Trek Madone 6.9 SSL Leopard-Trek
By Brian Holcombe
I’m man enough to admit that I’ve seen Pretty Woman enough times to know a few of the lines. And despite the strength of Julia Roberts’ performance, I never thought I’d channel Vivian, but ripping a descent midway through my first ride on the Madone 6.9, I found myself thinking, “Man, this baby corners like it’s on rails!” I had never thrown a leg over Trek’s top-shelf Madone before this test, but it has been ridden to a few big race wins, including four Tours de France. The Wisconsin-based manufacturer builds each of the 6 Series bikes by hand in the U.S. and supplies machines for both the Leopard-Trek and RadioShack squads.
Subjective Ride Quality
User Friendliness: 12/15 points
The seatmast is the big drawback as far as user friendliness is concerned. Despite a frame I wanted to handle with a terry cloth, Trek built the Madone with simple, proven Bontrager and Shimano components that are easy for the careful home mechanic to maintain. The Schwalbe Ultremo tires installed easily and rode well. The cork pads do require an attentive eye.
Value: 16/20 points
If you want a bike to match your Leopard team issue scarf, then the Madone 6.9 SSL is worth every red cent. The Dura Ace mechanical group and XXXLite wheels save almost three grand versus the Di2 model. Downgrading to the 6.7 will save you almost $2K and the weight penalty is minimal. In the end, you’re paying a premium for the custom team paint, but you wouldn’t have anything less to toss on top of your Mercedes R350 replica team car.
Comfort: 8/10 points
I like to fit my 6’1” frame onto 56cm bikes. Coupled with 175mm cranks, the Madone’s integrated seatmast was barely able to accommodate my 76.5cm inseam. The reach to the Dura Ace shifters from the Bontrager Race XXX Lite VR bar was a touch longer than I prefer, but overall the fit was prime. The 140mm head tube and a slammed stem had me in my preferred aggressive position over the cockpit.
Acceleration: 9/10 points
I put the Madone to the test immediately with a Velo lunch ride throw down on Flagstaff Mountain above Boulder. From the first ramp above town, I could feel how directly my work translated into forward motion. The Madone ranked second in our testing for lateral deflection and that bore out on the road. The BB90 bottom bracket quickly transferred my effort into the lightweight XXXLite clinchers, which spun up immediately, whether on a steep pitch in the mountains or a crit course.
Handling: 9/10 points
The H1 geometry, which features a short head tube and the resulting frame stack 3cm shorter than the more relaxed H2 shape, balances against a front axle trail that runs on the longer side for a performance frame. The result was a comfortable, smooth-handling ride that dices tight, high-speed corners without feeling twitchy. Perhaps not the first choice for a pure crit racer, the Madone fared well for me in the six-corner North Boulder Park crit and went anywhere I pointed it coming down the break-neck descent of Rist Canyon in Northern Colorado.
Torsional stiffness: 24/30 points
The Madone was the second stiffest in our test, with average bottom bracket deflection scores and excellent stiffness at the head tube.
Weight: 5/5 points
The lightest bike in the test.