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Pro bikes, September 18, 2008

Lance Armstrong’s Trek Top Fuel 9.8

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Photo ©: James Huang

Who says Lance can only win on pavement?

By James Huang in Snowmass, Colorado

The new Top Fuel still sticks to a single-pivot axle path
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Armstrong went with DT Swiss' ultralight carbon-bodied rear shock
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Trek's Active Brake Pivot design
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The BB90 integrated bottom bracket's road bike width
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The Full Floater design uses dynamic upper and lower shock mounts
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Seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong continued on his comeback trail by winning the 12 Hours of Snowmass mountain bike endurance event along with teammates Len Zanni and Max Taam, just about one month after coming in second to Dave Wiens at the epic Leadville 100. The Texan gave a good public display of off-road prowess prior to this season during that famous moment in Stage 9 of the 2003 Tour when he was forced across a rutted field to avoid a fallen Joseba Beloki. In addition to a previous sixth place appearance at the US Mountain Bike Nationals in Mount Snow, Vermont nearly ten years ago, his latest accomplishments only confirm that he's the real deal on a proper mountain bike, too.

Armstrong’s weapon of choice for the Snowmass event was the new 2009 Trek Top Fuel. Much as Trek did with its current-generation Madone road platform, this latest Top Fuel is a far more daring design than the rather conservative one it replaced. The OCLV carbon main frame sports a semi-integrated seatpost more typically seen on the road, the bottom bracket bearings are directly inserted into a road-width shell, and the head tube now wears an integrated headset as well.

Out back, the rear end still sticks with a single-pivot axle path but a host of new features adapted from the Fuel EX trail bike cancel out many of the design’s inherent drawbacks. Lighter ABP Race (Active Brake Pivot) pivots essentially provide a built-in floating disc mount for better traction and control under braking, Full Floater’s dual dynamic shock mounts allow for more precise spring rate tuning throughout the travel range, and a stouter one-piece EVO Link helps to keep everything tied together.

In total, Trek estimates that the changes have also dropped about 431g (0.95lb) from the previous Top Fuel while also making it more predictable and faster at the same time, too.

The component spec continued the weight loss theme and, as one would expect, there was a healthy smattering of Bontrager-labeled gear such as the Race XXX Lite carbon riser bar, Race X Lite aluminum stem, XXX Lite carbon seatpost stub and InForm RL saddle. When it came to rolling stock though, Armstrong apparently decided to reach outside of the company toy box.

Armstrong's bike came to us for the photo shoot wearing a pair of Bontrager Race X Lite tubeless disc wheels and fast-rolling, low-knob Jones XR Team Issue 26x2.0" treads but we never actually saw him using any of it on course. Rather, he headed out for his laps with a pair of ZTR Race wheels and a 2.2"-wide Raven rear tire from Stan's NoTubes. Armstrong also ran a Raven tire up front for lap number one though he swapped it for a Schwalbe Racing Ralph for laps two through six. In addition, the rear wheel was also fitted with a 140mm-diameter coated aluminum rotor, also from Stan's NoTubes.

Clamping the rotors was a set of Avid Juicy Ultimate hydraulic disc brakes and SRAM was also tapped for the 100mm-travel RockShox SID World Cup. Handling rear suspension duties was the featherlight XR Carbon shock from DT Swiss and both ends were fitted with separate handlebar-mounted remote lockout levers. This made for a rather crowded cockpit but what with the large number plate covering it all up (with the number ‘7’, of course), it’s unlikely many people noticed.

The rest of the drivetrain was a straightforward Shimano affair, including the XTR crankset, deraileurs, cassette, trigger shifters and pedals plus a Dura-Ace chain. And since there was no support car in tow, Armstrong also carried his own spare tube plus a Big Air CO2 canister from Genuine Innovations.

As pictured, and with tube and inflator still attached (but without the full Mellow Johnny’s bottle), Armstrong’s bike weighed a competitive 10.75kg (23.69lb). We estimate the actual race trim cleaved about 430g (0.95lb) though, roughly doubling the weight savings earned with the new frame and bringing the total figure down to a more impressive 10.32kg (22.75lb).

Light or not, one thing was certain: Armstrong and his bike were fast. His quickest 39:25 lap was second only to Jay Henry and more importantly, he was remarkably consistent. Armstrong’s sixth and slowest lap was recorded in 41:07, just 1:42 slower, and only two riders in addition to Henry topped his worst of the day.

In typical Armstrong fashion, it was mission accomplished. Now, anyone up for a little ride through the French countryside next July?


For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here

Images by James Huang/Cyclingnews.com

Full specification

Frame: Trek Top Fuel 9.8, 19.5"
Rear shock: DT Swiss XR Carbon w/ remote lockout
Fork: RockShox SID World Cup w/ PopLoc remote lockout, 100mm travel

Critical measurements
Rider's height: 1.77m (5' 10") ; Weight: 73kg (161lb)
Seat tube length, c-c: n/a
Seat tube length, c-t: 590mm
Saddle height, from BB (c-t): 765mm
Tip of saddle nose to C of bars (next to stem): 609mm
C of front wheel to top of bars (next to stem): 712mm
Top tube length: 625mm (effective)

Front brake: Avid Juicy Ultimate w/ 160mm Avid G3 rotor
Rear brake: Avid Juicy Ultimate w/ 140mm Stan's NoTubes coated aluminum rotor
Brake levers: Avid Juicy Ultimate
Front derailleur: Shimano XTR FD-M971
Rear derailleur: Shimano XTR RD-M970-GS
Shift levers: Shimano XTR Rapidfire Plus SL-M970
Cassette: Shimano XTR CS-M970, 11-34T
Chain: Shimano Dura-Ace CN-7701
Crankset: Shimano XTR CN-M970, 175mm, 22/32/44T
Bottom bracket: Trek Top Fuel integrated w/ Enduro cartridge bearings


Rims: Stan's NoTubes ZTR Race
Front hub: American Classic Disc 130
Rear hub: American Classic Disc 225
Spokes: DT Swiss Revolution
Front tyre: Schwalbe Racing Ralph, 26 x 2.25"
Rear tyre: Stan's NoTubes The Raven, 26 x 2.2"

Bars: Bontrager Race XXX Lite Riser, 615mm
Stem: Bontrager Race X Lite, 120mm x 7°
Headset: Cane Creek IS2 integrated
Tape/grip: ODI Rogue Lock-On

Pedals: Shimano XTR SPD PD-M970
Seat post: Bontrager XXX Lite Mast System
Saddle: Bontrager InForm RL
Bottle cages: Bontrager Bat Cage
Other accessories: Genuine Innovations Big Air CO2 inflator, spare inner tube

Total bike weight: 10.75kg (23.69lb)