I wanted a light mountain bike capable of speeding up the more mellow trails near where I live. Some people suggested that I get a gravel bike but I wanted a bike which I can also take it down steep gnarly trails with rocks and roots. My road bike is fast but it can’t traverse that kind of terrain without damage to its wheels and components.
I needed a hard tail because there was no way that I could get a reasonably light dual suspension 29er cross country racer in my price range. I grew up with mountain bikes with no suspension front or rear. I won the 1988 women downhill at a cross country nationals at Bear Valley with my totally rigid mountain bike even when I had to go into the big rocks to pass the person who started in front of me. So this would be right up my alley. I splurged a little for a carbon fiber frame with decent wheels and Shimano XT components and so got the 9.7 model.
It has been a while since I have fallen for a mountain bike but the Trek Pro Caliber stole my heart. Let me explain; I once bought a Fisher X-Caliber in 1987 and I broke the frame within one year of purchasing it. Fisher supplied me with a Pro Caliber frame to take its place. It was a better bike but there is no comparison between the chrome-moly 1988 Fisher Pro Caliber and my carbon fiber Trek Pro Caliber. The Fisher was good for its day being one of the first production cross country race bikes, but the 2018 Trek Pro Caliber is night and day better than my Fisher in every respect including weight.
The new bike feels smooth and responsive to my every move. When I pull up the front end to get over an obstacle the fork absorbs the impact and the bike follows without complaint. It is a very modern and innovative cross country racing mountain bike. It has the latest IsoSpeed decoupler which Trek had already designed into their endurance drop bar bikes for cobbles and choppy asphalt.
They say that since the introduction of the traditional diamond-shaped bicycle frame, a challenge has been how to make it stiff enough to be efficient and handle predictably, yet compliant enough to reduce the jarring and fatiguing effects of rough roads. The IsoSpeed decoupler was developed by Trek for Fabian Cancellara, one of the world’s most successful Classics riders. It was built to smooth out the punishing cobblestones of European roadways favored in the Classics.
A frame with an IsoSpeed Decoupler will slightly flex underneath you for added comfort but will not give where power is transferred to the pedals. This is accomplished by allowing the seat tube to move independently from the top-tube-to-seatstay junction. Trek has taken this technology and carried it over to other styles of bikes including an entire women’s road line, cyclocross bikes, and even a cross country mountain bike line.
But does it work off road? I suppose it does to the extent that it smooths out minor bumps when you are seated and pedaling along. But what about an out-of-the-seat challenge on a rough descent; would it work there? The isolation of the seat tube increases vertical compliance but it is not useful for absorbing real impacts encountered at downhill speeds – at least that is the official version.
Does the fact that the seat tube is not fixed make it a different sort of frame; a parallelogram with no right angles? I don’t know but I do know that the bike works. You can jump it, take it over drop offs and huge roots and even over rocky cliffs with no fuss. It might have something to do with geometry and my riding technique but sometimes I have to look back to make sure that it doesn’t have some sort of rear suspension.
I suppose that its proficiency on downhills has more to do with the carbon layup of the frame and the rigid through axles more than any road bike innovations. It supposedly has nothing to do with the IsoSpeed Decoupler per say, although they do say that changes to the frame resulted in its being more compliant. The bike works great in places where the traditional IsoSpeed endurance bike frame would flounder. I am talking rough descents here, not cobblestones.
I can take the bike up over big roots up a steep hill and it can go down the same trail although not at speed. It is that good. At first I thought that it would be impossible to do that on the rigid framed bike, but after I tried to pedal up and then coast down the trail I found out how easy it is on the Pro Caliber. It hops roots and other tail obstacles as well as a full suspension bike albeit with a little bit more feedback.
The other thing that I really like about this bike is how it rides on the flats and even on moderate uphills. It feels fast like a road bike. Of course it is not as fast as a really skinny tire, drop bar bike with its fat knobbies and Fox fork, but it rides really well as long as the trails aren’t too steep (the wheel-set is slightly heavy for speeding up steep hills). Sometimes on the flats it feels like I have a little electric assist motor when I am pedaling.
It has DT Swiss M1900, Boost wheels are set up for running tubeless. The 1900 SPLINE 22.5 is up to the challenge with its lightweight, high-quality pawl hubs. Altogether the wheel set weighs a decent 1843 grams, they aren’t the lightest wheels in the world. But they do the trick. Maybe the lack of rear suspension is part of Trek’s formula on the uphills, but the bike works great on downhills as well. It only weighs a little over 24 pounds. The front fork is sensitive to all kinds of trail obstacles and where the front wheel goes the rear wheel follows.
You can go to Trek’s website to see all the specs. https://www.trekbikes.com/us/en_US/bikes/mountain-bikes/cross-country-mountain-bikes/procaliber/procaliber-9-7/p/2077690-2018/?colorCode=grey I want to tell you how it feels riding the bike not just its specifications and features that you can get here online.
The other day I was riding it fast down a steep hill that transitioned to a cliff like climb and a sharp turn out at the top. The bike kept up enough momentum to roll over the rocks and I made the exit without any problem. This is a challenge that I was not able to do on my aluminum 29er full suspension bike. All the Pro Caliber needs are lighter rims and a dropper seat post to change the seat height on the fly and it would be almost perfect (it still needs better shifting action).
It goes over the logs with no hesitation even the logs I put in my yard for my trials motorcycle . The bigger hoops help there. It also hops over logs on the trail. I took it over a narrow wooden bridge with no run in or run out and a steep drop to the bridge and a steep rise after you get off the bridge. It is tricky but my bike made it without complaint. It also gets up to speed quickly and so it is not hard to get the momentum to go up over steep rocky rises and then down the other side over off camber roots.
The rigidity of the fame with vertical compliance and the through axles make it go straight and sure speeding through the worst terrain. The boost148/110 hubs provide the bike with stronger wheels, more tire clearance, shorter stays. It is another item that makes the bike go straight and sure through the most terrifying drops.
It flies over roots and rocks without a murmur. Most people do not expect this from a rigid framed bike but it is surprising how good it is in the hills. Most rigid frames will jump from side to side at speed over rough terrain but not the Pro Caliber (as long as you don’t get on the brakes too hard). I am not talking groomed single tracks here, but rutted gouged out trails through the worst terrain imaginable. It is not as smooth as a dual suspension bike but for the right person it is the real deal.
I have two complaints. One is that the XT drive-train does not shift as easily as the SLX drive-train components on my aluminum full suspension bike. It feels like it has mismatched components. No matter how much I adjust it, it is notchy and slow when I shift up while going up hill. The bike store where I purchased it was not able to help smooth out the shifting.
The other complaint is with Trek and the dealer where I bought the bike. A few days after purchasing it I tried to take the rear wheel off by loosening the skewer on the quick release but it would not come up and so I used a plastic tire lever to get some leverage. The lever for the quick release broke and I had to pay fifty dollars for a new through axle quick release. Not only that but I did not receive any directions on how to use it from the bike shop where I purchased the bike. It is different from other quick releases and that needs to be explained to all customers. After replacing it, it was still tight and the store manager told me to kick it loose with my heel. What will they think of next?
So unlike other reviewers, who say that it is a good bike for beginners, I disagree and I think that it is the best bike for experienced racers who do not need rear suspension to smooth out trail obstacles. I think if I was going to go back to cross country racing this would be the steed I would race. It is light. It has the bigger wheels, it is affordable and the best bike for the cross county racer on a budget. I love it even though I don’t race any more.