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Tech feature: Trek's new Elite 9.9 hardtail, September 28, 2005

A new era in hardtail performance

One notable absence from this year's Interbike exhibition is Trek. The company took the opportunity to gather industry journalists at the 2005 US National Mountain Bike Championships in Mammoth Mountain, California and unveil an evolution in their hardtail mountain bike line. Cyclingnews' Steve Medcroft was there to see the new 9.9, which replaces Trek's OCLV carbon honeycomb-based 9.8.

Trek's new hardtail,
Photo ©: Steve Medcroft
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Trek's Brand Manager Zapata Espinoza said that the initiatives that led to the enhancements in the 9.9 came from the top of the company. "We wanted to bring something new to our hardtail line," he said at the meeting. "The goals were to build a frame at least 300 grams lighter than the 9.8 (the 17.5" version of the new frame weighs 1,250g) that rode a little less harsh, to improve wheel clearance for larger-width tyres and make use of some of the things we learned in the Madone project."

The most significant thing Trek learned with the Madone was to use OCLV 110 Carbon and build the frame around molded lugs. The one-piece head tube/top tube lug, the bottom bracket lug and a seat tube/down tube lug make up the major joints in the frame. By hand-laying these lugs in one piece, Trek design engineer Scott Neilson said, Trek gains "greater control over the properties of the front end of the bike".

The 9.9 is an evolution of Trek's original all-carbon hardtail, the 9.8, which debuted in 1999 and hadn't changed significantly in six years. "The 9.8 was used by championship-calibre riders like Travis Brown, Ruthie Matthes, Allison Sydor and Roland Green to win everything from World Cup, world championship and national championship titles," explained Espinoza.

A head-on look
Photo ©: Steve Medcroft
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Espinoza says the new frame, which features a sloping top tube for greater stand-over height, marks a recommitment by Trek to the mountain-bike community. "We really want to bring something new," he said. "2006 is the year of the mountain bike for Trek."

This means, since they were missing a hardtail in their arsenal in 2005, the 9.9 will be one of the official rides of the Trek/VW factory team in 2006. In Mammoth, Chris Eatough rode his new 9.9 to third place in the Marathon. "Just the feedback from that race alone has given us a page of notes to take back to Waterloo," said Nielson.

Sue Haywood received her 9.9 one day before this year's cross-country national championship and had only a single pre-ride lap of the course on it before choosing to ride it in the race. "And I'm really superstitious about changing things on the bike right before a race," she said. She placed fifth.

Available in early 2006 as a production bike, the 9.9 will be available with full XTR and Bontrager components for US$4,900 (Trek 9.9 Elite), in a SRAM XO-equipped version (Trek Elite 9.8) for US$3,800 and as a frame-only kit. Only the frame kit offers the option to mount side-pull brakes; each of the full production models will come disc-specific. Trek says the 9.9 will also be offered under its Project 1 customisation programme (which allows choices of custom paint and components).

Trek's hardtail lineup for 2006:

Elite 9.9

Frame: OCLV 110 Carbon
Fork: Rock Shox Sid World Cup
Wheels: Bontrager Race X Lite Disc
Crank: Shimano XTR
Derailleur: Shimano XTR
Sizes: 15.5, 17.5, 19.5, 21.5"
RRP: $4949.99/$2749.99 frameset

Elite 9.8

Frame: OCLV 110 Carbon
Fork: Manitou R7 Platinum
Wheels: Bontrager Race Lite Disc
Crank: Bontrager Race Lite
Derailleur: Sram X-O
Sizes: 15.5, 17.5, 19.5, 21.5"
RRP: $3849.99


Frame: ZR 9000 Alloy
Fork: Fox F80 RL
Wheels: Bontrager Race Disc
Crank: Shimano Deore XT
Derailleur: Shimano Deore XT
Sizes: 15.5, 17.5, 19.5, 21.5
RRP: $2199.99


Frame: ZR 9000 Alloy
Fork: Rock Shox Reba SL
Wheels: Bontrager Select Disc
Crank: Shimano Deore LX
Derailleur: Shimano Deore XT
Sizes: 15.5, 17.5, 19.5 21.5"
RRP: $1539.99


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Images by Steve Medcroft/Cyclingnews.com