Treks launch plan for the new classics inspired Domane involved plenty of ride time over the famed cobblestones of Flanders. That in its self is a real indication of how confident Trek is about the bikes performance. Nothing tests brute force power transfer and compliance like steep pitches of cobblestones.
The bikes standout technology is called ISO Speed and it is designed to provide incredible compliance without sacrificing any power transfer. Trek did this by isolating the seat tube from the seat cluster, decoupling, in their parlance. It is done with a bearing placed at the end of the top tube running through a bracket on the seat tube. ISO Speed also involves a new front fork with dramatically more rake. Trek has focused on other aspects of the bikes performance as well, creating more power transfer than even a Madone 6.9SSL as well as slightly more relaxed geometry for stability under power and impacts.
For a detailed look at the bike check out our report from the launch.
Any first ride, and certainly one over terrain has harsh as Belgian cobbles, will result in immediate impressions that over time will manifest themselves in a true understanding of the bikes performance. Those first impressions were truly impressive. Treks ISO Speed at the rear end was tremendously successful on both fronts, power and compliance. The bike felt incredibly smooth on the pavement, without feeling soft in the rear end. The first big climb we tackled was a pavement climb and thanks to the spirited pace I got a chance to really hit the gas. Heres what was so surprising, the rear feels stiffer and better designed to handle big efforts than the Madone. It is no wonder Fabian loves this bike. While it may give up something in liveliness to some other pure, high-strung race bikes, it gives up nothing in brute force ability.
Trek’s Scott Daubert leads up the Paterberg
With a rear end like this we did wonder how ISO Speed would work on the murderous cobblestones. Luckily, or perhaps unfortunately for those of us with less than Cancellara like ability, we got a chance to find out – on our hit list for the day were the Paterberg, the Kwaremont and the Koppenberg. As we ramped up the pace to roll into the first climb and smashed into the cobbles the rear ISO Speed de-coupler did an astounding job. It soaked up the carnage at the contact patch with amazing aplomb. The feeling was very controlled and manageable, versus the kind of panic inducing battering one normally encounters. And happily, all of that brute force power was still there. As anyone with cobblestone experience can tell you, the faster you ride the less you feel the impact, and with the Domane we were able to stay on he gas. The stability is a big bonus here, with the bike staying on line and the tire staying in contact with the ground, on even very big hits.
Of course, as the climbs continued and the miles began to bite, the pace on the hills did slacken. It was here that we got a glimpse of what this bike can offer the mere mortals that will be buying it. It stays incredibly composed on rough roads at slow speeds. Even picking a precise line when the pace was dropping was easily managed. Not something many bikes can do.
Check out Video of ISO Speed in action here.
While the power transfer, the ISO Speed at the rear and the new geometry appear to be home runs, over the cobbles the bike did feel slightly unbalanced in terms of compliance, front to back. The ISO Speed front end, with its new raked fork, had a stiffer, firmer ride than the rear of the bike. This surprised us, because in addition to the ISO Speed fork, our test bike was equipped with the Bontrager ISO Zone bars and their closed cell padded inserts. This reared its head on the cobbles alone, as the front felt more than smooth enough on the road. This is where first ride thinking needs to come into play. Perhaps the front felt slightly harsh due to the new level of rear compliance ISO Speed delivered and compared to a traditional rear end would be a very smooth. On the other hand, perhaps this is because Trek retained a 1.5 lower bearing diameter on their E2 fork steer tube, while other brands are beginning to move away from the large size.
All of these impressions will need to be verified by long miles back on our Southern California test grounds, roads we have ridden many miles on, on many different bikes.
All in all, the Trek Domane and its ISO Speed technology have taken a truly inspired design and leveraged Treks amazing pro athlete feedback to deliver an incredibly effective compliance solution that takes nothing away from the bikes ability to drop the hammer. Incidentally, look for Fabian Cancellara to do some serious hammer dropping over the next two weekends on his Domane.