The Trek Domane SL 6 is a do-it-all bike that offers amazing comfort over long distances. It may not be the most sprightly bike out there, but it's a versatile machine that won't let you down, and comes with a great spec at a competitive price.
Slightly sluggish on steep hills
The Trek Domane SL 6 enters Editor's Choice 2019 thanks to its superb versatility and great spec that provides comfort over any endurance ride. I've done century rides, touring rides and fast paced group rides with the Domane SL 6 never letting me down. A reliable bike that is a pleasure to ride, the Domane SL 6 is well worth it's place in this year's Editor's Choice.
The Trek Domane SL 6 is a very different kind of bike to the super-stiff frame and racey geometry I'd usually choose to ride. It's endurance setup and all-round capabilities won me over though and I was left hugely impressed after putting in a lot of miles on it.
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The Domane is Trek's endurance offering, with its ride-smoothing IsoSpeed frame technology the unique selling point over other brands. The SL 6 is the mid-range offering, retailing at £3,200 with the most expensive version (the SLR 9) retailing at over £9,500.
The front and rear IsoSpeed is certainly the most noticeable thing when first riding the bike. Coming from a super-stiff frame, it's instantly noticeable how forgiving this bike is over rough roads and was perfect for the varying quality of British lanes in the early winter.
The IsoSpeed decouplers sit at the rear of the top tube and in the head tube, but unlike the higher end models in the Domane range you aren't able to adjust the rear IsoSpeed for more stiffness or more comfort on the SL 6. It would be a nice option to be able to adjust the bike to the style of riding your doing, but the comfort offered here on the fixed setting felt great nonetheless.
One concern ahead of riding the SL 6 was whether the dampening technology would compromise any power transfer or how fast the bike would feel. The SL 6 carbon fibre frame has some quite bulky tubes, and was responsive to seated and sprint efforts along the flats and draggy inclines. The aerodynamic shaping of the tubing also added to that feel.
Really steep climbs with efforts out of the saddle was the bike's weakest point however. It didn't feel sprightly - particularly in comparison to the Specialized Tarmac and Giant TCR I'd just ridden - and wasn't inspiring any attacking on the harsh ramps. But the Domane isn't really designed for that, though it features a wide range of gearing (50/34 at the front with 11-34 rear) that did allow me to get over anything with no trouble.
The best thing about this bike is definitely it's versatility. I used it for short commutes, long weekend rides, some short fast rides and even for multi-day touring. Trek has helped this feeling of versatility by building in neat features like the down tube storage compartment for your tubes, tyre levers and CO2 canisters, as well as built in mounts front and rear for Bontrager lights; all great touches that helped on those long rides and while touring.
Wheels can often be a mixed bag at this sort of price range, but I was impressed by the Bontrager Paradigm Comp 25 wheels provided on the Domane SL 6. With a rim width of 25mm, the wheels came shod with 32mm tubeless Bontrager R2 Hard-Case Lite tyres that I thought rolled really well and felt plenty fast considering their size and shallow rim depth. Moreover, the wheels felt stable and robust, adding to the comfort factor for endurance riding. I had no punctures or issues with the wheels at all over hundreds of miles of testing. The frame also allows you to add up to 38mm tyres if you want to as well as mud guards, perfect for winter or taking the bike over cobbles or light gravel paths.
The SL 6 comes with mechanical Shimano Ultegra R8000 which as usual performed brilliantly with crisp and reliable shifting. The bike uses flat-mount Ultegra hydraulic disc brakes which really added to the feel on long or technical descents.
In terms of value I think the Domane SL 6 is in the expected range for what its offering, coming in £200 cheaper than the comparable Specialized Roubaix Comp for example. Although this isn't the kind of bike I would usually ride, I was genuinely taken with what the SL 6 offered with it's all-round capabilities.
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