Trek FX2 vs FX3 (Comparison)

If you’re looking for advice in choosing between Trek’s FX2 and FX3, then you’ve come to the right place.

Trying to pick from one of these two great hybrid bikes is never going to be easy, so my intention today is to make that decision a little more straightforward for you.

I’ve previously compared the FX3 and FX4 and, on balance, felt there was a clear winner (Spoiler: it was the FX3). With the FX3 and FX4 there’s around a $150 price difference, so it’s important to be clear about what you get for your extra bucks. With the FX2 and FX3, there’s an even bigger price difference ($200), so what’s the deal? What do we get on the FX3 for our 200 dollars? Is that a worthwhile investment? Or should we keep the cash and get the FX2 instead?

Decisions. Decisions.

But, like I said, I’m trying to make this easier for you not harder. So, firstly I’m going to give you a side-by-side comparison of the spec list for these two bikes. Then I’ll highlight what the big differences are between the two with a review of each to show you where your money is being spent. Finally, I’ll give you my opinion on which bike gives you the best value for money.

If you just need an answer RIGHT NOW! then here’s my recommendation. My view is go with the FX3. I said it before in my comparison with the FX4 and I’ll say it again: it’s got to be one of the most perfect hybrid bikes out there. For leisure riding or commuting, when you’re looking to zip along smooth pavement, this is a great bike at a great price.

If you’ve got time for a bit more detail, then stick around and we’ll discuss these bikes further.

Component

Product

Current price

Frame

Alpha Gold Aluminum

Alpha Gold Aluminum

Fork

FX Alloy

FX Carbon

Front hub

Formula DC-20

Formula DC-20

Rear hub

Formula DC-22

Formula DC-22

Rims

Bontrager Connection

Bontrager Tubeless Ready

Spokes

14g, stainless steel

14g, stainless steel

Tires

Bontrager H2 Comp, 700x35c

Bontrager H2 Hard-Case Lite, 700x32c

Shifter

Shimano Altus M310/M315, 3/8 spd

Shimano Acera SL-M3010 (2 spd), M3000 (9 spd)

Front derailleur

Shimano Tourney TY710

Shimano Acera T3000

Rear derailleur

Shimano Acera M360

Shimano Alivio M3100

Crank

Forged alloy

Shimano MT210, 46/30, 170/175mm length

Cassette

Shimano HG31, 11-32, 8 spd

Shimano HG200, 11-36, 9 spd

Chain

KMC Z7

KMC X9

Pedals

Bontrager Satellite City pedal

Bontrager Satellite City pedal

Saddle

Bontrager Sport

Bontrager H1

Seatpost

Bontrager alloy, 27.2mm

Bontrager alloy, 27.2mm

Handlebar

Bontrager alloy; 600/660mm width

Bontrager Satellite Plus IsoZone; 600/660mm width

Grips

Bontrager Satellite

Bontrager Satellite IsoZone Plus, lock-on, ergonomic

Stem

Bontrager alloy, Blendr compatible, 90-100mm length

Bontrager Elite; Blendr compatible, 90-110mm length

Headset

1-1/8'' threadless, sealed cartridge bearings

1-1/8'' threadless, sealed cartridge bearings

Brakes

Tektro HD-R280 hydraulic disc

Shimano MT201 hydraulic disc

Bike weight

M: 26.34 lbs (11.95 kg)

M: 25.88 lbs (11.74 kg)


Trek FX overview

Hybrid bikes, like Trek’s FX range, are the unsung heroes of the bike world and I’m a huge fan.

When you want an ‘everyday’ bike that’s perfect for commuting to work on city streets, or zipping to the beach along smooth pavement, or loading up with groceries to bring back home…then a hybrid is the one you reach for. Sure, road bikes might be faster (though they’re not as comfortable to ride), and mountain bikes might be more rugged for shooting down black-graded bike trails, but they’re specialists. Generalist bikes i.e. hybrids are suited to a wider range of activities so they’re much more versatile.

That aside, they’re also a helluva lot of fun to ride.

Trek is a manufacturer with an awesome heritage (they’ve been on the go since 1976) and they’re FX range of hybrids is fantastic. Light aluminum frames with an upright and comfy riding position. An excellent set of components for each model and pricing to suit every pocket. Whichever FX you buy you know you’ll be getting a great hybrid bike and, with the top end models, you’ll get a bike that is capable of matching the speeds of many semi-pro road bikes.

As an aside, if you decide you need a bike that is more capable of taking on single-track bike trails, then hop on over to my article comparing the FX with Trek’s Dual Sport bikes. These are hybrids that come with an extra injection of ruggedness in the form of a front suspension fork to handle rough and bumpy terrain.

There are 14 models in the full FX range and these incorporate different component sets and a variety of frame shapes (male/unisex, step-through, and women’s). These go from the entry-level FX1 (under $500 and ideal for a variety of cycling activity) right up to the FX Sport 6, which has a drool-worthy carbon frame and spec list.

Let’s take a detailed look at the FX2 and FX3 to see how they compare to each other. Which has the best specification for the price? Which bike should you choose?


Trek FX2 review

The FX2 Disc is a big step up from the entry-level models, the FX1 and FX1 Disc. Many of the components have been given upgrades with the biggest improvement being the brakes.

The FX1 has a linear-pull brake system – a simple to operate (and maintain) braking system where the brake lever operates a cable which pulls brake blocks against the rims of the wheels slowing the bike down. Linear brakes work well in dry conditions where the wheel rims are in good condition. Unfortunately, they tend to fall down somewhat in wet, slippery conditions and where the rims are warped or dented.

A step up from linear-pull systems are mechanical disc brakes (as the FX1 Disc has). These have a separate brake disc near the wheel rims which the brake pads pull against. They’re operated by a cable from the brake lever and are less affected by water and mud than the linear-pull brakes.

The FX2, by comparison, has an even superior system: hydraulic disc brakes. These operate by pulling the brake lever which presses the brake pads against a brake disc near the wheel rims. Sounds similar to the mechanical disc brakes on the FX1 Disc? Well it is, but the difference lies in the bit that goes from the lever the brake pads. Mechanical disc brakes use a cable to transfer the braking force, whereas the hydraulic disc brakes use fluid. There’s lots of physics and technical jargon which explain the differences but in layman’s terms hydraulic brakes are more responsive, need less pull on the levers to operate, are less impacted by complex brake cable routing, and far lighter. In fact, the combination of the Tektro hydraulic disc brakes with the other improvements that the FX2 has, bring the bike in at nearly a pound and a half lighter than the FX1.

The FX2 Disc is a fantastic all-round package at a great price. It’s fast, responsive, and fun to ride. In fact, if the FX3 Disc didn’t exist, then I’d definitely recommend it as my bike of choice from the FX range.

But…


Trek FX3 review

…I like the FX3 Disc. Cutting to the chase, this is my recommendation. However, there’s a $200 difference from the FX2, so is that price hike justified? Where are the differences with the FX2? Are they sufficient? (Another Spoiler Alert: yes, I think they are)

The FX3 is, I think, the tipping point where the FX goes from being an excellent hybrid bike for leisure cycling to something that is so much more than that. Take a look over the specification list above and you’ll see a number of critical upgrades. The ones I’d like to highlight are the forks, the brakes, the drivetrain, and the tires.

The FX3 has a bike weight of less than 26lbs and one of the main drivers for this is the front fork. This is the upgrade that, I feel, takes the bike into serious commuter bike territory. Swapping the alloy fork of the FX2 and below, for a carbon fiber fork gives a number of benefits including cutting weight and also giving more flexibility in order to soak up lumps and bumps in the road (to give you a more comfortable ride, particularly at higher speeds).

As with the FX2 the brakes are hydraulic disc brakes – with all the benefits that these provide in terms of responsiveness and stopping power. The FX3’s brakes are a step up though, swapping the Tektro HX-R280’s for Shimano’s MT201 braking system. As an aside you’ll see a number of Shimano upgrades throughout the FX3 spec list, notably the gear shifters and front/rear derailleurs.

Speaking of gears, the FX3 has a 2×9 system which is simpler to operate and less prone to niggles than 3 cog systems like the FX2 has. 2×9 gear systems also help to shave off a little extra bike weight as well. All of which helps you get places faster.

Something else that can get you there faster is the slimmer tires on the FX3. 700x32c Bontrager tires in comparison to the FX2’s 700x35c. Less rubber means less weight and it also reduces road friction which translates into higher speeds.

All of which goes to say that the FX3 Disc is my recommendation of these two excellent hybrids from Trek. And, my color of choice for the FX3? That would be the Rage Red. Awesome.


Conclusion – which one to go for?

Hopefully you’ll have got the message that I think the FX3 is the one to go for? But, look, here’s the deal. There’s a significant price gap between the two bikes so you need to be sure you’re choosing the right one for you. If you’re strictly an occasional leisure rider who likes to pedal along gently, then pocket the difference and grab yourself the FX2 (you’ll be delighted). If you ride regularly, you like going fast (possibly beating some of those road bikers in their tight spandex), and you do commuter miles during the week and more miles at the weekend, then I’d choose the FX3 Disc. You’ll be delighted and you’ll leave a trail of heartbroken “roadies” in your wake.

Have fun.