Saturday, February 04, 2006

Review - '05 Trek Liquid 55

Since the arrival of Trek's new range of Remedy bikes for 2006, there was a short spat of great deals to be had on last year's Liquid range. In the market for a replacement to my stolen '02 Marin Rock Springs, I ended up plumping for a bargain ex-demo Liquid 55. Several models made up the Liquid line-up, which was Trek's 5" All-Mountain line-up previous to the Remedy. The 55 topped the stable, with choice upgrades to the Manitou SPV forks and rear shock, some bling Bontrager X-Lite components, SRAM shifters and Hayes HFX Mag brakes (among other things). At the retail price of £2300 it was, frankly, a daft proposition. But at half that price, it made great sense, even with a few minor scrapes and battle scars.

The bike has been with me and done enough serious miles for me to make a suitably relevant review of the thing now. I was unhappy with a Fuel EX I testrode, which didn't have that supple, springy boinginess that I liked so much about the Rock Springs (particularly when in 6" Attack Mode) so I was pleased to find the Liquid was several steps in the right direction. It offers a very plush 5" of travel but what's most impressive is the SPV platform which does exactly what Minitou say it will. Pedal tramp is controlled amazingly well and the Liquid is honestly as happy going up the hills as it is coming down them.

The only real issue with going up them is the (comparative) weight of the bike as a whole compared to some of the newer 5" rides, like our popular possé weapon of choice, the Turner 5-Spot. At 32lb in standard fettle, the Liquid isn't the lightest on the market. Despite the light Bonty bits the bike as a whole isn't the market leader in this area, which is a shame because on paper it looks good. Unfortunately the frame itself must be the biggest contributor to the weight because, despite looking a simple design, the figures show otherwise. However it's important to bear in mind that the weight translates to a tank-like sure-footedness over the rough stuff, and the Trek gives a very solid impression when you're riding the rough stuff.

I've since brought that figure down a pound by swapping the seatpost for a Thompson afair and lightening the wheels with Mavic rims, Hope Pro II hubs, Aztec discs, lighter Bontrager ACX tyres (UST, naturally) and a more recent XT cassette. The wheel/tyre changes contributed the most improvement, although the Bonty tyres don't have the outright grip that the previous Hutchinson Spiders had (heavy buggers, but massively grippy in the gloop/cross-root performance, and very confidence-inspiring).

The twisty bits are where the weight and geometry of the Liquid come into their own, and the bike offers far more chuckability than the Marin ever had with the added bonus of a sure-footedness that it'll go over anything you stick in it's way (within reason). But I'm finding it's bring out one worrying aspect of my riding - I'm starting to really enjoy the downhill bits. I guess it's fair to say, due to the weight, the bike performs slightly better in this role (although I suspect it's more a reflection of my physical ability which means I mentally put it into that 'slot' more easily). It'll yump off stuff all day, the suspension has never got phazed yet and the brakes just work. They are due a significant note because I think it's easy to forget all about them when they take on their role with such fuss-free aplomb. You squeeze the lever; they stop the bike. With an 8" rotor up front, "Very well".

There are more advanced pedal platforms and suspension designs out there, and there's certainly lighter XC/FreeRide bikes on the market (a lot of them for less money, too). As a new purchase, in the current market, a Liquid 55 at full retail price isn't a very sensible proposition. Neither are the new Remedy models compared to the likes of offerings from Giant and Specialized. Not that it particularly matters out there on the trails, but the Liquid is a nice looking bike if nothing else, and the powder-coat-effect frame with it's etched gussets looks suitably tasty when clean. If you can get one at a decent price, the 55 is 90% of a Turner 5-Spot for 50% of the price... just so long as you can put up with the extra lb's (but, hey, it's good exercise....).


Farqui said...

When you dropped your wad on this beastie, I was very interested to see how you'd fair compared to the Marin. After trying (in vain) to chase you down on the opening sections of Cannock, I think we can say that you're well matched. Thankfully, your legs gave out shortly after so my frantic duckin and divin was brief ;)

msLiquid's suspension seems to work brilliantly and looks much more efficient that the ol'single pivot Marin. You whiz'd up a few climbs without much apparent effort.

I thunk you're onto summat with the weight feelin' solid and as it pedals so well, then who care's about a few xtra g's!

Although the front appears to sit a little high, it doesn't seem to affect the front end grip. I guess the SPV rear shock stops from back from sagging. Clever shox's rock. The high front will defo contribute to a confident DH stance.

I must say that I'm mighty impressed with the thought, design and manufacture of msLiquid. That gusset is a masterpiece! The rocker is huuuge but looks very sturdy and I doubt that you'll find the rear wags. Isn't the frame annodised rather than pc'd ?

As std the bike is pretty trick and you've added some sensible upgrades that should just make her even more of a joy to hoon around on.

Oh and v.well done on getting such a bargain.

Farqui said...

Hmmm, I thought you had a monster 8" / 203mm rotor up front ? - or am i dreamin

Dan Howell said...

You're right, it was my inability to convert 203mm to inches correctly. It's an 8 incher (ooer missus). Post corrected ;)

Dan Howell said...

Article in this months rags (one of the umpteen "What Mountain Biking Bike Singletrack Rider" affairs; I forget which) testing ~£2.5k 6" travel all-mountain bikes, and there's the Remedy 66 in there. It doesn't fair too well against the competition. I know it's 6" versus the 5" of the Liquid 55, but they do a Remedy 5 too so I imagine the same results will apply. In short, it would seem the Trek all-mountain range is now suffering against the competition like Giant's Trance and Specialized's Enduro Pro, which clean up on most counts.

Farqui said...

Hmmm, it'd be interesting to find out what changes between the Liquid and Remedy. I'd try to dig around for some geometry charts and also take into account the different components.

Mag reviews are ok, but I often find that they contracdict themselves or seem to miss the point entirely.

The Giant's are agressively priced compared to all others and as they continually get rave reviews, I hope they'll shake up the other manuf's.