FIRST RIDE REVIEW
The new trek fuel ex review.
Photos & Words by Dario DiGiulio
As mountain biking has evolved into what it is today, the trails we ride on have slowly but surely raised the bar of what modern bikes have to keep up with. Sure, some tracks have been sanitized over time, but there’s no question that the pointy end of the sport has kept pushing forward. As a result, trail bikes have had to pick up the pace to match the expectations of the average rider, leading to more capable and confident rigs with every new model. Stepping up to the plate, we have the evolved version of the Trek Fuel EX, Trek’s mainstay trail bike. This time it’s really meant to do it all, riding anywhere and doing anything. Being this adaptable can be a tricky task though, so has Trek painted themselves into a corner?
The new Trek Fuel EX breaks just about every mold that the prior generations had fit into, with a full-on redesign for the new model. The name of the game here is adaptability, whether in the geometry, the suspension kinematics, or even what size wheels you’ll run. Thanks to their Mino Link flip chip and two sets of press-in headset cups, you can shift the character of this bike drastically to suit your terrain and preference. As a result, it’s a bit hard to parse out the specific geometry of the bike (however Trek’s site features a geometry tool to let you do so), so I’ll just speak to it in its most neutral form, which is where many will likely settle. There are a whopping 8 size variations to this bike from XS to XXL, so it’s worth digging through the geometry tables to see which might suit you best. They’re all sporting 140mm of rear travel with a 150mm fork, upping the numbers on the prior generation by 10mm.
I’ve been testing the large frame, which puts the reach and stack at around 485mm and 621mm, which are in line with the majority of the industry right now. In keeping with the new Trek Fuel EX’s theme of being adaptable and capable. In its neutral-low setting, the bike comes with a 64.5-degree head tube angle and the effective seat tube angle sits at 77.2-degrees. Chainstays shift with the frame size, and on a large come in at 440mm. Thanks to the Mino Link flip chip, you can adjust bottom bracket height by 8mm up from the slammed 38mm drop in stock configuration, with a 0.6° steeper head tube and seat tube angle. The more significant head tube adjustment comes from the independent press-in headset cups that Trek supplies, which can steepen or slacken things by a full degree, giving a very wide range of handling characteristics. The last frame toggle is the progression flip chip, offering a simple more or less option to tailor the suspension feel and offer uncompromised coil shock compatibility.
As is trend right now, you can set the Fuel Ex up as a mullet, simply by popping a 27.5” wheel in the rear, swapping the Mino Link to high mode, and bumping up fork travel to 160mm. The bike comes stock as a 29er front and rear (or 27.5″ in XS and Small), so you’ll have to make this change on your own accord.
A notable thing lacking from the newest Fuel EX its the Knock Block – you’ll find no such thing on this frame. X-up fans take note, as this is a big move for the engineers in Waterloo, Wisconsin, and was necessary to achieve the headset adjustment range they wanted. Trek has also moved away from the RE:aktiv damper shock, now simply relying on an off-the-shelf model. Still included in the frames are the handy-dandy stash box in the down tube, with what I think might be the best weather sealing of any of the options on the market at this point, and a neat BITS tool roll.
Build kits come in as many flavors as the sizes, and the range of options is quite extensive, beginning at a respectable $3,699. I’ve been on the highest end build, the 9.9 AXS especial, coming in at a healthy $10,749. From Bontrager Line 30 carbon wheels, to the RSL one-piece carbon cockpit, to the XX1 drivetrain, just about everything is as nice as it gets, as you’d hope for this kind of money.
At my height of 6’3”, the geo combination of the Neutral-Low-More flip chip configuration on the large size makes for a really comfortable fit, one that feels stable enough at speed while still remaining lively for your average trail. I started my time testing the bright yellow Trek up in Whistler, riding some gnarly rocky pedal-access trails around the Valley. This was a great context for deciding where I stood on the less or more progression debate, and I settled on the latter end of the spectrum. Increased bottom-out resistance and a more supple top of travel were worth a slightly punchier suspension feel, and I stand by that choice for most of the riding I have around me. On my home trails in Bellingham, the Fuel has been a choice companion for fast and fun rides in our local trail systems, where technical and engaging climbs lead to fast, rooty, and jump-filled descents. My general synopsis is that this is a bike that loves to ride fast, both up and down.
The climbing characteristics are comfortable and neutral, without wallowing too much or lacking grip in trickier terrain. Like many of the take-aways of the bike as it comes stock, things are extra-medium, in the best way. Compared to the new Hightower, the bike has slightly less support, but is significantly better in rough terrain and successive hits. Compared to the Stumpjumper EVO, the Fuel EX is definitely more of a trail bike, less of the all-mountain enduro-lite ride that the Specialized offers. All three bikes serve as a nice gradient from the lighter and sportier end of the trail spectrum to the burlier and more capable side of the category. Sitting pretty right in the middle is the Fuel EX, but I’m sure one could tweak it to either of the other extremes, given how much variability is baked into this frame.
Build kit notes are mostly positive, which you’d hope to see from the highest end build. My main gripe is with the Bontrager SE5 tires, which are some the least confidence-inspiring I’ve ridden in recent memory. The casing and tread pattern are fine, but the compound doesn’t seem to want to hook up anywhere, whether it’s dry loose terrain, rock slabs, and especially wet roots. This would be an immediate swap in my book, and I’d just keep the stock tires to run in the rear when conditions are dry and beat at the peak of summer.
The removable shuttle pad doesn’t seem to want to stay close to the frame, and bows out slightly when attached, giving the downtime a funny bulged look to it. One other frame annoyance has been a recurring suspension knock, despite chasing through every bolt in the linkage with a torque wrench. I still have yet to find the culprit, but luckily it’s not very noticeable when riding.
As a system, I’ve been more than impressed by Trek’s work on the new Fuel EX. Not only does it feel quick and confidant in the stock configuration, it also offers a whole host of layout options to better cater the bike to your preferences.
THE WOLF’S FIRST IMPRESSION
To close out our review of the new Trek Fuel Ex, it’s clear that Trek’s engineers and designers set out to design a bike that caters to that wide center of the market – the trail bike – where most riders spend their time, and where a bike can take many forms. In that goal, they found success. Sure some riders may feel the new Fuel EX has departed from what they were used to and liked about the bike, but many other riders will likely welcome the advancements in capability and confidence on the trail. The Fuel EX is a highly adaptable bike that feels comfortable in a really wide variety of terrain but doesn’t confuse itself for anything more or less. Bike riders, rejoice.
TREK FUEL EX 7
Frame: Alpha Platinum Aluminum, internal storage | 140mm Fork: RockShox 35 Gold RL | 150mm Shock: Fox Performance Float EVOL
Drivetrain: Shimano SLX/XT Brakes: Shimano MT420 4-piston
Wheelset: Bontrager Line Comp 30, Rapid Drive 108
TREK FUEL EX 8
Frame: Alpha Platinum Aluminum, internal storage | 140mm Fork: Fox Rhythm 36 | 150mm Shock: Fox Performance Float X
Drivetrain: Shimano XT M8100 Brakes: Shimano Deore M6120
TREK FUEL EX 9.7
Frame: OLCV Mountain Carbon, internal storage | 140mm Fork: Fox Rhythm 36 | 150mm Shock: Fox Performance Float X
Drivetrain: Shimano SLX/XT Brakes: Shimano Deore M6120
TREK FUEL EX 9.8
GX AXS Price: $7,699.99 XT Price: $6,749.99
Frame: OLCV Mountain Carbon, internal storage | 140mm Fork: Fox Performance 36 | 150mm Shock: Fox Performance Float X
Wheelset: Bontrager Line Elite 30, OCLV Carbon, Rapid Drive 108
GX AXS BUILD Drivetrain: SRAM GX Eagle AXS Brakes: SRAM CODE R
XT BUILD Drivetrain: Shimano XT M8100 Brakes: Shimano XT M8120
TREK FUEL EX 9.9
XX1 AXS Price: $10,749.99 XTR Price: $9,749.99
Frame: OLCV Mountain Carbon, internal storage | 140mm Fork: Fox Factory 36 | 150mm Shock: Fox Factory Float X
Wheelset: Bontrager Line Pro 30, OCLV Carbon, Rapid Drive 108
XX1 AXS BUILD Drivetrain: SRAM XX1 Eagle AXS Brakes: SRAM CODE RSC
XT BUILD Drivetrain: Shimano XTR M9100 Brakes: Shimano XTR M9120
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2020 Trek Fuel EX
2020 Trek Fuel EX 9.8 XT
Size Tested: Medium
Geometry: See Below
Build Overview (9.8 XT Build):
- Drivetrain: Shimano XT 12-speed
- Brakes: Shimano SLX M7120 4-piston
- Fork: Fox Performance 36
- Shock: Fox Performance Float EVOL w/ RE:aktiv tune & Thru Shaft
- Wheels: Bontrager Line Carbon 30
Wheel Size: 29”
Travel: 130 mm rear / 140 mm front
Blister’s Measured Weight (w/o pedals): 29 lbs, 4 oz / 13.27 kg
The Trek Fuel EX first debuted in 2001. While, to some, that original Fuel EX looks like a nightmare by today’s standards, it was a damn good bike for its time. Since then, the American brand has continued to improve the Fuel EX to keep up with the ever-changing mountain bike industry.
Prior to this year, the last major update to the Fuel EX was in 2016, so it was due for some change. For model-year 2020, the Fuel EX underwent a well-needed rework. The EX platform has now been fully upgraded to compete with the new generation of aggressive, shorter-travel Trail bikes, and from the looks of it, Trek’s 2020 Fuel EX has better filled the middle ground between the XC-oriented Top Fuel and longer-travel Remedy and Slash.
We recently got our hands on the 9.8 XT build of the 2020 Fuel EX and so far have only had a handful of rides on it as winter is creeping around the corner. So for now, here is a closer look at the specs of the bike and our initial ride impressions, and then stay tuned for our upcoming full review.
While the old carbon Fuel EX had alloy chainstays, the 2020 Fuel EX now offers a full carbon frame (excluding the rocker link) in the 9.7, 9.8, & 9.9 builds, in addition to fully aluminum frames for the 5, 7, and 8 builds.
The carbon Fuel EX frames include one of my favorite features: an integrated storage compartment located on the downtube.
This is a similar design to the “SWAT Box” seen on Specialized’s Stumpjumper and Enduro models. The Fuel EX’s compartment is accessible through a door that’s connected to the water bottle cage by easily turning a lever. The compartment has enough room to fit a spare tube, CO2 cartridge, and a set of tire levers — all in the included Bontrager BITS tool roll to keep things stable and non-noisy. If I ditch the tools, I could even fit an ultralight rain jacket in the space. Compared to Specialized’s SWAT box, Trek’s take on this is a bit easier and quicker to use thanks to its larger lever. The Fuel EX has also adapted to the 1x standards, losing the option to mount a front derailleur.
Trek outfitted the Fuel EX with the now fairly standard integrated chainstay, seatstay, and downtube protectors, as well as a clean internal cable routing system. The Fuel EX came almost entirely built, and setting up the internal cable routing was extremely easy.
For more frame defense, Trek implemented their Knock Block steering limiter, eliminating the chance of the fork crown hitting the downtube, since they use a straight downtube that would otherwise contact the fork if you tried to turn the bars 360°. Trek says this design creates a stiffer frame (due to the straight, oversized downtube), though it’s a polarizing design and I’m still unsure of how I feel about it. One of the major downfalls to the Knock Block system is that it imposes limitations on the customization of the cockpit. You are limited to stem height as well as changing out the spec’d stem (you have to get a special washer from Trek to use a non-Bontrager stem).
The 2020 Fuel EX frame now can accommodate longer dropper posts — 100 mm on the XS-S sizes, 150 mm on the M and ML, and up to 170 mm on the L-XXL sizes.
Aside from updated frame aspects, the Fuel EX has a beautiful array of matte and gloss color schemes for 2020 (FWIW, the purple / raw carbon frame we have looks pretty dang great).
The Fuel EX’s suspension platform still consists of a classic four-bar linkage, but the 2020 model drops their “Full Floater” design introduced back in 2008. That design attached the lower shock mount to the chainstay, just forward of the main pivot, thereby moving both ends of the rear shock, and thus altering the leverage curve. For 2020, Trek has returned to a fixed lower-shock mount, but carries over the Re:aktiv damper configuration and Thru Shaft rear suspension from the prior model.
What is RE:aktiv? Essentially, it’s Trek’s term for the damper configuration in their proprietary rear shock that was designed with Fox and Formula 1 Penske engineers. In short, it is a way of making the damper regressive — the damping force initially increases with higher shaft speeds, but then actually decreases as the speed further increases. This is accomplished with geometry on the main damper piston that increases the area on which the pressurized oil acts on the compression valve as the valve opens, thereby increasing the force exerted on the compression valve. The idea, as Trek describes it, is to create firmer compression damping at lower-frequency inputs — such as pedaling, or while pumping and popping off of features — while having the damping fall off under sharper inputs, to be more supple under high-speed chatter.
If that last paragraph made your eyes glaze over, that’s okay – we’re talking about a somewhat unconventional damper tune here, but nothing totally off the deep end. And if you want to nerd out on the concept some more, Steve Mathews from Vorsprung Suspension has an excellent video on the damper here (the stuff at the beginning about the air spring is referring to an older version of the shock; the details about the Re:aktiv damper start around 5:38).
The version of the shock spec’d on the EX 9.8 and 9.9 builds is a “Thru Shaft” system. Thru Shaft was created to eliminate what Trek refers to as the “lag” created by the Internal Floating Piston (IFP) as the shock cycles, and the damper shaft (and correspondingly, the IFP) changes direction. Their claim is that the Thru Shaft design allows the shock to respond more quickly while riding over varied terrain. Noah Bodman has a good explanation of this design in his review of the Trek Slash , and was able to compare a Thru Shaft shock back-to-back with a conventional one – check out his review for more detail.
Updated for 2020, all Fuel EX models are now spec’d with a 140 mm fork instead of a 130 mm, and the more expensive 9.8 and 9.9 builds get a burlier Fox 36 instead of the 34 on the lower-end models. In my opinion, this is a good move by Trek since the 36 aids in stability and overall stiffness in the front end through demanding sections of trail, but I would have liked to have seen this fork on some of the lower-end models as well, given the strong downhill performance we’re seeing in Trail bikes these days.
The 2020 Fuel EX is offered in nine* different builds and two frame-only options. The alloy frameset w/ Fox Re:aktiv shock goes for $1,999 and the carbon frameset w/ Fox Factory Re:aktiv & Thru Shaft shock goes for $3,299.
*The full builds consist of the 5, 7, 8, 9.7, 9.8, and 9.9, but Trek also offers the 9.8 and 9.9 builds with different drivetrains. You can get a Fuel EX 9.9 with a Sram X01 Eagle drivetrain, Sram X01 AXS drivetrain, or Shimano XTR drivetrain. And you can get a Fuel EX 9.8 with a Sram GX Eagle drivetrain or Shimano XT drivetrain (the build we’re testing). But apart from the drivetrains and prices, the 9.9 builds are all basically identical, and same story for the two 9.8 builds.
The full builds range from the alloy 5 at $2,099, spec’d with components chosen with value in mind, all the way up to the 9.9 X01 AXS build that features a carbon frame, carbon wheels, carbon bars, top-tier Fox Factory suspension, Sram X01 Eagle AXS 1×12 drivetrain, and Shimano XT brakes for a whopping $8,499-$8,999.99.
The build we are currently testing is the 9.8 XT model, priced right at $5,999. This build comes spec’d with a full carbon frame, carbon wheels and bars from Bontrager, Performance-level Fox suspension, Shimano XT 1×12 drivetrain, and Shimano SLX brakes.
For more info on all of the Fuel EX builds (and the rest of Trek’s lineup), see our Trek Brand Guide .
Initial Thoughts on the Fuel EX 9.8 Build
$5,999 is a considerable chunk of change. If you’re paying such high dollar for a mountain bike, you better get a darn good setup, right?
Well, the Fuel EX 9.8 XT comes with Trek’s top-of-the-line OCLV Mountain carbon frame as well as Bontrager carbon bars and carbon wheels. Fitted on the wheels are a set of Bontrager XR4 Team Issue 29×2.6 tires (tubeless-ready, of course). And if you’re concerned about blowing up your sweet new carbon hoops, it’s worth noting that Trek says they’ll repair or replace the carbon rims for free if you damage them within two years after your purchase.
Apart from the fancy carbon bits, the 9.8 XT comes spec’d with the new Shimano XT M8100 1×12 groupset (shifter, derailleur, crank, cassette, and chain) and after my initial time, I think it’s a nice addition. Although I have only ridden the Fuel EX on a handful of rides so far, the drivetrain performed flawlessly (even after we let Sam Shaheen romp around on it in the muddy creek beds of Moab …).
I was easily impressed when going from the jeep mode (51-tooth, lowest gear) climbing up a steep hill, to dumping the shifter into higher gears with my full weight on the pedals as I drop down over the crest. It was a pleasant escape from the usual horrifying noises I typically get when doing this sort of shifting under load. It will be interesting to see how the groupset holds up over time with rough riding, but knowing Shimano, I have high hopes for the new XT 12-speed.
Another recently revised Shimano product on the Fuel EX 9.8 is this year’s 4-piston Shimano SLX brakes. I’m not sure why Trek decided to spec an XT build with SLX brakes, but the revised SLX model is supposed to offer similar performance as the XT, and it seems that Trek took this as an opportunity to save a bit of money. The Fuel EX 9.8 is fitted with a 180 mm rotor in the front and a 160 mm rotor in the rear, which I’ve found to be a great pairing for a shorter-travel Trail bike like the Fuel EX.
Next up is suspension. The rear shock spec’d for the Fuel EX 9.8 features Trek’s RE:aktiv tune and Thru Shaft design, which we touched on earlier. The shock is essentially a Fox Performance Float EVOL with a 3-position damper (climb, trail, & descend modes) that’s custom-tuned by Trek. This shock loses a few features, such as the 3-position fine-tune adjustment for descend mode and Kashima coat, seen on the Fox Factory Float EVOL offered on the higher-end 9.9 builds.
We can’t really compare (at least on paper) this custom shock to the normal Float EVOL due to the custom nature of the shock on the Fuel EX, but I’ll be discussing how the shock feels while climbing and descending in my on-trail impressions.
The fork on the Fuel EX 9.8 is the Fox Performance 36 with the Float EVOL air spring and GRIP damper. Once again being on the lower end of the spectrum for the Fox suspension line, it still works fairly well and does the job for its intended use on this bike. I ride a 140 mm Performance Elite 34 on my current shorter-travel Trail bike, the 2019 Transition Smuggler , and the stout 36 on the Fuel EX feels notably more stable so far. Compared to the higher-end Factory 36 fork on the 9.9 builds, on the 9.8 you lose the more adjustable GRIP2 damper as well as Kashima coat and options for further tuning (though the Performance 36 has been great so far).
You might be questioning why a $6000 bike comes with lower-tier suspension, and I think that comes down to the fact that the Fuel EX 9.8’s Line Pro 30 carbon wheelset costs nearly $1,300 if you were buying it separately, and the carbon frameset alone would cost you $3,299 (admittedly, with the higher-end Fox Factory shock). So at least on paper, the Fuel EX 9.8’s build / price seems pretty reasonable, though Trek opted to spend a bit more on the wheels and cockpit, whereas some other brands put more money into suspension and stick to cheaper wheels, bars, etc.
Fit and Geometry
Going along with the updated trends of modern Trail bikes in the shorter-travel category, the 2020 Fuel EX has seen a geometry change like most new-gen bikes that can be summed up with the words of longer (reach / wheelbase), slacker (head angle), and steeper (seat tube angle).
The Fuel EX’s head angle has now dropped a degree to 66°, reach has been extended by 10-20 mm depending on frame size, and seat tube angle has gained a degree, now sitting at 75° for a steeper position while climbing. The Fuel EX also has a flip chip “Mino Link” that allows for a half-degree change in HA (66.5° in the high setting and 66° in the low setting) and a few mm change in bottom bracket height.
For reference, here’s the geo chart for the Fuel EX:
For sizing, I opted for a Medium frame. At 5’7”, I thought this was an optimal fit, excluding the spec’d 780mm-wide bars. That’s just a personal preference, but at my size I feel more comfortable riding something closer to 750 mm. But the good news is that you can always cut down bars (and can’t turn a smaller bar into a bigger one), and aside from that, the fit felt spot-on compared to other bikes in this category.
Something to take into consideration about sizing for the 2020 Fuel EX models — they have dropped female-specific bikes this year. They are currently implementing their motto introduced in 2019: “Awesome bikes for everyone.” Instead of having women’s-specific models like they did in previous years, they’re just offering more size options for all builds. Personally, I think this is a pretty cool change since Trek can now offer smaller riders more spec and color options from which to choose. Over all nine builds available for the Fuel EX, there are currently six different available sizes (XS, S, M, ML, L, & XL). The XS is only available with 27.5″ wheels, you can get a size S with 27.5″ or 29″ wheels, and the other sizes all come with 29″ wheels. Interestingly, the carbon versions of the Fuel EX are not currently available in the XXL size, though the aluminum versions are.
At first glance, the Fuel EX 9.8 seems like a shorter-travel Trail bike that’s more suited toward descending than ascending, given its slacker and longer geometry, beefier fork, and wider 2.6” tires. However, I don’t think those specific aspects really hinder the bike’s climbing abilities. The Fuel EX climbs fairly well for this class, and even though it’s not a super efficient ascender, it still gets the job done — especially with help from the pedal-assist lever on the shock (that lever has proven to be more important on the Fuel EX than on my Transition Smuggler ).
On longer ascents, the bike felt most efficient with the shock in the middle “trail” setting, which made the bike feel firm when needed without seriously compromising traction, and overall reduced the plush bob off the top of the stroke that I felt when the shock was in the open position. On the majority of my rides, I kept the shock in the middle trail setting, and only on mellow dirt roads did I feel like the shock needed to be fully locked out.
Approaching more committed and technical aspects of trail, I opted to leave the shock in the open position for added grip and traction. This is where the Fuel EX stood out in terms of climbing. The forgiving, plush shock just ate up the rocks and roots, offering little to no tire slip, all without requiring me to make many body-position adjustments to keep the bike on-line. Paired with the buttery smooth 1×12 XT drivetrain, the Fuel EX easily wheeled through punchy, technical climbs. The 29” wheels and 2.6” tires helped tremendously when it came to wheeling over variable terrain, though that wide of a tire also felt a bit sluggish while ascending smoother sections of trail where I would normally be carrying more speed.
While climbing through tight turns, I didn’t notice any steering interference from the Knock Block system, but I could see it possibly giving me some trouble when steering through a true hairpin section.
One thing I do want to point out is that I felt slightly off the back of the bike while seated, which is probably due to the not-extremely-steep 75° seat tube angle and also the positioning of the saddle. I’ll be tinkering more with the saddle and will see if that can alleviate this.
Right off the bat, I felt I was going to enjoy descending on the Fuel EX — everything about it looked like it’d make for a fun Trail bike on the down. I had the Mino Link flip chip in the low setting which put the head angle at 66° and was running my suspension a little on the faster side in terms of rebound, but nothing crazy. According to Trek’s suspension calculator, they recommended me running 30% sag in the rear. I set it up a little under that 30% number, hoping I would gain some support. For the fork, I ran about 65 psi since I like things to be a bit stiffer and was running the GRIP damper a few clicks past the midway point between open and firm (i.e., a bit closer to “firm” than “open”).
The first thing I noticed was how stable the Fuel EX felt during cornering. On flat corners, it was predictable and tracked incredibly well. On more bermed corners, I felt like it was encouraging me to really lean it over and weight the inside, letting me carry speed through the exit without much worry that it was going to slide out on me. In short, the Fuel EX’s predictability made cornering feel easier and it didn’t require me to be perfectly set up / prepared for any awkward transitions. Now with this being said, the combination of super tacky trail conditions and fresh rubber could have been helping, but I feel like that was just a small portion of it. For quick and tight maneuvers, the Fuel EX just handled well.
High-speed rocky sections of trail were where I started to notice the shock’s regressive damper. Similar to climbing with the shock fully open, the bike felt stuck to the ground. The normal chatter and feedback I get from my current trail bike (120mm-travel Transition Smuggler) were not there. This was a smooth and forgiving feeling, almost like a trophy truck’s suspension sucking up all the bumps and its tires maintaining contact with the ground at all times. The Fuel EX feels surprisingly planted and stable for a 130mm-travel bike.
When it came to riding with a looser style and pulling up off obstacles into blind landings, the Fuel EX sucked it up and muted the rough landing, recovering and keeping traction throughout, which was a pleasant surprise.
All that said, the Fuel EX’s plush feel definitely offers something different from my Smuggler, and that’s taken some adjustment on my end. The Fuel EX felt a bit “dead” in the high-speed chattery sections, whereas I’m used to the poppy feel and playfulness of the Smuggler, which lets me hop around or intentionally get kicked from rock to rock. The Fuel EX feels much more planted, and less poppy. I believe that some of this could come from the wider 2.6” tires, and maybe running sag percentage closer to 20% will let me get more pop out of the bike. But at least coming from the Smuggler, the suspension on the Fuel EX felt a bit “off” at first, though I think it’s something that more time and tinkering of the suspension / tire combo will likely solve.
Some Questions / Things We’re Curious About
(1) I’m very eager to play with different sag percentages on the Fuel EX’s Re:aktiv Thru Shaft shock. It will be interesting to see if there is actually a noticeable difference in responsiveness / pop, and more importantly, if it will make the bike feel better or worse. Noah Bodman found that the RE:aktiv shock on the Trek Remedy was very sensitive to air pressure, while the RE:aktiv shock on the Trek Slash was less sensitive, so what about the Fuel EX?
(2) How will the Fuel EX feel with lower-volume tires like a 2.5” Maxxis DHF and 2.3” Maxxis High Roller II?
(3) Is the Fuel EX a viable option for riders looking for a quiver-killer bike that they could use just about anywhere? Or is there any particular area / trail type / riding style for which the Fuel EX is best suited?
(4) How does the 2020 Fuel EX compare to other modern mountain bikes reviewed in the Trail category, such as the Yeti SB130 and Santa Cruz Hightower?
(5) Over long-term use, how will the Bontrager Line Carbon 30 wheelset hold up? And on that note, what about the new Shimano XT 12-speed drivetrain?
Bottom Line (For Now)
The 2020 Trek Fuel EX appears to be a solid revamp from its predecessor, now reflecting trends seen across all modern-day Trail bikes. After my initial time on it, it seems like a very capable, all-round bike. It seems to bring something a bit different to the table than many other shorter-travel Trail bikes, with an emphasis on stability, grip, and plushness over pop and playfulness. We’ll be getting much more saddle time with the Fuel EX to gain a better understanding of where the bike best performs and how capable it really is, so stay tuned for our full review.
8 comments on “2020 Trek Fuel EX”
Nice early review. I’ve been ripping around on a 9.9 since late October. Loving the uber-plush rear suspension, exactly as you described. Funny that the full floater design, but this bike is more plush than my 2017 was.
And the Fox 36 Grip2 is the perfect complement. Easily tuned from all plush, all the time for rugged xc stuff, right up to super-supportive for faster enduro-style descending.
Super interesting bike. Right off the bat, the need for a Knock Block and Trek’s insistence that their head tube to down tube configuration is stiffer just smacks of big brand proprietary gold plating. That said, Knock Block style technology will be helpful when the inevitable dual crown trail bike arrives from Trek or someone else. SLX-level brakes on a $6K bike seems a bit cheap. Conversely, carbon hoops on a $6K bike is pretty rad. Suspension manufacturer brand/model-specific tunes are nothing new. What is new is companies are beginning to market around this phenomenon. Ibis jumped headlong into that trend when they released the Mojo HD5 earlier this year. Trek seems to want that same splash. I think it’s a terrific development in mountain biking that we can start talking about the relative merits of different suspension qualities on the superficial marketing level rather than that subject being limited to the nerds among us.
I do have some questions in the future about this bike. 1) as a short travel quiver killer, is 2.6 the best rubber for the job? 2) is there A place in the market for a planted/plush short travel bike?
I agree that the Knock Block is questionable along with Trek’s statements on an overall stiffer frame. But without it, there would be major issues with frame damage due to the crowns smashing into that oversized and straight downtube. My biggest gripe with the Knock Block is Trek limiting customization to the cockpit. You have to use the Bontrager Knock Block specific stem unless you go through the hassle of ordering a special washer from Trek to then be able to install your stem of choice.
Yes, the Knock Block tech eliminates the crown from hitting the downtube, but let’s have some faith that we don’t start seeing short travel trail bikes with dual crowns….
Those are some great questions we will be taking into consideration with more time on the saddle. Off of a first impression, I think the 2.6 tires are overkill and it will be interesting to see how the bike preforms on lower volume rubber.
The Reaktiv valving truly is different, and not just a model- or brand-specific tune. Most like it. A bit like a Specialized Brain without the clunk. I liked the first versions several years ago, but still slightly preferred the DPX2. I friggin LOVE the latest version. Now it just has to pass the test of time. 30 or so hours so far, and holding up well.
I’m personally not a big fan of 2.6 rubber, but there is a bit of leftover racer in me. I run 2.4 front XR4 and rear XR3 for a snappier feel. The 2.6s are for trips to places like Moab, where a bit lower pressure adds up to less fatigue after a few days.
Great to hear that you’ve been enjoying your 9.9 EX (jealous of that Grip2 damper..) personally, I can’t wait to get more saddle time on the bike.
Did you notice a major difference in overall riding when switching to the lower volume 2.4 XR4/XR3 tires?
Yes, but there is a but. At the same time, I swapped from the Line 30 Carbon wheels to some Kovee Pro 30s. Between the lighter and narrower wheels, the bike feel snappier, and more nimble.
And yeah, the Grip2 damper is the schizzle!
Good to know, I’m sure rolling speed felt a bit faster as well. Thanks for the input Tom.
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Trek Fuel EX 8 Review
- Fun Factor - 25% 8.0
- Downhill Performance - 35% 8.0
- Climbing Performance - 35% 7.0
- Ease of Maintenance - 5% 6.0
Our analysis and test results.
Should I Buy This Bike?
Trek redesigned their popular range of mid-travel Fuel EX trail bikes for 2020 with major changes to the geometry and the ABP rear suspension design. The new Fuel EX models, including the EX 8 we tested, are in line with modern trail bike geometry trends, plus they've been given a bump in front suspension travel with 140mm travel forks paired with 130mm of rear-wheel travel. The ABP (Active Braking Pivot) suspension design provides a supportive pedaling platform, great small bump sensitivity, composed big hit performance, and is unaffected by braking forces. Trek makes bikes for the masses, and despite lengthening and slackening the Fuel EX the geometry remains relatively middle of the road by today's standards, though this isn't necessarily a bad thing. This bike has an easy-going demeanor with predictable handling that is comfortable and fun to ride at a range of speeds and nearly any type of terrain, yet is still capable of charging relatively hard. The EX 8 is the most expensive aluminum-framed model in their line, but we feel it is reasonably priced with a shred-ready component specification that includes quality suspension, a GX Eagle drivetrain, a 150mm dropper, and meaty 2.6" wide tires. We didn't feel there was a lot of wow-factor, but we also found it hard to complain about the versatile and well-rounded performance of this reasonably priced mid-travel ride.
Interested in a bike that charges a little harder on the descents? The Norco Optic has similar travel numbers with 125mm of rear suspension paired with a 140mm fork. The Optic's aggressive geometry gives it a serious appetite for the descents, and it slays downhill like a bike with more travel. Its long wheelbase and slack head tube angle make it notably stable at speed and confident in steep, rough terrain. It feels similar to the Fuel EX on the climbs and in rolling terrain but blows it away on the descents. Carbon Optic builds range from $3,749 to $8,999.
Do you like smaller wheels and playful ride? The Santa Cruz 5010 rolls on fun-sized, 27.5-inch wheels and has 130mm of rear wheel travel and 140mm fork. It's got modern, but not extreme, geometry that makes it a versatile trail weapon that performs well on both the climbs and descents. A lively and playful demeanor is the hallmark of the 5010, and this bike likes to be flicked, slashed, and aired off every obstacle in the trail. The VPP suspension platform provides great pedaling support, efficiency, and a bit of pop. While the Fuel EX is impressively versatile and user-friendly, the 5010 will appeal to the rider who wants to turn the mountain into their playground. The 5010 comes in carbon frames only with complete builds ranging from $4,099 to $6,899.
The 2020 Fuel EX 8 is built around Trek's Alpha Platinum Aluminum frame with 130mm of rear-wheel travel. Trek has used their Active Braking Pivot (ABP) rear suspension design for some time and that continues with the redesigned Fuel EX models. Unlike previous ABP designs, the new Fuel has a fixed lower shock mount as opposed to the floating shock mount of the past. ABP is basically a four-bar design where the main pivot is attached to the seat tube just above the bottom bracket, the shock attaches to a magnesium rocker link about halfway up the seat tube, and there is a pivot point around the rear axle. This rear axle pivot is intended to allow the suspension to move freely regardless of braking forces, hence the name Active Braking Pivot . Trek has included their Mino Link flip chip at the junction of the seat stays and the rocker link which adjusts the head and seat tube angles by 0.5-degrees and changes the bottom bracket height by 7mm. The frame has internal Control Freak cable routing, a knock block headset, a downtube guard, and chainstay protection. It comes in sizes XS-XXL with XS and Small frames getting 27.5-inch wheels and Medium to XXL frames coming with 29-inch hoops.
We found the frame sizing of the Fuel EX 8 to feel a little small, so our 6-foot tall testers rode a size XL for this test. We measured our test bike and found that it had a 654mm effective top tube and a 490mm reach. In the Low setting the head tube angle was 65.75-degrees and the effective seat tube angle was 75.25-degrees. The bottom bracket was 342mm off the ground with 438mm long chainstays and a 1240mm wheelbase. Both the reach and wheelbase measurements sound quite long, but this bike feels smaller than those numbers suggest. It tipped the scales at 31 lbs and 7 oz set up tubeless without pedals.
- Available in aluminum or carbon fiber frames
- 130mm of ABP rear suspension
- Designed around a 140mm fork
- Mino Link adjustable geometry
- Available in 7 frames sizes
- XS and S frames get 27.5-inch wheels, all other sizes come with 29-inch
- Three aluminum models starting at $2,100 up to $3,450 (tested)
- Carbon models range in price from $4,100 to $9,000
- Available as frame only in aluminum for $2,000, and carbon fiber for $3,300
The Fuel EX 8 is a rock-solid downhill performer. It didn't blow our testers away on the descents, but it never let them down either. This bike was comfortable and fun to ride on a huge range of terrain and is capable of tackling all but the gnarliest of steep and rough trails. The geometry strikes a nice middle ground that gives it its impressive versatility, and the new ABP suspension design delivers stunning sensitivity and small bump compliance and a deep feeling stroke that handles big hits with composure. For the price, the components on our test bike are solid and perform well on the descents.
The geometry of the Fuel EX 8 is a dramatic improvement over the previous version, and Trek has addressed most of the current trail bike trends. A longer reach and wheelbase, slacker head tube, steeper seat tube, and flip-chip adjustable geometry are a proven recipe for enhanced downhill performance and capability. Interestingly, our testers found the frame sizing to feel small. Our six-foot tall tester felt cramped on the Large frame while our 5'-10" tester felt just about right. If you're on the cusp of a frame size, we'd suggest taking a test ride and possibly sizing up. Once on the right size frame, testers felt the reach was adequate and the wheelbase was just about right for a modern mid-travel trail bike. It's long enough to feel stable and planted at high speeds, but not so long that it becomes unwieldy at low speeds or in tight terrain. The 65.75-degree head angle, in the low setting, is slack enough to tackle the majority of trails with confidence without being so slack that steering becomes sluggish or the bike feels awkward at low speeds. The geometry is also adjustable using the Mino-Link flip-chip. There is a 0.5-degree difference in the head and seat tube angles and the bottom bracket changes by 7mm between the High and Low settings. We spent the majority of our time testing the Fuel EX 8 in the Low setting which we found to be excellent for everyday trail riding. The High setting's steeper head angle provided marginally crisper handling and we feel it would be good for riders whose trails are smoother and moderate in difficulty.
The ABP suspension design works well. Trek has moved away from the full-floater design on the previous Fuel models to a fixed lower shock mount. The Fuel EX 8 we tested comes with a Fox Float Performance rear shock with custom-tuned RE:aktiv damper technology. There's a lot of technical jargon associated with the RE:aktiv shocks, but the gist of it all is that it has regressive damping intended to give it a supportive pedal platform while remaining highly sensitive with excellent small bump compliance. Testers found it to soak up big hits with ease with a relatively bottomless feel, especially for a 130mm bike, with a supportive mid-stroke that you could push off of out of corners and get some pop when you're looking for it. It wasn't the most playful or lively bike we've ridden recently, but it wasn't glued to the ground either. The knock block headset is a necessity on this bike to prevent the fork from damaging the downtube, but our testers noted that it does limit your turning radius is super tight switchbacks.
For the price, we were quite pleased with the component specification of the Fuel EX 8 , and it works well on the descents. The Fox Rhythm 34 fork is nothing fancy but felt sturdy, impressively supple, and balanced with the rear suspension. The Shimano Deore brakes work well enough, with a very on/off feel that Shimano brakes are known for. The Bontrager Line Comp 30 wheels felt stiff and sturdy, and the 2.6" Bontrager XR4 tires worked surprisingly well in a huge range of conditions and were more durable than expected. We can't complain about the Bontrager Line dropper post, the 150mm was adequate and the 1x style remote lever felt good. The cockpit was well appointed with a properly wide 780mm handlebar and a short 50mm stem with a sturdy 35mm clamp.
We were pleasantly surprised by the climbing performance of the Fuel EX 8 . We've read reviews that complain of this bike relying heavily on the compression damping switch of the rear shock, but we found it to be quite supportive with minimal pedal induced bobbing. Sure, it's a little heavy at over 31 lbs, but this bike felt efficient and responsive and capable of taking on any length of climb or ride. The geometry is comfortable and the component grouping won't hold you back.
Assuming you're on the right size frame, the geometry of the Fuel EX 8 is comfortable on the climbs. Once again, on the Large frame, our six-foot tall testers felt cramped in the cockpit, after sizing up to an XL they felt far more comfortable. We measured the reach on the XL frame at 490mm, but it certainly didn't feel that long or stretched out. The 1240mm wheelbase also sounds lengthy, but again, it didn't feel that long and this bike was plenty maneuverable on the climbs. One limiting factor to this bike's maneuverability is the knock block, which we found came into play occasionally in super tight switchbacks and technical terrain. The 75.25-degree effective seat tube angle is a little bit slacker than you'll find on most bikes in 2020 but it still places you almost directly above the bottom bracket for pushing straight down on the pedals.
The RE:aktiv shock valving works very well with the ABP suspension design to create a supportive pedal platform on the Fuel EX 8 . It seems to us that there is something to the regressive damping technology, and we climbed with the shock in the open position the majority of the time. In the open position, there was very minimal pedal bob when seated and a relatively standard amount when out of the saddle. Despite the firm climbing feel of the rear suspension, it still felt sensitive and soaked up small bumps and helped to enhance traction. Flipping the compression damping switch to the middle position provided an even firmer pedal platform, though testers felt that was best saved for long fire road or paved climbs.
Overall, the component grouping was generally fantastic on the climbs. The SRAM GX Eagle drivetrain is reliable with plenty of gear range and crisp shifting. The Bontrager XR4 rear tire in the 2.6" width has a huge contact patch and provided ample climbing traction on virtually all surfaces. Testers did find, however, that the Bontrager Arvada saddle wasn't the most comfortable and would likely be the first thing we'd upgrade. The overall weight of the Fuel EX 8 is also notable at 31 lbs and 7 oz. This bike is a bit on the heavy side, though we have to admit the weight went largely unnoticed while riding.
At a retail price of $3,450, the Fuel EX 8 qualifies as being reasonably priced these days. We feel that this represents an above-average value for a well spec'd trail bike from a major brand like Trek. This bike comes ready to rip and there's seriously nothing that needs to be upgraded to get out and get after it. If this is out of your price range, there are two less expensive models to choose from, and for those looking to go a bit higher end, there are 6 different carbon builds.
Trek did a good job when they redesigned the Fuel EX , creating a more versatile and well-rounded mid-travel trail ripper. This bike has a very approachable and easy-going demeanor, with just enough travel and the angles to be a blast to ride in all but the most aggressive of terrain. There's nothing particularly exciting about it, but there's little we didn't like about it either. We feel this is a solid all-around trail bike and a reasonably priced and sensible option for a lot of riders and locations.
Trek makes nine different versions fo the new Fuel EX including the EX 8 model we tested which is the top of the line aluminum framed option. They no longer offer women's specific models, though they do make the bikes in 6 different sizes to fit a huge range of rider's body shapes and sizes.
They make 3 aluminum-framed models, all of which share the same Alpha Platinum Aluminum frame and geometry, starting with the budget-friendly Fuel EX 5 which retails for $2,100. The EX 5 comes with a RockShox Recon RL fork and a Deluxe Select+ rear shock, a Shimano Deore 10-speed drivetrain, wide tubeless-ready wheels and 2.6" tires, and a TranzX dropper seatpost.
The mid-range aluminum model is the Fuel EX 7 at $2,900. It comes with a RockShox Gold 35 fork, a Fox Float Performance DPS EVOL rear shock, a SRAM NX Eagle drivetrain, and a Bontrager Line Comp 30 wheelset.
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New Trek Fuel EX ups travel and versatility
Trek's most feature-full trail bike yet features adjustable geometry, suspension kinematics, shock and wheel-size options
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By Tom Marvin
Published: September 8, 2022 at 4:00 pm
Trek has launched its updated Fuel EX trail bike, taking it from a lighter-weight, short-travel ripper and turning it into a more aggressive trail bike in the process.
The Fuel EX receives 140mm of travel at the back, paired with a 150mm fork, and features adjustable geometry and the ability to run a coil shock.
The new-shape bike takes clear aesthetic influences from Trek’s also new Fuel EXe eMTB that was launched this summer. Moderately curved top tubes and a lower shock mounting point on a bar linking the down tube to the seat tube, above the bottom bracket area, are the clearest visual links between the models.
Trek claims the trail category is the most important part of its mountain bike family, and so the Fuel EX is the key bike in the range.
As such, this is a bike Trek wants to excel in all conditions, and appeal to a wide range of riders. It has to climb well and descend confidently, as well as being heaps of fun. Trek claims it’s the most feature-full bike it has ever made.
The bike uses the brand’s ABP suspension linkage, and in the smaller sizes is offered with 27.5in wheels .
Trek Fuel EX frame details
Trek is offering the new Fuel EX in both aluminium and carbon options, which share the same geometry and suspension headline figures.
The shape of the frame has had to change on this version of the bike to enable Trek to achieve a number of its goals.
For example, it wanted a shorter seat tube length, to allow for longer-drop droppers, but needed to balance this with a longer seatpost insertion length to allow for these longer posts.
This means the shock has been moved forward in the frame to accommodate the new seat tube. However, Trek says it didn’t want to compromise water bottle storage or standover height.
Trek also needed to ensure a broad range of shock sizes could fit – including coil and piggy-back shocks. Trek says this means all of Fox and RockShox’s air and coil shocks can fit in, as well as the likes of DVO/Push/Marzocchi.
On some smaller frames with water bottles, there may be compatibility issues with large-architecture shocks.
Trek is using the 34.9mm seat tube diameter standard, allowing for more reliable long-drop droppers. This larger diameter allows for stiffer dropper post construction, and means seals are more effective too.
The Fuel EX features down tube storage on both carbon and alloy models, with the door located under the bottle cage.
There’s also fully guided internal cable routing – a first for the Fuel EX, enabling you to push cables in at the head tube, and wait for them to exit at the right place without fishing around internally to guide them.
Like the Trek Slash and Session, the down tube has full-length rubberised bolt-on protection. This extends high up the down tube for riders who sling their bikes over a pickup’s tailgate.
Trek Fuel EX suspension details
Trek’s ABP suspension linkage features a rear pivot concentric to the rear axle (rather than close to it on the chainstay, as per a 4-bar, or on the seatstay in a linkage driven single-pivot design).
This is said to avoid the suspension stiffening up under braking. It’s a system that has reviewed well on a range of Trek mountain bikes .
Trek has added a ‘Progression Chip’ to its ABP suspension system, which alters the leverage rate of the suspension .
Effectively, this allows both air (progressive in nature) and coil (linear in nature) shocks to be used. However, Trek says the chip can also be used to alter the way your bike feels with the same shock.
In the less progressive setting, it’s designed to act like previous generations of the Fuel EX. It should cope well with rocky, lumpy trails with big hits, where you want to easily and reliably access all the bike’s travel.
In the higher-rate setting, you get more progression and more bottom-out resistance, which Trek says is ideal on more flowy trails, where you want the bike held up higher in its travel, and to provide more pop when you hit a jump.
This is a step up from changing the spring rate of the suspension, because the leverage rate impacts on the damping of the shock as well. This is trickle-down tech from Trek’s Session DH bike.
Trek Fuel EX geometry
Bikes are now, as you’d expect, longer, lower, slacker and steeper . This means the head angle has been chopped to 64.5 degrees, the reach has gone up 10 to 20mm depending on size, and the seat angle has been steepened too.
Chainstays are size-specific, from 435 to 450mm depending on frame size. This has been done to keep a more consistent weight balance across the eight sizes (XS to XXL).
The XS bike is 27.5in only, while size-small bikes can be purchased in either 29in or 27.5in . The rest of the range is 29in.
Trek has built the Fuel EX with both the Mino Link Hi/Low flip chip and an adjustable headset system with three positions – Steep, Neutral and Slack.
On its own, this gives six geometry options. However, it also indicates the bike can be run as a mullet, in M to XXL sizes.
When run as a mullet, Trek says the Mino Link should be run in the high setting, and a longer 160mm fork should be used.
The current Hi setting on the Mino Link is the same as the previous generation’s Low setting.
Below is a 29in, Mino Link Low, headset Slack geometry chart. Trek’s website has a dynamic geometry chart, which updates when you digitally alter the settings on the bike.
Trek Fuel EX models
The model line starts with the Fuel EX 5, which uses the previous-generation frame.
The new chassis lands on models EX 7 and up. Trek will also be offering both the carbon and alloy frame as a frame-only option for those who wish to spec their own bikes.
All bikes feature largely Bontrager finishing kit, including dropper posts. At the time of writing, we do not have pricing.
Trek Fuel EX 5 specification
- Frame: Alpha Platinum
- Fork: RockShox Recon Silver
- Shock: X-Fusion Pro 2
- Groupset: Shimano Deore
- Brakes: Shimano MT200
- Wheels: Alex rims, Bontrager hubs
- Tyres: Maxxis Rekon
Trek Fuel EX 7 specification
- Fork: RockShox 35 Gold RL
- Shock: Fox Performance Float
- Groupset: Shimano Deore/SLX/XT
- Brakes: Shimano MT420
- Wheels: Bontrager Line Comp 30
- Tyres: Bontrager XR5 29×2.6in
Trek Fuel EX 8 specification
- Fork: Fox Rhythm 36
- Shock: Fox Float X2 Performance
- Groupset: Shimano SLX/XT
- Brakes: Shimano MT6120
Trek Fuel EX 9.7 specification
- Frame: OCLV Carbon
Trek Fuel EX 9.8 GX AXS / Shimano XT specification
- Fork: Fox Performance 36
- Groupset: SRAM GX AXS or Shimano XT
- Brakes: SRAM Code R or MT8120
- Wheels: Bontrager Line Elite 30 Carbon
Trek Fuel EX 9.9 XX1 AXS / Shimano XTR specification
- Fork: Fox Factory 36
- Shock: Fox Float X2 Factory
- Groupset: SRAM XX1 AXS or Shimano XTR
- Brakes: SRAM Code RSC or MT9120
- Wheels: Bontrager Line Pro 30 Carbon
Senior technical editor
Tom Marvin is a technical editor at BikeRadar.com and MBUK magazine. He has a particular focus on mountain bikes, but spends plenty of time on gravel bikes, too. Tom has written for BikeRadar, MBUK and Cycling Plus, and was previously technical editor of What Mountain Bike magazine. He is also a regular presenter on BikeRadar’s YouTube channel and the BikeRadar podcast. With more than twenty years of mountain biking experience, and nearly a decade of testing mountain and gravel bikes, Tom has ridden and tested thousands of bikes and products, from super-light XC race bikes through to the most powerful brakes on the market. Outside of testing bikes, Tom competes in a wide range of mountain bike races, from multi-day enduros through to 24-hour races in the depths of the Scottish winter – pushing bikes, components and his legs to their limits. He’s also worked out that shaving your legs saves 8 watts, while testing aerodynamics in a wind tunnel. When not riding he can be found at the climbing wall, in his garden or cooking up culinary delights.
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Russia’s BN-800 refuelled with mox: full mox core planned for 2022
The first full refuelling of Russia’s BN-800 fast reactor at unit 4 of the Beloyarsk NPP with only uranium-plutonium mixed oxide (mox) fuel was completed during the recent scheduled maintenance outage, fuel company TVEL (part of Rosatom) announced on 24 February. The unit, which was shut down on 8 January, has been reconnected to the grid and has resumed electricity production. The first 18 serial mox fuel assemblies were loaded into the reactor in January 2020, and another 160 fuel assemblies have now been added to them. Thus, the BN-800 core is now one-third filled with innovative fuel and in future only mox fuel will be loaded into the reactor.
“Beloyarsk NPP is now one step closer to implementation of the strategic direction for the development of the nuclear industry - the creation of a new technological platform based on a closed nuclear fuel cycle,” said Ivan Sidorov, Director of the Beloyarsk NPP. “The use of mox fuel will make it possible to involve in fuel manufacture the isotope of uranium that is not currently used. This will increase the fuel base of the nuclear power industry tenfold. In addition, the BN-800 reactor can reuse used nuclear fuel from other NPPs and minimise radioactive waste by “afterburning” long-lived isotopes from them. Taking into account the planned schedule, we will be able to switch to a core with a full load of mox fuel in 2022.”
The fuel assemblies were manufactured at the Mining and Chemical Combine (MCC, Zheleznogorsk, Krasnoyarsk Territory). Unlike enriched uranium, which is traditional for nuclear power, the raw materials for the production of mox fuel pellets are plutonium oxide produced in power reactors and depleted uranium oxide (obtained by defluorination of depleted uranium hexafluoride - DUHF, the secondary "tailings" of the enrichment plant.
“In parallel with loading the BN-800 core with mox fuel, Rosatom specialists are continuing to develop technologies for the production of such fuel at the MCC,” said Alexander Ugryumov, vice president for research, development and quality at TVEL. “In particular, the production of fresh fuel using high-background plutonium extracted from the irradiated fuel of VVER reactors has been mastered: all technological operations are fully automated and are performed without the presence of personnel in the immediate vicinity. The first 20 mox-FAs incorporating high-background plutonium have already been manufactured and passed acceptance tests, and they are planned to be loaded in 2022. Advanced technologies for recycling nuclear materials and refabrication of nuclear fuel in the future will make it possible to process irradiated fuel instead of storing it, as well as to reduce the amount of high-level waste generated.”
Serial production of mox fuel began at the end of 2018 at MCC. To achieve this, broad industry cooperation was organised under the coordination and scientific leadership of TVEL, which supplies the mox-fuel to Beloyarsk NPP. Initially, the BN-800 reactor was launched with a hybrid core, partly equipped with uranium fuel produced by Mashinostroitelny Zavod in Elektrostal (Moscow Region), and partly with experimental mox assemblies manufactured at the Research Institute of Atomic Reactors (NIIAR) in Dimitrovgrad, Ulyanovsk region).
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BN-800 fast reactor undergoes the first full refueling with MOX fuel
- 24 February, 2021 / 16:00
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Jet Aviation Moscow Vnukovo gets EASA approval for Falcon 900EX EASy
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May 29, 2015
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