One of the most technologically advanced road bikes in the world, the new Trek Madone has arrived at Cycling Weekly, and we've been putting it through its paces.
The Trek Madone might have had controversial origins, with its name coming from Lance Armstrong’s favourite training climb, but Trek has forged ahead with the updated model, which breaks new ground for aero road bikes.
The Trek Madone is right up there with the Specialized S-Works Venge ViAS when it comes to integration. The gear and brake cables are all routed through the bars, stem and frame, which makes them tricky for home mechanics, but means they only see the slightest hint of wind when they exit the frame to join up with their respective components. And on this Di2-equipped Trek Madone 9.9, there is also a port in the down tube to allow access to the junction box.
Although this is all very aero, it also means that maintenance is very fiddly, and setting up this bike took much longer that with standard road bikes. It also means that this is a very loud bike, with the cables and the flaps above the fork rattling when riding over anything but the smoothest of road surfaces.
The Madone’s foundation is Trek’s own successful OCLV carbon. The carbon has been moulded into Trek’s new Kammtail Virtual Foil (KVF) tube profiles. These tube profiles are similar to that seen on the Merida Reacto Team E, although the Madone doesn’t feature the dropped seatstays that have become a common feature of other aero bikes, such as the Scott Foil.
However, one thing that isn’t very racy is the geometry. The Trek Madone is actually available in three geometries – H1 (Trek’s most aggressive racing geometry), H2 (which is the optimal position for most riders – including some of Trek’s pros), and a women’s specific design (WSD). The Madone 9.9 you see here comes in the H2 geometry.
This means a relatively relaxed position with a 17cm head tube. If you intend to use this bike to race, which doesn’t seem entirely unreasonable, then you’ll probably want to upgrade (at a cost of £750) to a frame with a H1 fit which will mean a 14cm head tube.
With an £8,500 price tag, you wouldn’t expect anything other than pro-level components, and that’s exactly what you get with the Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 groupset that offers immaculate shifting, and Bontrager Aeolus 5 wheels that hold their speed very well and are light for their 50mm depth. The 23mm tyres could be a negative on paper, but chunky Aeolus rims help bump up their width.
One big negative on our test bike was the 50/34t chainset, which looks a bit out of pace on an ‘ultimate race bike’. However, this can be changed depending on your personal preference when you buy this bike through a Trek dealer, so you can have a semi-compact or standard double chainset equipped for not extra cost.
Watch: which is faster an – an aero bike or a lightweight bike?
However, once in the saddle, my disappointment about the gearing and geometry quickly disappeared. The Trek Madone is quite simply an incredible bike to ride. The super-stiff bottom bracket and relatively nimble Bontrager wheels make accelerations astonishingly swift, and once you’re up to speed — especially beyond 25mph — it’s almost embarrassingly easy to hold it there, giving a casual nod to other riders as you cruise past them accompanied only by your gentle breathing and the hum of carbon-fibre.
But the Trek Madone is a comfortable bike too. Trek has carried over its IsoSpeed decoupler technology from the cobble-munching Domane, meaning that the seat tube and top tube/seatstays are allowed to rotate independently, damping down vibrations. That might sound like a gimmick, but it actually works incredibly well, making for a bike that is both fast and compliant, almost floating over rough tarmac if you’re going quickly enough.
Yes, it’s £8,500, but what a bike you’re getting. The Trek Madone sits at the pinnacle of bicycle engineering and rides like a dream — if you want a cutting-edge machine then unfortunately you’re always going to have to pay for it.
That said, if you’re racing, then unfortunately you’re probably going to have to shell out an extra £750 on the H1 fit of the Race Shop Limited version with its higher modulus carbon-fibre and the a lower front end, which seems a little steep to me.
It’s a big statement, but one I feel that the Trek Madone deserves it: this is one of the best bikes I’ve ever ridden. Uphill, downhill, or on the flat, it’s an astonishingly fast bike that did nothing but flatter me, making the most of every last watt my legs could produce. What’s more, this speed was married with comfort, especially the back end which has plush without being flexy, gliding across all but the most pot-holed of surfaces that the south of England could throw at it. Surely then, your usual British crit or road race circuit would be no match for the Madone? Well it would be, were it not for the whopping 17cm head tube, which you can only shorten by spending another £750.