A unique frame design from a household name brand, we put the Trek Domane 5.2 through its paces on some very punishing roads
Designed for endurance on long rides and with a frame built for the cobbles, the Trek Domane 5.2 sits in the middle of the American brand’s range with pavé-busting abilities.
This frame includes Trek’s IsoSpeed decoupler, which it claims offers “all the performance, twice the compliance”. Having not measured this scientifically I couldn’t viably vouch for the accuracy of this claim, but I can offer my experience of it.
The Trek Domane 5.2 arrived at CW especially to be tested on the cobbles of Paris-Roubaix. Over the gruelling pavé of the Hell of the North it provided excellent comfort and power transfer as the frame took the impact of the cobbles without affecting the pedal rhythm or balance of the bike.
If they can transfer this technology to a similar head tube set-up then the cobbles can be tamed far more easily.
I’ve given the frame a full 10 out of 10, and this is thanks to its brilliant performance on cobbles and generally rutted roads during the 800-plus miles of testing. The test model did not fit me as well as it might, and this was due to the unique seatmast design. The seat tube extends above the top tube and the seatmast slots over, the opposite way to conventional seatposts.
As such, the extent to which the saddle height can be altered is less, meaning I couldn’t quite get it high enough. However, different seatmast lengths are available from Trek so this problem can be easily remedied.
This model comes with a full Shimano Ultegra groupset, which for this level of bike (and level of rider) is perfect. No need for Dura-Ace here. It’s well-known how good Shimano’s components are, but it’s worth highlighting the smooth transmission of the second-tier drivetrain, and also worth mentioning that the brakes were assured and instilled confidence.
The front chainset is a compact (50/34), which is what most riders would opt for. However, due to its positioning as an endurance sportive machine with cobble-traversing capabilities, I’d be inclined to build it with a mid-compact (52/36). Even better, Trek could offer the option of compact, mid-compact or standard and let the buyer choose what’s best for them.
The bike comes with a Bontrager Race wheelset, which doesn’t sound particularly inspiring but performed incredibly well. I’m certainly built for the Classics more than the mountains, and yet after hauling my 80 kilos over the sectors for hours these light, strong wheels remained perfectly true and ran evenly between the brake blocks.
Other than the slight sizing trouble as mentioned earlier with reference to the inverted seatpost — a problem no one would leave the shop with, and in reality one that was of little consequence during the test period — this bike performed very well.
The IsoSpeed frame did exactly what it is designed to do, and took out the worst of the bumps on the cobbles as well as on the everyday roads of southern England. This bike is designed for all-day riding, which it did perfectly, but I wouldn’t think twice about racing on it. The acceleration, particularly on inclines, was impressive and certainly helped speed up my times around Richmond Park.
Trek’s IsoSpeed technology
Unless a bike is an absolute steal, it is unlikely to get top marks for value, so it is no great slight to dock the bike a couple of marks in this respect. The groupset is great and the frame is quite clearly very good, but as a whole package it sits pretty much exactly where you’d expect it to in the market: for me this means it can’t be either praised or criticised for what it offers for the price. It can be simply acknowledged as being pretty much spot-on.
That said, the IsoSpeed frame offers a unique selling point that will catch a few eyes in the sea of carbon road bikes, and is a great evolutionary step on the standard carbon frame.
Carbon road bikes with Ultegra groupsets are ten a penny these days, and so Trek has tried to set itself apart with the unique IsoSpeed frame design. It has done this very well, as proved by the performance of the bike on a range of road surfaces. I’d recommend this bike to anyone — just make sure you get the right seatmast.