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Trek Lexa SLX: First ride

Trek Lexa SLXWords Derri Dunn | Photos Rupert Fowler

Last year, Trek’s ground-breaking Domane race bike made tidal waves on the pro scene. With its IsoSpeed section set in a carbon frame, the back end was decoupled, making for a much more comfortable and effective endurance bike for racing on tough terrain, like the cobbled Classics of Belgium.

We just love trickle-down technology here at Cycling Active, so we were pretty delighted to spot aluminium Domanes at Trek’s new product launch for 2013, starting at just £1,000. But something’s missing — there are women-specific carbon Domanes, but has Trek forgotten the girls with shallower pockets and aluminium aspirations?

Thankfully not. It turns out there is a women’s aluminium Domane and here it is — it’s called the Lexa SLX. The reason for this Domane travelling incognito is that Trek wants to give its women’s bikes their own distinct identity, rather than just making smaller versions of the unisex models in different colours. Accordingly, the Lexa SLX does not have an identically specced Domane stablemate, though it’s very similar to the Domane 2.3, but without the carbon seatpost and costing £50 less, as you’d expect.

Classy, cool and comfy
Domane technology apart, I’ve long been a fan of Trek’s take on women-specific design. It’s adept at tailoring all the right bits — bar, saddle and of course frame size — without doing anything too peculiar to the geometry of the bike in the process. The extremely compact Bontrager VR-S handlebar is probably my all-time favourite women’s bar and fantastic if your hands are small and your finger reach short. I also like the flat, dense compound of the women’s saddle, with nothing too complicated or fussy going on, but it does look and feel a little low-rent compared to the overall finish of the rest of the bike.

Trek Lexa SLXBut that’s mostly because the overall finish of the rest of the Lexa SLX is really rather swish. Black and gold makes quite a statement. Metallic bar tape isn’t for shrinking violets, and in this case it walks a fine line between flash and gaudy, happily managing to just stay the right side of that line, thanks to understated frame graphics.

And of course there’s nothing wrong with a bike looking a bit brazen, as long as there’s plenty of go to back up the show, and the ride of the Lexa SLX was no disappointment. I can’t say I noticed any groundbreaking new sensation from the IsoSpeed area, but this is probably part of its strength — it is, as Trek promises, very comfortable. It would be disconcerting if ‘decoupling’ the seat tube from the rest of the bike led to any great movement in the frame, but power transfer still felt plenty direct.

Overall, the frame feel is nimble and compliant, but there’s no sensation of harshness at the fork or saddle end. You could ride all day over potholed urban roads and not feel too jangled.

For all its brooding good looks and rather fancy technology, the Lexa SLX has still been positioned firmly within Trek’s ‘endurance’ — read ‘sportive’ — category and accordingly the geometry sports a relatively high front end, though if you’re a nervy descender like me simply removing a couple of spacers from under the stem positions more of your weight forward for better stability when the road points down.

Practical performer
Though it’s pricy and special enough to be a ‘best’ bike, the Lexa SLX actually makes a pretty nifty fast commute bike. Its angles are relaxed enough to allow you to find a sensible posture for riding in traffic, and it has removable fender mounts on the fork — so it can be your ride to work bike but still look the part when you’re leaving them for dust at sportives and club rides.

In short, it’s a really good inbetweener; a good bridging bike for women who want a bit more than just a bargain basement heavy winter hack, but still don’t want to hand over thousands for a precious carbon super-racer. It’s a little bit special, but still utterly practical when it comes to all the real riding you could throw at it.

Of course, unless you’re making some kind of statement about your Olympian credentials, you might want to swap that glitzy bar tape for something more demure so it looks the part if the Monday to Friday rat run is your only racetrack.

Specification

Trek Lexa SLXTrek Lexa SLX
£1,150

Frame 200 Series Alpha aluminium
Fork Trek IsoSpeed carbon
Groupset Shimano 105 shifters, front and rear; Shimano Tiagra 50/34 chainset and 12-30t cassette
Wheels Bontrager aluminium
Tyres Bontrager R1 700 x 25c
Saddle Bontrager Affinity 1 WSD
Stem Bontrager Race Lite
Seatpost Bontrager Race Lite
Handlebar Bontrager VR-S
Sizes 47, 50, 52, 54, 56cm
Size tested 50cm
Weight 9kg (19.6lb)

Trek Domane 2.0Alternative

Trek Domane 2.0 £1,000

If you have the misfortune of being male or only having £1,000 to spend, fear not, Trek’s unisex Domane 2.0 enjoys all the same lovely IsoSpeed frame technology as our Lexa SLX. To trim the fat to the magic one-grand mark it sports a Shimano Tiagra triple groupset. With sizes going down to 50cm, all but the shortest women will also be able to enjoy the Domane 2.0, though of course you won’t get the benefit of the women-specific Bontrager bars and saddle.