GEAR REVIEW: TREK 29ER SPORT WAHOO

The TREK Gary Fisher Collection 29er Sport Wahoo is probably one of the longest bike names in the business, but how does the monster wheeled TREK and Gary Fisher collaborative bicycle really stand up to the backwood trails of Tennessee?

Considering the growing debate of 29er vs. traditional 26-inch mountain bikes, I snagged one of the first TREK 29ers last year as soon as it came available. TREK’s new Gary Fisher collaborative lineup of 29-inch Sport/Off the beaten path bikes cover the $599 – 989.99 price range for a starter to professional hard-tail bike lineup. As with most bike purchases,  I grabbed the lesser expensive model so as I break components, I can replace them with the parts I like rather than the parts the factory sticks you with.

First reaction to the bike was WOW… This bike is huge. Top the 29-inch wheels off with the G2 Geometry and you have a monster of a bike that will roll right over anything in your way. Second reaction was a less excited wow.  The seats on all of the Gary Fisher models have always been lacking in the comfort area and maybe it’s been a while since I sat on one, but that thing had to go.  I promptly replaced the seat, pedals, removed the reflectors and other garbage, and dialed in the seat post and other user specific settings I like.  I then took it to the rockiest, ledgiest course within thirty minutes of my house and gave it a spin.

The allure to owning a 29er is what it does well and when it does it.  I would consider only owning a 29er if you already own a 26-inch, which is more appropriate in standard mountain biking settings.  Here are the PROS and CONS of this bike that I’ve experienced so far:

PROS:

  • The bike rolls over rocks and roots really easily because of its clearance and wheel circumference.
  • Because of its big wheel size you can cover more distance per pedal revolution.
  • The Alpha Gold Aluminum frame makes for a fairly light bike.
  • I have always loved the G2 geometry that Gary Fisher pioneered.
  • The higher air volume and differing ground contact area of the tires can create a smooth ride.
  • The speed and torque you will see pumped out of this 29er on flatlands is substantially higher than a 26-inch bike could ever produce.
  • I always kill my buddies on the uphill sections of the course.

CONS

  • Lag in instant acceleration makes the bike feel slower.
  • Sometimes cornering is harder because of the balance point of the bike.
  • I’ve been rear ended on downhill sections that have a lot of cut backs and obstacles by riders sporting 26-inch bikes.
  • Because of the larger size of the bike it is more prone to fatigue and needing tuneups.
  • The cable brakes will need to be swapped to hydraulic soon so I can stop the big ass wheels… This brings me to my next complaint.
  • They dumbed down the Wahoo Name when they created the 29er when comparing to the prior 26-inch Wahoo.
    • They removed the hydraulic breaks.
    • No more lockout on the front shock.
    • They replaced everything with cheaper components all around.
    • Changed the great 26-inch Wahoo frame design into a more standard looking frame.
    • Made the TREK logo more prominent and boring from the prior logo design and placement that was absolutely great.
    • Paint job isn’t nearly as badass as the almost identical paint scheme of the prior year.
  • If I were any shorter, the clearance would feel a little unmanageable.

Other than personal preference, tight and twisty terrain is not my favorite when on this bike. With a normal 26-inch bike, I can power slide and corner better than with this 29-inch bike. I feel like I’m going to topple out of turns when I’m pushing it. The bike has what feels like a smaller sweet spot when turning vs. balance at higher speeds in turns.

Flatlands are amazing on 29ers and this bike is no exception when it comes to pumping out some speed. Where starting up feels a little slow, your top end speed will be greatly excessive. I would have to say that the real defining points of the bike and 29ers in general is the maintainable speed you can achieve in optimal conditions.

Another big plus is that rough, technical terrain becomes easier to ride. I have more vertical balance on this 29er than I usually have on any bike. This extra balance makes me the leader in the rocky ledge sections. Rolling over and between rocks/roots both up hill and down is smoother because of the different tire contact on the ground. You have more of the center and less of the edges making contact with the ground, so it irons out some of the bumps.

When riding with the guys, if you are of comparable skills and on a mixed terrain course, you will probably find that each of you have your strong points and weak points that balance out your skills. It’s only on a course that requires lots of single track speeds or all cuts and turn backs, that you will shine on your 29er or be left in others’ dust.

The change in frame design, cheaper components, new boring branding, worse paint job, and other failed crossovers from the prior 26-inch Wahoo brand are not small things to overlook. One would probably never know any of this if they had not owned the prior (similarly priced) model. But alas we do know and it has not gone unnoticed. While the subtle and more noticeable downgrades in the Wahoo model are sad, they are overshadowed by the upsetting cancellation of the 26-inch Gary Fisher sport line all together. One would hope that from the ashes of this cancellation a new super breed of bikes from the great Gary Fisher would rise!  But unfortunately in the place where the great 26-inch once stood, we now have a much less aggressive Dual-Sport model that’s set up for road/off-road lighter duty outings and the new 29er sport line. Chock it off to inner company anti competition (TREK vs. Gary Fisher) or whatever else you want to, but bottom line, the old Wahoo was better in a lot of ways.

When it comes to buying a bike, the 29-inch vs 26-inch decision comes down to personal preferences and types of terrain you will be riding on.  I have access to both a 26-inch and a 29-inch and it really comes down to the right bike for the right trail.  I’m 6′-1″ so a larger bike that fits me won’t fit a 5′-10″ average guy, so you’re really going to have to look at your situation to pick what fits your needs. Remember also that you get what you pay for with bikes and cheap components will break and drive you crazy unless you are prepared to replace them.

If you are thinking of trying out a 29er, the TREK collection covers a wide range of great 29er qualities that could fit your needs. Unfortunately, the Wahoo does not live up to the prior bikes in its line, but as far as 29ers go, it’s a great intro into the 29er scene.

Product: TREK 29ER SPORT WAHOO
Price: $599
Rating: 7/10 ( If we didn’t have the prior Wahoo model we would have probably scored this bike better)

4 Responses to “GEAR REVIEW: TREK 29ER SPORT WAHOO”

  • I got this bike and it was ok.. Wish I had splurge a little more but the bike will do.

  • Yeah, I’ve enjoyed it. It’s a good bike for the money. I’m active in so many sports that I can’t really justify owning more than a few bikes. Surfing is my “real” sport and I spend a pretty penny on air fair to Costa, CA, Puerto Rico, not to mention what I spend maintaing this site.

  • I’m torn between getting this bike and the 4300 Disc. I want to give 29er a good go but I’m hesitant.

    What are your thoughts?

  • Tommy: I would go with the 4300. Front fork lockout and hydraulic breaks just for starters. If you want a 29er I would probably go for a higher model. Unless you have easy access to better parts to upgrade it.

    Hope that helps.