£1,500 Unique hinged frame gives trail cross­over po­ten­tial

Mountain Biking UK - - WRECKED & RATED -

The 2018 Procaliber 6 and 8 are the first alu­minium MTBs to get Trek’s unique ‘scis­sor frame’ IsoSpeed tech­nol­ogy. The sprung ef­fect is more no­tice­able in the car park than on the trail though, where the weight and need for faster wheels is more ob­vi­ous.

The frame

The Procaliber is a bike of two halves. Trek’s big, chess-cas­tle-shaped ‘E2’ head tube butts onto a broad, flat, rec­tan­gu­lar top tube, which flat­tens even fur­ther by the time it reaches the seat tube. It then splits into two retro-look­ing snaked seat­stays. But there’s noth­ing retro about the way they con­nect to the seat tube. In­stead of be­ing held in place by a fixed weld, they’re at­tached via a pivot. This means the seat tube – which flat­tens in the mid­dle, then broad­ens like a pad­dle above the press-fit BB – can bow back and forth un­der seat­post loads.

There’s a cable exit port to back up the drop­per post com­pat­i­bil­ity of the 31.6mm seat tube. A side-swing front mech sits on a fin sprout­ing from its base, above the broad press-fit BB. The wide, rec­tan­gu­lar down tube has neat cable-in­sert blocks for the in­ter­nal rout­ing, and the brake hose sits ex­ter­nally for easy ser­vic­ing. Rel­a­tively slim ovalto-square chain­stays end at a cam­se­cured Boost (148mm) axle. There are mounts for two bot­tle cages.

The kit

Even with the IsoSpeed tech­nol­ogy, the fact that the frame is alu­minium rather than car­bon lib­er­ates a lot more cash for equip­ment. That trans­lates to the lat­est Race Face Next R car­bon cranks and a com­pos­ite seat­post too. The Shi­mano SLX/XT mix is the lat­est 11-speed ver­sion, with a clutch on the rear mech to keep it quiet.

Rock­Shox’s 2018 Reba has an up­dated chas­sis, with a cut­away sec­tion on the lower legs to save weight, and a re­mote lock­out. It also uses a 110mm Boost axle to match the back end. The rear hub boasts 54-point en­gage­ment for fast pickup, and the low-tread Bon­trager XR2 tyres are the top-spec, 120tpi ‘Team Is­sue’ ver­sion. Bonty’s Duster Elite rims come with tube­less seal­ing strips, so you just need to add valves.

The ride

While pick-up is rapid com­pared to the Shi­mano-hubbed bikes here, the Trek feels more ‘diesel’ than ‘turbo’ in terms of ac­cel­er­a­tion. Wheel weight is rel­a­tively high, and it’s the heav­i­est bike on test. Most sig­nif­i­cantly, the tyres are the grip­pi­est here, which af­fects rolling speed to the point where we had to dou­ble check the

brakes weren’t rub­bing. They also feel firmer at a given pres­sure than the Sch­walbe and Spe­cial­ized tyres.

On the plus side, the tougher feel means you can run them at lower pres­sures to off­set the stiff­ness with­out wor­ry­ing about pinch flats. They’re also the only tyres we could push rea­son­ably hard in wet, woodsy con­di­tions, which helped us ex­ploit the smooth and ac­cu­rate feel of the front end. Switch­ing to faster, lighter wheels let the Pro­cal’ suck in the tur­bocharged breaths it needed to and proved that it’s def­i­nitely not a soft, wattage-eat­ing frame.

That also plays the other way. If you’re look­ing for a mirac­u­lously smooth in-saddle ex­pe­ri­ence from the IsoSpeed de­cou­pler, you’re go­ing to be dis­ap­pointed. While you can see the sys­tem work­ing if you thump on the saddle, the Trek ac­tu­ally feels firmer in the seat than the KTM and, par­tic­u­larly, the Spesh. There’s no doubt that the tech­nol­ogy does take the edge off big­ger lumps though. This is cru­cial for race sit­u­a­tions, be­cause it lets you keep the power on hard through block­ier ter­rain more eas­ily than a con­ven­tional frame with sim­i­lar power de­liv­ery.

If you’re af­ter small-bump sal­va­tion for your spine, you’ll need to find that through low­er­ing the tyre pres­sures. The fact this can be done with­out too many punc­ture wor­ries, com­bined with the abil­ity to fit a drop­per post, gives the Procaliber sig­nif­i­cantly more rowdy ter­rain po­ten­tial than the other bikes here. www.trek­

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