TREK DOMANE SIX SERIES devourer of primitive savage terrain. An emerging sector of road race bicycles aimed at the 'endurance' rider is steadily gaining momentum in the market place. The synthesis of these race machines is closely tied with rough road riding encountered by the world's top professional cyclist's when racing in extreme conditions on cobbled and dirt pavements, like those encountered at the Paris Roubaix. Trek have put their R&D department to work, as well as tapping into the expertise of Fabian Cancellara in developing Trek's Domane six series range of bicycles. Early innovators in this emerging sector are Specialized, creators of the S Works Roubaix SL3 which has been in development for about eight years. Plus Cannondale's Synapse Hi-Mod, and the most recent - BMC's granfondo GF01.
I was given an Ultegra equipped Trek Domane 6.2 to test for a few days. The bike was fitted with a pair of Bontrager wheels identical to the ones I use day in day out in my own Trek Madone 6.9. The Domane is intended as the "endurance compliment" to the Trek Madone. As I normally ride a Madone 6.9 this was going to be an easy comparison of two bikes based on my familiarity of the Madone, or so I thought. I hadn't counted on the Domane being so different.
When I handed the Domane back, my over-riding impression of the bike was that it is built for one purpose, to race. In one of the Trek promo videos Ben Coates says "The Domane is a FULL ON race bike, it's the endurance compliment to the Grand Tour Winning Madone". What you get with the Domane package though is very different to what you would expect from other modern high end carbon race machines. The Domane is the other bike you take to races where the roads get rough, built expressly for primitive savage terrain. The impressive thing when riding the Domane on rough pavements - through corners is that the bike remains planted while "soaking" up the bumps, the Domane is incredibly stable. In corners where you'd normally expect a tire to begin to slide and drift over rough surfaces, the Domane holds on while the bike does the work allowing the tire to remain in contact with the road, making it a very stable bike, ideal for anyone new to cornering.
The Madone race bike was already a successful platform to build on, the Domane taps into the formidable strengths developed for the Madone and is then enhanced even further, creating it's own personality. The Domane's spec concepts are ramped up for power transfer and handling. Frame design incorporates a BB90 spec bracket and the E2 over-sized head tube, coupled to a larger, lighter and stiffer down tube. Chain-stay size has been increased in thickness and length, introducing a longer wheel base for stability. At the front end Trek introduced the ISO Speed fork with sweeping curvature and a little more rake, aiding vertical compliance. Front end geometry has resulted in a bike that steers quickly and smoothly, it's got to be the most user friendly setup I've come across. Some modern bikes steer so fast that any slight input at the bars means the bike will react instantaneously. That's great for pro riders wanting the quickest steering response available, yet for new cycling enthusiasts or those who don't want a bike that's on a razors edge everywhere they ride, the steering the Trek Domane provides makes it a perfect choice. In skilled hands the Domane will go where the rider points it while remaining agile through the corners, yet it won't intimidate and tire new enthusiasts working on building up their skill set. Affirmation of the Domane's handling capabilities can be seen in footage of Fabian Cancellara taking the Domane to victory through the winding final kilometres into Siena in the 2012 Strade Bianche. Further proof of Cancellara's stamp of approval for the Domane saw him riding a yellow version he rode in the Tour de France during the first week of the tour this month.
Trek introduced ISO Speed with the Domane. As well as the ISO Speed fork which enhances front end capability in rough terrain, Trek engineers built in extra flex by introducing a de-coupler device at the seat tube - top tube junction. The de-coupler isolates flex from the rest of the frame, so the bike retains it's capable handling attributes, yet Trek claim double the compliance is achieved by the ISO Speed de-coupler, allowing for up to 45mm deflection. Combine the ISO Speed de-coupler with the ISO Speed fork plus endurance geometry and you have a bike that is comfortable, handles well and leaves you less fatigued at the end of a long ride.
Fabian Cancellara worked with Trek on the concept, testing the bike on cobbled sections of the Paris Roubaix course. I wondered about the bikes suitability for heavier riders, Cancellara is at the upper end of the weight range for professional road racing cyclists at 82 kg, most are around 70 kg some even less. My weight makes a good comparison as I also weigh 82 kg. I'll sometimes take a Crumpler bag loaded up with cameras on the bike, weighing an extra 8 kg, normally on the Madone I won't notice the extra weight, yet on the Domane access to the full 45mm flex accentuated the whole vertical compliance concept to a point where the bike was uncomfortable and not enjoyable to ride at all. I wondered if an 82 kg rider weight is the upper limit for this machine. Weight distribution may be a factor here, loading up the ISO Speed coupler with extra weight from above may have tested the limits of the concept, with a lower distribution of weight the bike may perform better under heavier loads.
At the beginning I said this bike is built for one purpose, to race, the reason being the Domane requires very specific inputs in setup. It's critical to have your position set up correctly on the Domane. This also goes across the board for choice of wheels, tires, and tire pressure. Given correct attention to these details the Domane becomes an exciting machine. The Domane will run 28mm tires, to get the most out of the Domane 25 mm or 28 mm tires would be the best choice.
Other features built into the Domane include a chain catcher and performance cable routing, plus a rack mount at the rear of the chain stays. TREK DOMANE 6.2
3 Main Technologies ISO speed Power transfer construction Endurance geometry
DETAILS 600 Series OCLV Step Joint Technology Power Transfer Construction ISO Speed decoupler ISO Speed fork Bontrager carbon ISO Zone bars Ride Tuned Seat Mast Performance Cable Routing Electronic Drivetrain Integration 11 Speed BB 90 Compact available Front Deraileur Direct Mount Duo Trap Compatible 3S integrated Chain Keepr E2 asymmetric steerer E2 head tube and fork Endurance geometry Project One Vanishing Fender Mounts
The Domane's ability to smooth out the ride makes it more user friendly for enthusiast riders, especially anyone new to cycling looking to improve their skills. While the Domane is built as a "full on race bike" it's features become useful to a wide range of cyclists. The geometry and steering won't intimidate new riders. No sacrifice in power means this is a performance machine, yet subtle changes to geometry and compliance enhance the possibilities for racing cyclists and recreational riders. The Domane will make life easier for anyone riding Gran Fondo events or those who ride constantly on rough roads. In the urban environment the Domane will make a comfortable ride to work or for recreational riding and for anyone who only wants one bike, the Domane will do it all.
Test bike supplied by Matt Smith at Bikes Sales on Albert - 87 Albert St Brisbane QLD 4000
Photography by Robert Cobcroft