Trek’s Fuel EXe range is part of a small movement in the e-MTB world, one looking to break the mould from the traditional e-MTBs with chunky batteries and motors. Instead, the aim is to create an e-MTB which is as close to a normal MTB as possible.
A bike that’s not too heavy, rides like a conventional bike and is easy to throw around, yet still offers you a little something in the electrics department. Specialized and Orbea are other companies giving it a real go in this sub-section of e-mountain biking, too.
The Fuel EXe 9.8 GX AXS is the third most expensive bike in Trek’s Fuel EXe range, so is it worth it? Or should you look to one of the higher spec options? Or even go for this range at all, for that matter? We’ve done the number crunching and thrown it up and down some mountains to get all the answers for you. So, let’s get stuck into the Fuel EXe 9.8 GX AXS…
An excellent e-MTB, which adequately occupies the ground between the worlds of MTB and e-MTB. It’s super fun to ride, handles a dream and offers an extremely natural ride feel, with a comforting suspension and responsive brakes.
It’s lightweight, yet still packs a punch in the electrics department. A beauty on singletracks and a brilliant option for both enduro and XC riders. It isn’t going to tick the box for every person, and it needs a fairly capable pilot to enjoy it the most.
It won’t motor up the hills all day long, but it will offer a little assistance when a capable rider needs it most.
All in all? It’s a bravo to Trek from us.
Fuel EXe 9.8 GX AXS
The Fuel EXe 9.8 GX AXS has an OCLV fully carbon frame, which has a refined finish. All its cables are routed internally, so the cockpit looks very clean and simplified. Trek has managed to keep the weight down, with a full bike weight (in the medium size) coming in at 18.17kg.
We completed our review rides with the bike in a medium frame, as it’s the most commonly bought. However, there are four sizes you can go for in total: small, medium, large and extra large.
There are also two distinct geometry options per size of frame, which helps narrow down a more bespoke ride feel. The bike handles a beauty and you feel very much in control with the clever sizing.
You feel assured into the corners, it’s responsive through the bends and twists of a demanding trail, and the frame feels sturdy. The frame is made up of a robust carbon compound, so it can handle a fair amount of punishment without sending shock waves through your whole body.
We’re impressed with its performance and it’s also designed to catch the eye too – the bike’s a real looker.
The Fuel EXe 9.8 GX AXS comes with a TQ 360Wh battery. TQ aren’t traditional big players in the e-MTB market; they’re fairly new on the scene and are usually found in robotics and with parts in airplanes.
That said, they haven’t held back here and they’re worthy of a lot of credit in this review. Although the battery isn’t the biggest on earth, at only 360Wh, it actually releases its power conservatively and it works well in tandem with the TQ motor, so it doesn’t just burn through at pace.
It isn’t made to drag you around for hours upon hours upon hours. We recommend the Fuel EXe for riders who have got a decent layer of fitness already. If not, you might feel short changed (and out of breath).
Overall, the battery has a reasonable amount of juice to help you along your way and, if you use it well, it can prolong a ride nicely. The battery is concealed within the downtube and has sturdy casing to prevent it from being damaged.
The battery also recharges in 2 hours and there’s the option for a 160Wh range extender, which can prolong a ride by as much as 40%.
TQ is also the company behind the motor on the Fuel EXe 9.8 GX AXS. Although we’ve highlighted this e-MTB as bridging the gap between a conventional MTB and e-MTB, the TQ HPR50 motor still kicks out 50Nm of torque.
That’s enough to springboard you up a few fairly chunky hills when you need it, but it would struggle on the chunkiest of ascents. If you use it wisely, though, then the motor can be a really solid friend accompanying you on your rides.
We found the power delivery to be super smooth and it really did feel like a conventional bike at times; there wasn’t any nasty over-pull or failure to die off when you knocked off the assist. It also runs without a whimper, it’s beautifully silent and it’s another feature which means you might easily confuse the bike with a normal MTB.
We enjoyed riding with this motor, but again, we would target it at a fairly competent rider who wants a bit – and we stress, a bit – of a boost. It isn’t meant to churn you up climbs all day long. You have three settings from which to choose, Eco, Mid and High, so you can conserve your battery when you don’t need to give the motor full whack.
The TQ display is a real achievement and one which really stands out in the e-MTB field. It’s an all-singing, all-dancing ride aid, and a super addition by the folk at TQ. You get an exact figure for the amount of battery you have left, which is fantastic (we always grumble about primitive 5 light displays here at EMBK).
It’s far more than that, though; the display is customisable, so you can flick between all sorts of different data options, such as the amount of RPM you’re kicking out, how many kilometres you have left before the battery dies, elevation info, climbing stats and much more.
It’s a beauty of a device, which really elevates a ride experience. All that information can also be transferred to your smartphone via the Trek Central app. It really is a dreamy piece of kit.
The Fuel EXe 9.8 GX AXS comes with 150mm travel at the front and 140mm travel at the rear. The fork set-up is slightly downgraded from the setup on the more expensive Fuel EXe 9.9 XTR, but that’s not really a surprise, and this setup is still pretty good.
You have RockShox Lyrik Select+, Debon Air spring forks here, but the shocks remain the same, with RockShox Super Deluxe Select+ RT installed. It’s configured for some pretty solid enduro and XC riding, with a suspension that can bounce through tricky sections with little difficulty.
It feels relaxed into the corners, but does struggle when dropping from big heights. In the rowdy technical sections, though, where there are lots of quick direction changes, it excels. You might feel that it’s over dampened in easier terrain and it can become a bit of a pain at times through the rear end.
Overall, though, we’re pretty happy with it.
The Fuel EXe 9.8 GX AXS has 29in Bontranger Line Elite wheels, which are made out of an OCLV carbon compound. They’re lightweight, yet sturdy, and cement you nicely on the trail, gripping in tight through the corners and technical sections.
We’re impressed with how Trek has managed to introduce features like carbon wheels, without seeing a larger price hike. The tyres the bike come with have chunky teeth, which can grip solidly into dirt and give you good traction into the corners.
Now, this isn’t the most advanced set-up by any stretch of the imagination, far from it. It’s a very primitive suspension set-up compared to some of the best e-MTBs out there.
It’s key to consider the style of riding you want to be doing. The bike’s suspension lends itself to enduro and cross-country style riding.
It would come enormously unstuck on serious downhill routes and on any big drops, in fact you would probably end up feeling pretty battered and bruised after a chunky air or gnarly descending section.
The Fuel EXe 9.8 GX AXS is set up with SRAM Code R, 4 piston brakes. The SRAM Code Rs provide very good stopping power at pace and deliver exactly what you would hope here. Because there isn’t too much power in that battery, the brake never feels particularly overwhelmed and they’re a solid accompaniment.
The Fuel EXe 9.8 GX AXS comes with SRAM Eagle XG-1275, 12 speed cassette, and SRAM GX Eagle AXS, 12 speed rear derailleur and shifters. A decent setup which does exactly as it says on the tin. No complaints at this end – smooth, quick shifting is guaranteed.
This is the third-highest-spec model in the Trek Fuel EXe range and we have to be honest here, there isn’t a lot between them. Many features on the GX AXS are identical to the 9.9 XTR and the top spec 9.9 XX1 AXS – particularly in the electrics department, and the same in the wheels.
It’s only really the drivetrain and suspension that slightly change. All the bikes seem quite pricey to us, but there isn’t much to fault it on. We would question whether it is worth paying any more than this amount for the Fuel EXe range, which, if you follow that (drive)train of thought, could make this the go-to option.
Fuel EXe 9.8 GX AXS Facts & Figures
|S||155 – 165 cm
5’1″ – 5’5″
|74 – 78 cm
29″ – 31″
|M||165 – 176 cm
5’5″ – 5’9″
|79 – 83 cm
31″ – 33″
|L||177 – 188 cm
5’10” – 6’2″
|84 – 89 cm
33″ – 35″
|XL||188 – 195 cm
6’2″ – 6’5″
|89 – 91 cm
35″ – 36″
|Frame size number||15.5″||15.5″||17.5″||17.5″||19.5″||19.5″||21.5″||21.5″|
|Frame size letter||S||S||M||M||L||L||XL||XL|
|A — Seat tube||38||38||41||41||43.5||43.5||47||47|
|B — Seat tube angle||69.3°||68.8°||69.8°||69.3°||70.8°||70.3°||71.3°||70.8°|
|Effective seat tube angle||77.3°||76.8°||77.3°||76.8°||77.3°||76.8°||77.3°||76.8°|
|C — Head tube length||10||10||11||11||11||11||12||12|
|D — Head angle||65.3°||64.8°||65.3°||64.8°||65.3°||64.8°||65.3°||64.8°|
|E — Effective top tube||57.2||57.3||59.9||60||62.9||63||65.6||65.8|
|F — Bottom bracket height||34.1||33.4||34.1||33.4||34.1||33.4||34.1||33.4|
|G — Bottom bracket drop||3.2||3.9||3.2||3.9||3.2||3.9||3.2||3.9|
|H — Chainstay length||43.8||44||43.8||44||43.8||44||43.8||44|
|I — Offset||4.4||4.4||4.4||4.4||4.4||4.4||4.4||4.4|
|J — Trail||12.4||12.7||12.4||12.7||12.4||12.7||12.4||12.7|
|K — Wheelbase||118.7||118.8||121.6||121.7||124.6||124.7||127.6||127.6|
|L — Standover||73.2||72.6||73.3||72.7||73.9||73.3||75.9||75.3|
|M — Frame reach||43.4||42.8||45.9||45.3||48.9||48.3||51.4||50.8|
|N — Frame stack||61.6||62||62.5||62.9||62.5||62.9||63.4||63.8|
|Frame||OCLV Mountain Carbon, removable battery, internal routing, alloy rocker link, 34.9 mm seat tube, upper chain guide mount, 55 mm chainline, Mino Link, ABP, Boost148, UDH, 140 mm travel|
|Fork||RockShox Lyrik Select+, DebonAir spring, Charger 2.1 RC damper, tapered steerer, 44 mm offset, Boost110, 15 mm Maxle Stealth, 150 mm travel|
|Shock||RockShox Super Deluxe Select+ RT, 205 mm x 60 mm|
|Wheel front||Bontrager Line Elite 30, OCLV Mountain Carbon, Tubeless Ready, 6-bolt, Boost110, 15 mm thru axle|
|Wheel rear||Bontrager Line Elite 30, OCLV Mountain Carbon, Tubeless Ready, Rapid Drive 108, 6-bolt, SRAM XD driver, Boost 148, 12 mm thru axle|
|Hub front||Bontrager alloy, sealed bearing, alloy axle, 6-bolt, Boost110, 15 mm thru axle|
|Hub rear||Bontrager alloy, sealed bearing, 6-bolt, 108T Rapid Drive, SRAM XD driver, Boost148, 12 mm thru axle|
|Skewer rear||Bontrager Switch thru-axle, removable lever|
|Rim||Bontrager Line Elite 30, Tubeless-Read|
|Tyre||Bontrager SE5 Team Issue, Tubeless Ready, Core Strength sidewalls, aramid bead, 120 tpi, 29×2.50|
|Tyre part||Bontrager TLR sealant, 180 ml/6 oz|
|Rim strip||Bontrager TLR|
|Shifter||SRAM GX Eagle AXS, 12 speed|
|Rear derailleur||SRAM GX Eagle AXS|
|Crank||E*thirteen E*spec Plus, 165 mm length|
|Crank arm||E*thirteen E*spec Race carbon, 34T, 165 mm length|
|Chainring||SRAM X-SYNC, 32T, alloy|
|Cassette||SRAM Eagle XG-1275, 10-52, 12-speed|
|Chain||SRAM GX Eagle, 12-speed|
|Saddle||Bontrager Arvada, austenite rails, 138 mm width|
Bontrager Line Elite Dropper, 100 mm travel, MaxFlow, internal routing, 34.9 mm, 345 mm length
Bontrager Line Elite Dropper, 150 mm travel, MaxFlow, internal routing, 34.9 mm, 440 mm length
Bontrager Line Elite Dropper, 170 mm travel, MaxFlow, internal routing, 34.9 mm, 485 mm length
Bontrager Line Elite Dropper, 200 mm travel, MaxFlow, internal routing, 34.9 mm, 550 mm length
|*Handlebar/stem (integrated)||Size: S
Bontrager RSL Integrated handlebar/stem, OCLV Carbon, 27.5 mm handlebar rise, 820 mm width, 0-degree stem rise, 35 mm stem length
|Size: M, L, XL
Bontrager RSL Integrated handlebar/stem, OCLV Carbon, 27.5 mm handlebar rise, 820 mm width, 0-degree stem rise, 45mm stem length
|Grips||Bontrager XR Trail Elite, nylon lock-on|
|Brake rotor||SRAM 6-bolt, 200 mm|
|Brake Set||SRAM Code R 4-piston hydraulic dis|
|Motor||TQ-HPR50, 50 Nm, 250 watt maximum continuous rated power, 300 watt peak power|
|Computer||TQ LED display with Bluetooth & ANT+ connectivity|
|*Electronics||Size: S, M, L, XL
TQ 4A charger
|Size: S, M, L, X
SRAM AXS aux power cable
|Weight||M – 18.17 kg / 40.06 lbs (with TLR sealant, no tubes)|
|Weight limit||This bike has a maximum total weight limit (combined weight of bicycle, rider and cargo) of 136 kg (300 lb).|
How Does it Compare?
There aren’t a vast array of bikes in this half-and-half, MTB/e-MTB spectrum. However, there are a couple of manufacturers who’ve given it a good go. Orbea and Specialized are among them.
The Turbo Levo is Specialized’s enduro and XC powerhouse and its Turbo Levo SL Expert Carbon is one of the lightweight versions, complete with a high spec.
It weighs in at 18kg, just under that of the Trek offering, and has a highly advanced, adjustable geometry. It has a smaller battery (by 40Wh) and the motor only kicks out 35Nm, which is 15Nm less than the punchy Trek.
Both have SRAM Code brakes and have similar suspension set-ups and both handle a dream and look the part, too. At the time of writing, the Turbo Levo SL Expert Carbon is currently heavily discounted on Specialized’s official website and that’s something that really turns heads.
It’s currently down to $7,870 and that’s the deciding factor for us – even though you do lose out on that awesome TQ motor.
Another good option is the Orbea Rise M-LTD.
Now the big headline figure here is the weight – it comes in at only 15.9kg, an incredible achievement. It doesn’t come empty in the electrics tank, either; it comes with a 360Wh battery, but you could also upgrade to a 540Wh.
And another big headline figure – it comes with a Shimano EP801-RS motor, which kicks out 60Nm torque. It has a similar amount of travel with 150mm at the front and 140mm at the rear, solid brakes and a more than competent drivetrain.
For us, it doesn’t get much better than this.
The only issue is the price, coming in at $11,499, but that’s still cheaper than the Trek we’re reviewing here. The Orbea takes it for us on this one.
We’re big fans of Trek’s Fuel EXe 9.8 GX AXS. It’s a beauty to ride and can take on some serious punishment without even a whimper. It’s lightweight, has an advanced geometry, can be thrown around easily and, more than anything else, it’s just great fun to ride!
It isn’t a damp squib when it comes to the electrics department, either – the TQ motor and battery work in harmony to provide a smooth layer of assistance, which complements the natural ride feel of the handling.
It also has a motor display to die for and advanced options to really hone in your ride experience. We question why you would pay more for some of the higher spec Fuel EXe bikes, because we think this bike does more than enough to satisfy most riders. It isn’t cheap – far from it, in fact – but it’s a very well-designed bike, and one which will give you many days of fun out on the trails.
That’s our say, now, how about you go out and try for yourselves?