Iain Wight throws himself down the Walna Scar Road
The Trek Slash is a bike that no one really needs but anyone that enjoys mountain biking should have!
It is classed as an Enduro Bike, which in biking terms means ‘Gnnaarrr’ or in my world it means a bike that can help you down some of the hardest terrain you can ride on with relative ease and safety – it is designed for going downhill quickly but without having to push it back up the hill as you would with a downhill bike.
The vital stats on it are fairly normal for this type of bike, it is equipped with 650b wheels, 160mm of suspension travel front and rear and a very slack 65 degree head angle. Reach on the bike is pretty long compared to this type of bike from few years ago which adds to the stability but it’s not as extreme as some of the bikes that are just coming onto the market now.
So how did I get on with it? Well, I owned it for two weeks before I rode it in anger although I did take it around the kids play park in front of my house and down a small flight of steps, it coped quite well with these obstacles so it was probably time to try it out on something a bit more appropriate! After a bit of discussion at home, the Lake District was selected as the ideal try-out place for this type of bike and namely the Walna Scar Road. If you are familiar with it you will know that Walna Scar is not really a road, but a pass above Coniston that drops from an altitude of over 2,000 feet to about 162 feet on the valley floor in a very short distance giving one of the longest off-road descents that is fully ride-able (with maybe a foot down, or two) in the UK.
The downside to this type of pass is that you need to climb up one side to get to the top! This was where the Slash started to impress me. I thought it would be very hard to move this bike uphill but by firming up the rear suspension on the Rockshox Monarch lock-out and dropping the front Rockshox Pike fork to the low setting (130mm) it made the 30+ percent gradient manageable. My only complaint was that I probably need a slightly smaller front chainring than the 32 tooth 1x11 fitted, or bigger leg muscles! On the subject of gears, the bike is adorned with Sram GX which is the bargain basement of 1x11 gearing but does not compromise at all in performance over the more expensive versions, only giving away a few grams difference in weight which on this type of bike is not an issue at all.
On getting to the top you can see the whole of the valley below you and the bridleway snaking its way down hill. Saddle now dropped by the KS dropper post, suspension at full travel and compression unwound, it was time to head down! And wow, how much fun was this! This is probably the skills compensator I’ve been looking for over the years! The descent is nasty, rocky and has multiple drops on it but what amazed me was how capable this bike was, I felt I just had to point the front wheel at where I wanted it to go and the bike carried me over the obstacle without fuss or bother, the fork did a great job of keeping the front end of the bike at the correct attitude – not too firm and not blowing through its travel and giving you that feeling that the slope is steeper than it is. The rear suspension was something I never noticed working but had used all the travel – an ideal scenario.
A few years ago I rode this route with two friends and both of them completely lost their brakes on the descent just before the junction with the main road in Coniston.The brakes on the Slash are huge; an Ice-Tec 203mm dinner plate on the front and 180mm Rotor on the rear with the stopping effort coming from a set of Shimano SLX’s which just do exactly what they say on the tin – work brilliantly.
In to Coniston with a much quicker descent than I thought possible and it was time for ice cream at a local café – after safely stopping at the main road courtesy of the huge brakes! It probably took until the end of the day until I managed to remove the grin from my face but it comes back swiftly whenever I think about the descent on that Slash!
My summary of the bike is simple: it’s a great ‘fun day out bike’ that pedals easily uphill, descends like a downhill bike, is well kitted out and will leave a permanent grin on your face whenever you ride it.
What are you waiting for, go and buy one, I have!