The whole concept of bicycle touring has been turned on its ear in the past few years. For a generation the idea was loading up a stalwart Trek 520 and following the pavement wherever it took you. Today many folks don’t even start their tour until they find where the pavement ends. Rides like the Tour Divide or the Oregon Outback have made back roads the new main street for bike touring, and Trek has designed the new 920 model for exploring on dirt, gravel and beyond. (Trek also debuted a new 720 light touring model.)
The all-new aluminum frame and fork are more reminiscent of a mountain bike than a traditional, steel touring rig. The massive tubes keep things from twisting when loaded or traversing rough terrain. The distinctive kink in the top tube adds room for a second bottle cage on the down tube, meaning there is room for four bottle cages on the main triangle, as well as one on each fork leg.
The 920 can be stripped down for events like the Dirty Kanza 200 or run with its included front and rear aluminum racks, giving you all the carrying capacity you could want. And while it may look a bit like a traditional touring bike with this set up, the details make it anything but. The Bontrager Duster wheels and knobby 29×2.0 Bontrager XR1 tires are straight from the brand’s mountain bike line, as are the inclusion of thru-axles front and rear.
The drivetrain is a curious mix as well, with traditional-looking bar end shifters paired with a SRAM S1000 42/28 mountain bike crankset and 11-36 cassette. Keeping your loaded rig under control is made much easier with the TRP Hylex hydraulic disc brakes. After using these for a few weeks it’s impossible to imagine going back to cantilevers.
I’ve been riding the Trek 920 on back roads all over Oregon in the past few weeks (aided by an alarming lack of snowpack) and thus far it has been an excellent adventure partner. Watch for an in-depth review soon.
Weight: 28.13 pounds, w/racks
Sizes: 49, 52, 54, 56, 58 (tested), 61cmTweet Print
For decades Trek has offered its model 520 steel touring model, specced with bar-end shifters, a rear rack, braze-ons for fenders and low-rider front rack, and clearance for chubby tires to tackle any terrain. For 2015, two new models are joining it in Trek stores: the rugged 920 adventure bike and the lightweight 720, both made with aluminum frames and decidedly different than each other and their grandpappy, the 520.
The 720 Disc is indeed aimed at more of the mixed-use crowd—riders who spend most of their time behind bars on asphalt—but who enjoy a taste of speed with the ability to tackle a little gravel. The handlebar height is similar to my daily rider, which I use on fast lunch rides in the hills for fitness, and the frame’s geometry is more on the aggressive side, which suits me fine.
Trek, along with its house brand Bontrager, developed a plastic snap-in front lowrider dry-bag system for the carbon touring fork to carry some necessities. This frees up the rider’s back for a hydration pack for longer, hotter rides, or allows a pack-rat to carry as much stuff as they need. The rear triangle can also fit a standard rack, and Bontrager has several to choose from.
The 11-32-tooth, 11-speed cassette offers low enough gearing to handle long, steep climbs, and the 50/34 front chainrings allow a nice cadence on the flats, which I enjoy because I’m partial to doubles. I also like Shimano’s reliable 105 group, and the 720 includes shift/brake levers, derailleurs, cassette and chain, plus the RS500 crankset. Shifting has been crisp and reliable, and I need to tighten up the stretched cables a little to make things perfect after several rides.
The 700x28c Bontrager AW1 Hard-Case Lite tires roll smoothly with 100 psi, and as of this post I’ve not suffered any flats. I’ve ridden several hundred miles on Bontrager tires the past few years, and have grown to appreciate the connection I feel to the road, which gives me a bit more confidence when cornering.
I’ve also grown accustomed to looking down and seeing disc brakes on my drop-bar bikes, and the TRP HY/RD cable-actuated, hydraulic hybrid disc brakes have become my favorite since testing the Pivot Vault in 2014: squeeze the brake lever and speed is scrubbed with little effort.
Like the Ibis Hakkalügi Disc I repurposed last fall, the Bontrager wheels are wide, round and true, even after several rides, providing a nice no-hassle ride. Unlike the ‘Lugi, the 720 Disc has fitting for fenders.
At 21 pounds without pedals and dry bags mounted on my 58 cm test sample, the 720 Disc won’t win any weight weenie contests, but that’s not the point. This is a bike designed to be loaded down, and smart bikes like this only feel better with extra stuff bolted or strapped on. Trek knows this from its tenure with the popular 520.
The 720 Disc can handle fast rides with the Lycra crowd, or become a mule on longer overnight excursions. The graphite finish with lime and green highlights provide enough of a neutral palette, and with a few simple modifications (like Cher’s costume changes between songs), you’ll have a diva of your own to go wherever you like.
Stay tuned for a more in-depth review of the 720 after we’ve had a chance to spend more time riding it.
- Price: $1,979
- Weight: 21.1 pounds w/o pedals
- Sizes: 49, 52, 54, 56, 58 (tested), 61 cm