Trek hasn’t just given its flagship Madone a cursory makeover – it has redesigned the concept of a race bike…
The Madone has a long history at Trek, having been the weapon of choice for Lance Armstrong during his Tour ‘successes’ (at least the bikes raced clean). Named after Armstrong’s favourite training climb in the south of France, the Madone has changed significantly over the past decade, but this latest version must count as the most significant update yet.
Starting from the rear, the first noticeable change from the previous Madone is the introduction of an IsoSpeed decoupler system, an idea borrowed from the cobble-busting Trek Domane. This is a bearing that sits between the upper part of the seat tube and top tube, providing a certain amount of vertical suspension. But unlike on the Domane, the entire seat tube doesn’t move independently of the top tube – instead just the top part of the seat tube (not to be confused with the black seat mast) runs inside the lower part, which is still connected to the top tube. Essentially, there are two seat tubes, one inside the other, that allow a high degree of vertical flex while maintaining a lot of lateral stiffness.
‘You get a whole bunch of the compliance out of the [inner] seat tube of the Madone,’ says Ben Coates, Trek’s road product manager, ‘but we get huge benefits in terms of handling, steering, sprinting, pedalling efficiency and aerodynamics from that [stiff] outer tube.’ Trek now claims that the Madone has the same levels of compliance as its Émonda model, which is pretty impressive for a bike that sells itself mainly on its aero credentials.
The previous Madone, despite its fairly conventional tube shapes, was one of the industry leaders in the wind-tunnel. For this bike, though, Trek has looked beyond the frame to ensure that every element is as aerodynamic as possible.
‘Everything was about integration, and we can do that to a much greater level because of our link with Bontrager,’ says Coates. It’s no surprise that the bike comes with Bontrager Aeolus D3 wheels and an all-new Madone aero bar-stem combo. Consequently it’s a fairly fixed package – the brakes are totally integrated into the frame, and the Madone bar-stem will be the only one compatible with the frame. This is on account of the complex internal cabling, although Trek will offer a wide variety of sizes and shapes, and has an integrated Garmin mount as standard.
This latest Madone uses a new version of the KVF Kammtail tube shaping and Trek claims that the bike is the most aerodynamic on the market for wind yaw angles of 5° or more. That is, it’s not the most aerodynamic when the wind is hitting the rider straight on, but Trek argues that an angle of 5° or more is the most likely wind conditions that riders will experience in the real world.
Perhaps the most striking innovation on the Madone is the removal of every single external cable at the front of the bike (a mere 5cm of cable is visible above the rear brake). ‘Standard external cable housing adds up to 40g of drag [or roughly 5 watts of drag at 45kmh],’ says Coates. ‘If you hide those cables you actually free that up. Everything was focused on performance and integration.’ The head tube has been radically redesigned to allow the front brake cable to run internally, while a complex internal structure routes the remaining cables into the top tube and down tube.
The brakes, which are Trek’s own design, are both concealed from the wind. It’s the front brake, though, where the most exceptional engineering has been employed. The top of the front brake’s mechanics are concealed within the head tube, but to accommodate CPSC (Consumer Product Safety Commission) regulation on the range of fork movement Trek designed ‘Vector Wings’ (flaps) on either side of the head tube that open to allow the front fork to move freely during low speed maneuvering.
Despite all the innovations and aerodynamic features, the bike weighs just a shade above the UCI minimum, and our 56cm bike with rear light and Garmin mounts weighed exactly 7kg.
The frame comes with two options for geometry and layup. At the top is the H1, which is the same as the bikes used by the Trek Factory Racing pro cycling team, and has an aggressive race setup and higher quality carbon. It is made entirely in Trek’s Wisconsin factory and is available through Race Shop Limited and Project One orders via the Trek website. The H2 version will be more widely available and uses a slightly lower grade of carbon fibre and comes with a more relaxed geometry.
After a few rides on the new Madone at the launch, our early impressions of the bike are that it offers an enigmatic blend of comfort and speed. Stay tuned for a more thorough review in the coming issue of Cyclist, on sale 12 December.
Trek Madone Race Shop Limited – From $15,999.
For full details and specifications head to Trek Bicycles Australia – Madone.