No longer are bike manufacturers only pushing to create e-MTBs with the largest batteries and most powerful motors – though, of course, there are still those bikes being made, too.
There are now new players in the market, like the super light-weight e-MTBs, which mimic the feel of normal MTBs, but still offer a little assistance when needed. Many bike brands are now pushing to create the lightest models, rather than the most powerful.
Trek, Specialized and Orbea are the front-runners in the pack looking to make this happen. Trek’s EXe range of bikes are among the best out there at the moment.
The Fuel EXe 9.8 XT is on the cheaper end of the spectrum in the Trek range, so is it a steal? Or should you go for one of the higher spec options? Or should you look to some of the other big players?
We’ve given it a thrashing on the trails, climbed the climbs and negotiated the descents, to give you all the answers. Without further ado, then, let’s really get to grips with the Fuel EXe 9.8 XT…
It’s another round of applause for the crew at Trek.
The Fuel EXe 9.8 XT is a very well crafted e-MTB, which is set at a fair price for the amount of assets on offer. It’s lightweight and nimble on the trails, yet feels sturdy and well-planted at the same time.
It has the same motor and battery as featured on the much more expensive models in the Fuel EXe range, yet is a fraction of the price. It can climb, it can descend, it can twist and it can turn, and always feels comfortable.
There are few minor qualms, but overall we think the Trek Fuel 9.8 offers excellent value for money.
Trek Fuel EXe 9.8 XT
The Fuel EXe 9.8 XT comes with a strong, fully-carbon, OCLV frame. It’s a sturdy beast, which can take a lot of punishment out on the trails. It looks a beauty, too, with internally-routed cabling giving an uncluttered and simplistic finish.
If you’re wondering how much does a Fuel EXe 9.8 XT weigh? The answer is the full bike, with a medium sized frame (which we rode during our reviews), only weighs in at 18.10kg. That’s decent, but by no means the lightest out there.
The bike handles very well, though, and you can tailor your setup to your body pretty well thanks to the differing frame sizes available and the range of geometry options. You can choose between 4 sizes of frame – small, medium, large and extra large – each of which has two different geometry setups.
It means that, for most riders, you end up with a comfortable position on the bike you end up going for.
It’s key to get the sizing right or you could find yourself losing out on the true capability of the bike’s handling, if you don’t.
The bike handles really well on super technical and twisty trails, you feel very much in charge of the bike and it dodges and weaves seamlessly.
Trek has partnered with the robotics and aviation tech firm TQ for their electrical components. The company is a new player in the market, but it’s certainly turned heads in this collaboration with Trek.
The Fuel EXe 9.8 XT has TQ’s 360Wh battery installed, which is the same size as the battery in the higher spec bikes in the Fuel EXe range.
This is a good time to remember why this bike exists in the first place – it isn’t meant to be a powerhouse, workhorse of an e-mountain bike. It’s meant to offer a bit of assistance, while remaining light-weight, playful and like a normal MTB. This battery achieves this.
It charges up in two hours and during our review rides we managed to get out around 35-40km of assistance, with plenty of climbing involved. That isn’t insignificant and it works well with the TQ motor (which we’ll come to soon) to release power conservatively.
The motor fitted on the Fuel EXe 9.8 XT is another reason to celebrate TQ. The company’s HPR50, which can emit 50Nm, is a beautiful piece of kit and it operates near enough silently on the Trek Fuel 9.8.
This is another good time to remember that this type of e-mountain bike isn’t designed be immensely powerful, like some of the big beasts on the market. You would lose that manoeuvrability and lightness.
50Nm is by no means a measly amount of torque. That TQ motor does a seriously good job out on the trails. When you take into account bike’s lightness, it makes easy work of some tough climbs and the TQ technology delivers the power in a natural-feeling way.
It’s very easy to forget that you aren’t riding a normal MTB – you don’t encounter any over pulls from the motor and you feel in control. It won’t power on all day, but it offers a capable rider a decent leg up when they might need it.
It’s a big bravo to TQ and Trek here. The motor display is a truly excellent feature, which really needs to be credited.
It’s far from just a device which tells you how much battery you have left, although it certainly does that and with a precise percentage figure.
It also offers a full ride experience – complete with RPM information, elevation data, how many kilometres you can still use with the assistance on, along with many other awesome features.
Put simply, we flippin’ love it.
The bike comes with 3 modes to flick between – Eco, Mid and High – with the display offering prompts to make sure you utilise the right assist level at the right time, to get the most out of your battery.
The suspension setup on the Fuel EXe 9.8 XT is exactly the same as the slightly pricier Fuel EXe 9.8 GX AXS.
The 9.8 XT comes with RocksShox Lyrik Select+, Debon Air spring forks and RockShox Super Deluxe Select+ RT rear shocks. They offer 150mm travel at the front and 140mm at the rear.
It’s a setup which is ready for some enduro and XC thrashing, not crazy downhill riding. That’s not to say it can’t handle a bit of descending, but it feels very uncomfortable on the big hits – although, again, it wasn’t designed for that.
The suspension offers a decent level of comfort, particularly as it ducks and dives between techy twisty trails. It comes alive on back and forth single-tracks and has a very playful feel. With that light frame, it’s a pleasure to ride.
The Fuel EXe 9.8 XT has exactly the same tyre setup as the more expensive and higher spec models in the Fuel EXe range – 29in carbon, Bontranger Elite Line wheels. They’re a sturdy pair of feet to have out on the trail, and lightweight thanks to their carbon OCLV compound.
They also manage to soak up quite a lot of pressure, which is complemented by the Bontrager SE5 Team Issue tyres. The tyres offer a great level of cushioning and it’s another feature that makes you feel very comfortable out on the trail, alongside the sturdy frame, suspension setup and wheels.
However, the tyres aren’t as durable as we would like them. Although they offer a decent level of cushioning, they are prone to punctures and that’s a problem for us.
Now this is where the spec comes down a bit compared to other bikes in the Fuel EXe range. The 9.8 XT comes with Shimano XT M8120 4-piston hydraulic disc brakes.
There are elements to admire – they certainly have the stopping power you need, operating well at pace and when put into some hardcore cornering.
However, they do sound quite noisy at times, with a level of screeching which isn’t easy on the ear. The heat management isn’t ideal, either – they can get very hot, indeed.
This is where the XT gets its name. The bike comes with a Shimano XT M8100, which we think is much of a muchness compared to the SRAM Eagle XG-1275, which is fitted on the more expensive Fuel EXe 9.8 GX AXS.
The XT M8100 offers smooth shifting and no grumbles at our end. It ticks the boxes we want, and whilst it’s a no-thrills setup, it does the job nicely.
We think this is quite an attractive price. The Fuel EXe 9.8 XT has many similar features to some of the more expensive bikes in the Fuel EXe range and it offers a lot in the electrics department, without adding heaps of extra weight.
Its very well-rounded e-MTB, which comes in significantly cheaper than some of the higher-spec bikes in the range. We would certainly consider dipping into our pockets at this fair price point.
Fuel EXe 9.8 XT 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|
* All measurements provided in cm unless otherwise noted.
|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, 44mm offset, Boost110, 15mm Maxle Stealth, 150mm travel|
|Shock||RockShox Super Deluxe Select+ RT, 205mm x 60mm|
|Wheel front||Bontrager Line Elite 30, OCLV Mountain Carbon, Tubeless Ready, 6-bolt, Boost110, 15mm thru axle|
|Wheel rear||Bontrager Line Elite 30, OCLV Mountain Carbon, Tubeless Ready, Rapid Drive 108, 6-bolt, Shimano MicroSpline freehub, Boost148, 12mm thru axle|
|Hub front||Bontrager alloy, sealed bearing, alloy axle, 6-bolt, Boost110, 15mm thru axle|
|Skewer rear||Bontrager Switch thru axle, removable lever|
|Tyre||Bontrager SE5 Team Issue, Tubeless Ready, Core Strength sidewalls, aramid bead, 120 tpi, 29×2.50”|
|Tyre part||Bontrager TLR sealant, 6oz|
|Shifter||Shimano XT M8100, 12 speed|
|Rear derailleur||Shimano XT M8100, long cage|
|Crank arm||E*thirteen E*spec Race carbon, 34T, 165 mm length|
|Chainring||E*thirteen E*spec, 32T alloy ring, 55 mm chainline|
|Cassette||Shimano XT M8100, 10-51, 12 speed|
|Chain||Shimano Ultegra/XT M8100, 12 speed|
|Max. chainring size||Max: 34T Min: 30T|
|Saddle||Bontrager Arvada, austenite rails, 138mm 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, 27.5mm handlebar rise, 820mm width, 0 degree stem rise, 35mm stem length
|Size: M, L, XL
Bontrager RSL Integrated handlebar/stem, OCLV Carbon, 27.5mm handlebar rise, 820mm width, 0 degree stem rise, 45mm stem length
|Grips||Bontrager XR Trail Elite, nylon lock-on|
|Brake||Shimano XT M8120 4-piston hydraulic disc|
|Brake rotor||Size: S, M, L, XL
Shimano RT76, 6-bolt, 180mm
|Size: S, M, L, XL
Shimano RT76, 6-bolt, 203mm
|Motor||TQ-HPR50, 50 Nm, 250 watt maximum continuous rated power, 300 watt peak power|
|Computer||TQ LED display with Bluetooth & ANT+ connectivity|
|Electronics||TQ 4A charger|
|Weight||M – 18.10 kg / 39.91 lbs (with TLR sealant, no tubes)|
|Weight limit||This bike has a maximum total weight limit (combined weight of bicycle, rider, and cargo) of 300 pounds (136 kg).|
How Does it Compare?
A good place to start is to look at the other bikes in the Fuel EXe range
The highest-spec Fuel EXe 9.9 XX1 AXS comes in at $13,999; that’s over $5,000 more than the 9.8 XT. If you look closely, many of the features are exactly the same – particularly in terms of the electronics, wheels and frame.
So, realistically, what you’re paying $5,300 more for is a higher-spec drivetrain, brakes and a slightly better suspension. To us, that sounds like a lot. And more to the point, the higher spec 9.9 XX1 AXS actually weighs more than our bike in this review.
Unless you’re a very experienced rider, there aren’t many of us that really need to be heading up for the highest spec bike; in terms of ride experience, you won’t notice much difference and certainly not worth paying over $5,000 more for.
There are other manufacturers operating in this area, though.
Orbea are one of the big players, with their Rise series of bikes really nailing the market at the moment. A comparable bike, price wise, is the Rise M-Team 20MPH – at $9,449.
It comes with a 360Wh battery and a Shimano EP8-RS motor, which kicks out 60Nm of torque. The large-sized carbon framed bike has a full weight of 18.92kg, slightly more than the Fuel EXe 9.8 XT.
Both bikes have the same amount of travel in the suspension and similar Shimano XTR M9100 drivetrain setups. Overall, they’re both very similar bikes, both handle like a dream, are lightweight and offer a good amount of torque, without compensating too much on the overall weight.
It really is a toss up between them and it depends whether you want a little extra torque for a little extra weight. Ultimately, though, we would stick with the Fuel EXe 9.8 XT.
The Fuel EXe 9.8 XT is another example of excellent manufacturing by Trek. It’s another brilliant e-MTB, which bridges the gap between the worlds of the conventional MTB and fully juiced-up e-MTBs.
It’s lightweight, a dream to throw around the trails and still offers a decent amount of assistance. There isn’t much difference between this bike and the higher spec bikes in Trek’s Fuel EXe range and, quite frankly, we loved riding it.
It ticks a lot of enduro and XC boxes, offering brilliant cornering, nimble performance on the descents and light-footedness on the hills.
It would suit a capable rider, who wants a leg up at the most challenging of times; it wouldn’t suit a novice or they might feel like they’re not getting enough out of their e-MTB.
We loved it, though, and at $8,699, it’s a fair price for a highly-advanced piece of kit that’s beautiful to ride. Go out and give this puppy a spin.
“If you enjoyed this review then make sure to check out our reviews of other Trek e-MTBs, including the Fuel EXe 9.8 GX AXS, Fuel EXe 9.9 XTR, Fuel EXe 9.7, and Fuel EXe 9.5.”