While 26-inch mountain bikes haven’t quite been killed off by the big, bullying 29ers, the writing is firmly on the wall for the smaller-wheeled machines now that most industry players are throwing their weight and considerable resources behind the middle child of the family. Whether you call it 27.5 or 650b, the “fad” size in mountain bikes is here to stay and could end up dominating the market.
There’s no denying that 29ers are faster than 26ers over most types of terrain and with their rock and root crushing ability have made the sport of mountain biking more accessible to a wider range of people. However, with that added speed and shock absorption (some would call it “dumbing down”) comes a little loss of feel, especially on more technical stretches of single track. It’s kind of stating the obvious, but 650b wheels offer the best of both worlds; definitely less harsh than 26ers but way more nimble than the 29ers.
Full suspension mountain bikes are a fairly expensive purchase, meaning most people can only afford one, so it makes perfect sense that all-mountain bikes like those in Trek’s famous Remedy line are capturing a big piece of the pie, and it makes even more sense to fit these do-anything machines with the all-round 650b wheel size.
The Trek Remedy 9 27.5 is a great example of why 650b could become THE standard in mountain biking for your average Joe. While the American giant’s famous Remedy series includes three 29ers, the fact that the 27.5 line has five versions perhaps shows that the latecomer to the wheel party could well be on its way to being the star. Trek has optimized the frames for 650b wheels rather than going down the route of just sticking the medium-sized wheels on a 29er bike.
The alloy-framed Remedy 9 27.5 sits at No. 2 in that line of five 650b bikes (one is a women’s specific model, an option not given in the 29er Remedy line) and retails for S$6367 in Singapore. While maybe not the cheapest alloy bike on the market, it comes equipped with lots of bells and whistles that make it a worthwhile investment and just as importantly, lots of fun to ride.
Chief among its adornments is the RockShox Reverb Stealth dropper seatpost. While a dropper is not exactly necessary in Singapore with its dearth of long descents, mountain biking is about having a good time, so we deployed the dropper switch whenever we thought it might be advantageous. Being able to drop your bum behind your saddle while descending is a skill everybody should strive to obtain, but having the choice of lowering that centre of gravity while fully seated by pushing a button is a neat luxury.
While we found the dropper post to be the most fun element of the Remedy 9 27.5, running it a close second and definitely more functional was the SRAM X1 single drivetrain.
Riding a bike with a single drivetrain can take a wee bit of getting used too, but once you’ve got over the urge to perform phantom front shifts, the realisation that there’s only one way to change gears is freeing, plus it reduces the chances of the chain dropping. The range of gears offered by the single 32-tooth chainring and 42-11 cassette is more than enough for anywhere in Singapore. OK, so you might spin out on the road making your way to the trails, but this is a mountain bike after all, and a damn good one.
The suspension on the Remedy 7 27.5 made it a plush ride and is handled by a Fox 34 Float CTD Performance fork up front, while at the back of the bike, Trek’s patented and popular Fox Float DRCV rear shock has been upgraded with its new RE:aktiv valve. The fork’s 140mm of travel was more than enough to fully absorb some hard rock-garden landings, and the descend/trail/climb settings can easily be changed on the move. We found the trail mode could pretty much handle anything we put in its path, but it’s nice to have the option.
According to Trek, the RE:aktiv valve enhances the rear shock by providing for an instant, seamless transition between low-speed and high-speed compression damping. And it seems to work. After taking hits, big or small, it was easy to get pedaling again quickly, with no noticeable lag while waiting for the suspension to rebound. Like the fork, the rear shock has descend/trail/climb settings, with the middle option again where we had the Remedy 9 27.5 most of the time. It certainly didn’t feel bouncy while tearing along the green corridor or climbing the longish slopes on the Chesnut/Track 15 trail.
Coupled with Trek’s existing and lauded Active Braking Pivot full floater technology, the whole rear suspension package on the Remedy 9 27.5 delivers a plush ride.
Indeed, on the faster sections it was hard to differentiate the feel from that delivered by a cross-country 29er. Yet on the tighter, more gnarly bits of single track the bike zipped its way nimbly through the small spaces and around the bigger roots and rocks. No surprises there, it is an all-rounder after all.
The wheels and tyres came from Trek’s in-house Bontrager brand. While certainly not their top-level products, the combo of Bontrager Rhythm Comp TLR wheels and XR4 Expert (front) and XR3 Expert (back) tyres contributed to the satisfactory riding experience, providing low rolling resistance and good grip over what were predominantly dry conditions.
Of course being an all-mountain machine, the Remedy 9 27.5 isn’t a featherweight, but at 13.1kg it’s not the heaviest in its range either. Upgrading to the top-tier, full-carbon Remedy 9.8 27.5 would save 500 grams, and get you a few improvements, but cost a whole lot more dollars.
As it comes, the Remedy 9 27.5 is more than enough machine for most people and would be an excellent choice for anybody finally going to upgrade from their old 26er, or indeed for smaller riders who went 29er but haven’t quite been convinced with the bigger-wheeled ride.
Trek bikes are exclusively distributed by:
Treknology Bikes 3 Pte Ltd
14 Jalan Kilang Barat
907 East Coast Road
91 Tanglin Road
1026 Sembawang Road