Now, just so we're on the same page here, the Slash lineup has always been all about enduro riding, meaning they have to stand up to some of the toughest terrain out there. Trek even likes to call these babies the "Backcountry Battle Axe," offering the longest travel of any of their current machines.
But there's something else going on here that we need to look at first: that massive and twisted drivetrain, built with more pieces than most of us are used to. Don't worry; there's a method to what's going on here, and Trek didn't just add extra weight to your experience for no reason.
The new class of Slash machines is based around a crucial design aspect: a high main pivot. As though breaking away from the traditional way of doing things, the Slash places its rear travel pivot point high above the bottom bracket (BB). They did this to shift the rear-axle path toward the rear and out rather than upward. Upon hitting an obstacle, the rear wheel doesn't start its trajectory with an upward motion but rather moves outward.
Now, all that movement from the rear is bound to affect the tension on your chain. Heck, even a little bump in the road can affect tension on this component, so what do you think happens to an MTB's chain that's hauling it across stones, roots, debris, and even uphill? That thing is going to start jumping and bucking like a wild horse upon its first mounting.
So, to fix any and all issues that may arise due to your chain bouncing around, Trek added not one but two idlers around the chain wheel. An upper idler ensures perfect tension as your chain is put under pressure, while the lower idler is there to provide as little tension to the derailleur cage as possible.
As for what happens when we put that high pivot point in the same boat as those two idlers, I'd have to call it magic. With these two systems, Trek was able to achieve an anti-squat effect that's damn near flat all 170 mm of travel. When you're out there trying to make those climbs or hitting the flats as hard as you can, you know how important it is to direct all your power into the wheel and not into a suspension shock.
Then there's this machine's geometry, one that can be shifted around to suit your riding style. Let's say you way a steeper head tube angle, or maybe a slacker one. If that's the case, all we need to do is grab different headset cups to find the right head tube angle.
From here, more customization is seen in the shape of an adjustable suspension leverage rate, letting us run a coil shock if we want. We can add a longer travel fork, up to 190 mm (7.5 in), and the frames, be they built from aluminum like the Slash 9 GX AXS T-Type Gen 6 or carbon fiber like the Slash 9.8, both variations and the 9.9 variants, too.
At the end of the day, I can understand that it's rather difficult for you to gauge just how out there the Slash 9 can be or how it even performs. Luckily for us, local dealerships most likely have one or two of these hanging off a wall; give them a call and see if you can take one out for a spin. Just bring your vehicle license as collateral in case you destroy the Slash and/or yourself in the process.
This really brings me to my next and final point. Most folks don't ride bikes like these and never will. Machines of this nature are typically for those of us who ride as a profession, bringing home bronze, silver, and medals along the way. Still, it doesn't hurt to see where the industry is headed and why.