pimped to the max

Trek Procaliber 9.8 in review

Trek Procaliber 9.8 in review – pimped to the max

God knows, the Procaliber is not a newcomer to the market. A good geometry, well thought-out details and the attempt to equip the rear end with more comfort make the Procaliber a super exciting bike even in its third season. Does the bike keep its promises on the racetrack and the trail?
Trek Procaliber 2023 Test
The generic term “race bike” alone makes it clear: The competitive environment in which the Trek Procaliber finds itself is fast-paced. The starting block is all about best times, frame stiffness and weight records. For more than two decades, a high quotient of frame stiffness and frame weight (STW value) was the primary development goal for new race bikes. Limitations in durability, off-road capability and comfort were accepted as collateral damage. But recent developments clearly show that this is over. The fastest bikers in the world ride 120 millimeters of travel and dropper posts. And our last tests of the Cannondale Scalpel HT or Scott Scale RC make it clear that more and more trend-conscious bike companies are deliberately abandoning the fight for the lowest frame weight. From this point of view, Trek was ahead of its time when it presented the Procaliber 2020. Because the Isospeed system and clever details on the frame reveal that the focus of development in Wisconsin has long been elsewhere.

The Trek Isospeed System – the cushioning of the Procaliber

With the in-house Isospeed system, Trek focused on the comfort of race hardtails that had been neglected for years. The idea behind it is clear: marathon riders in particular often sit in the saddle for hours and shred kilometer after kilometer. Small bumps in the ground, like on gravel roads or forest paths, tire the rider’s muscles over time. And the direct result of fatigue is slowing down. And even if slowing down is a social trend, racers get panic attacks just reading the words slowing down.
Trek Procaliber Isospeed
Trek’s Isospeed system splits the seat and top tubes. This should give the seat tube more room for flex and the entire bike more comfort.
Trek Procaliber damping
Unlike the newer Trek racing bikes, the Isospeed system on mountain bikes cannot be adjusted in its stifness.
Trek Procaliber Softtail
The lower part of the seat tube is very flat and allowa for more flex.
To not alienate the intended target group, Trek has decoupled the node between the seat stays, top tube and seat tube. Now the seat tube is firmly connected to the frame at the bottom bracket. At the top, just below the seat clamp, there is a special screw connection that allows the seat tube to flex significantly towards the back. In order to allow this flex, the seat tube is shaped flat in the lower area of the frame. That’s the theory at least. Don’t get your hopes up just yet, as this isn’t completely groundbreaking. Although the Trek is actually pleasantly comfortable to ride, although the Isospeed system only allows movements in the millimeter range. Anyone dreaming of a fully replacement should look elsewhere. Another significant part of the comfort is also the combination of wide tires and 30 millimeter wide rims. Our assessment: The Isospeed system has about the same comfort effect as 0.1 to 0.2 bar less air in the tires. For those who weigh their noodles before the start of the marathon, that’s a lot. Others will probably not notice it at all.
Bontrager tires have a thin sidewall for a smooth, comfortable ride. However, they are not among the most puncture-proof, as we found out when we hat to patch them.
Bontrager Kovee Elite 30 Rims
The 30 millimeter wide carbon rims let the tires come out voluminously and thus also increase comfort.

Frame details and style: the aces up Trek Procaliber’s sleeve

Weighing in well over a kilo for the frame (to be exact 1.4 kilos in size L), the Procaliber is no lightweight. In the 9.8 version, the Procaliber weighs 10.2 kilos. A good value, but not excellent. Trek pulls the real aces out of its sleeve when it comes to style and details. Because the super tidy frame with its no-frills appearance harmonises perfectly with the handlebar-stem unit from Bontrager. American companies have always had a knack for particularly stylish bikes. The Procaliber is living proof of this.   The frame also scores with really smart details. In terms of easy serviceability and longevity, it is superior to many of its competitors. The cables for the gears, brakes or optionally also the telescopic support do not simply run loosely through the frame, but are guided completely through small tubes. Advantage number 1: There is no clattering. Advantage number 2: Swapping them is child’s play.
Trek Procaliber 9.8 2023
A touch of elegance: The Trek Procaliber 9.8.
The head set with the integrated knock block is also well thought out. Especially on race bikes, the handlebars are often mounted very low. In the event of a fall, the shift or brake lever can scratch or even destroy the top tube. Anyone who has ever watched a cross-country race knows that this is not a theoretical thought, but can happen easily. Its annoying when an inconspicuous fall destroys the entire frame. Trek efficiently prevents this problem with the Knock-Block headset, because the headset stops before the handlebar touches the frame.The form-fitting and robust rubber pads with which the frame is fitted work great and are also intended for the long term. The slacking chain or stones hitting the down tube can’t harm the frame. The integrated chain slap plate on the chainstay make it clear: Trek has put some serious thought into the problem areas of bikes.
Bontrager RSL Raceshop LTD Handlebar
The Knock Block headset prevents annoying scratches or even completely defective top tubes.
Bontrager RSL carbon handlebar stem unit
Our score: 10/10! A cockpit couldn’t be more stylish than the Bontrager Raceshop Limited handlebar-stem with titanium screws.

The drivetrain – a product of the Corona crisis

Even though the Corona crisis is long over, its effects are still being felt. Our test bike had the Shimano XT 1×12 gears specified in the spec sheet, but unexpectedly came with an e*13 cassette. The Shimano XT cassette from the product data sheet was probably not available. The Helix Plus cassette has a wonderful range of 556% with a gradation of 9 to 50 teeth, but it also comes with a catch. Sure, it can be used universally for SRAM and Shimano drives. But since the introduction of 12-speed drives, components such as chain, chainrings and cassettes are no longer 100% compatible. The reason: Both manufacturers have slightly different spacers. A universal product for both options must therefore inevitably make compromises somewhere in terms of function. And in fact, the actually reliable Shimano gears never harmonised perfectly with the cassette from the manufacturer. After switching to a SRAM GX AXS Eagle rear derailleur (and trigger), the entire drive train worked much better. This makes it clear in which direction the e*13 cassette was optimised. It’s safe to assume that most bikes will ship with an XT cassette, so we don’t want to overestimate this point in our test. More important your decision is: How does the bike ride on the trail?
We swapped the original Shimano XT gears for a SRAM GX AXS Eagle gears.
The e*13 Helix Plus cassette worked much better with the SRAM drive.
Trek Procaliber cable routing
The electronic circuit works without a Bowden cable.
It wirelessly transmits the shifting signal from the lever to the rear derailleur, ensuring a tidy look. span>
Shimano XT 12-speed shifter M8100
The original built-in Shimano XT circuit works best when a Shimano cassette is also installed. Due to the Covid-related shortage of parts, this was not the case with our test bike.

The Trek Procaliber in the field: A trail lover

Befitting for a race hardtail, you adopt a sporty attitude on the Trek Procaliber. The not too steep seat angle allows you to pedal properly even on longer flat sections. Ideal for eating up kilometers. The well-rolling Bontrager tires please anyone who likes to travel far and fast. The light carbon wheels make the start pleasantly light-footed. This is what a race hardtail should feel like. Downhill, the XT stoppers ensure very good deceleration. Most of the other bikes in this segment can learn a lesson from that. But the real enthusiasm unfolds when you dare to take your finger off the brake. Then the well-functioning Fox suspension fork, the successful geometry and the voluminous tires begin to come into their own. On flat trails you fall into a veritable rush of speed. At least the Procaliber does a good job in rough terrain and conveys a safe, confident riding experience for a hardtail.
In his element. The Trek is a fun machine on the trail.

The standards on the Trek Procaliber 2023

  • Frame weight: 1.4 kg (carbon)
  • Bottom bracket: Pressfit
  • Wheel size: 29 inches
  • Rear wheel installation dimensions: 12×148
  • Seatpost: 31.6mm
  • Cable routing: through the down tube with internal routing
  • Bottle holder: space for two bottles
  • Special feature: Isospeed damping on the rear triangle
  • Derailleur hanger: UDH (SRAM Eagle Transmission compatible)

The Procaliber’s competitors in starting block A

There are many race hardtails. The most exciting comparison models to the Procaliber are without a doubt the Scalpel HT from Cannondale and Orbeas Alma. While the Scalpel comes with an exciting geometry and the Lefty fork, the Alma scores with excellent price/performance and the option of a custom paint job. If you prefer the feeling of a full-sus, you should take a closer look at the Specialized Epic World Cup or Trek Supercaliber.

All current Trek Procaliber models at a glance, including prices and availability:

As usual, we not only provide an in-depth insight into the details. In contrast to all other media, our innovative and completely objective test system allows us to provide information about the entire model family. Here you can find out about the right Procaliber for your budget. The current 2023 models are all unchanged from 2022. By the way, here we have complete purchase advice for race bikes.

All current Trek Procaliber models at a glance

Conclusion on the Trek Procaliber 9.8

In absolute terms, the Trek Procaliber is not a lightweight. At 10.2 kilos at frame size L, the weight is completely within the normal range though, especially when you take a look at the price tag of €4099. Comparable bikes with carbon wheels and a similar weight are often significantly more expensive. The real advantages of the bike lay in the well thought-out details of the frame. Cable routing that has been thought through till the end, the headset with an integrated stop (knock block) and a lavish protective package prove: The product managers at Trek know what is important if a relationship between people and material is to last in the long term. The Isospeed system for damping the rear end works to a certain extent, but it is not a game changer or even a full replacement. The absolute flex that it allows is too low. However, it remains an interesting gimmick, especially for long-distance fans. The Trek delivers on single track and impresses with its superior performance. The holistic development approach makes the Trek Procaliber a really successful race hardtail that stands out from the crowd.
In this article, the author Ludwig Döhl has incorporated his experience from more than 100,000 kilometers in the mountain bike saddle.

About the author


... has spent more than 100,000 kilometers in the saddle of over 1000 different mountain bikes. The essence of many hours on the trail: Mountain bikes are awesome when they match your personal preferences! With this realization, he founded bike-test.com to assist cyclists in finding their very own dream bike.

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