a solid bite on our hardpack and loose-over-hardpack
trails. Keep in mind, though, that with a lightweight hardtail, tire pressure is critical in getting the optimal ride
Trek: The Lush felt most at home on fast, sweeping turns
with a bit of trail chatter where the ABP suspension could
strut its stuff. The Bontrager 29-3 tires are some of our
favorites for dry conditions. The Lush felt a bit long in tight
switchbacks, but we never missed a turn.
Specialized: When the trail points to the sky, it’s the
Fate’s time to shine. At just over 23 pounds with a stiff,
efficient platform, the Fate uses everything you put into the
pedals for forward momentum, whether you’re pedaling
seated or standing. Even though the frame is laterally stiff,
features such as the thin seatstays and seatpost allowed test
riders to sit though chattery climbs without much worry.
Trek: While the Trek can’t compete with a bike like the
Fate on climbs, it can still hold its own. Test riders preferred
a seated approach to climbing aboard the Lush. We used the
CTD damper in the “Climb” setting, and it made a noticeable difference, but even then there was a bit of pedal bob.
Some test riders liked a bit of give to maintain traction, but
the more cross-country-oriented riders wished for a pure
Specialized: While descending isn’t the strong suit of
any cross-country bike, the Fate performed very well for
a hardtail. The Reba SL fork makes the most of its 3.1
inches of travel, and the 29-inch wheels were the star of
the show, especially for the riders who had spent most of
their time on 26-inch hoops. As well as the Fate descends
for a cross-country bike, though, line choice is still critical.
If you find yourself in rough trail conditions, the Fate will
let you know.
Trek: The Lush SL shined when it came to descents. The
Fox suspension and ABP design with DRCV technology are
an inspiring combination for soaking up hits of all sizes. The
DRCV let us get deeper into the travel and take a point-and-shoot approach to rough downhill sections. The ride was
very forgiving, even if we didn’t get the line choice dialed
the first time.
mix of SRAM X7 and X9 components, while Avid Elixir 5s
handle the braking duties.
The 3.1-inch RockShox Reba SL air-sprung fork features
a lockout and rebound adjustment, and the Specialized Fast
Trak tires are perfect for cross-country racing.
Trek: The Lush SL 29 features a smart mix of trail-savvy
components. For starters, both the Fox Float fork and shock
feature Trek’s patented Dual Rate Control Valve technology.
The DRCV makes it easier for the bike to dive deeper into
its travel by increasing the air volume being utilized as it
hits a certain point in its suspension travel.
The drivetrain and brakes are handled by Shimano’s
impressive SLX group, which may offer more bang for your
buck than any other component on the market. Highlighting
the group is the Shadow Plus rear derailleur with a clutch
mechanism to maintain chain tension, limiting dropped
chains and significantly cutting down on chain slap.
HOW DOES IT PERFORM?
Specialized: Setup on the Fate is fairly straightforward.
RockShox takes the guesswork out of setting sag on the
Reba SL fork with an air-pressure chart on one leg and a
sag-gradient chart printed on the stanchion.
The rider weight feels centered between the wheels, and
in stock form, the handlebar and stem length place the rider
in a forward-leaning position that isn’t overly aggressive.
The handlebar width is perfect for today’s cross-country racers who, for the most part, prefer wider options.
Trek: Trek and Fox wanted to make setup on the Lush
SL easy as well with a removable sag-measurement tool that
clips onto the shock body. The rider’s weight feels very centered over the wheels, and the rider position leans slightly
forward. Trek specs narrow, 24.6-inch handlebars on the
Lush, which may be perfect for some women; however,
our testers would’ve liked something a bit wider, especially
because of the nature of the bike.
Specialized: The Fate received high marks for its cornering prowess. The big wheels didn’t seem to hinder
its ability to handle tight switchbacks, and they definitely gave a boost of grip in fast, sweeping turns. The
Specialized Fast Trak tires rolled quickly but still provided