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Welp, that’s it. This is the beginning of the end for traditional pivot placement on downhill bikes. When a force as large as Trek puts a high pivot on a bike as ubiquitous as the Session, there’s really nothing stopping the rest of the industry from jumping on as well. Of course, the high pivot isn’t the only thing new on the 2022 Trek Session, so let’s dig in.
The only trend rivaling high-pivot linkage designs right now is mixed wheel sizes, and the Session has that covered. Though the complete builds only come with 29-inch wheels, it’ll accommodate either a mullet setup or matched 27.5-inch wheels. The Mino Link, used for geometry adjustments on Trek’s trail bikes, is used here to raise the frame to keep it neutral when running a 27.5-inch rear wheel. For those who want to run 27.5 up front, an external lower headset cup essentially does the same for the front end.
Though the rear-center length doesn’t adjust, it does shift depending on the frame size, which is a first for Trek.
Speaking of frame sizes, the new Trek Session is the latest in a string of bikes that is ditching the “small, medium, large” convention for naming its sizes, opting instead for a method that highlights the fact that bike size, especially downhill bike size should be a matter of preference, not just body size.
Another first for Trek is a variation on the Mino Link that they’re calling the Suspension Mino Link, which allows for an adjustment in progressivity between 20 and 25 percent. Either setting is compatible with both air and coil suspension, but only the frameset and the Session 8 come stock with a coil, while the Session 9 comes with an air shock. Also, as you can tell from this photo, the new Session is aluminum. Only aluminum. Increasingly, DH and park riders are gravitating toward alloy for a more abuse-friendly package.
In a move that’s even more of a throwback than the alloy frame, the new Session allows you to run your rear derailleur and brake lines internally or externally. For a bike that may spend some time in the pits before a race, ease of maintenance is a must, and for some, that means the easy access provided by external routing.
Just because the new Session is aluminum doesn’t mean it couldn’t use a little protection. The removable protector on the Session combines a burly, stiff plastic base with more rubberized padding on the outside to face the elements.
But of course, the high pivot is the real story here. Especially at the early part of the stroke, the new Session puts its rear wheel on a more rearward trajectory, allowing it to move in the natural direction in which the obstacles on the terrain are impacting it. You know this. We know this. The benefits of a rearward axle path are not subtle. Just check out our review of the Forbidden Dreadnought. More than just better suspension action, the high pivot approach prevents the wheelbase from shortening when the suspension compresses, which is exactly when you would want the wheelbase to lengthen. And on top of the overall stability benefits, a rearward axle path forces more of your weight to stay on the front of the bike where it belongs.
And you can’t have a high pivot without an idler pulley. Or at least, you shouldn’t. It keeps the chain from fighting the suspension, and Trek developed a pretty advanced way to do it. The idler is mounted inside the swingarm itself instead of outboard. This allowed the main pivot to be as wide as Trek wanted it to be because it didn’t need to be tucked in to line the idler up with the crank. And it is wide, given that the crank uses a 56.5mm chainline.
And it wouldn’t be an update if the geometry didn’t change, namely by getting longer. Across comparable sizes, the reach increased by about 30mm across all sizes. Sizes that dropped from four down to three, but with close to the same spread in reach measurements. Bottom bracket height stayed about the same, and head angle actually got a tad steeper, depending on the configuration.
The real exciting part will be watching what folks like Brandon Semenuk and Brett Rheeder do with the new Session. We can’t wait. Find it at trekbikes.com/session