PORTO-VECCHIO, France (VN) — Seven months ago a fortuitous early morning ride up Boulder’s Flagstaff mountain led us to an odd sight: a dozen bare carbon frames, a pile of forks, one mechanic and two pro riders, one of whom had padding stuffed into the hips of his shorts.
That scene was one of many that would shape the development of Trek’s latest top-tier model, the Madone 7, which was launched in the Tour de France start town of Porto-Vecchio on Friday. The two RadioShack-Leopard pros, Matthew Busche and Ben King, spent that day in November doing downhill tests on various prototypes, trying out various carbon layups a, fork rakes, and small geometry changes. King even hit the tarmac once — hence the padded shorts — as the testing progressed.
Their day shuttling up and careening down Flagstaff, along with similar sessions in other locations and a heap of internal testing, served to point Trek towards the latest Madone iteration. The 7 isn’t a whole new bike; it’s just one step closer to what Trek sees as perfection, a small evolutionary step within the same basic platform.
The Madone 7 is born of a series of tweaks of the 6.9, rather than a wholesale redesign.
Weight drops by 25 grams to 725 grams, with Trek’s ultralight U5 Vapor Coat paint. The decrease comes from new layup designs, and stiffness is maintained.
A less sexy but likely more significant change has been made to the chain stays. They’ve been stiffened near the brake to improve braking performance (a vastly underrated part of going fast is, of course, stopping fast), and tweaked along their length to “improve ride feel.”
We marked the previous Madone down as having the best braking of any frame with a integrated or semi-integrated brake system, particularly with Shimano’s new dual-bolt Dura-Ace brakes, but Trek apparently thought it could do better.
The improved ride feel comes from a bit of added vertical flex near the end of the stays, improving comfort without compromising the aforementioned brake performance.
The 6-series Madones get the same chain-stay changes, but don’t lose the 25 grams.
The Madone 7 will be available through Trek’s Project 1 custom program, which will include new paint schemes, colors, and signature options specifically for the new frame. The program will add new component choices and a new color for the U5 vapor coat as well.
One of those signature options is the rather electric Leopard blue that adorns the RadioShack bikes here in Corsica, and is pictured above. Yes, it is that bright in person.
We’ve had the opportunity to play with the new Project 1 system ourselves, and have a Madone 7 in for testing right now. Keep an eye out for a story on both before the Tour is through.