After Fabian Cancellara stormed to victory at Strade Bianche earlier this month aboard an un-marked Trek prototype, the cycling world knew that a new model was in the works from the Waterloo, Wisconsin, company. When the UCI updated its approved frame list on March 23rd, it listed “Domane 1, 2, 3” with a “Bontrager RXL” fork in sizes 47-62cm. The date of approval was January 18 of this year.
It’s been several years since Trek launched a new high-end road model. The current 6-series Madone debuted in July 2009 under Tour de France riders and became available to the public in 2010.
Developed with Cancellara, the goal from the beginning was to build a bike that would help the Radioshack-Nissan-Trek team dominate the classics. From the outset Cancellara was clear about his demands for the bike: “I want to be smoother over the cobbles. But I don’t want to give up anything.”
Ben Coates, Trek’s road bike product manager, shared Cancellara’s motto of “less in, more out,” and said that it was the overriding theme of the Domane design process. The bike needed to be more comfortable and provide stable handling while maintaining efficiency.
Trek engineers performed multiple on-site cobble tests and went so far as to take a mold of the cobbles so that they could be reproduced in Trek’s lab back in Wisconsin. Using data collected in the field, Trek dialed in on the frequencies that pros encountered when racing the cobbled classics. Then they set about designing a bike to overcome that abuse.
With the Domane (pronounced do-MAH-knee), Trek has entered the modern endurance bike segment, arguably launched by Specialized with its Roubaix in 2004. So Trek is a little late to the party with the Domane (notice the anagram of Madone), but its OCLV Domane is impressive. Available immediately through Trek’s Project One program, there are some very interesting features and technologies at play.
The most visually striking part of the new frame is also the newest functional item. The ISOSpeed seat tube cluster junction is actually a de-coupler, with a pair of sealed bearings, between the top tube and seat tube. It dissipates vibration by softening the joint between the top tube and the seat tube and Trek claims that it gives the Domane frame 100% more compliance than its nearest competitor.
The clever design is tuned for a road frequency that riders, both professional and recreational, encounter on their everyday rides as well as during cobbled races. ISOSpeed is not adjustable and uses a fixed rate across frame sizes. The design only adds 50 grams to the 1,050-gram frame (56cm).
Trek pairs the Domane frame with a new ISOSpeed fork. Using the same E2 steerer as the Madone, the new fork has more rake and blade curvature but uses rear set dropouts to compensate for the increased fork length. The increased sweep of the fork legs is more vertically compliant, but Trek also managed to make the fork 30 percent laterally stiffer than the current Madone fork.
All this new comfort couldn’t come at the price of drivetrain efficiency though. Trek worked hard to keep the Domane from becoming a flexy flyer. Because the BB90 and E2 head tube are so wide, Trek is able to have a very broad down tube. In its in-house testing the Domane’s head tube and full frame are stiffer than Madone.
Geometry is the other big difference between the Domane and its Madone sister. In developing the Domane, Trek used prototypes with adjustable geometry. Eventually engineers decided to lengthen the wheelbase (using longer chainstays), decrease the head angle, increase fork rake, increase the seat tube angle and lower the bottom bracket.
This adds up to a bike that handles very differently compared to the Madone. With the Domane’s entirely different focus, that isn’t a shock. With a 175-millimeter head tube on a 56cm, the Domane sizing is similar to a Roubaix or other endurance-focused bike.
Devil in the details
Trek also integrated a single-bolt, adjustable chain-keeper that works with compact and regular rings to make dropped chains a thing of the past. The Domane also has a new cable routing system designed for straighter cable lines both in and out of the frame. Like other Treks, the Domane is both DuoTrap and Di2 compatible.
For the Domane, Bontrager developed a new handlebar to compliment the frame’s more comfortable ride. The ISOZone bar has padding on the tops and in the drops that are integrated so that the overall size of the bar isn’t overstuffed.
One item this editor loved seeing was the inclusion of hidden fender mounts. The Domane has clearance for 25mm tires and fenders, something very welcome to cyclists in wetter climates.
The Domane is currently available through Trek’s custom bike program, Project One. Pricing will vary according to build specs. Complete bikes will start around $4,600 for an Ultegra bike. Dura-Ace or similar builds will run closer to $8,800.
On the road
We’ll update this post as soon as possible with notes from a long, cobbled ride in the Flemish countryside.