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Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Trek Domane Test Ride

by Ben Hallam

I've just got back from my first ride on our Trek Domane 5.9 test bike and I have to say, I really impressed.

The Domane is pitched as their Endurance racer: the geometry is a little higher and shorter at front end, the wheelbase is a little longer, the head tube a little slacker etc. It also has a system called IsoSpeed which is designed to take the shocks out of the road. It works by separating the seat post from the top tube and seat stays. This way, the seat post is able to flex backwards (absorbing the shocks) but not flex side to side because it is secured laterally by the seat stays. I have to admit, when I first saw this on the internet, I thought it was a gimmick. But while setting the bike up in the turbo, I could visually see the seat post flexing under my body weight (which was very weird to see). Interestingly, it meant that I had to set my saddle height a couple of mm higher to take up the "sag". 

All this made me worry that the bike would feel like a blancmange out on the road. I can categorically say that this isn't the case. After your body weight has taken up the initial "travel", the spring rate ramps up very quickly and the saddle felt planted and not bouncy at all. However, those that expect this bike to feel like a full suspension mountain bike will be disappointed. The ISOspeed takes the "edge" off the big bumps rather than float like a bouncy castle: you still feel the bumps but, like a good cricket player absorbing the energy while catching a ball, the bike absorbs the initial jarring shock and dissipates the shock. Those looking for increased comfort over speed could change the tyres. Our 5.9 test bikes have 23c winter tyres on but the bike has clearance for anything up to 27c and the increased air volume would absorb even more energy. Another alternative would be running a set of 25c tubeless tyres which can be used at lower air pressures.

I was expecting the Domane to be a comfortable bike, what I wasn't expecting was it to be a fast bike. On my way back, I gave it some beans through the Euston underpass and got a real shock: this is a stiff RACE bike!!! Taxis were getting in my way at what suddenly felt like a sedentary 40mph. It's lateral stiffness is brilliant and the bike takes off. The handling is hardly sluggish either; I was quite happily darting in and out of the traffic the same way I would in a racing peleton. I had assumed that Fabian Cancellara had been paid a huge sum of money to ride the Domane in the tour rather than a "real" race bike but I can now see that it wouldn't have been a handicap at all. I would quite happily race on this bike.

Other great features include the ability to attach eyelets and full size mud guards. This makes the bike a viable “12 months of the year” bike. I also like the ability to put a internal speed and cadence sensor called a DuoTrap into the chain stay which keeps everything very neat and tidy and communicates via ANT+ so will work with your Garmin. Finally, another well thought out bit of engineering is the built in chain catcher on the frame which will guide the chain back onto the little ring in the event of a miss shift. 

Overall, I've been very impressed with the Domane and I think it's a huge step forward in endurance bike market.

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