Women's Trek 6500ZX|
Monday, June 28, 1999
Ok, so here's the way that it normally works. The big brown Christmas sleigh (UPS) shows up and delivers the bounty; paper, cardboard, and packing peanuts fill the air along with gleeful shouts from techno-geek, computer nerds. The UPS Santa guy chastises us with catcalls and profanities. Sometimes we are overjoyed with the new products or bikes to be tested. Sometimes..... well, sometimes we just don't know what the product is supposed to be. This particular product was fairly self-explanatory: it was a bike.
The hubbub had finally died down and everybody else had made their return trips to their desks, water cooler, or magazine rack. I circled the bike, scratched my head, circled some more. I applied the usual tricks: spin the cranks, squeeze the levers, the stationary suspension fork bob. They all checked out. This was in fact a bike.
All right, here's where we get to the problem. This copper and blue colored Trek was made for, hold your hat, Women! All this time I had thought that a bike was androgynous, kinda like Pat from SNL. This particular bike was awfully small, granted, but a bike made to fit a woman? Hmmm.... could be interesting.
The next step as technical editor is to test ride the bike. This presents a bit of a problem considering that I am 6 feet tall and male, probably not what Trek had in mind when they built this thing. So skip step one and improvise, corral some shorter women to ride the Trek and do a vicarious review.
My first victim is my good friend and snowboard partner, Evette. Evette is about 5'1" and is in the market for her first real mountain bike, in other words the perfect candidate. We performed a bike fitting, adjusted the saddle height, swapped the stem to a shorter length, and sent Evette happily motoring to the singletrack.
While Evette is out riding I'll give all you number crunchers something to play with. This Trek Alpha 6500 ZX is part of Treks new line of female specific bikes called WSD which is comprised of 2 mountain and 2 road bikes all with the same basic design. The idea is to make a shorter top tube, weight tuned suspension, and shorter reach brake levers to accommodate a woman's anatomy. All four bikes use Trek's Alpha series aluminum and different levels of Shimano componentry. The 6500 ZX is the lower level mountain bike and uses an interesting hodge-podge of componentry, almost as if Trek picked up whatever happened to be lying around the warehouse floor. The component group is as follows:
|Shifters: ||Alivio 8 speed|
|Wheels: ||Bontrager labeled hubs and rims|
|Rear Der: ||99 LX|
|Frnt Der: ||Alivio|
|Brakes: ||no name levers and V-style arms (probably Tektro)|
|Saddle: ||Trek labeled women's specific|
|Tires: ||Bontrager Revolt/Jones|
|Fork: ||Rock Shox Judy C|
|Cranks: ||Alivio 170mm length|
|Seat post: ||no name|
|Stem: ||no name 120 mm 3degree rise|
|Price: ||$699.99 |
Our test bike was set up with a 16.5" frame made of either "Zero Excess Seamless Drawn" aluminum or "Alpha Custom Aluminum". Take your pick, I think they are the same thing. The thing that really stands out to me about this bike is the idea that it is built for a smaller rider. The brake levers are excellent with a close reach and fairly good control over the calipers. The fork is set up on the soft side for compression and not overly sprung on rebound: perfect for a lighter weight pilot. The saddle is comfortable, as are the grips. But, here come the gripes. The stock stem is way too long for the torso length of the ideal rider for this size frame. This is an easy change, but a problem nonetheless. And the biggest problem of all is the weight. This little-bitty bike weighs in at over 27-1/2 lbs.!!! For a woman that is approximately 5'1 - 5'4' this bike would be over a quarter of their body weight! The Trek 6500 ZX is to heavy for a serious racing machine, but still makes it an ideal bike for the recreational and weekend warrior class rider.
After extensive post-ride interrogation here is what Evette had to say about the Trek 6500 ZX: "Zippy", "quick handling", and "responsive" comprised the gist of her experience. The overall layout of the cockpit was excellent for Evette's smaller hands and shorter torso. The bike flowed smoothly through the singletrack with the Rock Shox Judy C doing exactly what is expected of it: absorbing bumps and softening the ride. The shifting was your typically superb Shimano. The frame itself was very precise steering and the power to the pedal was immediate. In other words, Evette loved the ride of the Trek 6500 ZX.
After Evette, I passed the bike off to a few more women to try out the bike built specifically for them. One by one, they each came back with similar reviews and similar grins. The quick and responsive frame was a big hit as were the brake levers. "Finally brake levers I can reach." responded one rider.
So the final question is "Should I buy one?" Well the answer to that question depends on what kind of riding you plan on doing. For the average trail rider this is a great choice. At $699 the components are solid performers without any fluff. For the racer this bike would be too heavy and the components wouldn't last more than half a season of the heavy abuse racing dishes out. Racers should look more closely at the Trek 8000, the higher end women's specific model. Overall the Trek 6500 ZX is a huge step in the right direction for women's cycling and proper fit for female cyclists.