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Mountain bike upgrades complete: report & photos; New personal record.

Sunday, March 4, 2012 by  
Filed under Daily Blog

My Trek Fuel EX 8 after all upgrades.

My Trek Fuel EX 8 after all upgrades.

I’m still putting the finishing touches on my 2012 cut (presently at 177.2 pounds/6.5% body fat), but my main mountain bike has already completed her fat loss program.

When I started this project a few weeks ago my Trek Fuel EX 8 weighed in at 30.11 pounds, and I knew that there was a lot of room for improvement. My goal was to trim the fat while considerably improving performance, handling and reliability. Swapping out the drivetrain, shifters, saddle, handlebar, stem and pedals resulted in a substantial overall improvement, but only about a pound of weight reduction. I knew I could do better–much better.

The very heavy stock Bontrager Duster wheelsets along with the excellent, but weighty, WTB Velociraptor tires needed to go. The Duster wheels, in particular, never performed well for me: despite several trips to the bike shop for truing (and even a complete wheel replacement under warranty at one point), the wheels have been constantly out of true/bent since the day I brought the bike home. Also, the stock hubs on the Fuel EX 8 (Shimano Deore M525) are absolute garbage. While Bontrager Dusters have their fans (I am definitely not one of them), the M525 hubs are pretty much universally maligned. It’s a shame that Trek doesn’t include better hubs on such an otherwise very fine bike.

I replaced the Dusters with American Classic 26″ All Mountain Tubeless wheelsets. The new wheels are not only much lighter than the stock wheels, they are much stronger. The American Classics are designed for All Mountain riding, and will certainly be able to handle anything I can throw at them. I love these wheels! They are light, strong and look great. Count me as a new fan of American Classic.

I replaced the WTB tires with a pair of 2012 26×2.2 Continental Mountain King ProTection Tires w/ Black Chili compound. More on the new tires after the pictures.

The net weight saving from the tire/wheel replacement was right at three pounds of pure rotational weight. Outstanding!

All that remains of the original bike is the frame, the seatpost, the front fork and the brakes. The final weight of the bike after all upgrades came in at just 26.15 pounds! I’m very impressed with the performance of the rebuilt bike. You can check out the initial ride report just after the photos, below.

Here’s the current list (with links) of components on my highly modified 2011 Trek Fuel EX 8:


Here’s a detailed gallery of pictures:


So, let’s talk about my first ride on my newly reworked steed!

New personal record (March 3, 2012) by almost two minutes! Average moving speed of 13.14 MPH--about 1.5 MPH faster than my previous best!

New personal record (March 3, 2012) by almost two minutes! Average moving speed of 13.14 MPH--about 1.5 MPH faster than my previous best!

I broke my 3 mile timed mountain biking personal record (which was 17m18s) twice after the XO drivetrain upgrades, turning in an initial time of 15m42s and then another new record of 15m26s a few days later. After the wheel/tire upgrades I hit the trail this past Saturday and demolished my new record with a lightning fast run of 13m42s! The upgrades helped propel me to a 3m32s improvement over a distance of just three miles! Put another way, my record average moving speed on the timed course before the upgrades was 10.40 MPH, and after the upgrades it was 13.14 MPH.

I was truly amazed by how different (in a good way) my bike felt: faster, stiffer, more nimble, lighter… just better in every respect.

A few words about the new tires. I was concerned that the Mountain King tires would not be able to deal with sugar sand, which is everywhere here. I’m was pleasantly surprised that tires exceeded my expectations in every respect. The Mountain Kings hooked up on hardpack every bit as well as my old Velociraptors, and I was surprised at how well they handled the sand, too. Climbing sandy hills was not a problem at all! The only time I had an issue was one notorious fast hairpin turn that is pure sand. I had the bike weighted properly when I hit it, but the tires started to wash out and I had to drop a paw to remain upright. That said, I was going 2-3 MPH faster than usual when I hit the corner, so I’m not going to blame the tires.

Roots were not a problem for the MKs, either (and I hit a lot of them). I didn’t have to deal with any wet roots, so performance in that area remains to be seen. I hit some muddy spots, and a couple of small water crossings with no problems or loss of traction. There are no real rocky areas where I rode on Saturday, so can’t say much about that. Santos is loaded with rock, so the next time I head out there I’ll know.

Overall I like these tires better than the Velociraptors: they rolled faster, felt smoother, gripped well and are considerably lighter. One note of caution: the 2012 Mountain King II ProTection tires are what I’ve reviewed here. The tires I’m running are made in Germany and are very high quality. There are other Mountain King tires that are much heavier and much more cheaply made (in Thailand). Make sure you know what you’re buying!

A special word of thanks goes out to JSF member “craigstr”. Craig not only helped me get an amazing deal on the parts, he also made numerous suggestions and recommendations along the way while answering about a million questions. Truly, my bike would not be what it is today it were not for his kind assistance. Thank you, Craig!

Check out Craig and his friends absolutely shredding Whistler here.

Needless to say, I’m beyond happy with how the final bike came out. I’m looking forward to putting thousands and thousands of very fast miles on her. 🙂

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