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A few weeks ago Trek announced the 2010 Session lineup on their website, so a review of a 2009 model bike may feel a little late, right? Well, not really. The 2009 and 2010 frames are the same (only graphical changes) and the 2010 Session 8 (which kinda sorta replaces the 88 FR) has the improvements that the 88 FR needed. The review of the 88 FR will be a good indication of how the 2010 Session 8 will feel, so let's get to it. Photo gallery, Suspension POV Video and all the details below.

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First Impression
The bike looks sick! The graphics, the spec, the colors, the parts, the finish...everything screams DIALED when you see this bike in person. The ano'd headset spacers and bolts in the suspension are things that stand out...things that show there was thought behind the bike.

Additionally there's just something great about a complete downhill bike. All the parts fit, there's no weird dremeling just build it and ride, no randomness. That goes a long way for me.

PhotoClick to Enlarge: Geometry, Size Medium

The Ride, Size Medium

I ended up having a blast on this bike and I would keep on riding it without a second thought. Initially, however, it took me a bit to get things rolling.

The bike I rode prior to the Session 88 FR was a full-on downhill bike with the angles and travel to match and tires I chose to ride. The FR has a bit less travel than (180mm up front and 203mm rear) what I was used to and the stock bars were 28-inches wide, and I was on 29.5-inch bars before.

After a few struggling runs, I swapped out the bars and life turned bright again. Swapping the bars to wider Sunline bars I am used to, was the only parts change I made to the bike. Once the suspension was dialed in (thanks Mike Howse for the tips), the tire pressure was dialed (I was unsure of the tires, so I ran the pressure high at first...bad idea) and I got acquainted with the overwhelming power of the Saint brakes, I fell in love with the Session.

Riding at "home" in SolVista was really fun and the bike made Silky Johnson (the trail in the POV video) really fun when compared to a long-travel DH bike as it was more nimble and felt very lively in and out of the berms. The Session also handled the rougher trails on the mountain just fine, the suspension definitely working well on the rough, big hits. There was a different feel and some flex on the Totem that would not be experienced on a dual crown, but it was nothing that could not be overcome and after a week, I didn't even notice it. The adjustments in the fork were obvious and easy. At Whistler, runs down Garbanzo following Sven and Anka were really fun and I never felt under-equipped in the travel or fork department.

Bontrager Big Earl Spec
The Bontrager house brand of parts on the Session 88 FR are called Big Earl. Seat, post, stem, bars and wheels all come from Bontrager and aside from swapping out the bars, everything with a Bontrager logo worked very well. If this were my bike to keep, however, I would change two other things - the stem and the saddle. The stem works as it should...the bars remained in place, it's just bulky-looking and it would be a purely cosmetic change on my end. The saddle, however, is BIG. The length and width were reminiscent of saddles we all used in 1999. While it didn't ruin my experience, the size was just a bit annoying. The pedals are grippy and durable, but they're a tad on the tall side. I clipped 'em a couple of times, but I never worried about them and would keep running them.

Brakes and Drivetrain
Shimano Saint brakes and drivetrain bling out the bike. The brakes are POWERFUL! My first few runs, I thought I was gonna die because it seemed like a little breath to the lever would lock up the wheels. A few adjustments to the lever and a few days on them and I grew used to the power. They did squeak a lot, so throwing some grimy dirt on the rotors/pads a few times was necessary.

The drivetrain did it's job. It shifted smoothly and I never lost a chain with the old-style MRP. I did lose the lower pulley wheel (even though I check it often). The rear cassette probably goes with the "FR" label. It's a wide-range cassette, so if you really want to pedal to the top, you probably can in most cases. I don't think I used the top 3 or 4 gears once, but again, some people may want to chug it uphill and will use every gear.

2010 Session 8 - HECK YES!
2010 is looking pretty good if you're checking out a Trek Session...especially the Session 8. While I would keep riding the 2009 Session 88 FR happily, the 2010 Session 8 tweaks all the things I would want and comes in at an affordable price.
- There's Boxxer Race on the front (I'd prefer a dual crown over the Totem) which has all the adjustments you need.
- The MRP has been upgraded to the G2
- The saddle is smaller and more trim
- Maxxis Minions come stock (though I didn't mind the Bontrager tires)
- The cassette has a compact cluster
- Thinner-profile Wellgo pedals are used
- Elixr R brakes (fine by me, I prefer a lighter powered brake, though I got used to the Saints)
- Can't tell if the bars they're spec'ing are 30-inches or doesn't say, but come on Trek!

The Verdict
Trek made a solid effort for their first year back in the gravity scene and the Session 88 FR proves it. A smart-looking, well-designed, well-spec'd bike does everything it should and I would strongly consider this a bike to buy. With 2010 on the way, the options just got better and a look at the Session 8 is a must for anyone in the market for a complete downhill bike.

Hey Trek, feel free to send me a 2010 Session 8, size medium, I'll send you my address : )

Thanks to Trek Bikes and Michael Browne for such a fun bike to ride these last couple months.

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