Trek Remedy 9.9 and 9.8

The Remedy has been a Trek staple for more than a decade now. I first reviewed one back in 2009 and the 2019 Remedy’s silhouette and bones are still remarkably similar (only the long stem really sticks out looking at photos of the old bike). Back then the Remedy stood out mainly because it was one of the first really capable 150mm travel bikes that pedalled well and didn’t sport a spindly fork up front - it had an impressive RockShox Lyrik when most similar bikes were coming with a Fox 32, so the Remedy could be ridden noticeably harder than many of its trail-bike competitors of the time.

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So, nine years on, what has changed? Almost everything. Rear travel is still 150mm and front travel is still 160mm, but aside from that, it’s all different: the frame is now Trek’s OCLV carbon, front and back; wheels also are now carbon rimmed, 27.5 in diameter, and come with big 2.6 Bontrager rubber.  The lower rear shock mount is now fixed, rather than floating, and utilises Trek’s pretty-new Thru Shaft shock. Geometry is probably the biggest change, with a considerably longer front-centre (and correspondingly shorter stem) and slacker head angle. Obviously, unlike the 2009 version, the drivetrain no longer has three chainrings (!), instead featuring SRAM’s Eagle 12 speed. Let’s get into it some details then…

Frame

Trek’s own OCLV carbon is featured front and rear, now with very tidy internal cable routing. The Active Braking Pivot (ABP) concentric with the rear axle is still in place, and the suspension layout is still otherwise a rocker-driven single-pivot, though as mentioned above, the Full Floater (where the shock was attached to an extension of the chainstays) has been dropped in favour of a rear shock fixed to the BB area – Trek says shock technology has advanced such that the Full Floater is no longer necessary to achieve their suspension aims. There is adjustable geometry via a little ‘Mino Link’ in the seatstay. Trek’s Straight-Shot downtube is present, along with the attendant Knock-Block – Trek says this straight downtube adds stiffness; it certainly looks considerably better than swoopy down tubes to my eye. In fact, the whole Remedy aesthetic is pretty impressive. I’m tempted to call it muscular – big tubes and straight carved lines set off a traditional double-diamond shape, while plastic armour on the downtube ensures shuttling in the back of a ute won’t scuff it too badly. And a drink bottle fits in the correct place.

A RockShox Debonair Re:aktiv Thru Shaft shock (is that the most baffling combination of terminology used in any shock?!) provides 150mm of travel out back. By way of explanation of the Thru Shaft part, what that means is there is no internal floating piston to allow for fluid displacement – instead the shaft travels right through and out the other end, so there is no fluid displacement when the shock cycles up and down. You can’t see this with a casual glance, but you can sort of see it if you put the bike upside down and look up the bottom (so to speak) of the shock. A piggy back reservoir is still present though to provide for additional heat expansion via increased oil volume. Right, so why get rid of the floating piston in the first place?  In short, Trek’s aim is to make a faster reacting shock, so it can get rid of bumps better. Interestingly, Trek is the only one licensed to use this technology for now, but after next year other brands will be able to use it too.

Spec

I won’t detail the bits too much here because our review model was the Remedy 9.9, which isn’t going to be available in New Zealand. Instead the 9.8 will be the top model. The basic changes from the 9.9 to the 9.8 are the Fork (to a Lyrik RCT3 instead of a Fox 36 Grip2) the brakes (to Guide RSs instead of XTs) and a spec-level change to the drivetrain (to SRAM Eagle GX instead of Eagle X01). Bontrager’s Line 30 carbon wheels (internal width of 30mm) are featured (on both bikes), along with big 2.6 Bontrager SE4 Team Issue tyres (which means they have a thicker casing than regular).  

Geometry

The 19.5 was a perfect fit for my 181cm. A reach of 460 (with a 50mm stem) and a 66 degree head angle was well balanced with 435mm chainstays. A steeper seat angle than previous versions was welcome, meaning I didn’t need to slam the seat all the way forward in the rails to get the seat where I wanted it. The BB was high enough to avoid any pedal strikes at 356mm, though using the adjustable chip can drop it down to 349 (and slacken the head and seat angles half a degree), which would suit a descending-biased riding better. Overall, the Remedy geo is suitably modern, without being uber-long or uber-slack or uber-low.

Ride

Just before jumping on the bike, it’s worth noting Trek has an online guide to fork and shock setup for every one of their bikes - it mated well with my suspension preferences. Once pedalling, the first thing I noticed about the Remedy was the comfort. Rough ground is not a thing aboard the Remedy. I want to say I could tell the Thru Shaft was responsible for this over and above what a ‘normal’ shock would provide, but in truth I can’t be sure. I can say that Trek go to great lengths, with their own suspension lab, to come up with novel ways to improve suspension. And I can say the Remedy certainly eats high frequency chatter better than anything other than full-sus fat-bikes (which don’t really exist anymore). But how much of this is down to the 2.6 tyres and how much of it is down to the shock design is hard to say (I didn’t get a chance to swap to smaller tyres). Whichever is responsible (a bit of both?), Trek have made a bike with comfort levels that few bikes can match.  

The Fox 36 Grip 2 (ironically, now with a floating piston) is noticeably improved at erasing small bumps, so this contributed to the Remedy’s performance too. It’s worth noting that the 9.8 available in NZ has a RockShox Lyrik, which is every bit as supple as the Fox 36 I rode, so I wouldn’t expect any noticeable performance change due to that spec change. But… there is a flipside (isn’t there always?) to that comfort, and that is keeping on top of tyre pressure. In my experience, this means checking and possibly topping up tyre pressure before every ride – it’s more important than with 2.3 tyres (though not as important as it is with 3.0 tyres), because small pressure changes make a big difference to bigger volume tyres. Too hard, and you’ll lose the benefits of the grip and hovercraft-like suppleness, too soft and you’ll be squirming around and banging rims. Just right and you’ll be golden.

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Before we leave the suspension stuff alone, I can also say the RE:Aktiv damping is great on the Remedy. I find more often than not that the middle position of shocks with adjustable compression damping loses too much suppleness to make the supposed gains to pedal efficiency worth it. Not so this shock – I rode the mid position a few times on really steep climbs, not because I wanted to stop any bob (there was none even fully open) but more to prop the back end up from sagging quite as much from the weight transfer caused by the steep incline. Of course, I then forgot to put the shock back to open at the top of the climbs, and I was surprised to find at the bottom of the decent, when I realised the shock was still ‘partly locked’, that I hadn’t really noticed. The RE:aktiv damping makes it possible to run the shock in the mid position if you prefer a firmer feel to the chassis, or you like to pedal out of the seat a lot, without appreciably sacrificing comfort or traction. Nice.

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So, all this means the Remedy pedals great, both ripping along the flat and mashing up steep climbs, either smooth or rough. It’s a bike that doesn’t have a weakness when it comes to turning human-power into forward motion (except maybe on pavement, where I found the big 2.6 Bontragers to be slow-ish rolling). The carbon frame, with its big straight tubes, felt stiff without being harsh. Bigger riders will probably appreciate this stiffness even more than I did.

What about at the end of the spectrum downhill, when you’re trying to push your limit? On scrabbly dry ground where there is usually insecurity about grip levels, the big tyres give shed-tons of grip and confidence and encourage silly behaviour. Conversely, when the ground was grippier I was surprised to find I that I didn’t have the confidence that the Remedy cold be shoved as hard into corners as some bikes – was it the even/gradual shape of the tyres not providing a deep cornering channel to hook into? I’m not sure, but when really trying to push hard on the downs, it didn’t feel as gung-ho as some other bikes I’ve ridden lately, like say the Bronson I reviewed last issue, which came with 2.4/2.5 Maxxis Minions, which have a noticeably deeper cornering channel.

Niggles

The Shimano XT brakes offered great power and modulation was fine, once I got used to them - though when coming straight off a bike with Avid Guides, the Shimano equivalents felt a bit grabby in comparison. But, the Remedy 9.8 available in NZ comes with SRAM Guides anyway, so that’s solved.

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The Bontrager dropper post worked fine throughout the review period, but the remote felt rough compared to lots of others out there – I’d replace it with a smoother-operating aftermarket remote if it were my bike.

Despite it being the tougher sidewalled ‘SE’ version, I put two holes in the rear tyre. When you make big volume 2.6 tyres that weigh the same as smaller volume tyres, then the bigger volume tyre is likely to have a thinner carcass. I also found the big 2.6 rubber not the fastest rolling tyres on pavement, despite the SE4s not being super-knobby. That’s the trade-off for all that comfort and traction – a bit of a loss in toughness and a slight drop in smooth-track top-end pedal-speed.

Value

The Remedy 9.8 comes in at $6799, which seems pretty darned good these days for a full carbon frame with carbon wheels and top-end suspension. On the other hand, if you can’t stretch your plastic to get the plastic (carbon) Remedy then keep in mind Remedy options go down to the Remedy 7 at $3999.  My pick is the Remedy 8, which comes in at $4799. It has an aluminium frame, alloy rims (with the same high quality hubs and same tyres as the 9.8), 12 speed GX Eagle, a Lyrik with Charger 2 damper (just like the 9.8), and a Thru Shaft Re:aktive shock sans-piggy-back. With all that high-performance suspension loaded onto even the budget-friendly model, I feel confident in suggesting you’ll get the bulk of the ride experience I had on the 9.9 from the Remedy 8 – a very well specced and sharply priced alloy alternative.

Overall

As I read it, the Remedy has changed because trail rides and trail riders have changed. These riders still want to be able to pedal for a few hours, but the tracks they tend to ride are more demanding, or those riders have become used to being able to ride their regular tracks faster and with more abandon. The Remedy keeps up with the progression that tracks and riders have undergone in the past ten years. Has it leapt in front and struck out on its own path, say with radical geometry, or greatly increased suspension travel? No, it hasn’t. Despite the huge raft of changes to the Remedy, and while noting it is a significantly more capable bike than the 2009 iteration I rode, the intention of the Remedy remains the same – this is a heavy-hitting trail bike, not a pedalable mini-DH bike. There are some trade-offs to the big volume tyres, but for many riders the overall outcome will be a positive one. The Remedy is notably good value for the carbon version and even better for the alloy options. If trail riding/all mountain/radical-XC/enduro-pedal is your illness, then Trek have the Remedy.

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Key Specs

Frame: OCLV carbon, front and rear

Front Travel: 160mm

Rear Travel: 150mm

Shock/Fork: RockShox Debonair RE:active Thru Shaft RT3/RockShox Lyrik RCT3

Wheels/Tyres: Bontrager Carbon Line 30/Bontrager SE4 2.6

Drivetrain/Brakes: SRAM Eagle GX/SRAM Guide RS

Price: $6799 (for the Remedy 9.8 available in NZ)

Weight: 13.2kg (for the Remedy 9.9 we rode, without pedals)

Distributed by: Trek NZ


Words & Images: Carl Patton & Margus Riga

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