Once again Trek bicycles made plenty of headlines at Paris-Roubaix. It won the women’s edition of the race for the second consecutive year, with Trek-Segafredo’s Elisa Longo Borghini triumphing as Lizzie Deignan had done in October. And like Deignan, the Italian did so aboard its heralded endurance bike, the Domane. Only this time around it was using an unreleased model with plenty of design changes to boot.
Although Trek have remained tight-lipped to date about the new-look Domane RSL (Race Shop Limited) there are some obvious differences from the two race-winning bikes. Most notable is the use of the IsoSpeed decoupler, a suspension system that made the Domane such a favourite on the cobbles. The front IsoSpeed system has been removed entirely, while the rear decoupler has lost the sliding adjustment. Gone too is the seatpost mast, with a traditional post now in its place.
Without Trek’s comments the reasons behind the changes to the IsoSpeed system are purely speculation. However, although they did an admirable job in smoothing out rough terrain they did add additional weight; the current top-tier Domane SLR 9 in a size 56cm weighs 8kg/17.64lbs, which is on the heavier side for a high-end race bike albeit one that places a premium on comfort.
Certainly ease of maintenance will be improved with the removal of the front IsoSpeed. It’s a fiddly system that’s hidden inside the headtube and the bane of any professional or home mechanic. Its removal has also enabled new cable and hose routing, with both now entering the top tube at the front of the stem, rather than behind it.
Many teams chose to use their aero race bikes at Roubaix this year despite the jarring nature of the pavé. It’s a recent trend at the race impacted in part by the adoption of tubeless tyres, which provide additional comfort and help negate the lack of compliance in the frameset; a pair of slippers to wear with the flight suit if you will.
In keeping with these current trends, the new Domane, which Longo Borghini described as “the perfect bike for Roubaix”, appears to have fine tuned its aerodynamic profile. The headtube, devoid of the decoupler, looks beefed up and deeper. The downtube too looks bulkier and more aerodynamic, as does the seat tube.
The top tube has also been re-designed, although here the new shape seems to suggest a focus of improved stiffness and a reduction in weight. Much like the concept of butting in a steel tube, the Domane’s top tube is wider at the stem and seat post, with a narrower middle section. As with the current model this latest Domane uses Trek’s lightest carbon layup, the 800 Series OCLV.
With all these aero concessions, and the removal of the front suspension, it appears that Trek have knowingly reduced the gap between the Domane and the Madone, its out-and-out aero bike. While this makes sense for a professional race application, it will be interesting to see how well the changes are received by the general public who have bought the Domane in their droves thanks largely to the comfortable ride it offers.
Now in its fourth iteration the Domane has unquestionably continued to move with the times. With this in mind the new bike still appears to feature the storage unit in the down tube, with mounts for a top tube ‘bento box’ also visible. Other contemporary details specifics to the Trek-Segafredo fleet of Roubaix-ready bikes include a SRAM Red AXS 1x drivechain, with Longo-Boughini running a 52t front chainring, while in the men’s race Jasper Stuyven opted for a 54t.
The fact that the bike first created for Fabian Cancellara and the cobbles of Roubaix is still excelling at the race is testimony to Trek’s willingness to tweak with the tried-and-tested in pursuit of improved performance. With the strength of the women’s Trek-Segafredo team (Lucinda Brand finished third in this year’s race, too), could we see a Roubaix hat-trick from Trek next April?
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Luke Friend has worked as a writer, editor and copywriter for over twenty years. Across books, magazines and websites, he's covered a broad range of topics for a range of clients including Major League Baseball, the National Trust and the NHS. He has an MA in Professional Writing from Falmouth University and is a qualified bicycle mechanic. He fell in love with cycling at an early age, partly due to watching the Tour de France on TV. He's a passionate follower of bike racing to this day as well an avid road and gravel rider.
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