I can’t escape the truth: I have reached a certain age.
I’ve traded in my Chuck Taylors for more comfortable kicks with more support, I’ve been fitted for progressive lenses, and I’ve even faced the inevitable fact I will be growing more hair out of my ears and nose than on the top of my noggin.
But I would have never believed I was ready to trade my stiff, fast and race-worthy road bike for an “endurance” bike. Trek swayed me, though, with the new Domane — a road frame outfitted with some pavement-smoothing technology that kept my poor old bones from getting too rattled on long days in the saddle.
Endurance bikes are designed to be more comfortable and stable than traditional road bikes. They usually have shorter top tubes, taller head tubes and slightly longer wheelbases, effectively bringing the handlebars closer to the rider. They’re also referred to as “Classics” bikes — machines designed to be ridden over rough roads for long distances in bad weather, much like the Specialized Roubaix frame Tom Boonen rode to a decisive victory in this year’s wild and wooly Paris-Roubaix race.
Trek’s approach to reducing the shocks of the cobbles? The Domane’s IsoSpeed technology — it’s a decoupler system which separates the seat tube from the top tube, so the bone-shaking bumps of the road aren’t directly transferred to the rider’s body.
At the point where the top tube reaches the seat tube, it splits, forming a “Y,” and the tubes continue toward the back of the bike to form the seat stays. The seat tube nestles into the nook of that “Y.” It’s held in place by a cartridge-bearing pivot, so it’s free to pivot fore and aft. Fitted in the joint of the “Y” is a small bumper made of rubber-like material (it’s actually elastomer) that absorbs road shock.
I was a little skeptical at first. Would this bumper make the bike less fun by zapping all the snap out of the frame? It only took a couple of short rides to quell all doubt — the Domane is a blast.
The decoupler under the saddle, matched with the new IsoSpeed fork up front, takes just enough edge off rough roads and jarring debris to make the ride more pleasant, but not so much to make things uninteresting or too cozy.
In general, I prefer a stiffer bike I can toss around, something along the lines of the Madone, TCR Advance or Cervelo R5. But I found the Domane plenty stiff and lively enough to not want the ride to end. I made repeated trips up into the Oakland hills followed by ripping descents through the Berkeley hills, and at no point did I wish I was aboard a different steed. By the time I hit the four-hour mark of my ride — the point where I’d normally be feeling pretty stiff and beat-up — I was still semi-fresh and wanting more.
The Domane I tested was spec’d with Shimano’s 7900 Dura Ace group and a set of Bontrager’s Aeolus 5.0 carbon wheels. Although I am excited get my hands on the new Dura Ace group (which I haven’t tested yet) and a set of new Reynolds carbon fiber hoops, the package on my loaner Domane left little to be desired. The shifting was crisp, the braking was spot-on and the wheels made spinning up to speed a joy.
Trek may have come a little late to the endurance bike category, but in my opinion, it’s been worth the wait. This isn’t the bike I’d choose for the local criterium series, or the one I’d pick if all my rides were under two hours and blistering fast. But the Domane smoothes out the most unnerving road vibrations while still being a blast to ride.
WIRED IsoSpeed tube coupler and shock-absorbing front fork mitigate the worst effects of rough roads. All-day comfort while remaining more Ferrari than La-Z-Boy. Tech is inconspicuous and doesn’t look nerdy.
TIRED There’s a gaggle of cables at the stem. The correct saddle pairing for this technology remains a mystery — the Bontrager saddle on my test bike left my butt wanting better.
Article by Jim Merithew (c) Product Reviews - Read full story here.