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There was a time when Bosch totally dominated the mid-drive e-bike market. The 135-year-old German brand knows motors. And it knows consumers. Bosch had a head start at innovating in the suddenly exploding field of electric bicycles, and they quickly secured a strong foothold, especially in the enormous casual and commuter sectors. Meanwhile, Shimano and Brose (mostly by way of Specialized) were emerging, bringing with them backgrounds that were very different from that of Bosch. Backgrounds closely tied to modern mountain bikes, and within a few years, Bosch’s E-MTB game turned into a game of catch-up.
That changed in 2020, when Bosch’s Performance CX line of motors showed up, offering the now benchmark 85nm of torque, a couple months before Shimano’s EP8 did the same. But when that EP8 motor launched, it brought with it a smartphone app that allowed you to customize the exact level of assist, the maximum torque, and how quickly that torque comes on, individually for each of the motor’s three settings. But earlier this year, Bosch played its next hand, saw Shimano’s customization and raised it by a few quality of life benefits like automatic ride tracking and wireless system updates, all features Bosch is calling its Smart System, and added a bigger 750 watt-hour battery for good measure.
That is our long-winded way of setting the stage for just one part that’s new about the 2022 Trek Rail. Or, at least some of the Trek Rails. The top-end builds of the carbon fiber Rail 9.9 and 9.8 will feature the new Bosch Smart System and bigger (easily removable) battery, but the also-carbon Rail 9.7 and the aluminum Rail 7 and Rail 5 will continue on pretty much as they are for now, with the standard Bosch Performance CX motors and 625wh battery. But along with the Bosch updates, the 9.8 and 9.9 will get, you guessed it, longer reach, slacker head angles and steeper seat angles. The travel stayed the same, at 150mm rear and 160 front, but new Rail is only available in medium, large and XL.
And although there is no mixed-wheel option out of the box, Trek is now publishing the geometry changes that will come with swapping to a 27.5-inch rear wheel. The Mino Link’s high setting is actually a reasonable half-step towards a truly dedicated mixed-wheel configuration, and people have been doing it on other Trek models, so kudos to them for showing us the numbers.
But on top of that, Trek is up to their old tricks, offering unique, exclusive features to the suspension on their bikes. Not only do the Rails still offer Trek’s Thru Shaft rear shocks, those shocks feature something they’re calling Air Wiz. Similar to Tire Wiz, these devices attached to the air spring on the fork and shock integrate with the SRAM AXS app to tell you if your suspension is still at your pre set pressure. Sure, we don’t need to top off our suspension nearly as frequently as our tires, but that’s exactly the point.
Most of us go months without ever touching our shock pressure, but it still drops slowly. And if you don’t want to check it with the app, once it’s set up, an LED on the shock will tell you if you need a refresh. Not to be left out, the Rail 9.8 and 9.9 also come stock with a new design of Tire Wiz, that sits flush against the rim, a configuration previously reserved for the Zipp 3.0 Moto rims. And rounding out the spec updates, the new Rails feature a 34.9mm seat tube and Bontrager’s oversized-stanchion Line Pro dropper posts.
All of these fancy features do come at a price, but there aren’t the headline-grabbing numbers we’re used to seeing when, say, Specialized releases a new e-bike. $9k for an XT-equipped carbon e-bike with this much motor and suspension technology is, dare we say, reasonable.