Trek Domane SLR
After riding Trek’s newly redesigned Domane over the Flanders cobbles in the Spring of 2016 (far less artfully than Fabian Cancellara, who raced both Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix on it), it was easy to laud the adjustable rear IsoSpeed decoupler and the new head tube decoupler because I had just ridden a an excellent but stiff race bike on those same cobbles only days before — and it shattered my neck and shoulders. The Domane was a revelation with its decouplers that smoothed out Flanders’ roughest cobbles, and after several months of testing it on home roads in Colorado, I maintain that revelatory praise. The Domane is an excellent bike for everyday riding and even certain types of racing because it quiets harsh chatter without sacrificing race geometry and handling.
In fact, Trek may have made the most comfortable race bike on the market today. The rear decoupler is adjustable so you can go from super squish to a more refined, subtle compliance. It’s a nice upgrade over previous Domanes, one that allows for quick adjustment by loosening a bolt at the bottle cage mounting position, though once you find your sweet spot, you’re probably not likely to adjust this too often. It could come in handy, though, if you commit to a race like the Flanders Sportive, which is undoubtedly rougher than your home roads.
The most impressive part of the Domane, though, is the balanced feel front to rear. You will, of course, have to dial in the rear decoupler to your liking to achieve that balance, but once you find it, you’ll feel that the bike works as a more complete system throughout. Previous iterations of the Domane benefitted from the decoupler in the rear, but the front still had that immutable feel any race bike has. You wouldn’t ride a mountain bike with just rear suspension and nothing up front, would you? The new Domane applies that logic to the road so you get compliance consistently front to back.
If it’s all about comfort, why bother touting this as a race bike? Simply put, comfort is faster. I managed to go over a minute faster up Oude Kwaremont on the Domane because all that back-shattering ruckus from the cobbles died in the decouplers rather than in my body. Yes, moving parts can translate into power lost to flex, but in this case, the benefits in comfort, control, and stability vastly outweigh any pedaling power lost to the system.
It’s purpose-built in that sense, yet on smooth pavement the bike feels more aggressive than previous iterations. The geometry isn’t particularly race-oriented: a 175mm head tube length (pretty long for a size 56 centimeter), 78mm BB drop (pretty big, great for stability but not for quick steering), 420mm chainstay length (pretty long), 71.9-degree head angle, and 61mm trail. That leads to some steering vagueness, though Trek did manage to improve handling substantially from previous years’ Domanes. So we’re still talking about an endurance bike here, but you won’t feel like you’re sitting on grandpa’s cruiser either. Our test bike was the Race Shop Limited (RSL) version, which features the Pro Endurance Geometry: a shorter head tube, longer reach, and shorter stack height. That makes for a very race-oriented bike that felt much more eager and agile, so if the typical endurance fit isn’t your bag, check out the Pro Endurance Geometry to get lower and longer. As someone who prefers an aggressive ride, I highly recommend it.
Yeah, you could probably take it to a crit and it’d be the most comfortable crit you’ve ever raced. But like previous versions of Trek’s cobble bike, the new Domane still has a fair amount of flex in the front end (.61mm of deflection at the head tube), which is ultimately most noticeable when you’re really wrenching on the handlebars during a sprint, or gritting it out on a 30-minute climb in the mountains. You want that flex on rough roads or gravel sections, and especially on cobbles, but not so much during hard efforts on relatively smooth pavement. If your ride involves a few sections of pavé or dirt roads, the Domane is a dream. If your idea of a fun Saturday ride is grinding it up successive 30-minute climbs, you’ll probably want something stiffer.
The Bontrager Aeolus 3 TLR wheels with 19.5 millimeter inner rim diameter provided an excellent foundation for a wide tire profile. That allows you to tailor your tire pressure for the conditions and get as much traction as you need when the road turns ugly. Bontrager’s IsoCore handlebar, which has a layer of damping material inside of it, helps take care of some of the high-frequency chatter too. The whole parts package complements the overall goal of the Domane, which is to increase comfort and stability.
Ultimately, it’s important to note you’re not getting a full-suspension bike here. You’ll still feel bumps and you’ll still feel connected to the road. But when you hit the really rough stuff, the Domane SLR makes the hard impacts disappear, allowing you to power up and charge through with more steering confidence and less impact on your body. If your weekly rides include some dubious pavement or no pavement at all, you’ll be right at home on the Domane SLR. Trek has thrown down the gauntlet with this one.
Several builds and configurations will be available from Trek:
Domane SLR 9 eTap, $10,999
Domane SLR 7 Disc $6,499
Domane SLR 7 $5,999
Domane SLR 6 Disc $5,499
Domane SLR 6 $4,999