Trek Madone 7 Series Project One
Since its launch a year ago, the 7 Series has had a few tweaks. The question is: is the result worth the pricetag?
When the 7 Series was launched at the Tour de France in 2012, it was a landmark for Trek. And, despite making a few changes, Trek has decided not to bump up the nomenclature for this latest version.
The new flagship frame remains a 7 Series, as before, so perhaps Trek decided that the relatively minor alterations to this second generation were not worthy of a complete renaming. The tweaks focus on, predictably, saving weight and improving ride feel, although attention has, the company claims, also been paid to the performance of the rear brake, itself an identifying characteristic of the 7 Series, located under the chainstays behind the bottom bracket. It’s a standout feature that always draws comment from riders on your wheel, as they find themselves unfamiliar with seeing the clean uninterrupted lines of the brakeless seatstays.
Madone fork The fork is designed for the direct mount Dura-Ace 9010 calliper, which sits neatly, and aerodynamically, under the overhanging head tube and almost entirely within the confines of the fork legs.
Visually then – this custom Project One paint job aside – it’s a near-identical twin to its predecessor. Kammtail aero tube shaping, which Trek terms KVF (Kammtail Virtual Foil), is still prominent throughout, and is proven technology handed down from Trek’s wind-cheating Speed Concept TT frame.
The eagle-eyed will notice that the chainstays appear to have gained some additional bulk, but beyond that the changes are hidden from view in the lay-up. Trek’s own BB90 standard bottom bracket is still there, providing the widest possible platform for the down tube to marry the BB shell, while the beefy E2 tapered head tube keeps things sturdy laterally up front.
What no brake? Something’s missing: It’s visually neat and clean, yet it can be hard to get used to the absence of a rear brake on the seatstays, especially when you’re following behind the Trek.
It’s worth noting that investing in this, the highest level of Madone, means you’re getting something entirely handmade in the US. Having visited Trek’s Wisconsin facility and witnessed for myself the very hands-on approach – not quite ‘Nanas knitting Shreddies’, but not so far off – the 7 Series Project One is about as close to bespoke as you can get without going for a full custom one-off.
In light of that, to my mind it’s a shame that Trek doesn’t permit the Project One customer to opt for an entirely Di2-dedicated frame. Our test bike was kitted out with the latest 11-speed Dura-Ace Di2 9070, which was functionally as flawless as its near-mirrored finish, and while Trek has done a neat job of the cable routing, there’s still the unused mechanical cable guide blanks in plain sight on the down tube.
It’s only a small gripe, but at this level and price I feel it should at least be an option to move away from interchangeable cable guides, and make it aesthetically even slicker. On the subject of cable guides though, I did think the barrel adjuster-cum-quick release built into the rear brake cable guide on the down tube was a nice touch.
Ride-wise, it’s as you’d predict for a bike of this pedigree, created with the explicit purpose of getting Trek’s sponsored pros across the finish line first as often as possible. These, in fact, are traits that have pulsed through the Madone’s veins since its creation, and the second generation of the 7 Series keeps the trend going.
Trek claims it has reduced the frame weight by 25g, making it a super-svelte 725g (56cm with U5 Vapour Coat, ie lacquer only, no paint). The combination of such a low weight and an already proven stiff chassis results in a very lively and responsive feel out on the road. It will always dutifully reward your pedalling inputs, such that you’ll want to keep on pushing.
Chainstays Trek’s engineers have beefed up the chainstays to improve rear brake performance. This, plus the Dura-Ace calliper, has undoubtedly improved brake feel, and there is ample braking power on tap from Bontrager’s cork pad against its Aeolus 3 D3 carbon rim.
On one ride aboard the 7 Series I was rebuked by a friend for, as he put it, ‘riding like I was sat on a wasp’, which pretty much says it all. However, during these repeated and sudden outbursts of over-enthusiastic hammering, I was aware (owing to the identifiable whine of the cork pads on the carbon rim) that the rear wheel was rubbing the brake blocks frequently. My preference is always for my brake blocks to be set up a good distance from the rim with plenty of lever travel. The set-up here was no different, so I was perplexed about why the rubbing persisted.
Further investigations led me to conclude it could be a combination of things. The Aeolus 3 rim choice does not appear as laterally stiff as others I tried – when I swapped to Enve or Zipp it rubbed less, but still rubbed. So it’s not simply a wheel issue. I’ve pondered this, and the only conclusion I can draw is that attaching the brake underneath and behind the BB shell is the main issue here. This part of a bike is prone to lateral movement under all-out pedalling efforts. If you push hard on the BB shell of a stationary bike you can see it happening.
It’s not that the Trek is flexing more than any other bike – far from it – but that a brake calliper in the ‘standard’ position on the seatstays is potentially less prone to rubbing by being further from the initial point of load. This is just my theory, but the fact remains: I couldn’t prevent the rear brake from rubbing on the rim during maximal efforts. Whether that’s a deal-breaker or not is up to the individual. For me, it was a bit of an annoyance, but didn’t overly spoil my opinion of the new 7 Series, which remains among the best bikes I’ve tested recently.
The detail A quick aero recap: a Kammtail, or as Trek calls it, KVF (Kammtail Virtual Foil), is basically a streamlined teardrop shape where the sharp edge has been sliced off. According to wind-tunnel data, even with the trailing edge removed the airflow will behave in a similar way, hence it’s theoretically possible to remove a fair chunk of the material to save weight (and stay within the UCI’s limit for tube dimensions) while tricking the air enough to preserve the aerodynamic benefits. Look closely and you’ll notice that this is how almost every tube on the Madone 7 Series is profiled.
What’s particularly satisfying about the Project One process is being able to select your preferred head tube length, saddle, bar shapes and other details. This meant that while the ride feel was racy, the position wasn’t too aggressive, and five-hour-plus rides were completed in relative comfort, aided by a set of Bontrager’s supple carcass R4 tyres in 25mm width. Project One is a service that definitely sets Trek apart from the crowd in respect of the whole customer purchasing experience.
Trek 7 Series – Project One
Bontrager Aelous 3