First Impressions | The 2020 Trek Rail E-MTB

Words by Tom Worsfold

on 12/09/2019 16:10:39

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Introducing the all new Trek Rail electric mountain bike, an all-mountain EMTB designed to push you and your riding further than ever before.


Taking distinct queues from the award-winning Slash, the 2020 Trek Rail uses a 29� platform with a gen-4 Bosch Performance CX motor & 625wh battery to power the levels of fun you can have on the trail to new heights. Drawing on their already successful electric bike platforms the Rail is an all new beast, designed to excel at everything from the weekend trail centre mission to ruling backcountry steeps, all with total confidence.

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The Gen-4 Bosch Performance CX

At the heart of the rail is the latest generation of Bosch's flagship Performance CX series. Bosch have been at the forefront of the E-Bike scene for over ten years, and in that time the tech has changed considerably to be where it is now. For 2020, the Performance CX motor saw a whopping 50% reduction in size, 25% less overall weight and 340% pedal support, providing a natural yet powerful feel that cements itself as one of the markets top motors; a perfect pairing when it comes to shuttling up even the toughest climbs.

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The Frameset

There is no denying that the Rail takes a lot of queues from the Slash enduro bike, which is most definitely no bad thing. It features key technologies seen on current Trek full-suspension models, with Mino Link, ABP, Control Freak Routing and the uber stiff Straight Shot downtube all being brought forward to this fresh platform. The Rail's geometry sheet will read like a dream for many, with a slack 64.5 degree highlighting its rowdy intentions and ensuring the Rail will inspire confidence even on the steepest terrain.

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Mino Link could prove useful here for those who are looking for a more restrained ride, allowing for around 0.5 degrees of adjustment between the low and high settings. A steep seat angle will leave the rider in an effective climbing position, ensuring you can crank the Rail back to the top of the hill with ease. Active Braking Pivot (ABP) is the name given to Trek's hugely effective rear axle pivot, designed to decouple the braking and suspension motion to ensure fully active suspension even when under braking. How does this help the Rail...rail corners? Especially important with the extra weight of an E-Bike, ABP gives fully active suspension in all situations and leaves you in total control. This coupled with the shocks RE:aktiv Thru Shaft technology (on select models) means the Rail is truly a ripper on the trails, E-Bike or not.

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The Battery

The rail is equipped with Bosch's latest high-capacity 625wh Powertube battery. Small enough to not add excessive weight but large enough to make range-anxiety a worry of the past, the Powertube is a perfect companion to the Rail. What's more, Trek have included their Removeable Integrated Battery (RIB) system, a fully hidden battery with built in protection, that allows a water bottle to be mounted to the frame. The system is super user-friendly too, with easy tool-less removal and carry handle.

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First Ride Impressions

The features sound great, but how does this fare in the real world? We were lucky to get an exclusive first look at the Rail to see how it handled.

E-Bikes have come a long way since their introduction, especially in the world of mountain biking where ride quality and handling can mean the difference between total thrill or nasty spill. Thankfully advancements in geometry have given us bikes that inspire world-cup levels of confidence; slack head angles and long reach measurements that leave you with an ear-to-ear grin when you let go of the brakes, a safety net when it comes to pushing boundaries. The Rail is no different and allows you to do what the name suggests. Rail trails. Sure, there are more aggressive E-bikes out there but few that nail the geometry conundrum for the rider who truly wants a one-bike does all solution that doesn't leave you feeling out of pocket when the trail gets unruly.

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On the Trail

The motors smaller profile has allowed Trek & other manufacturers to do the impossible when it comes to electric mountain bike geometry and create a lively & fun feel, blending confidence and stellar handling to build a ride character that could easily leave you forgetting you were even on an electric bike. The Rail retains the fun factor Trek's bikes are known for, with the addition of motor & battery adding an extra layer of potential when it comes to longer rides and exploration.

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Equally at home on steep, natural tech as it is in your local trail centre, it would be a challenge to ride the Rail and have an absolute blast. The added weight of the motor & battery is like many E-Bikes low slung, allowing the bikes centre of gravity to be centred around the BB to least impact the bikes handling. Where the Trek steps apart from the pack is how well paired the RE:activ Thrushaft technology and ABP system are with the added weight.

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The shock provides glue-like traction when the going gets rough, reacting quickly to square-edged hits and retaining composure. ABP allows you to come into corners as hot as you like and still feel collected. The lighter weight of the Performance CX motor is noticeable when it comes to manoeuvring the bike and is easier to unweight and control. Looking to improve your riding? More laps of your favourite trails can only be a good thing!

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Trek Rail 2020 Range

There's a full range of specs and price points for the new Rail, from the entry level 5 all the way up to the AXS equipped 9.9 model. All models feature the same Bosch Gen4 Performance CX motor, with different battery sizes depending on model variant. The 5 comes standard with a 500wh battery, the 7 a 600wh, and the 9 & above feature a generous 625wh.

The Rail comes in at £3749.99 for the base 5 model, which will keep you rolling with a stiff, Rockshox 35 Gold RL fork and Deluxe RL shock. From the Rail 9 and above rear suspension duties are controlled by the Rockshox Deluxe RT3 model featuring Trek's exclusive RE:activ Thrushaft dampner. At the top end, the 9.9 comes priced at £9499.99.00, featuring a carbon Bontrager wheelset, Lyrik Ultimate, Rockshox AXS wireless drivetrain and dropper post, and a toptube mounted Bosch Kiox controller - it would be a tall order to to improve on that feature list! All models feature 12spd Sram EMTB optimised drivetrains, 200mm rotors and 4-pot brakes, an EMTB optimised fork and frame technology developed for the Slash and Remedy models.

Interested in the model shown here? See the 2020 Rail 9.8 and more below


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