2010 Trek Scratch
A brief freeride entry into the Trek range.By Andrew Revitt
Trek introduced the Scratch at the end of 2009 to sit between the Remedy all mountain and Session downhill bike, an area of the market some would call freeride. It's a small selling market in the UK and sits right in there with bikes like the Specialized SX Trail and the new Orange Patriot. If you like to ride down but also need to ride up and you only want one bike, the Trek Scratch is a good choice.
The Scratch is available in two flavours, coil or air. The air bikes are geared towards trail with 66.5° head angle + 14.175” bottom brackets, 160mm forks and two rings up front. The coils for 2011 have 180mm forks (2010 had 160mm) and a slacker setting, 66° head angle + 14.480” bottom brackets, as well as a single ring up front (2010 had 2 rings up front).
As the frame is common to all models and both 2010 and 2011 versions, you can adjust the head angle via the Mino Link without negatively affecting suspension performance. The bike also features a plethora of technology; Active Braking Pivot, Alpha Red Aluminium, Full Floater, EVO link and an E2 tapered headtube, all of which are explained better than I can do here on Treks site.
The Scratch has a short top tube and not as much stand over as you would expect, so sizing is an issue. You have to try it. I'm 5ft 10 (1.55m) and chose a medium and got used to the setup after 4 or 5 rides. A set back seat post or longer stem maybe your answer.
The model on test is a 2010 Scratch 7, bought in early 2011 and pretty hard to find. Not many are imported into the UK, no doubt as it's a very niche bike and I have yet to see another Scratch on the trails.
As this was a 2010 coil model I swapped out the 160mm fork for a Fox 36 Float 180mm fork. The 2011 coil models have the Fox 36 VAN 180mm fork but I didn’t want to start swapping springs. The 2011 coils have a single ring up front so for me the 2010 was better as I needed the granny ring for climbing.
The stock setup of the Scratch is pretty decent and the components are all usable. I was a little concerned buying an off the shelf bike, not having done so for 10 years. I have always built bikes from frame kits and chosen my own components. There are a lot of Bontrager parts, a brand I haven't used and owned by Trek and although sounds like a recipe for cost cutting, I've been pleasantly surprised.
The Bontrager bar and stem are superlight and I couldn't source any bar/stem combo I liked that were the same weight or lighter. The bar at 711mm is ideal for trails but could be wider for downhill. The stem is short and I have had no issues with it and I wouldn't want this stem any longer, but it is very light and thin.
The Bontrager wheels and FR-4, 26x2.35" tyre combo looked like they may need changing. After a couple of test rides in the UK and then at a trail centre I thought they were too heavy and the tyres weren't that grippy. The tyres have a lot of drag and I couldn't keep up on any sections against a Five with WTB trail tyres, even in full race tuck. Out in the mountains and the tyres have been a big surprise. Roots and rocks and drifty loam have been no problem. The tracks at Les Gets with washed out berms and braking bumps were handled sans issue and the drops of the Chatel bike park had no adverse effect. I actually prefer these tyres to the WTB combo I have been running for the past 3 years now. If you were just using this for the trail, a faster rolling rear option would be a better route to go down.
I the gears department you have the SRAM X7 shifters matched to a X9 rear mech and Shimano SLX direct mount front mech. I like the SLX components better than the X7 ones to be honest and the shifters look and feel like cheap plastic. I've had no problems with the shifting so far, but a matched set will be on the upgrade path soon. The brakes are Avid Elixir 5 and from the off are grabby and wooden at the same time. Again I thought the SLX had a better feel at the bar. Performance of the Avids with 180mm rotors has not been a problem though with no fade and barely a squeal.
I swapped the Bontrager saddle for a WTB Silverado, which has turned out to be the most uncomfortable WTB saddle I have owned to date, but I was expecting to have to lose some weight and this looked like an ideal candidate. The Bontrager post is light but it’s very hard to tip the nose of your saddle up if you prefer it like that. Mine's at full tilt and still feels too low for me. Pedals are Wellgo and not that grippy, but on the up side are pretty light.
Minor details include the ISCG05 mounts with an unbranded chain guide - this worked fine but I did experience a little chain suck in the granny. You can probably save a little extra weight and fit your favourite brand as with the saddle and pedals. The Race Face ride cranks are white as are the grips, which isn't a great idea if you are a clean freak. Both have performed well and I haven't hit any rocks or root with the cranks or pedals yet, which must mean the BB is quite high.
The bike is very stiff and coming off a Commencal Meta I know what a soft rear end feels like. The 142x12mm rear axle (135x12mm adjusters come with the bike if you want to change) and ABP combine to make it so. The axle is bolt through, but you can swap for a Maxle light that the 2011 comes with. The rear suspension is dealt with by a Fox DHX 4. There are a couple of issues here. The first is to change springs you need a special tool to remove the bearings/spacers as they are too wide to get the spring over and potentially replacement bearings. Not great design. The second is the shock is not that compliant. I had the previous model on my SX Trail and never got on with it there either. The adjustments available are; rebound, pro pedal and compression via the air valve on the reservoir. The 2011 models come with a Fox Van RC or Fox DHX RC-4.
Comparing the DHX rear shock to the Float 180 fork is like night and day. The fork is easy to adjust and you notice the difference. I have long run coil suspension but I would look to replace the DHX with an air version or more expensive custom tuned coil. Trek makes a lot of the fact the suspension is tuned to the bike but the weight of the rider they used is not specified. I weigh 10st with my gear on so your mileage may vary with this shock setup.
On the trail the suspension is actually very good. The front is excellent and handles everything without fuss.
The rear is pretty good at handling most conditions. Being so firm it climbs well for a bike with so much travel and handles descents with no problems. It has some difficulty with square edge hits and small hits generally. The firm ride does have some advantages with very rutted trails and braking bumps found on most of the alpine downhill tracks.
Trek have always put a lot of effort into their bikes and the Scratch is no different, the more money you spend the better the component spec you get. The finish on the bike is excellent and it’s nice to see Trek going to some trouble, lacquered in stickers, grip and stem stackers in colours specific to this model etc. The factory build quality is good and much better than any other bike I have owned.
This bike has been full of surprises too. I was expecting to be changing components for weight and durability, but the Bontrager components are actually pretty good, particularly the tyres. Climbing is good for a bike with 170mm/180mm of travel and no lockout and alpine trail riding is excellent. The extra weight of a bike of this nature is something I haven't really noticed. In the 'not really a surprise' category is descending - the bike has handled the super tech descents of Chamonix with it's roots and rocks unabashed as well as the bike parks and downhill tracks of the Portes du Soleil. In the hands of a factory rider this bike would descend faster than most of us on a specific downhill rig. If you have the legs of Rene Wildhaber you can probably out climb a few people as well.
So it's a bike for a small percentage of riders, those with a specific need not found in a downhill or 'All Mountain' bike. If you find yourself with that specific need, this bike will be as as good as or probably better than you. I won't be finding it's limits anytime soon but will continue to have fun trying.