A few months ago, I bought a new mountain bike. I ordered a Trek X-Caliber 8 from the manufacturer and they sent it to a nearby bike shop for final assembly. Now that I’ve ridden it for over one hundred miles (and maybe as much as 200), it seems like a review is in order.

The X-Caliber 8 is a cross-country (XC) bike. It has a 12-speed transmission with a single front chainring and 12 sprockets in the back. It comes with a RockShox Judy front shock, and Shimano transmission, shifters, and hydraulic disc brakes. Maxxis tires are mounted tubeless on Bontrager Kovee rims. The bike is listed as “tubeless-ready” and I, not knowing then, thought I would get tubes on mine. The bike shop salesman pointed out that it was tubeless even though he didn’t assemble the bike. I have no idea how much assembly is needed and I would have thought the tires came on the rims, but it makes sense that they don’t.

First Impressions

When I picked up the bike and rode it the first few times, it felt great. The disc brakes were touchy but worked well. The bike shop pumped up the pressure in the shocks to match my weight and I could get close to bottoming out if I shifted my weight onto the bars quickly and fully; The travel of the shocks is much longer than on my very old RockShox Mag 21s from 1994. The size of the frame, thanks to Trek having one more size in their frame size selection, felt a lot like my previous Diamond Back Apex (circa 1991). The bike felt very good overall. Shifting was smooth and having the single chainring in the front simplified things a lot. I did miss being able to make larger shifting jumps by shifting the front derailer on my old bike but that was a minor loss.

Latest Impressions

After riding quite a bit (for a guy with a desk job) over the last few months, I still like the bike and I’m happy to have it.

One of the first things I did after a few rides was to use the seat from my old bike. It is a much better seat than what came on the X-Caliber. That helped a bit when riding with non-cotton shorts because the original seat seemed to make my butt sweat more. That was the only change I made until very recently when I added a dropper seat-post.

One thing that I noticed early on and that still bothers me is that the front fork seems “clunky” at times. If I’m riding on pavement and tap the front brakes, it feels like either the fork in the head tube or the shocks themselves, make a slight clunk. It reminds me of when my fork was loose on my old bike and the steerer tube would clunk inside the head tube because of it. The new bike has a tapered head tube and it doesn’t feel loose when I try to wiggle it by hand. Perhaps this is just the stiction (static friction) in the shock itself; I can’t tell for sure and I suspect that it could even be the shocks themselves just having some play in them. The shocks do seem less stiff than those on my old bike and when braking, I can pulse the brakes and see a lot of flex backward in the shocks.

I have just recently encountered what seems like some loose spokes in the rear. If I lean the bike while continuing to ride straight, the sideways pressure will make the spokes make noise. They sound like they are loosening or tightening enough to make the spokes rub against each other or make the spoke nuts tighten or loosen in the holes in the rims. I think that some small sticks may have hit the rear spokes on the trail and maybe this tweaked something. All I know is that it worries me that the back wheel could be compromised. Then again, I’ve seen videos of people landing some fairly large jumps on a hard-tail and the wheels can probably take much more abuse than I think they can.

I only installed the dropper seat-post because on some of the rides in my area, there are a few steep downhill sections with some rocks and I took a spill that I blame on my being too far forward on the bike while dropping the front wheel into a bit of a hole. A dropped seat will be great for riding downhill.

While installing the dropper, I was surprised that the internally routed cables came out the back of the down tube at the bottom bracket. The bottom of the down-tube is just not connected at the bottom bracket and instead has a slight curve that leaves room for the cables to come out. I would have expected a cover on this spot to keep dirt out of the frame. I also expected less of an opening with there just being small holes for the cables. This opening made it easy to get the cable housing for the seat post out of the down tube and then back into the seat tube, which does have just a small cable hole in the side of it at the bottom.

Final Thoughts

This is a nice bike. It is close to the same level of quality and components as my 1991 Diamond Back Apex and at around $1300.00 for the X-Caliber, they are essentially the same price (adjusted for inflation). The Apex didn’t come with a shock and those were new and very expensive at that time so I had added one a year after getting that bike. The Judy shock is the one item on the new bike where I think the component is not quite as high of a quality as I would like (the stiction is a bit stronger than I would like and the flex front to rear is also more than I would like). Overall, this is a great bike for what I need and it handles the uphill, flat riding, and downhill sections all nicely while not sacrificing one type of riding comfort for another.