Interbike 2010: Trek's racier Top Fuel and workhorse Transport+

Trek's latest Top Fuel cross-country full-suspension flagship wears a similar profile from the previous version but little else with improvements made in terms of weight, stiffness, durability, and even cable routing for 2011.

Last year's aluminum chain stays get replaced with a one-piece OCLV carbon fibre unit that alone is said to shave 100g from last year, making the claimed frame-plus-shock weight now just 1.85kg (4.08lb).

Despite the lighter weight, a newly tapered 1 1/8"-to-1 1/2" head tube plus the correspondingly bigger down tube boosts the front triangle torsional stiffness for more precise handling, too, while a shift from Trek's weight-focused OCLV Red carbon fibre blend to the more durable OCLV Mountain borrowed from the company's Fuel EX and Remedy models also supposedly improves impact resistance by 25 percent.

Trek has even moved to internal cable routing on its 2011 Top Fuel, though it's not only for cleaner aesthetics. According to Trek mountain bike brand manager Michael Browne, the new Internal Control Routing system protects the front and rear derailleur and rear shock lockout cables from contamination while the carefully placed entry and exit points substantially cut down on extraneous sounds while riding.

Mechanics will note that none of the cable paths are fully guided and running the rear brake line will require detaching the hose from either the lever or caliper and a subsequent system bleed.

But on the bright side, the exit points feature removable aluminum stops so there's at least a bigger target to shoot for and cleverly concealed internal clamps firmly affix the brake line in place at either end so that it can't migrate along the frame. And despite the more involved setup procedure, the sealed nature of the system should hopefully make for less frequent cable replacements, anyway.

Otherwise, last year's main features carry over, including the Full Floater dynamic shock mounts for a more carefully controlled feel throughout the 100mm travel range, a lightweight one-piece magnesium EVO upper link for good rear triangle rigidity, Active Braking Pivot dropouts for improved traction when the rear brakes are applied, direct press-fit bottom bracket bearings, and a semi-integrated seatmast frame layout.

The new carbon frame will come in three models for 2011 plus one women's-specific version with prices ranging from US$4,199.99 to US$7,659.99.

Way off at the opposite end of the usage spectrum was another Trek model that caught our eye. The Transport+ - part of the Gary Fisher Collection - is a dedicated longtail cargo bike intended to be a legitimate replacement for an automobile for shorter journeys.

Features include an extra-long wheelbase and giant built-in rear rack system similar to Xtracycle's setup complete with flip-up lower shelves, an enormous top shelf, and massive water-resistant panniers that are sized to hold two full-sized paper grocery bags each (the bike will only come with one - you'll unfortunately have to purchase the other one).

Naturally, the somewhat basic TIG-welded aluminum frame saves some weight over an equivalent steel-tubed chassis but still, at about 18kg (40lb) or so, many people won't want to pedal the thing very far.

Ah, but that's where the '+' bit comes into the equation.

Trek also offers the Transport with a BionX electric pedal assist rear hub system that can boost your pedaling input by up to 350W. While the enormous rear hub, enclosed motor, and chunky battery pack add even more weight to the equation, the added power more than makes up for it and will likely be more than welcome if the rear racks are loaded to their full 102kg (225lb) load capacity.

The included componentry is pretty basic with just two chainrings up front and eight cogs out back, a cable-actuated front brake and a rear linear-pull brake but most riders in this category likely won't mind much - though if fully loaded, the single front disc probably won't offer much stopping power so best plan ahead.

The Transport+ isn't remotely cheap at US$2,679.99 but in terms of operating cost and the amount of wear and tear saved by not using your car for most trips, it may just pay off in the long run.

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