We gave our Family Bike Guy one of our Trek DS series hybrids to test ride for the weekend. This is a popular class of bike for customers of the Cycle Centre so we were keen to see what he made of it.
What is a DS Hybrid?
Trek’s range of bikes is a bit bewildering to the uninitiated, I don’t mind admitting that I’ve been confused more than once trying to figure it out. The DS (Dual Sport) range is aimed at those looking for one bike to do it all on. The “ultimate hybrid” as Trek would have us believe. Part city bike, part road bike, part trial bike, part tourer. All bikes in the DS range have 700c wheels with road and track capable tyres, an aluminium frame with mounts for a rack and mudguards plus capable suspension forks on all but the base model.
The range is quite broad with six models (in the men’s frame style) starting at £400 for the 8.1 and rising to £1000 for the 8.6. I was testing the cheapest model to have suspension forks, the 8.2 that retails for £450.
As the DS range is aimed at people who only want one bike to do a lot of different types of cycling on I thought it would be a good idea to take it on the sort of ride that fits in with this ideal. The Cycle Hub do a guided ride on the second Saturday of every month along the National Cycle route 72, either out to Wylam or to Tynemouth. This would be a perfect test for a hybrid as route 72 offers a nice mix of surfaces with the odd hill too. The route on the day was out to Tynemouth, about a 21 mile return journey.
I was keen to test a few key things on the DS 8.2. First off, could it actually cope with road and track type riding. Second, was it an easy bike to ride. Thirdly, was it value for money and lastly did I really think it was a do-it-all bike?
Does it Dual Sport?
The DS 8.2 is, on paper and to look at, exactly what the marketing fluff from Trek says it is: the suspension forks and chunky aluminium frame look like a mountain bike, the big wheels make it look like a 29er. The narrow tyres make it more like a city bike or tourer. I was initially a bit concerned that Trek had just stuck all these components together on a frame from their MTB range and hoped for the best.
After the initial ten miles of riding I began to think that Trek might have a winner on their hands as far as creating a good all rounder.
The gearing, tyres and riding position meant it was easy to cycle at a steady pace and keep up with other folk on faster bikes over the bumpier tarmac of Route 72. The solid frame, forks and reassuring v brakes meant that I had enough confidence to leave the tarmac and find the odd bump, bunny hop pot holes and generally not worry about coming off when things got a bit rough.
As we reached Tynemouth, I became more aware of the main component that perhaps is the 8.2’s week point, the forks, They were a bit vague and too soft for my liking. I then had to remind myself of the price the 8.2 sells for. Suspension forks on an all aluminium hybrid with off-road capability for less than £500 is actually quite impressive and certainly wouldn’t have been available a few years ago.
The group set is an eclectic mix of Suntour and Shimano components but they all worked well together regardless of what the pressure I put on the drive chain. The most interesting bit from my point of view was the massive 34 tooth cog in the rear cassette (my road bike’s front inside cog has 36 teeth!) This coupled with the 28 inside ring on the crank made for a super low ratio that demolished any steep climb and would certainly be a bonus for a rider carrying panniers over any distance.
One advantage hybrids normally have over a road bike is that the riding position and contact points are more comfortable. The DS, I’m pleased to say, was no exception to this general rule. Although, I did the Hub ride in cycle shorts I did put in a few miles without padding between me and the saddle and it is more than comfortable enough for commuting or leisurely sunday spins.
So what did I think?
The ride out to Tynemouth was a gentle pace with barely a sweat broken. 10.6 miles in about 95 mins isn’t going to worry any pro cyclist that’s for sure. However, I needed to get back to the Hub in a hurry, so I left the group enjoying coffee and cake and heading off on my own. This time I put my foot down. Just 32 mins for the route back, certainly got closer to testing the limits of the DS 8.2 with my 82kg on it. When ridden hard the Trek DS coped admirably. Nothing broke, I didn’t scare myself by passing the limit of the brakes or tyres.
For a budget of £450 and assuming you only want/need/have room for one bike and you want that bike to be able to a lot of different things (or you’re not sure what sort of cycling your going to want to do) then the Trek DS 8.2 is a hard bike to beat. I rode the 2013 model, which inevitably will be replaced shortly by the 2014 range. This means you’ll be able to (if you’re lucky) snap up a 2013 model at a bargain price or wait for the 2014 model that is almost certainly going to be a little bit better.
A Dual Sport hybrid, it turns out, is actually quite a good idea. For the DS 8.2, the compromises in component quality are more than made up for by the low price and all round capability of the bike. It definitely gets my recommendation.
Disclaimer: No payment was received for the testing of this product and the product was returned afterwards.