Sunday, May 31, 2015

I Can't Get No Satisfaction (Trek Stache 9+ Demo)

With money burning a hole in my bike fund, I was eager to hit the Trek factory demo this morning at Alum Creek. I've been looking forward to try the much ballyhooed Trek Stache 9+ models, and they were well represented in the demo fleet. The Trek Store had everything set up at the P2 parking lot:

I filled out the iPad form, and quickly had a Stache 9 29+ in my gloved hands:

This was the XL/21.5" size. I was really hoping for a rigid Stache 5, since even with my recent bike purge, my budget will never stretch to $3879.99, but the only Stache 5 around was the rep's personal bike (he did say the 5 was the "sweet spot" on the Stache lineup), so the 9 it was. Either way, I got to check out some of the features that make the Stache special:

The biggest deal about the Stache lineup is the short chainstays. I measured these at a true 420mm, amazing for a frame than can clear a 29+ tire with excellent tire clearance:

Trek did this in part by forgoing any chance of a front derailer, which is no loss for me since I don't run one anyway... and my bikes don't have that dinner plate sized rear cog either. The Shimano 11 speed drivetrain clicked through the gears smoothly and precisely, even though the bike was still grimy from yesterday's Cincinnati demo.

Another element of the short chainstays is the Boost rear hub. Trek says the 10mm wider rear hub allows a stronger wheel, better clearance, etc etc:

But this is a pretty big negative for me, as none of my wheels would fit this frame. I don't like parts I can't share (and yes, I realize this will limit me more and more as my parts bin gets more outdated). I could say the same about the press fit bottom bracket: it might enable a bit more clearance optimization, but I'd much rather have a more reliable threaded version.

The bars were a massive 750mm wide, about 50mm than I typically ride, but I really didn't have any issues here:

That is, except for the last bit of the ride when I was sprinting on a flat bit of trail into a headwind, then I felt a bit like a sail... but that's a reasonable trade off for the stability they offered on 99% of the trail.

Actually, the whole bike handled very neutrally. On paper, it looks quite slack to my XC sensibilities, but I never thought, "gee, I wish this bike handled more sharply." Possibly this was also due to the greasy trail conditions--last night's rain had left a slippery layer of spooge over a hard base, and the Bontrager Chupacabra tires weren't at their best here:

I was struggling to get them to grip across the wet roots and muddy spots. As a result, I couldn't go quite as fast as I would have liked, but I was still hustling a bit to get a short lap in and get the bike back to the demo tent for the next rider.

One thing I really didn't get on with was the dropper post:

These are all the rage these days, but for our flattish trails, I really can't see a need. In fact, on the one down hill where I did try it, I had a brief moment of panic when I suddenly lost the reference point of the saddle between my legs, and when I tried to briefly pedal to get speed for a small jump, it was like pedaling a BMX bike. I popped it back up and left it there for the rest of ride.

I'm a steel fan at heart, but I have to say I was pretty impressed with the responsiveness of the Trek's aluminum frame. It didn't feel too stiff and dead, like many aluminum frames I've ridden. It also rode pretty comfortable, though that is more to do with the suspension fork and the fat tires. I did notice an occasional shot up my back from the rear tire--I think this is a negative of the short chainstays, but also because I'm not used to riding a hardtail. Give me either a rigid bike and I'll pick my lines, or a full sus bike and I'll charge through. Hardtails are a poor compromise in my book.

So finally we circle back to the short chainstays. As a design exercise, Trek has done a brilliant job in packaging these short stays with a big tire and good mud clearance. On the other hand, I wasn't ripping off block long wheelies with it. It was pretty easy to pop the front end up, but with chainstays 30mm shorter than my Mukluk's, I was expecting a bit more. Possibly, probably, the benefits of short stays are being oversold in online discussions... just like they are for dropper posts.

In the end, I liked the Stache 9+, but it isn't something that's sending me off to my friendly local Trek store, credit card in hand (even with a $100 off coupon from the demo day). For the price of even the Stache 5, I could pick up a Carver Gnarvester frame AND a new cross frame, or maybe a new single speed frame and a full suspension bike. What? Maybe that's just my creaky back talking.

Apropos of nothing but today's subject line, on Friday my brother sent me a text: "I have four extra tickets for the Rolling Stones, they're yours if you can use them." Er, let me check my schedule. Turns out, I was open. Henry is just starting to get an interest in music, and he keeps "Paint it Black" on repeat on his iPad. With Kate at a slumber party and Sam quickly arranged to stay with my folks, we made tracks for Ohio Stadium:

Kid Rock opened at 8:00, and at 9:30, the Stones hit the stage:

Unfortunately, that was about an hour after Henry is usually asleep, so after five or six songs, he was tugging my arm and asking to go. We hung on through "Wild Horses," then made for the elevators down. When we reached the A deck, however, I heard the opening strains of "Paint it Black." We ran over to the nearest entrance tunnel and watched from there. I wasn't expecting to hear this song, since it isn't part of this tour's usual setlist and was played only by request.

Sometimes, you can get what you want. At least in concerts.

This was Henry's first concert, and it's going to be hard to ever top it.


  1. Thanks for the update on the Stache! I'm surprised you didn't notice the short chainstays more, too. I've got to see if there's a demo day near me soon, although my local Trek dealer said they won't get any more of the 5's in for a couple of months.

    1. Hi Josh,
      One thing to think about is that, being tall, I run my saddle high. Since chainstay lengths typically don't vary with frame size, my saddle is farther out over the rear wheel than most, making weight transfers easier. Perhaps this makes overall chainstay length less important to me.
      Also, I didn't measure it, but the bar felt like it was a bit lower than I usually run. This makes it a bit more difficult to get the front end up.

    2. I hadn't considered how your height would change how easily/difficult it would be to get up the front end.

      My current mountain bike has sliding dropouts and I've played with them a bit. I can definitely notice the 20 mm difference between slammed-forward and slammed-backward - and I definitely prefer forward. That's one of the issues holding me back from just putting on a 27.5+ rear wheel/tire and calling it good; I think I'd have to slide the dropouts farther back to fit the fatter tire.

    3. You could consider that any 27.5+ tire would let you run a shorter chainstay than any 29+ tire, if you're willing to settle for a smaller diameter wheel and if your frame allows that shorter chainstay. I'm not willing to make that trade off, though.


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