinda hoping Trek adds that model next year.

    I’ve also got a 2016 Fuel EX that I use for endurance racing (disclosure — Trek helps me out in this regard). I’ve been pounding this bike for nearly two full seasons (including a few laps up, over and around Tally Mountain in your back yard). A few observations on both bikes FWIW:

    1. Love the water bottle capability. Both of mine (21 or 21.5) will hold a one-liter Zefal Magnum bottle. Heaven!

    2. I’ve never had FS bikes with longer lasting, quieter pivots. On new bikes, I pop out the seals from each bearing, and top them off with Dumonde Tech liquid grease. Never had a peep from either bike, going on two seasons for the Fuel EX and three seasons for the Remedy.

    3. The Reaktiv rear shocks are everything they are cracked up to be for trail riding. Like a Brain that works right. For actual racing, I use a shock with firmer lockout valving for the inevitable gravel road climbing sections in just about every endurance race.

    4. As an old school guy, I wondered about the integrated lower headset bearings. Turns out to be a non-issue, and the Remedy has seen a LOT of rugged, rocky riding.

  2. Blister Member
    James July 27, 2017 Reply

    Noah — thank you for the detailed review. I have been looking at buying the Fuel EX 9.8 and was wondering how much I could infer from your review of the Remedy in considering the Fuel EX? In general the review seems very favorable of the Remedy and trying to ascertain if you were to review the current Fuel EX if you would reach similar conclusions. I know it’s a difficult question to answer but hoping for some guidance. I’m coming off of a 10-year old 26″ Santa Cruz Superlight and would like to upgrade. I’m a little cautious of going all the way up to a 29er vs. a 27.5, but I like the components on the Fuel EX 9.8 and some of the common characteristics of the Remedy in your review hit home with me. I live in Marin County and truth be told do most of my riding on fire roads, although I plan to increase riding of single tracks. A local bike shop in Fairfax is really pushing the Norco Optic 9.2 or 7.2, but I haven’t seen any recent reviews of Norco to assess.

    Love your reviews and keep up the great work. I hope Jonathan is healing well!

    Thanks,

    Jim

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