Trek brought the media to Brian Head, Utah for a couple fun days of downhilling on their new 2011 Session 88. Since I've been riding a 2010 Session 8 all summer, it was a fun comparison to make between the new bike and my current bike. The video will give you a quick rundown of the important changes on the new frame and shock, while geometry is listed below, so you can do your homework.

Video of the major changes to the frame and shock on the 2011 Trek Session 88
Double-click to edit

The Similarities
I think it's important to note that the actual suspension design, pivot placements, geometry and mechanics of the 2010 Session 8 and 88 are identical to the 2011 Session 88. There is no difference with how or where the rear wheel moves or how the angles work.

The Differences
What makes the 2011 Session 88 so special are some important details that show the progression and constant refinement Trek is putting into their bikes. The little things add up at the World Cup level and Trek listened to their TWR team to develop this new frame and rear shock.
    The frame has some unqiue details that make it stand out. The tubeset is new and there has been a lot of thought put into the tube shapes and protective elements that are built into the new frame. These features (in my mind) take a back seat to the development of the custom-tuned Fox DHX RC4 shock that only comes on the 2011 Session 88. The shock is what you'll notice while you're riding the bike.

The Shock

    Jose Gonzalez and his ACG crew developed the custom-tuned rear shock in conjunction with Fox Racing Shox, based on input from the Trek World Racing team. The short description of the tune is that the shock allows for more mid-stroke control, creating a more consistent and linear suspension curve...something that TWR desired on their bikes. I could notice this difference between my current Session set up (which has a Vivid Air) and the new Session 88.
    The 2011 Session 88 felt generally more stable and damped, especially when the speed picked up. My 2010 Session is definitely stable and excels in that "bike park" environment where trails are a little more manicured and predictable. At speed and on the very rough stuff, however, my 2010 Session can dance around a bit. The 2011 Session excelled when the going got rough. This would make sense with the requests of the TWR team. They're out for blood, speed and no-holds-barred runs. The 2011 Session delivers that because of the custom-tuned shock.
    With that said, the RC4 has low-speed compression tuning abilities that allow the 2011 Session to keep a lively during bermed corners and jumps, so you can get that "best of both worlds" feel between lively and playful, yet aggressive and big bump-eating.

The Frame Details
I've never had a single problem with my 2010 Session 8 in the durability department and it's been shuttled and ridden in a rocky environment. If you're into this bike, you've probably read that some people have had problems with down tube dings and dents. Trek is aware of this, too and addressed the issue in all the framesets, including the new Session. Here is a list of the specific changes to the 2011 Session 88 frameset.
- Aerodynamic and more-durable down tube (they actually tested it in a wind tunnel).
- Removable deflection guard on the down tube (a similar version ships with new Session 8's).
- Lighter top tube and seat tube to offset the increased weight in the newly shaped down tube.
- Structurally integrated fork bumpers with replaceable stops.
- New forgings and box structures in the chainstay for increased stiffness and tire clearance.
- Now offered in XL sizing for you goliath-sized shredders.

The Verdict
    If I had to make a general statement about the new Session 88 vs the old Session frame (which is what the 2011 Session 8 uses, too), I'd say that the 2011 Session 88 is a racer's frame and the "old" frame is a bike park frame. The 2011 88 frame and bike build is made to go fast and it's made to be ridden aggressively, while the Session 8 frame is a great ride for those who frequent the flowy, bermy bike park trails with the occasional excursion into natural, rough terrain. You can't go wrong with either of the 2011 Session bikes, but you may be able to go "a little more right," depending on the riding you do. www.trekbikes.com will give you all the info you need.

The bike, as ridden
Shandro schralping at Brian Head...the perfect place to see if that down tube guard worked. IT DID!
The reason the new bike rips...custom-tuned Fox DHX RC4
My 2010 Session 8, which I'm still VERY happy with...37lbs right here. (Maybe I'll swing by Trek's suspension center to see if Jose will slide me over one of those custom Fox shocks to try out...wink, wink, nudge, nudge : ) Thanks Trek!
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