The MBT test crew prides itself on steering clear of bike snobbism but we’re human just like you. It’s only natural for us to drool over the latest big-travel designs, carbon fiber frames, lightest this and hottest that. So when affordable, sensible, and practical bikes like the Trek 6000 land in our proverbial lap, it’s easy for us to act unimpressed. However to do so would be quite foolhardy on our behalf as bikes in this demographic truly represent the meat and potatoes of most manufacturer’s model lines. In fact time and time again it is proven that it is this exact type of machine that takes top honors as the most popular mountain bike on an entire line, outpacing sales of the ultra expensive, uber-technical bike that has us lusting sometimes with figures as high as 20 to 1! As the old saying goes, that many people can’t be wrong.
Our Trek 6000 came setup as follows: Suspension in the form of the RockShox Dart 3 fork with 4 inches of travel (external preload and rebound control with lock out), SRAM X.5 trigger shifters as well as front & rear deraillerurs. Shimano M442 cranks and chainrings mated to a SRAM PG950 cassette, Avid BB-5 mechanical disc brakes/ Tektro levers, Bontrager Ranger rims wrapped in Bontrager Jones XR rubber and finally a Bontrager riser bar rounds out the cockpit package.
Pedals are included, in this case in the form of Wellgo platforms and all told our size large aluminum framed 6000 hardtail came in at a weight of 31 pounds (and that’s with the pedals). This exact bicycle can be had for $899.
The Stare Down
Trek has adopted a numeric system of identifying segments of its model line that works pretty darn well. The system spans 3000 to 9000 with the former being entry-level bike path cruisers and the latter being their top of the line mountain offerings. As logic might suggest, the 6000 series falls directly between the two extremes, offering off-road performance that won’t break the bank.
Trek goes the extra mile by offering the 6000 in 15.5, 17.5, 18.5, and 21.5-inch options (plus there are also 4 women-specific size options of this model called the WSD). We opted for the men’s 18.5-inch (large) frame size but could probably have gotten away with the 17.5-inch variation with a majority of our test crew. The number system is more accurate of course, but looking at these bikes as small, medium, large and XL designations is pretty spot-on as well.
At a quick glance, separating the Trek 6000 from most entries in this price range is the incredibly smooth welding of the frame itself. Rather than lumpy gussets and overlapping beads at the frame’s junctions, the 6000 appears almost seamless. At a glimpse it looks pretty convincing as though to be constructed of single-piece carbon fiber but rest assured it is in fact aluminum and gives up no strength to the cobbily welded frames mentioned.
Climbing into the saddle reveals a nice trail-bike stance despite the cross-country appearance of the bike. Rider weight is placed fairly rearward and the reach to the bars doesn’t require much stretching. In all the 6000 is setup to be nice and comfortable and dialing in the fork is about as easy as it gets: We ran the rebound control roughly in the middle (with a slight hint toward the slow side to prevent topping out off jump faces) and spun the spring preload until we matched the sag setting in the manual for 165 pound rider; in this case the average weight of our three testers.
Even with all of the advancements in rear suspension technology, there is nothing quite as satisfying as dropping the hammer on a hardtail. The Trek 6000 is no exception; with each crank rotation translating directly into a spurt of acceleration. The 6000 could be made to wheelie with the best of them with a slight tug on the bar while pumping the cranks but from a seated position, remains stable and neutral in even the hardest sprints.
We appreciated the honest performance the 4-inches of travel the Rockshox Dart fork provides, especially over stutter bumps and rooted trails. However, this is undeniably hardtail territory and we were reminded of this fact on many of the rock strewn and rooted out passes that make up much of the east coast trails we call home. The Trek 6000 rider learns very quickly to transition from seated to standing while attempting to keep up with the full suspension riders through the chop.
Cornering was impressive in the rough stuff but a tad bit slippery in loose powder or sand thanks to the chassis’ rearward bias. Again standing to put a little more weight on the front wheel seems to have cured this trend entirely. Some of our testers have also reported very positive cornering results in removing a little bit of air from the front Bontrager Jones tire to allow the meaty side knobs a bit more opportunity to bite into the loose soil.
The Trek 6000 makes a pretty adequate climber though as the rear wheel tends to find traction no matter the condition. We simply selected our climbing gear in advance, stayed seated, and let a smooth pedaling cadence carry us up and over many a brisk, punchy hill. Though 31 pounds is by no means hefty, the 6000 does tend to feel a tad bit portly on extended climbs when having to carefully choose lines in the process. We found ourselves in a gear or two lower than we’re used to on more than one occasion while tackling some of the elevation on our test loop.
Descending was again above average thanks in no small part to the Dart 3’s steady performance. Once satisfied with the rebound setting, the fork gave us no surprises even when the speeds started increasing. The best way to safely reach the bottom of the hill on the Trek 6000 is to flow with the smoother lines and carry as much momentum as possible. Braking from the Avid mechanical discs was adequate but certainly not awe-inspiring, especially once we had gravity to contend with. Again though, the chassis will reward riders who brake early, pay attention to their lines, and flow with gravity rather than resist it all the way down.
There is little doubt that we sent our test bike through conditions that most certainly exceeded the Trek 6000’s intended purpose: From miles of rutted and rooty east coast trail torture to rock strewn high speed descents and the bike handled everything we threw at it in stride. In fact after a quick damp-rag wipe down, you would be hard pressed to tell that it had ever been ridden!
A wider handlebar and hydraulic discs are really all that separate the bike from serious descending capacity but at a price point of under a grand, such upgrades are always a possibility down the line.
As it stands, the Trek 6000 is poised to get countless riders out into the excitement that begins where the road ends and it’ll do so with confidence and style and perhaps best of all, with one of the sleekest designed frames on a bike of any cost.