US bike brand Trek has leaked an early glimpse of the 2012 FX range of nippy hybrids, the bikes they sell the most of in the UK. It's a telling mark of the strength of Trek's 'bike path' bikes as well as a clue to the way everyday cycling-with-a-hint-of-sportiness is expanding on Great Britain's road and bike routes.
But make that just a hint. Although the FX bikes are based on hydroformed aluminium frames every bit as tweaked and fettled for strength, lightness and responsiveness as the more overtly racy bikes, they're always conservatively dressed to emphasise their daily workhorse intention and never without the requisite geometry to fit panniers, mudguards and chunky tyres when needed.
It's as if the Trek designers understand that a fair number of cyclists find the whole business of schlepping to work a chore they'd rather get over as quickly and reliably as possible, with the ability if accelerate smartly but without all the lurid associations with racing. Back in 2009 we reviewed the 7.7FX and referred to its ability to race the roadies away from the lights: "this bike is particularly good at that," said Iwein Dekoninck at the time.
Trek 2012 7.5FX £725: price down a bit on last time. It was a deserved best-seller on the big-city commutes.
The big news seems to be that unlike most ranges we've seen so far for this coming year, the FX bikes are holding their prices despite world-wide currency issues. In some cases such as the key 7.5 model which also comes in a Women's Specific Design (WSD) version there's even been a reduction from £700 to £650.
Otherwise, there are refinements to the aluminium frames, most notably on the 7.7 and 7.6 model where there is a tapered headtube in the modern lighter-and-stiffer idiom and there are now double compact chainsets again on the pricier models. It would almost be better to think of the 7.5FX and above now as road race bikes with straight bars for people who just prefer the more upright riding position. That's certainly no bad thing for a traffic-infested commute and where there is very little opportunity to cruise in an aero position for very long.
Trek 2012 7.3FX £500: new 'Gold' designation for lighter alumium frame, there's a disc version, too.
Trek 2012 FX Bikes 2012
7.2 WSD £400
7.3 WSD £500
7.3 Disc £550
7.3 WSD Disc £550
7.5 WSD £650
7.5 Disc £725
7.6 WSD £900
FX+ (electric assist) £1900
FX+ WSD £1900
An example of how price cuts have been achieved is on the best-selling 7.5 model where last year's Shimano 9-speed Deore trigger shifters, Deore rear gear and M431 Octalink 48/36/26 chainset has made way for slightly more generic Shimano R440 shifters, a Sora rear gear from the same company but an FSA Vero 50/34 double chainset. That's £50 less, down to £650 or £725 for the version with lovely M445 hydraulic discs. Still 9-speed, obviously, and the bottom gear is now 34 x 34 (27") where it was 26 x 26 (ooh look, still 27").
One particularly bad piece of news for lovers of the outrageously light-for-a-hybrid £2,000 carbon-fibre-framed 7.9FX model is that it appears to have been retired for 2012, a sign of the austere times.
We won't be seeing the bikes in the metal until next week's Eurobike but we will be testing FX models after that. The 7.7 with its full carbon fork and 7.5 with discs look particularly enticing. Meanwhile, Trek has intimated that it's going to be a year of consolidation in other model areas but that one interesting development in the race bikes is the Asian-made Trek Carbon Technology (TCT) frames which form the basis of the Madone 3 and 4 series bikes have all been upgraded to the more sophisticated Optimum Compaction Low Void (OCLV) manufacturing techniques of the premium Madones.
Trek 2012 7.2FX £400: not all the FX bikes are black or grey. This women's specific 7.2 adds a welcome splash of colour.