Back in 2000 I remember seeing a Lance Armstrong 1999 USPS replica and falling in love with it. However, after their bikes began winning nearly every Tour de France this past decade I went looking elsewhere for more niche brands and haven’t had much of an emotional connection with Trek ever since. Over the past couple days I got reacquainted with the brand and had my first real rides on the Trek Madone. I can now see the appeal.
This week Trek announced their new Madone 7-series which they say is more comfortable than before, weighs 750g for a 56cm frame (previously 915g) and claims a 25 watt savings (at 40km/h) over the previous Madone.
I’m not one to dwell technical specifications though. Lighter, stiffer, faster doesn’t mean anything to me unless it rides nicely as a complete bike. If you’re a tech nut, I suggest you read all the specs and features here.
Before the Ride
Trek hired out the beautiful Abbaye de Stavelot close to the hotel for the launch where company president John Burke announced the new Madone and did a Q&A with Jens, Frank, Horner, and Klöden. Even Cancellara showed up for dinner later on. It’s was a refreshing depart from sitting through powerpoint presentations that often accompany these types of events. From there we went downstairs for drinks and to look at the new Madone series as well as the Domane that was released during the Spring Classics.
The highest spec’d Madone 7-Series costs $11,549 USD (AUD to be announced) with Shimano Di2 and Bontrager Aeolus 3 carbon clinchers. Trek has also given the option to customise your paintjob on the Madone 7 with their Project One design suite. They’ve introduced a more cost effective 6 and 5-Series which incorporates the aerodynamic KVF (Kammtail Virtual Foil) shaped tubing and other features. The 7 and 6-Series are still made in the US at Trek’s Wisconsin factory. Each level uses a lower grade carbon fiber for cost savings.
The 4-Series and 3-Series are the new entry level Madone models but do not use the new KVF tube shaping. Prices start at $2,039 USD and the aluminium 2-Series comes in at $1,429 USD. Interestingly, the Madone 2-Series does incorporate the KVF aerodynamic shaped tubing.
Trek’s hospitality and attention to detail has been superb over the past couple of days. The bike had already been set up perfectly for my measurements that I gave ahead of time and in my hotel room lay new Shoes, helmet, full kit (all made by Trek owned Bontrager), and Oakley Radars.
The Madone that I rode was a 6-Series equipped with Dura ace mechanical groupset, Bontrager Aeolus 3 carbon clinchers with Bongrager R3 tyres (said to be designed in conjunction with the wheel for better aerodynamics). The frame is made of Trek’s OCLV carbon which has been completely redesigned with the goal of aerodynamic refinements and weight reductions.
After the Ride
From our hotel in the Ardennes we went and rode the ups and downs of the Liège-Bastogne-Liège course nearby. If there’s any place in the world that would be a dream to test a bike, this is right up there. It didn’t take very long to get a few descents and climbs in to get a feel for the ride characteristics of the Madone.
I wasn’t a fan of these Bontrager handlebars as I found them to fit much wider and longer reach than what I’m used to for the same size (I’m always picky about my touch points). Ignoring that, the combination of the wheels, frame and running gear was sensational. I’ve rarely been so confident on a new bike when descending windy roads like these. You may have noticed that the brakes have been completely redesigned (for airflow and weight reasons) and the rear brake has been positioned underneath the bottom bracket. It was explained to me that if you think about the way water flows off a wheel, the positioning of these rear brakes take advantage of the driest place on the rim to get the best possible braking in the wet. It sounds good in theory. As far as any noticeable change in feel or modulation, I couldn’t tell the difference between these and traditional brakes. The only foreseeable problem is that team mechanics can’t hang out of the car and pull the “sticky” rear brake adjustment anymore!
One of the noticeable things about this bike when climbing is it’s weight. I didn’t have a chance to put it on the scale, but it’s lighter than what I’m used to and it’s sure nice to pedal uphill. Most of the climbs around here are relatively short, steep and punchy so I got a good feel for how nicely it climbs when out of the saddle. Stiff, stable and most of all, extremely comfortable. I’m carrying a few extra kilos at the moment but I’d sure like to give the Madone a nudge during our Saturday morning ride in the Dandenongs when I’m fit.
The Bontrager Aeolus 3 carbon clinchers and tyre combo were one of the highlights of the bike spec. I’m a big wheel nut and it’s often the most significant things that I notice on a bike. These are a 35mm medium profile rim with a thick 23mm width which feel plush, stable and fast. I’m a big fan of these 23mm rims that have been coming out due to the lower tyre pressure that you can run. It’s impossible to know for certain, but the graphs that were shown to us indicated a significant aerodynamic improvement when paired up with the Bontrager R3 tyres.
The only thing I can say that I dislike about the new Madone is the chunky feel of the squared-off top tube (which is mostly in my head) and the handlebars which I’ve already talked about. If I had the budget I’d definitely go for the customised paintjob option to get graphics that are more suited to my taste.
RSNT Team Bike Gallery
I took the Domane for only a short spin and didn’t get a good feel for what the bike was capable of, but what I can tell you is that it has a interesting ” ISO Speed de-coupler” concept which is basically a pivot for the rear triangle that’s supposed to give a smooth ride vertically but still retains its stiffness elsewhere. Cancellara is said to have had a lot of input to the development of this bike and he was riding it in the Spring Classics until he broke his collarbone in Flanders. He’s apparently chosen the Domane over the Madone for this upcoming Tour de France.
If you’ve never considered a Trek Madone I’d recommend having a test ride next time you’re visiting one of their retailers. I came in assuming that this was going to be a one dimensional race machine but left with a new appreciation for what the Madone is and the quality of the ride.
Full Disclosure: I was guest to this 2 day event hosted by Trek and received accommodation, meals and the kit mentioned earlier. Thank you to Trek for having me along.