Strengths: Adjustable fork, 160-120, makes it a perfect trail bike. I thoroughly enjoyed that feature.
Adjustable BB. I forgot to test it myself on my demo, but I've heard its an amazing feature.
Wider bars than the remedy, sick color scheme.
Other than that, pretty standard strengths from a bike on this level. Good components (except for xo brakes) good wheels, superb tire choice, reverb comes standard etc.
Weaknesses: First, the brakes.
I have used avids on my last 3 bikes and have had nothing but problems. I was hoping a new pair of xo's would be different. They werent. They squeaked every time I used them, and despite the fact that the rotors were quite large (200 i believe) they had less stopping power than a lower-tiered brake. I have read reviews on these brakes and apparently this is common. On the other side of the fence, even a cheap slx brake delivers consistent, stop-on-a-dime performance. Trek and sram missed the boat on this one.
Slightly pricey, but who am I kidding. You can already pick a 9 up used for just north of 2k if you look hard.
Let me begin by saying that I have not tested any other bikes in this 160mm, 32 lb am category, but have tested a decent number of bikes in general.
My take-away was this. Like many trek bikes, I felt instantly at home. The slack geometry, which I had never ridden before, made me feel like I was nestled snugly in god's pocket. It felt great. I prefer that to a super steep, twitchy head angle.
The cornering was great. For the first time, I was confident in losing control in the corners because the bike magically righted itself every time. It was really cool. I was also able to make my first ever clockwise (aka, my weak side) power slide with clips, because the tires delivered such control that I didn't have to worry about putting my foot down.
The descending was about what I expected. Amazing, although I'm sure many other am bikes can deliver the same. I was able to descend a steep hill fast enough that I actually got nauseous.
The climbing was what really impressed me. Personally, I am in no hurry to get up a hill, and you definitely won't climb fast on the slash, but it was still very impressive.
Pedaling flat out was more annoying that I thought it would be, like there is always a slight force holding you back (that would be the 32 lbs.) But after my 2 hour test, I realized I liked it better than way. I have owned 22lb bikes, 32lb bikes and everything in between. While it is fun powering flat out on a super light, you don't get the sense of reward. When I pedaled the slash to the top of a hill, I felt like I earned it. Anyone can make it up on a light bike, but it takes a more hardened resolve to accomplish it on a heavy bike. That sense of satisfaction was something I have been missing ever since I threw away my first clunker. After my ride, my legs felt that "buzz" I had been missing for so long. It was a slower (uphill and flat out), but a more rewarding and enjoyable ride.
Here is a comparison to the remedy, which I was about to buy. They seem like similar bikes on paper, but in reality are worlds apart.
Remedy: 7 (Fairly good, even compared to a hardtail)
Slash: 4 (Very very good considering what it is, but worlds away from a rigid or ht)
After riding the slash, the remedy felt like a turbo-fueled chainsaw on speed.
Remedy: 7 (A few steps above the fuel, but worlds away from the slash)
Slash: 9.5 (Confidence instilling. Could only be better with a full out 200mm fork)
I hit all the same drops on both bikes (nothing over 3 ft) but the remedy always scared me a little bit, whereas the slash was a beast.
Remedy: 7 (It's alright. I definitely bombed hills with it, but I was always a little nervous something was going to happen)
Slash: 10. (This is where it shines. The wide bars, capable tires, slack head angle, drcv, and that mystical quality I couldn't put my finger on, allowed me to rip downhill with no qualms or reservations. If I picked a bad line or slammed the edge of a baseball sized rock, it didn't even notice)
The remedy is good at descending for what it is (a modified xc bike) but the slash is just good at descending period. I imagine a full DH bike could be better, but not by a whole lot. I've heard of guys giving up their DH rigs just for the slash because it was so good downhill and pretty darn good uphill. I believe it. Also, I was surprised when I pushed down on the front of the remedy vs slash. Although the travel is almost the same, the remedy felt very stiff, wheras the slash gave instantly, even though they were both pumped up the same. The talas is obviously made for downhill, and float for uphill.
I can't compare the slash to it's am brethren because I havn't tested them, but it felt sublime. Ripped down, cornered epicly, climbed better than I expected, and was a blast. I thought the remedy delivered what I was looking for, a bike that could rip downhill and still pedal. Wrong. It ripped uphill and only made you believe it could descend. The slash showed me what descents can really be, and that you don't have to give up an overall good ride to enjoy it.