The latest Trek is much more than the usual story of reworked carbon lay-ups and some tube shaping here and there, in fact it’s what can only be described as something quite out of the ordinary.

Trek refers to the Domane (pronounced Do-man-i, as in Armani) as a sister bike to the Madone. The key point of that statement being it’s a race focussed product, not, as could easily be misconceived, a comfort bike and Trek would prefer us think of it as different class of race bike, more the “endurance compliment” to the Madone.

As the story goes, the Domane is Trek’s reply to Fabian Cancellara’s desire for a bike that would give him the edge come the cobbled classics. Was he asking for the moon on a stick? Well, practically. A bike to smooth out the roughest pavé that would, at the same time, have zero cost to power delivery and performance. That’s not the easiest of design briefs when you’re dealing with a guy with so many horses under his bonnet.

Chainkeeper is a neat touch

The concept needed a radical approach and Trek’s designers have been nothing shy of that in their ‘out of the box’ thinking for the Domane frame. The focal point of the design is the junction of the seat tube and top tube, which has been ‘decoupled’ such that without the IsoSpeed coupler in place the seat tube and top tubes are completely independent of each other.

Internal cabling reinforces racing status

The appearance of the junction is deceptive. It’s got the suggestion of an elastomer bumper sandwiched between the tubes, forming part of the vibration dampening, but in reality that part is there only to act as a dirt shield and improve the aesthetics. What is at the heart of the system is actually a bearing, effectively making the joint at this vital tube intersection a pivot point.

This allows the seat tube, and concomitantly the top tube, to bow, independently of one another, as impact forces travel through the frame. As soon as the rider gets out of the saddle, the seat tube is isolated from the rest of the frame, such that its flexibility does not affect the rigidity that’s required for maximum power delivery and good handling.

Increasing the curve
Clearly smoothing out the ride at the saddle, is just one piece of the puzzle. Elsewhere, Trek has also redesigned the fork for the Domane, similarly tagged IsoSpeed, this time relying on a more old school method for delivering improved bump absorption – increased curvature. The rake of the IsoSpeed fork stretches out to 53mm, and the axle to crown height has been lengthened slightly to compensate for the slackened head angle used on the Domane.

Comfort and speed: a rare combination

So as not to negatively affect the handling the dropout of the fork is offset rearward, a tact we saw used last year by Cannondale, and Trek’s has also retained the oversized E2 tapered headtube, aiming for the best of both worlds.

In its own lab tests Trek claims the IsoSpeed fork to be 30% stiffer laterally than its leading competitor whilst achieving 7% more compliance. Further geometry tweaks all point towards improving stability. The wheel base has been lengthened with the aforementioned fork and headtube alterations plus additional chainstay length, plus the bottom bracket has been lowered too. The Domane sports a fairly tall headtube, slightly contradicting it’s claimed race focus, as at 174mm on the 56cm frame, it equates to somewhere between the H2 and H3 fit of the Madone.

Trek has managed to meet Cancellara’s demands

In defence of that, Trek is keen to point out that the resultant front end, and subsequently hand position is not as high as this might suggest, due to the total of the changes made to the geometry.

Increasing in ‘whole bike stiffness’
Trek’s opted for its OCLV 600 Series carbon to form the basis of the Domane frame, interestingly not its highest grade, but still many of the technologies and construction techniques have been leveraged directly from the Madone with the result being a claimed 6% increase in ‘whole bike stiffness’ plus 9% stiffer headtube, compared to the Madone.

Those stats stand alone as marked improvements, but are made more significant alongside the additional claim of the Domane offering a 100% increase in vertical frame compliance. The frame proudly displays the UCI approved sticker, so Trek has already got that important box ticked and with a frame weight just a sniff over 1kg, the Domane is still more than capable of being raced at the UCI weight limit.

Ergo, if the numbers are to be believed then it’s a really viable alternative as a race rig for any event not just those with cobbles.

The concept has been taken further still, with in-house brand Bontrager standing by to join the project, Trek had the luxury of being able to tackle another key area of rider comfort – the handlebar/hand interface. Bontrager developed the IsoZone bar to compliment the front end of the Domane.

Closed cell 55 Durometer EVA foam was used to integrate pads into the critical areas of the bar, such that the shape of the bar was not compromised, in the way that doubling up on tape or adding gel pads beneath would do.

Trek strived to think of everything for the Domane, and so the final touch is a really neat chain keeper, it calls 3S, built into the seat tube providing that extra confidence that you won’t be gauging grooves out of your paint with a derailed chain, regardless of how bumpy the terrain.

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Trek Domane

This article was first published in the April 12 issue of Cycling Weekly. You can also read our magazines on Zinio and download from the Apple store.