The Session 88 was a bike that really announced that Trek was here to play in the competitive DH world. It was a no nonsense race bike right out of the gate, yielding on of the lightest complete bikes at the time. While the performance was stellar and hard to beat, the frame featured an extremely thin flat downtube that resulted in dented tubes for a number of consumers. I personally had an 88 for a season and never had a problem, even after riding in some very rocky areas with audible rock strikes to the downtube, but that’s not to say it didn’t happen to others.
So Trek had a little work to do when it came to redesigning a bike that already rode perfectly. So they looked into what they thought was the next logical step: aerodynamics.
See all the closeups and breakdown of the new features after the break!
Obviously, durability is a term that is frequently used to hopefully describe the life of a downhill bike. With redesigning the 88, Trek looked to improve durability without sacrificing weight. One issue with a downhill bike is that due to the dual crown forks used, if the handlebar is rotated too far like during a crash or stuffing it into a car, the fork tube is forced to smash into the frame just behind the head tube. While forks are equipped with their own rubber bumpers which are more or less oversized rubber bands, they tend to migrate leaving the frame susceptible to damage. Not to mention the unique profile of the Sessions tubes made it difficult to position the bumpers in a way that would protect the whole frame. Enter the bolt on frame bumpers, which are also replaceable in the event that they wear out. No chance for them to move, and the base of the bumper is built for impact thereby saving the frame.
Now this is where it gets interesting. On your first glance toward the downtube you will undoubtedly pick up on the new bolt on Aluminum armor plate. You’d be forgiven if you thought that Trek bolted on a piece of rubber and called it a day. The armor plate will obviously improve impact resistance at the most crucial area of the frame, but it is only part of the story.
Remember a while ago when Bike Magazine had pictures of a TWR rider aboard a murdered out Session complete with Aero wheels and fairings? That was more than just a PR stunt, that testing provided real data usable to improve DH bike construction in a way no one has thought of before. The new downtube, and headtube serve to improve aerodynamics enough that Trek claims that it can save as much as 1 to 2 seconds over the course of a race. Now, before you get all bent out of shape that it is ridiculous to claim improvements of seconds, consider this: Currently world cup races are won or lost by tenths or sometimes hundredths of a second. Now that second or two is starting to look pretty good huh?
But let’s get serious, you’re not a pro racer and neither am I so what’s in it for us? Well, one benefit of an aero tube is that it is round, and round objects deflect impacts much better than flat surfaces. This means that even before the Aluminum armor the new downtube should be much harder to dent. I can say that the new downtube feels much stronger compared to the old frame just giving it the old tap-tap.
The swing arm also gets some work, receiving a new welded swing arm section rather than the previous forged and machined unit. My guess is this is for either increased tire and mud clearance or improved stiffness, or both.
While the 88 receives some pretty major changes, the Session 8 still utilizes the previous frame design. It also gets an Aluminum Armor, although since the frame hasn’t changed it gets the same Zip Tie version that the Scratchs get as well. It’s still a very nice touch and will be available as an aftermarket part if you already have a Session or Scratch. Otherwise it’s still a very potent DH weapon in a more affordable package.