Trek Full Stache i $3,500 i 33.4 pounds with­out ped­als

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THIS BIKE NEEDS BET­TER BRAKES. I NOR­MALLY DON’T NITpick build kits un­til around para­graph three, but that’s not my point. My point is that the Trek Full Stache is so ca­pable, so mon­strous, even its cre­ators un­der­es­ti­mated it. To be fair, I did too. My other ex­pe­ri­ences with 29+ were with Trek’s own Stache 9.8, a sur­pris­ingly nim­ble trail hard­tail, and Salsa’s Dead­wood, a con­ser­va­tive but ad­ven­tur­ous full-sus­pen­sion bike. Both are good at what they do, but nei­ther ex­cels at high speed. The 130-mil­lime­ter travel Full Stache does. In fact, I can’t point to any bike south of 170 mil­lime­ters that does a bet­ter job straightlin­ing full speed through the con­found­ing messes I like to call trails. It just has a prob­lem slow­ing down. But I’m get­ting ahead of my­self again. Ride im­pres­sions start at para­graph four. First, let’s talk about the bike it­self.

The Bike It­self

Aside from its short-as-pos­si­ble head­tube, the Full Stache front tri­an­gle is pretty tra­di­tional. But its short-as-pos­si­ble chain­stays mean the rear tri­an­gle is any­thing but. Beyond the el­e­vated drive­side stay is its nu­anced link­age. You’ll no­tice it’s tech­ni­cally a Full Floater, but that float­ing lower-shock mount moves nearly per­pen­dic­u­lar to the stroke, not par­al­lel, barely af­fect­ing the lever­age curve at all. Trek went Full Floater pri­mar­ily be­cause the Full Stache main pivot had to sit far­ther for­ward, and the shock sim­ply had nowhere bet­ter to be. The end re­sult is a 430-mil­lime­ter chain­stay, shorter even than that of the Fuel EX 29. That’s even ac­com­mo­dat­ing par­tic­u­larly vo­lu­mi­nous 29x3.0 Bon­trager SE4s, truly an ag­gres­sive tread for the plus-size realm.

For now, this is the only build kit the Full Stache comes with, and it’s only avail­able in alu­minum. At 33.4 pounds, it’s not light, but the bike’s na­ture hides its weight well. At $3,500, it’s a re­mark­able value, and it puts that value where it counts. GX Ea­gle, Pike RC and a 3-po­si­tion Float EVOL shock with Trek’s Re:Ak­tiv damp­ing. But those Guide R brakes and 180-mil­lime­ter ro­tors did not mea­sure up.

Fast, but not loose

Ex­actly why I keep men­tion­ing the brakes goes beyond just the Full Stache’s am­ple ap­petite for rowdy ter­rain

and high speed. It’s the trac­tion it of­fers while you’re on that ter­rain and at that speed. When things get out of con­trol, there’s al­ways enough grip to reel you in. The same is true when nav­i­gat­ing down sec­tions you’d for­give your­self for walk­ing. The Full Stache lets you safely carry speed on slip­pery slopes where speed is nor­mally the en­emy. But the big tires of­fer so much bite, and the big wheels have so much lever­age, that I would out­ride the Guide Rs no mat­ter how hard I pulled them. I was al­ways leav­ing trac­tion on the ta­ble when I wanted it, and it was dif­fi­cult to skid the tire when I didn’t. So, I plugged in some 203-mil­lime­ter ro­tors and me­tal­lic pads. They of­fered nearly all the power I was lack­ing, and they al­lowed me to chirp the rear tire loose when I needed. They bring out the bike’s unique po­ten­tial for both reck­less­ness and safety.

The Full Stache’s ge­om­e­try lends it­self to the same ag­gres­sive rid­ing that its tires do. A Large frame has a 480-mil­lime­ter reach and 49 mil­lime­ters of bot­tom-bracket drop in the low po­si­tion. That checks the ‘long’ and ‘low’ boxes. But ‘slack’ is rel­a­tive. The 67-de­gree head an­gle rides more re­laxed than it reads thanks to those big wheels.

The real ge­om­e­try high­light is the short chain­stays. Like the Stache hard­tail, the el­e­vated drive­side stay al­lows the rear wheel to sit tightly against the bot­tom bracket. It makes be­hind-the sad­dle steeps even eas­ier to con­trol and makes lift­ing the front wheel feel nat­u­ral. I’m not say­ing the Full Stache feels play­ful or nim­ble, but it doesn’t feel for­eign. The bike in­ter­acts with the ground in al­to­gether new ways, but it in­ter­acts with you more or less like any other bike. Pro­vided, that is, that you are at least of av­er­age height. There is no small-sized Full Stache.

The el­e­vated chain­stay makes that short rear cen­ter pos­si­ble, but it leads to some frame flex. The back end feels vague when you punch it into a berm or pull up at an an­gle. And in the lower gears, the wheel can ac­tu­ally flex the frame enough that the tire will oc­ca­sion­ally rub the chain. Af­ter I up­graded to Bon­trager’s Line 40 car­bon rims, I found much of the flex dis­ap­peared. But un­der force­ful rid­ing, the flex is still there, and it’s not sub­tle like non-Boost vs. Boost, or Bon Scott vs. Brian John­son. It’s sig­nif­i­cant, like Axl Rose vs. Brian John­son. But re­al­is­ti­cally, there will al­ways be vague­ness with 3.0-inch tires at 15 PSI. The bike is al­ready cloud-like, so that lat­eral float doesn’t feel out of place. All things con­sid­ered, it’s a small price to pay for what this bike of­fers. And by the way, Axl is do­ing a fine job with AC/DC.

It’s a long way to the top

On my first rough climb with the Full Stache, I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me. Ev­ery line I picked rode much smoother than it looked. I was able to stay in the sad­dle and main­tain my cadence and mo­men­tum through sec­tions that would hang up a tra­di­tional bike. The feel­ing was qual­i­ta­tively new. It floats up loose, bumpy climbs like noth­ing I’ve ever ridden, but that’s not to say it does it quickly. It’s still a lot of bike, and all of its rub­ber turns from as­set to li­a­bil­ity as soon as the trail smooths out. But the same can be said about rear sus­pen­sion. To that point, the rear shock’s ‘Firm’ set­ting is uniquely use­ful on the Full Stache. If I wanted to hus­tle, the lock­out still left me with the trac­tion and com­fort of the huge tires. The rest of the time, the Re:Ak­tiv damper helped keep it rid­ing high, and the 75-de­gree seat an­gle helped me put the power down.

I haven’t even touched on the Full Stache’s po­ten­tial for bikepack­ing. Rowdy ter­rain is now in reach of multi-day trips and the ver­ti­cally mounted rear shock still pro­vides de­cent room for a frame bag. You can read about the Full Stache tack­ling the des­o­late reaches of Ar­gentina’s Puna de Ata­cama in “Hol­low Be Thy Name” on the fol­low­ing page. One thing’s cer­tain though: While the Full Stache seems to be good at go­ing far, it’s even bet­ter at go­ing fast.

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