We all saw Fabian Cancellara win Strade Bianche on what was undoubtedly not a current Madone. The speculation began to ramp up. Was this a new Madone or perhaps an entirely new bike in the classics focused vein of the Specialized Roubaix or the Cannondale Synapse?
Thanks to the UCIs new approval process we all learned that the bike was not simply a next generation Madone, it was in fact a new bike and called the Domane as revealed by the UCI list last month. With the classics now heating up and Fabian continuing to campaign the bike its intended purpose became clear and upon this mornings official unveiling it became fact the Domane is their classics race machine. In the real world that translates to a compliant performance bike the grand fondo crowd and century riders can get excited about.
While that may be where the bike finds a home among consumers Trek was very clear about the bikes genesis. The Domane was born as a race bike and more specifically, a race bike for Fabian Cancellara and Paris -Roubaix. When Trek asked him what he wanted he said, More with Less. What does that mean to Fabian? Comfort with efficiency. Nothing revolutionary. The testing process began long ago using telemetry bikes, molded cobblestones and high-speed cameras. They even measured the rate at which different body parts vibrated over rough roads. They simply wanted to understand the problems created by rough roads before they tried to design a bike.
The resulting design was handed to Fabian to prove the concepts and he said simply, Can I start racing this tomorrow?. That is proof. So what are the three main technologies that created this response from Spartacus and should give us all another option when it comes to long miles over rough road at high speed?
1: Iso Speed: A de-coupler at the seat cluster. Instead of having to soften the entire seat cluster they de-coupled the seat tube from the top tube and seat stays. There is no carbon molded joining of the seat cluster in the traditional way. Instead the separate seat tube is connected by way of a pivot point. This allows the seat tube to flex under impact without infringing on the rest of the bikes stiffness under power or in critical handling situations.
Trek used the pivot point to dial in exactly how much deflection they want to allow. According to Trek this resulted in 100% more compliance than the competitors. This is functional compliance, effective at the exact frequencies your body experiences on the road. They know, they measured it and can show you the exact hertz at which your eye ball vibrates over cobblestones. While the small brand Volagi has isolated the seat stays from the seat tube with their design, they are still connecting the top tube to the seat tube.
Iso Speed is also at work at the front of the bike. They increased the rake in the fork to allow compliance, but how did the keep the handling from getting sluggish? They tucked the front dropouts back to shorten the wheelbase, something Specialized has been doing with their Roubaix forks, but only for their pro teams. They do however keep the tapered steer tube at 1.5″ at the lower bearing, in contrast to other brands endurance bikes.
2. Power Transfer Construction: This starts with Treks OCLV and their net molding. The piece that comes off the tool is what goes on the bike. No machining, no finish work. Their BB90 is in effect, still the widest on the market which allows the biggest down tube top to bottom and widest offset for the chain stays. This has increased head tube stiffness, overall stiffness and fork stiffness over even the Madone. So not only is it more compliant than the Madone it is stiffer. The weight penalty? It weighs 1050-grams for a 56cm, the Iso Speed hardware itself weighs less than 50grams. Unlike other high level Trek carbon this bike is made overseas, although shipped to Waterloo as naked carbon and painted and built in the US.
3. Endurance Geometry: Rough road and long mile stability means traditionally you make compromises with slower handling or a rear rider weight bias. While Trek did increase the wheelbase and slacken the head tube, they offset much of this with a lowered BB, kicked back front dropouts and a steeper seat tube. It is all new geometry, with out the multiple head tubes they use on the Madone.
Trek got their component brand, Bontrager, to step in and help. They looked at the things pros do to manage the cobbles -double and triple taped bars, gel pads stacked on the bars and realized they could easily solve the problem by integrating this type of padding into the bar. It works, they measured less vibration at the hands under the exact same impacts at the wheels.
The frame is full of other nice touches as well, an integrated chain catcher that works with standard and compact (almost a standard component these days), they included Duo-trap and internal cable routing with straight lines into the frame and straight lines out of the frame. Those internal cables are not sleeved throughout, but due to the easy sight lines should offer a minimum of headache, but time will tell on that front.
The Domane has been race proven already and it will be raced again at Flanders and Roubaix. In fact Fabian wants to race it all year. It is available right now as a Project One bike and inline bikes should be shipping to dealers as you read this.
As impressive as the Domane appears to be, it does tread ground that has been covered by other manufacturers for many years. What may be most significant about the bike is the shift in Trek philosophy. The Madone, with its three head tube height options and fairly compliant ride had always been seen as one bike that does it all. With the Domane now focused on endurance and compliance Trek will be able to unleash all of their formidable engineering on the Madone, to perhaps turn it into more of a full-tilt barn burner of a race bike. With the Domane both stiffer and more compliant than the current Madone, expect the next generation Madone to be a real power-to-weight-ratio super bike. Stay tuned.
The Domane will start at $4600 with a $8800 price tag for a Dura Ace build with Bontrager carbon wheels and bars. The Domane is available as a frame set as well.
Stay tuned for a first ride report from the cobbles of Flanders tomorrow.