A unique frame design from a household name brand, we put the Trek Domane 5.2 through its paces on some very punishing roads

Product Overview

Overall rating:

Score 9

Trek Domane 5.2

Weight:
Weight:

Pros:

  • Excellent frame
  • The wheels can shrug off a beating
  • Comfortably takes 25mm and 28mm tyres

Cons:

  • Only one (compact) chainset option
  • The inverted seatpost could be inconvenient

Product:

Trek Domane 5.2

Manufacturer:

Price as reviewed:

£2,500.00

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.

Frame 

Ride tuned frame, a great Trek quirk

Ride tuned frame, a great Trek quirk

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.

Specification

Built-in ANT+ DuoTrap is a neat data solution

Built-in ANT+ DuoTrap is a neat data solution

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.

Ride 

Tall head tube offers comfort

Tall head tube offers comfort

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

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yel3yhN_vy4

Value 

Trek Domane 5-2 crop

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.

Verdict

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.

Details

Miles ridden:855
Frame:500 Series OCLV Carbon, E2, BB90, performance cable routing, DuoTrap compatible, Ride Tuned seatmast, IsoSpeed, 3S chain keeper
Fork:Domane IsoSpeed full carbon
Size range:50, 52, 54, 56, 58, 60, 62cm
Size tested:56cm
Weight:7.7kg without pedals
Groupset:Shimano Ultegra
Gear ratios:11-28t, 50/34
Brakes:Shimano Ultegra
Wheels:Bontrager Race Tubeless Ready
Tyres (supplied):Bontrager R3 Hard-Case Lite, 700x25c
Tyres (used):Michelin Pro4 Endurance 700x28c
Bar:Bontrager Race Lite IsoZone, VR-CF, 31.8mm
Stem:Bontrager Race X Lite
Seatpost:Trek Ride Tuned seatmast
Saddle:Bontrager Paradigm Race, chromoly rails
Distributor:www.trekbikes.com
  • Donnieboy

    Trek has a bike in 1 of 4 homes with bikes in North America.

  • Don

    I’ve been riding a 5.2 for a little over a year now. I couldn’t be happier. I would challenge anyone to find a more comfortable road bike than this one.

  • Donnieboy

    I rode a 5.2 Domane for a few days last year over roads I never would have ridden on with other road bikes and 25c tires. These were not good, smooth roads. Yet the ride quality was super blissful. Road imperfections were muted, small grit patches, little pea stones and the like did not affect my comfort. Isospeed actually works. The Domane will likely be my 2nd next bike, but for it’s intended purpose, it will be the next bike for sure.

  • Chris Garrison

    Hey Don,

    Really great to hear that you’re enjoying your Domane! I have a really hard time riding a bike that doesn’t have an IsoSpeed any more, which is why the Silque is my bike of choice now.

    I’d really like to get Paul in for a fit, or even just a ride on a Domane. Most of the time, a test ride is enough to help people understand what’s going on.

  • Don

    Chris,

    Just ignore him. He’s an obvious troll talking trash about a bike he knows absolutely nothing about. I’ve had my Domane 5.2 since February and LOVE it. It’s not like anything else out there and that is a good thing.

  • Chris Garrison

    Not sure how I’ve worded something that suggested that Trek has ‘discovered’ fit science, because that certainly isn’t what I suggested at all. Of course people have been discussing fit for decades, but that in no way means that every team is actually implementing a fit process. They aren’t. I know this for a fact, and one only needed to watch the Nationals race last weekend to see this in practice. Jo Rowsell, for example, has a saddle issue by which she repeatedly has to move her weight back on the seat every 10-15 seconds. I saw the exact same issues when I was fitting Laura Trott and Elinor Barker to their bikes for this road season. So, even the riders within the BC system are not getting the best level of fit possible.

    Saddle to bar drop may have increased, but that doesn’t mean that the rider on that bike can sustain-or even achieve-their maximum efficiency if they don’t have the flexibility to do so. Having someone sit on a fit jig with a power crank demonstrates this with ease.

    I work for Trek, which isn’t something I hide at all. My name is visible, and any search would have revealed this. What I’ve discussed so far is actually not marketing waffle, but information learned from practical experience and simple industry observation, really. Anyone who works with team riders will confirm what I’ve said about the lack of fit focus in pro level teams. This is why I mentioned both Trek and Specialized, because both have been more vocal about incorporating respective fit processes into team camps in the last couple of years. Sure, there have been individual riders who have paid attention to their fit, but the reality is that most teams simply don’t look much beyond frame size and saddle height. I’ve worked with numerous pro riders in the last 10 years, and going through a fit process was new to every one of them. This isn’t made up.

    Slam that stem is a reference to dropping the stem as far down the stack as it will go, so that it sits just above the top cap on the headset. It’s a very aggressive riding position, as as i’ve mentioned before often forces a rider into a lean angle that their muscle flexibility simply can’t tolerate.

    Would you be interested in having a fit done to talk about the procedure? That way you can see for yourself what’s involved. Maybe nothing about your fit would change, but at least you could get a flavour for the process, and what it aims to achieve. Let me know if you’d be up for it, and I can arrange it, and maybe tie in a test ride on a Domane.

  • Paul Smih

    The importance of position has been known for decades. Genzling and Hinault wrote about it at length nearly thirty years ago. To suggest that it is somehow Trek’s discovery is absolutely ridiculous. Anyway, professionals still have high saddles, long stems and low bars. If anything saddle-bar drop has increased.

    I still do not know what you mean by “slam that stem”.

    And the bit about being on the leading edge of bla bla is pure marketing waffle. I think that you have been very effectively brainwashed or you work for one of the companies you mention.

  • Chris Garrison

    The ‘off base’ comment was in reply to your first post about Americans not understanding anything about cycling, and the saddle to bar drop, which pretty much ties into the fit aspect.

    Traditionally, pro riders have been generally thrown into a position that is loosely set up by a mechanic, with little variation: high saddle, long stem, very steep saddle to bar drop. This was almost universally what every pro looked like on a bike.

    This position took nothing about the rider into account, other than what frame size he or she should be riding. What we’ve learned since then is that the vast majority of pro riders are most likely unable to physically maximise their efficiency in this position, unless they have great hamstring flexibility, and core strength.

    This is why you now see companies like Trek having fit be a major component of early season training camps, or any new bikes that get introduced throughout the year. Once position started to be investigated, adjustments were made to how the bike was set up. The interesting thing is that that younger riders are much more willing to accept a position change, as they tend to be more data driven than some of the veterans of the peloton. But, even Fabian Cancellara has gone through changes to his position, once he saw things like his left leg/right leg power data on a fit jig.

    In short, rider anatomy, and understanding the biomechanics of what forces are impacting a rider in various positions, have led to great amounts of data that help everyone understand the relationship between the bike and the rider. It has affected many things about bike design, and has had particular influence over things like saddle shapes and widths.

    There is a vast difference between the equipment riders in the 70s and 80s rode versus the modern peloton. And what we know about the physical response to rider position is dramatically different, as well. This is why the position of the Domane discussed here is the way it is: because the vast majority of people who will ride this bike can not physically sustain a ‘slam that stem’ position.

    And as much as you might like to think that Americans don’t know what they’re talking about, Trek is on the leading edge of not just bike design and innovation, but also bike fit. The other company that is also driving these things? Specialized – Morgan Hill, California.

  • Paul Smih

    Okay then. What is it about my feelings about the bike that is “off base”? And how have the rules changed in the last ten years?

  • Chris Garrison

    I’m sorry to be contrary, but the ‘rules’ for setting up bikes are nothing like what they were even a decade ago. There have been significant advancements in the level of understanding that fitters and even product designers have about matching rider anatomy to the design of bikes. This is easily seen in the way bike design has changed over the years.

    It’s great that you have no issues with discomfort when you ride. I hope that continues. My suggestion about trying the Domane was not based on thinking that your current setup is in some way not working for you. it was meant to basically demonstrate that your feelings about the bike, and the science of bike fit, are unfortunately off base.

  • Paul Smih

    I have no need to try it or interest in doing so. I am very comfortable with my current position. Why would I want to ride something that doesn’t allow me to put the bars where I want them?

    I have not had a “bike fit”. Again, no need and less than zero interest. Basic rules for setting up bikes have been well known for donkey’s years. The rest is a question of experimentation and training.

  • Chris Garrison

    Have you tried riding one? Your opinion of it might be changed if you get a chance to swing your leg over it.

    The Domane has another geometry with a shorter headtube for people who have the hamstring flexibility to withstand a larger saddle-to-bar drop. The vast majority of riders do not fit into the category of people who have that flexibility in their hamstrings. In fact, many pro road racers don’t either, and when someone actually examines their fit, their bar position will often come up.

    If you’ve never had a bike fit, or spoken to (other) fitters, you would perhaps learn a great deal about how anatomical consideration are paramount when it comes to setting up saddle-to-bar drop. I assure you it’s far from nonsense, and considering the large amount of people who have nothing but positive experiences while riding a Domane, I would also argue that the geometry options on this bike are anything but pointless.

    Really though, the best thing to do is just ride one yourself, and understand that there are two frame options if you do have the flexibility to sustain a lower front end setup.

  • Paul Smih

    You can call it whatever you want; it’s still pointless. Virtually all road races are endurance events, as are most track races. None of them involves bikes with bars raised as high as the saddles. This nonsense has nothing to do with “endurance”.

  • crackcaffeine

    Endurance geometry. Look it up sometime. This frame is comparable to the Giant Defy and the Specialized Roubaix. If you want race geometry, look elsewhere.

  • Paul Smih

    I don’t know what you mean by “slam that stem”, but that frame is not any more “flexible” than any other. The stem in the one in the picture is as low as it will go. A low bar position is not possible. That is not “flexible”.

  • Chris Garrison

    It really has nothing to do with nationality. It has everything to do with fit. The concept of ‘slam that stem’ works for such a small percentage of people from an anatomical standpoint. These bikes are built with the maximum amount of flexibility to fit them to the rider, so it’s entirely possible that someone with good flexibility and core strength will be able to run the stem lower than someone else. Basically, the option exists no matter what the fit needs of the rider.

  • Paul Smih

    This isn’t a “household name brand”, although cyclingweekly seems to be trying its hardest to change that, with two articles in two days on bicycles from this manufacturer.

    The bikes look like a pile of @$%$. Why have dropped bars if you are going to raise them as high as the saddle anyway? Americans really don’t know anything about cycling.

  • David Mackintosh

    I’ve been riding a 62cm Domane 5.9 for a year, same frame but with the DA mechanical group. I actually use the maximum possible saddle height for this bike (87cm). I love mine on all pavement, although I prefer the geometry of my cross bike (Trek Cronus carbon) for bombing gravel roads. One thing to note is that the compliance of the seat mast will vary with the extension and that it is not adjustable for rider weight. Therefore, a tall and heavy rider will find it a smoother ride than a shorter and lighter one.

  • Tim Martin

    I’ve had this bike for about 3 months now and it has been great. Even got used to the Orange now !

  • chairzone

    Could get used to this ride. Was admiring one in a LBS on a visit to Minnesota last week. Only had 2 days there.