4,388 feet of climbing in 38.6 miles. It may not be the Alps but the Walloon region of Belgium is not lacking in the climb department, you just get your elevation in small chunks with endless 1 and 2k climbs. There are no flat roads.
It was over this route that Trek gave us our first chance to ride the all-new Madone. It was the kind of ride that requires a punchy bike, able to quickly jump up to speed then transform into a nimble descender to navigate the back road farm lanes, then provide a bit of compliance as you rocket through each little town square and the inevitable cobblestones. It was in short, the perfect route for testing the new Madone. After all, the new Madone is supposed to do it all. Its billed as the no compromise aero, ultra light, all day GC race machine. Hitting one of these targets is hard enough, all three? Ludicrous.
Now the disclaimer. Riding any new bike, over unfamiliar roads, in an unfamiliar bunch while severely jet lagged is the wrong time to make any definitive statements. Once we get a test bike out to our usual test grounds well be able give you the full monty, until then, these are first impressions. But, as Will Rogers says, You never get a second chance to make a first impression.
First impression, this bike is a massive step forward from the 6.9SSL and every other Madone ever made. The bike we rode was a new 6 Series Madone, and until last night, it represented the pinnacle of Treks technology. Of course, well be trying to get our hands on the hot off the presses 7 Series Madone for long term test.
The peloton test bike was a 60cm, with Dura Ace 7900 and the new Bontrager Madone specific brakes, Bontrager Aeolus 3 D3 carbon clinchers and a Bontrager cockpit. For a more detailed look at the new technology behind the bike check out our first look report here.
The overwhelming feeling of the bike was one of liveliness. It is magnitudes more responsive than the previous Madone. This must be attributed to a combination of things. The new H1 geometry is much racier, with a shorter head tube and longer reach, while the chain stays have been shortened. Using Treks tried and true 600 series carbon recipe the lay-up is all new for the 2013 Madone. Combine this with the new tube shapes and overall the torsional stiffness is way up, 19% in the 7 Series. We would assume less in the 6 Series, but its still the first thing you notice as you jump on the pedals. We would also attribute this to the new Domane. Taking over endurance duties the Domane has allowed Trek to push the Madone to a full-tilt power-to-weight ratio racer and it appears to be an opportunity they have seized with both hands.
The short punchy climbs the Walloon region is full of means there are an equal amount of steep, technical descents. While we never truly pushed the bike to its limits the combination of Aeolus D3 wheels and the new Madone was a winner. The stiffness, front axel to back, is incredibly well balanced and the new Kamm Tail tube shapes, with the resulting deep head tube and square back fork blades offered gobs of front end lateral stiffness. The Bontrager specific brakes seem to be more than up to the job, meshing nicely with the DA levers. The feel was progressive though out the entire lever pull, offering a predictable and powerful action perfect for white-knuckle riding.
When you make a bike as stiff and light as the Madone, the all-day ride comfort issue rears its head. We would certainly classify the Madone as stiff vertically. Certainly a stiffer feel than the previous Madone. The edge has been taken off thanks to the seat-stays which gain compliance due to the removal of the brake bridge and any necessary reinforcing when the rear brake moved under the chain stays. It’s still stiff, with fairly limited seat cluster movement, most likely due to the Kamm Tail shape of the seat tube. But, for those riders that have always wanted the Madone to offer a real race inspired ride, a ride that informs your body of the pavement below, but doesnt beat you up, the Madone may be just right. If you want more comfort, the Domane was made for you.
If you are waiting for the portion of the first ride report where we tell you how much faster we felt on the flats due to the wattage savings over the previous bike, you will be disappointed. Determining wattage savings and aerodynamic benefits in a wind tunnel is tough enough, on a short ride through Belgium, forget it. Well get it home, put it in the hands of Mr. H for some downhill runs and get back to you on that.
Again, these are first impressions, but we would be more than happy if they last over our upcoming long test. The Madone is truly a take-no-prisoners race bike now. From ride feel, to weight, from geometry to power transfer, the new Madone appears to be a very potent weapon, whether you are aiming for a yellow jersey or just your local climbs Strava record.