First fully mobile post: Trek X-Caliber Review

Trek X-Caliber

This post has been a long time coming! I rode this bike over the holidays in Arizona. My girlfriend’s parents live a few feet away from a trail head that leads you into the Sonoran desert, and her Dad was nice enough to buy a guest bike for me to ride while I was there. It happened to be a Trek X-Caliber 29’er “imagined” by Gary Fisher. He and I selected the 19″ size, so his 5’10” daughter could ride is as well, and I would rather have a smaller frame on a 29’er anyway.

There are a few features highlighted with the frame stickers that I sort of understood at the time, but I went to their website for Trek’s explanation and it was just marketing drivel, just as I predicted. Here are my interpretations:

1: G2 Geomety. A name for their line-wide geometry specs, which I’m sure, are not taken from any other company and are completely proprietary and unique.

2: Alpha Gold Alloy: No popular or trusted alloy was used, so a name was needed. No mention of an alloy number on the website, so it must be awesome. It is hydro-formed though, and that helps the looks stiffness.

3: Gary Fisher Collection: A grab at dirt legitimacy.

Sarcastic and bitter remarks aside, here comes the meat.

The bike works. And for the price, hard to beat. I didn’t hate any part of it, and I kind of wanted to. It tracked over rough stuff predictably, turned fairly quickly, it was comfortable to ride for the four 2-hour rides I did with it. Hammering it over open ground went fine, and I got barely any flex out of the frame. The shale rock and obstacles that I ran into at around 30 mph on the killer downhills were dealt with expeditiously and without fuss. My only complaint came when I encountered steep climbs…the head tube angle is not aggressive enough for me. I was leaning over hard like any good rider should, but it wasn’t as sure-footed on the heavy inclines and sharp uphill turns as other bikes I’ve ridden. The X-7 shifting and Avid Elixir brakes were great, as expected. All-in-all, a good bike.

Now for specifics:

The X-Caliber we purchased has a 180mm front brake rotor and a nicer Sram crank than the one listed on Trek’s website.

As far as geometry goes, I already mentioned the climbing issue…it would be less noticeable for a lighter person. Cornering was predictable, but still sort of vague. I tried to really get nasty in high-speed corners, and it would hold on, but I could tell it was turning against its own will. I really had to force the faster cornering. Not fun, considering it’s my favorite part of riding mountain bikes.

The Bontrager Expert tires worked well for the dry, rocky terrain. In beefier, darker dirt, new tires would probably be needed. The rims are a good deal, middle-weight, and are ready to rock tubeless tires with Trek’s tubeless rim kit.

The Reba 29-L fork worked well, even though I’m sure I blew one of the seals. I beat the crap out of it. I weigh 200 pounds, I rode dirtbikes first, and I like downhill racing…so I’m mean to bikes on downhills, switchbacks, and the like. My phone registered a 31.2 mph max on one ride. Good times. The lockout worked great to help me on the uphills too. I would get a remote trigger if I owned the bike.

The brakes did not fade at all, and I was glad we got a bonus 180mm rotor up front for extra modulation.

I also ripped the chain in half with a stupid shift in a stand-up climb. Oops.

This bike isn’t a ripper, and it feels a bit benign, but it would be a great beginner racer’s bike, a good 24-hour race bike, and obviously, a more than capable weekend rider. Solid, reliable, predictable fun for years to come.

Photos of the bike and the trails for your enjoyment:

Posted from my HTC THUNDERBOLT!!!!!!11!!


2 thoughts on “First fully mobile post: Trek X-Caliber Review

  1. Good fair post…I own the same bike and I just love it! Chose it over giant’s xtc and the carve by specialized.

    I liked the relaxed handling of the x-cal and felt more comfortable with it overall. I don’t know if it’s the geometry or what but it really felt better.

    Keep it up and continue to enjoy biking!

  2. I too own this bike, but in the Gary Fisher edition with the bar mounted shock lockout. I also come from a motocross backround and in the past owned a Specialized Hardrock. This bike simply blows the Hardrock out of the water. Super smooth, incredibly light and easy to handle, shifts great, and the brakes are awesome. The only complaint I had was the Bontrager 29-1 tires that came with the bike. They gave decent traction in clay and moist conditions, but when it came to riding over log jams, softer corners or roots, they just simply blew. I went with the Bontrager 29-3 for now until my Maxxis Ardents come in. Overall this bike is amazing for a hardtail!

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