We take a closer look at what's available from the American bike brand responsible for the high profile Domane, Madone and Emonda models
The humble beginning of Trek bicycles took place in the “red barn” – once a carpet warehouse – in Waterloo, USA. The first bikes were steel touring frames, but within three years the brand had expanded substantially.
Eventually outgrowing the barn, Trek moved into a much larger headquarters – still in Waterloo – in the year 1980. From there it began to manufacture road racing bikes, then in 1983 created its first mountain bike before moving into accessories come 1984.
Having started out in steel, Trek moved into developing aluminium bikes in 1985. The first Trek branded full carbon frame came in 1989 – the Trek 5000 had a frame weight of 1.5kg. It was built by an outside manufacturer, and discontinued after a year. Trek made its own efforts at carbon, with an in-house production, in 1992 to much greater success.
Trek’s OCLV Carbon
Trek’s carbon bikes have always used their own patented ‘OCLV carbon’ – this stands for Optimum Compaction Low Void. It believe this carbon creates the best compromise between low weight and high strength and stiffness.
Optimum Compaction refers to the way sheets of carbon are layered into the mould, and optimised via heat and pressure – in Trek’s opinion the two treatments are administered to the perfect ratio. Low Void refers to the minimisation of space between the layers of carbon, which might otherwise reduce strength and durability.
In 1995, Trek opened an independent facility in Whitewater, Wisconsin. The idea being that the Waterloo factory would work in frame development only. For those who want to customise their ride, the ‘Project One’ custom paint programme arrived in 2001.
Trek’s pro cycling support
Trek supported now disgraced American cyclist, Lance Armstrong, through his peak years. In 1997, it helped him sign with their sponsored team – US Postal Service Pro Cycling. He won his seven editions of the Tour de Frances on bikes bearing the brand name, but all of said wins were later taken from him following doping violations.
In 2014, the brand sponsored the Trek Factory Racing Team, now called Trek–Segafredo. In that role, it provided bikes for high profile winners such as Fabian Cancellara and Alberto Contador, as well as Jens Voigt, and notably his Hour Record in September 2014.
Over the years, Trek has made a number of high profile acquisitions. The most famous, perhaps, Gary Fisher bicycles – the mountain bike brand which it took over in 1993.
Later came Bontrager Cycles in 1995 and Electra Bicycle Company in 2014. Bontrager, now Trek’s component and apparel brand, maintains the same name as does Electra, the creator of leisure bikes and accessories.
Useful links for road bike shoppers…
Trek’s road bike models
Trek is able to offer a wide range of different bikes, each tuned to a slightly different purpose. Some model families are available in a selection of standards (SLR premium carbon, SL carbon, ALR premium aluminium and AL aluminium), and then these come with assorted levels of componentry to suit your price bracket.
To add even more depth to the range, Trek offers many models in two different ‘fits’. The Madone and Émonda come as standard in an H2 (traditional) fit, but there are versions in what it calls ‘H1’ fit. This is more aggressive, shaving off about 30mm on the head tube to create a longer, lower ride. The Domane comes in an H2 ‘Endurance’ fit, with a few models in ‘Pro Endurance’, again with a longer and lower stance on offer.
Here’s a look at the key model families…
Trek Domane: the endurance model
The Trek Domane was introduced in 2012. It was created to offer a comfortable ride, the key feature being an IsoSpeed decoupler which separated the seat tube from the top tube, thus reducing vibrations and fatigue.
Over time, the Domane has seen some major changes – most recently the 2016 introduction of a Front IsoSpeed, which helps to reduce vibrations at the front end without impacting handling. This came alongside a new slider, which alters the level of dampening offered by the rear.
Though comfort is important to the Trek Domane, it’s still a racing frame, and its prowess has been demonstrated by UCI Pro WorldTour riders at major one-day Classics, such as Strade Bianche and the Tour of Flanders. Most Domane bikes come with the H2 fit, but there are ‘Pro Endurance’ frames available with a slightly more aggressive geo.
The Trek Domane – available as a men’s build or with women’s specific componentry – is a fast selling model, which comes in three guises. The top end version is the Trek Domane SLR, with prices starting at £3,900. This features the brand’s 600 Series OCLV Carbon, front and rear IsoSpeed decouplers, as well as adjustability at the rear.
One step down is the Trek Domane SL, from £1,900. The carbon used here is the 500 Series OCLV Carbon, which very slightly ups the weight, and the rear decoupler loses its adjustability.
Trek Domane reviews:
For those seeking the affordability of an aluminium model, there’s also the Trek Domane AL and ALR, with prices starting at £625. The ALR uses slightly higher grade alloy, which once again is a little lighter.
All but the AL models come with disc brake options, and in these versions tyres up to 32mm can be fitted, whilst the rim brake models can carry rubber up to 28mm.
Trek Madone: the aero race model
The Trek Madone is quite another beast, and the bikes come built for men and women – the women’s models with women’s saddles and narrower handlebars. With an aggressive geometry, it’s a road race hero, and aerodynamics have become part of its lifeblood. When we tested five aero bikes, head to head, the Trek Madone came out fastest.
Modern Trek Madone’s feature a high level of integration, with the cables tucked away yet reachable via an access point at the top of the down tube.
Wind tunnel testing has helped Trek to create their KVF (Kammtail Virtual Foil) tube shapes, used on the frame and fork. These unconventional tube shapes are designed to further reduce drag, helping the rider/bike unit to slice through the air efficiently.
Because being bumped around doesn’t make you faster, the Madone also features an IsoSpeed decoupler at the seat tube, which offers greater compliance whilst still being integrated to prevent adding drag.
Trek Madone reviews:
Trek Madone models are far from cheap – the 2018 range starts at £3,500. However, all the bikes but one are constructed from the almost top-end 600 Series OCLV Carbon.
The bikes come in a more relaxed ‘H2’ geometry, save again for the Race Shop version in ‘H1’, which offers a pro level aggressive fit.
Trek Émonda: the lightweight model
Adding more depth to the Trek family is the Trek Émonda, launched in 2014. Designed to be a climbing bike, the newest adaptations are capable of negotiating mixed terrains – with disc brakes available and tyre clearance to 28mm.
Trek continues to work on developing the Émonda, dropping the weight of the top end Trek Émonda SLR to 650g in a size 56cm (665g with discs) and 1091g for the Trek Émonda SL (1146g with discs). The weight difference is largely achieved by the use of 700 Series OCLV carbon on the SLR, as opposed to 500 series on the SL.
The majority of Trek Émonda bikes cone in an ‘H2’ fit, but they can be purchased in an ‘H1’ geometry, if you choose the top end ‘Race Shop’ version.
There are a few nods to neatness and integration around, such as the use of ‘Blendr Integration’ which seamlessly mounts Bontrager’s cycling computer, Ion bike lights or even Garmin computers directly to the handlebars, and on SLR versions there’s ‘Control Freak Cable Management’ which allows for shifter and brake cables to be housed through the frame.
Trek Émonda reviews:
The Trek Émonda SLR models start from an RRP of £4,400, with a Shimano Ultegra drivetrain. The SL models come in from £1,500, with Shimano Tiagra and there’s also an aluminium version with Shimano Ultegra for £2,000. There’s one women’s model, at SL5 level, coming in at £1,800.
Trek Speed Concept: the time trial rig
Available with 500 or 600 OCLV carbon, and starting at £2,500 for a frameset, the Speed Concept features the same KVF (Kammtail Virtual Foil) seen on the aero road bike, the Madone.
The top end Speed Concept 9 frame comes with additional hydration and storage, which make fuelling on long distance events easier and also reduce drag with their aero shapes.
The brakes on all models are hidden from airflow, and the cockpit is fully integrated, but adjustable – enabling riders to find a position where they can best balance power with aerodynamics.
Trek women’s bikes, Lexa and Silque, move on
Trek brought about its own Women’s Specific Design (WSD) bikes and accessories in 2000. In 2013 they created the Trek Lexa and the lighter carbon Trek Silque arrived in 2014.
Trek Lexa reviews:
The models continued to be popular members of the Trek line up into the 2017 season. However, for 2018 they have been moved under the ‘Domane’ name. The original Trek Silque was longer and lower, but tweaks here and there meant eventually the two become identical – so it now lives under the title Trek Domane SLR WSD, whilst the Trek Lexa mirrors the Trek Domane AL WSD.
Explaining the move, Emily Bremer, Trek’s Women’s Marketing Manager explained: “We believe that the buying process should be about the type of riding first and gender second. Ideally, a woman who is interested in a road-smoothing road model should get to choose from all Domane models – mainline and WSD – to see which is the best fit and offers the highest performance for the rider.
“Many women want a women-specific model and just about as many do not. By having all the bikes under the same platform name, we hope to increase the options presented and ultimately get more riders on the perfect bike. For many women, the perfect ride will be the new Domane Women’s, with touchpoints that can provide a better fit to women right from the start.”
Trek’s got plenty of experience in the muddy realm of off-road cycling – and they’ve got a selection of cyclocross bikes.
The Trek Boone, retailing from £2,400, is the full-gas, cyclocross race machine. The Race Shop version weighs in at just 7.66 kg in a size 56cm, thanks to the use of 600 Series OCLV carbon. The cable routing has been cleverly designed with the rigours of cross at front of mind, with hardly any on show.
Raced by none other than two time UCI world champion Sven Nys, the Boone has an aggressive geometry that’s been fine tuned with guidance from some of the best racers in the world. However, in order to create the smoothest travel along the way, it’s also got an IsoSpeed fork and decoupler at the rear.
All of the Trek Boone models come with disc brakes, a one-by crank and 11-speed cassette, save for the Race Shop version with a double 46/36T set up and lighter weight cantilever brakes. They’ve all got Bontrager’s own 32mm cyclocross tyres.
Combining the mud ready tyres, disc brakes, ‘cross focused cable routing and geo into an aluminium package is the Trek Crockett family.
These start from £1,400 – they key differentiation being the frame material. However, with a SRAM force single chainring set up and hydraulic dic brakes, the £2,800 Crockett 7 Disc is no heavy weight at 8.44kg in a size 56cm.