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by Dave Rome
August 28, 2020
Photography by Trek Bikes
It wasn’t all that long ago that Trek released its SuperCaliber cross country bike, effectively a modern-day softtail that claimed to offer the efficiency of a hardtail and the control of a dual suspension. With 60 mm of rear-wheel travel and respectably low weight, it appeared that Trek was moving on from offering a true race hardtail. That assumption may have been wrong … or not.
Today Trek announced an all-new Procaliber carbon hardtail, one that sticks with the company’s proven IsoSpeed technology which places a pivot point where the seat tube and top tube meet. It’s the same technology that’s used on Trek’s Domane, Madone and Boone dropbar bikes, and aims to add a noticeable amount of compliance to what’s otherwise a rigid frame.
It’s a design that provides seated comfort without relying on flex from the seat post, and in our experience, it works extremely well.
The IsoSpeed Decoupler remains.
All six sizes of the new Procaliber feature 29er wheels and a 100 mm fork up front — a noticeable update from Trek’s previous “Smart Wheelsize” method which saw 27.5″ wheels used on the smaller sizes. The geometry is updated to more closely match the SuperCalibre, although it’s not exact. The new Procaliber is a whisper slacker in the head angle at 68.8º, while the effective seat angle isn’t quite as steep at 73.8º.
Similarly, the reach has been extended and is now matched with stock stem lengths ranging from 60 to 90 mm depending on the frame size. Trek claims you can squeeze a 29×2.4″ tyre into the 432 mm-long rear end.
The Procaliber is now more similar in fit to the SuperCaliber.
In an effort to improve front-end stiffness without an increase in weight, Trek has taken an idea from its dual suspension bikes and equipped the new Procaliber with a “Straight Shot” down tube. This sees an almost perfectly straight tube run from the head tube to the bottom bracket, whereas traditionally the tube is curved near the top in order to clear the suspension fork crown. Trek overcomes the risk of the fork coming into contact with the frame by equipping its “Knock Block” system — effectively a steering stop that prevents the handlebars from turning too far.
Trek’s Knock Block design uses a small stopper that’s bolted to the top tube. The headset top cap sits over this and is free to slide until it hits its angle limit. Traditionally the Knock Block design has been extremely reliable and effective, however, it has also hampered the steering range of the bike in tight and slow technical sections. Trek claims to have improved the steering range of the latest Knock Block (now 62º versus the previous 58º).
The Knock Block system works best with Bontrager’s own stems which are notched to integrate with the special headset top cap. However other stems can be fitted.
The new Procaliber also offers new internal cable routing with guided channelling provided for the rear brake hose, rear derailleur cable (it’s 1x-specific), and even an optional dropper post. In a similar vein, the frame uses the new SRAM Universal Derailleur Hanger. Somewhat unexpectedly, Trek has stuck with a PF92 (aka BB92) bottom bracket while most of its carbon road frames have moved to a threaded T47 type.
We’ve seen some crazy-light hardtail frames released lately (a few hovering around the 750-gram mark), but the Procaliber isn’t one of them. Trek’s website has a claimed figure of 1,670 grams for the new Procaliber, and while that may seem extremely high, it also points to this frame being intended as a mid-level offering rather than one designed for pro-level use. For reference, the previous top-end Procaliber SL had a claimed frame weight of 1,012 g.
Keeping that weight in mind, Trek is offering the new carbon Procaliber in a choice of four bike models starting from just US$1,999. There’s a frameset option too, priced at US$1,500. With those prices, the new carbon-framed Procaliber replaces the previously offered Procaliber AL (aluminium). All models are now set up as tubeless out of the box.
Given Trek still claims its SuperCalibre is the perfect balance of a hardtail and dual suspension, it’ll be interesting to see whether the Procaliber ever earns a lighter layup for use in the World Cup circuit. At least for now, the Procaliber looks like a solid choice for those seeking a comfortable mid-priced racing hardtail, while the SuperCaliber remains Trek’s recommendation for budgetless speed.
Note: A look at Trek’s website reveals the older Procaliber SL and Procaliber AL are still available as 2021 models (at least as framesets). The curve at the head tube is an easy way to tell them apart.