by Jared Williams, PCI #1214, Tacoma (WA) Police Department, IPMBA Industry Relations Committee
2014 marked the second year of production for the Trek Stache model. For 2014, Trek offered three versions of the bike, with varying component specs (models 6, 7, and 8). The Trek Stache 7 is in the middle, offering a good component spec while maintaining a low price. Size tested: 19.5” frame.
About the Bike:
The Trek Stache is a trail-oriented, hard tail 29er. Trek was a very early adopter of 29er technology, and their years of experience have enabled them to refine the geometry of their bikes, using what they call G2 geometry. The geometry of the Trek Stache models is a bit slacker than their cross-country bikes, including a longer travel (120mm) fork. This geometry allows the rider a more stable platform for riding over the ever-changing environment of trails. I found this to be advantageous to typical police cyclist riding environments as well.
The Trek Stache 7 is equipped with a healthy and robust mix of components. It sports a 120mm Rockshox Recon Silver air-sprung fork with 32mm stanchions. The bike utilizes a 15mm thru-axle in front and a 142-12mm axle in the rear. These axles are beefier than the standard 9mm quick-release axles found on a vast majority of police bikes, allowing for more durability and stiffness. The bike features Trek’s “e2” tapered headset, which also adds a bit of durability and stiffness to the front end.
The drive train is a mixture of mid-level SRAM and Race Face components, utilizing a 2X10 drive train equipped with a SRAM X9 type-2 rear derailleur. Trek has utilized internal cable routing for the drive train. The brakes are Shimano’s entry-level hydraulic M445 brakes with a 160mm rear disc and 180mm front disc. Even though they are considered entry-level brakes, they provide adequate and consistent stopping power. Trek puts the rubber to the road with their house-brand Bontrager Duster 29 wheels and Bontrager 29er XR3 Expert tires. The tires are knobby and trail-oriented, so we had these swapped out for a set of Maxxis Hookworm 29X2.5 tires. If you are thinking about adding a dropper seat-post, Trek has integrated internal routing for a stealth post as well. We also equipped our bikes with a Topeak MTX trunk and seat-post mounted rack.
In my opinion, this is one of the best all-around bikes I have ever ridden. I currently enjoy trail riding on a regular basis, and actually purchased a 2013 Trek Stache 7 last year. I was so impressed with the bike’s handling and durability that I thought it would be a perfect match for public safety cycling. It didn’t take much convincing of my chain of command to purchase two 2014 Trek Stache 7 models in “Trans Blue.”
I was lucky enough to have one of our purchases assigned to me. As I mentioned earlier, we changed out the stock knobby tires with a set of Maxxis Hookworm 29 X 2.5” tires. These tires are rather beefy, providing great traction combined with a low rolling resistance. I converted my wheels and tires to tubeless as a personal preference (see my article on this at http://ipmba.org/blog/comments/gears-gadgets-tubeless-tires).
I set out on this bike and quickly found it to be a joy to ride on duty. The 29er wheels allowed for easy obstacle clearance. I could complete stair ascents with ease that I was having more difficulty on with my old 26-inch wheeled bike. The slacker geometry of this bike, along with the 120mm travel fork, made dicey stair descents and other obstacles much easier to ride as well.
One of the things that I love about this bike is the thru-axles I mentioned in the specs section. Thru-axles add durability and stiffness to the bike, keeping it on track during hard cornering and obstacle clearance. Furthermore, thru-axles are nearly impossible to install wrong. How many times have you maybe not set your 9mm quick release quite right, or know other officers who have struggled? This can create a potential hazard to the rider if the quick release isn’t installed correctly. Thru-axles virtually eliminate this difficulty, because if things aren’t lined up right it won’t go in.
I love that this bike has a 2X10 drive train. Instead of three chain rings, there are only two. This simplifies the drive train substantially, and reduces cross chaining. The SRAM X9 type-2 rear derailleur is a welcome addition, as it significantly reduces chain-slap and dropped chains. I can remember on multiple occasions dropping a chain while ascending or descending stairs. Shimano’s version of this derailleur is called the “Shadow Plus.” Both SRAM and Shimano use the same basic principle – adding a clutch mechanism to the rear derailleur to add chain tension. The derailleur essentially pulls the chain back towards the rear of the bike with greater tension than a standard derailleur, preventing the chain from slapping around on the chain stays and jumping off of the chain rings. I can say with absolute confidence I have not had a single dropped chain with this system thus far. I highly recommend this type of derailleur on any future bike purchases, as it is a very small price to pay for such a huge performance increase.
I did change some things about this bike that are mainly personal preferences. The 19.5” size bike comes stock with a 90mm stem. I prefer a shorter stem, and swapped it out to a 60mm length. This quickened up the steering for me and made it more comfortable for my riding style. I later removed a few headset spacers and dropped the bars a little bit, a nice trick I learned from IPMBA friend Shaums March in one of his MMR courses. This allowed me to get into a better “attack” position for a more aggressive riding style. This may not be ideal for everyone, particularly all-day riding. A more upright riding position can be comfortable for long periods of time, so again, it all comes down to personal preference and physical ability.
I recently instructed a 32-hour IPMBA Police Cyclist Course while riding this bike. I was able to put the bike through its paces. I already knew the bike could handle obstacles and stairs with ease, but I was curious to know how it would handle the slow-speed skills.
Trek really did their homework on the geometry design, which reflects in the handling. 29ers are traditionally a bit more cumbersome to handle in tight areas, but the Stache seems to buck this trend. I found no problems with easily putting the bike through the 9-foot Box, Lock-to-Lock, and Offset Serpentine courses. The bike performed well on extended road rides, easily keeping a comfortable pace.
I think some credit to this bike’s performance is due to the tires. I have found the Maxxis Hookworms are a phenomenal tire for urban riding, particularly with a tubeless setup. I can run lower air pressure in the tires without fear of a pinch flat, which allows for a little more bite from the tire.
This wouldn’t be a full review if I didn’t mention some of the things I don’t like about this bike; however, the list is very short. With 29-inch wheels, there is less clearance for a rack and bag. This particular bike doesn’t have any rack mounts on the frame. We chose to go with a seat-post mounted rack, specifically, the Topeak QR Beam Rack EX, along with a Topeak MTX trunk bag. I found that even with the rack as low as I could get it (with very little clearance over the tire), the bag sat higher than I care for. It made it extremely difficult to get off the back of the seat when getting into the maximum braking position.
I also found that even with the quick-release tightened down snug, the rack would rotate from time to time. I ultimately made the decision to ditch the rack and bag altogether. I utilized an SKS Cage Box to hold tools, a spare tube, and other small necessities. The Cage Box fits right into a water bottle cage, for which the Trek Stache has two mounts inside the front triangle. I also carry a Tactical Tailor backpack, which carries a hydration pouch and has plenty of room for a ticket book, jacket, and whatever else I would normally put into my rack bag. I have found that removing the rack allows me a lot more freedom to maneuver this bike. You just have to decide what is right for you.
The only other problem I see with this bike is the color selection. In 2014, the “TransBlue” seemed like a decent color option, and I slapped a few “POLICE” logos on it. Unfortunately, the 2014 models are sold out. The 2015’s will be in stock shortly – but the Stache 7 model is a bright orange color. If you can swing the extra dough for a Stache 8 model (which includes a Fox fork and 1X11 drivetrain), the color is black with lime-green lettering. Other bikes in the Trek line-up that have tolerable Police color options include the Superfly line, though the Superfly is more cross-country oriented.
Trek also offers a Police model, though the component spec is sub-par and way overpriced when compared to the Stache and Superfly lines. If Trek could offer their Police model as a matte-black version of their Stache 7, I think they would have a winner with police departments across America.
Special thanks to Bike Tech of Tacoma for their exceptional service and support to the City of Tacoma and the Tacoma Police Department.
Photos courtesy Jared Williams.
Jared is currently a police patrol officer for the Tacoma Police Department. He loves to tinker, and can often be found obsessing of the mechanical state of his bicycles. Jared is the owner and operator of Piggies On Wheels, LLC, which exists for the purpose of public safety bicycle education. To learn more, go to https://www.facebook.com/PiggiesOnWheels. Jared can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.