Thursday, February 20, 2014

Trek 8.2 DS Review

Contributed by Dharma Teja

The Trek 8.2 DS
Many a novice rider starts their bike quest looking for a bike the does all and goes everywhere. Unless one has a very specific purpose in mind, cross bikes are the ones that claim to be as much versatile as a bike can get to be. Having ridden the Bergemont Helix 2.3 and I was looking forward to find out how versatile the Trek 8.2 DS could be. Without further ado, I let the details speak for themselves.

Build


The frame is cross geometry double triangle with a sloping top tube. Specific alloy used in the frame or the butting could not be found other than Trek's cryptic specification calling it 'Alpha Gold Aluminium'. Fit and finish is absolutely good. Trek uses this same frame throughout their entire range of dual sport '8 series' bike. The frame geometry is quite comfortable. Infact this is one very nice aspect of this bike that left a lasting impression despite few other drawbacks. In India, we have the choice of two sizes only, 17.5" and 19.5".

Components

DriveTrain : Crankset is Suntour make. Altus rear derailleaur and index shifters are matched quite well. Shifting even under load is good. Available range of gear ratios , thanks to that extral large 34T cog at rear and 28-38-48 chainrings, are quite versatile.

Bottom Bracket : Trek doesn't mention make of BB in spec sheet but based on ride feel, they can be classified as 'fluid and smooth'

Wheel Set : Wheels are 32 hole Bontrager make while hubs are from 'Formula', a reputed maker of MTB hubs. Both are definitely very smooth rolling pair. Thanks to solid and good quality quick release skewers, removing the wheel and fixing back is quick indeed, doesn't mess up wheel centring at all.

Fork : The Suntour NEX 63mm is soft. That results in a very plush ride, so much that one may fall in love with the comfort it offers but take this off the road, it doesn't take too long to bottom out. Fork doesn't come with lockout. Comes with disc brake mounts. 

Brakeset : Brake levers and brake arms (Tektro make) are good but the overall braking efficiency is just average. It requires a hard squeeze to able to lock front wheel, much harder for rear wheel. 

Tires : Tires are again Bontrager make, 38c wide, one notable aspect being that they are very soft. It is to be noted that soft compounds deform around small road imperfections and reduces wheel bounce, thereby increasing ride comfort.
Bontrager 700x38c tires are soft and provides a comfortable on road experiance

Saddle : Saddle is Trek's own SSR model which is standard on many bike frames across this price range. It is wide, comfortable and flat without any stress points. 
The bontrager SSR saddle felt nice and comfortable on rides

A few more observations
 
Ergonomics: Handle bar grips are butted, ergonomic and comfortable even during long times on saddle. Along with hand gloves, they take away all vibrations and absorbs road jolts well. 
The ergo, butted handle bar grips are comfortable even on longer rides.
Handle bar itself has good amount of raise for varying reach positions. Saddle to handlebar drop is comfortable and results in a relaxed posture with default setup of stem. 

Disc Ready : Fork and rear dropouts come with disc mounts, chain stays even have cable guides for disc cables. Some one looking for better off road performance can add discs . 
Fork with disc mounts

Unusual second Bottle cage mount : Frame comes with only one regular bottle cage mount. There is a second cage mount underside of down tube closer to bottom bracket. Unfortunately, it is not practical to be used for anything other than a frame pump.
The unusual location  of the second bottle cage mount is a mystery.

Seat Post, QR, etc : Seat post quick release clamp is of good quality, something that I prefer to clamp design offered in other bikes. Seat post doesn't have any height markings as the rival Bergemont Helix 2.3 does.


Road Test

Comprised of 15 km of smooth flat road speed test, 40 km of rolling terrain, 25 km of city riding in traffic.

One thing that immediately strikes to novice rider on this bike is the very relaxed posture and cushy ride it offers. If speed is not goal of the day, but all you want to do is roll and roll while enjoying the surrounding scenery this fits the bill very well.

Short Rides :In city traffic, the bike steers responsively, comfortable posture gives you good view of road in all directions and rolls on and off foot paths with ease. Rolling over speed breakers is cake walk, a definite advantage over rigid fork hybrids. On a flat stretch of open road, the bike can reach good speeds but is a little lazy at responding to pedal strokes. This is due to the soft fork that absorbs part of your forward pedal strokes. However, if acceleration is not your everyday concern, this can be ignored. On pure flat stretch I was able to hold speeds of 32-35 kmph comfortably.

Long Rides :For longer road rides that may stretch beyond 40 km , the bike still is very comfortable. When the roads get harsher, you can still keep riding at same speed thanks to soft tyres and suspension. Grips are ergonomic and offers a decent amount of palm support. Gears shifts have always been precise and quick even under load. However, as mentioned above, there is only one usable bottle holder mount, I wouldn't like to make too many stops to refill water on longer rides.

Off Road Test

Comprised of 20 km of cross country stretch with dirt, rocky and unpaved paths.

The bike is quite ride able on unpaved paths without many undulations but when you hit the dirt, the soft spring damps out all the fun. Tires did not provide good grip , the suspension left us wanting. Despite that, steering response and control is acceptable, thanks to the frame design. Overall with the stock setup, it is safe to say that the bike did not meet our expectations on the trails.


Snapshot

Positives :

  • Relaxed geometry - perfectly tuned for a casual recreational ride.
  • Precise gear shifting, ergo grips and comfortable saddle
  • Disc Ready – fork and dropouts come with disc mounts.

Negatives :

  • Soft suspension fork
  • Only 1 usable bottle cage mount. 

Conclusion, Comparison
This bike with the stock setup is a mixed bag of features without exactly fitting into any category. It handles offroad poorly for a cross bike and is sluggish on the road to be a hybrid. If we put the bike up against its competitors, the Bergamont Helix 2.3 is faster on road and is a good performer off road too, cheaper as well. But if there is one thing that I liked in 8.2 DS over Helix 2.3, it is the riding position – perfect for a casual rider who chooses comfort over speed/efficiency. Helix 2.3 has comparatively aggressive stance than 8.2 DS which offers a relaxed and more upright posture.
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Dharma Teja started cycling in early 2010 on his Hercules act 110. Since then he has owned and ridden many bikes  including a giant rival MTB , Schwinn Madisson, a Fuji Roubaix 1.3 and recently the Bergamont Helix 4.3. On the bike, he loves to push his limits and takes special interest in randonneuring. 


 

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