First Ride: Trek’s third-generation Domane
GALZIGNANO TERME, Italy (VN) — Trek has an ace in the hole when it comes to rolling out new bikes: Project One. It’s easy for the company to make splashy paint jobs that can end up being stories in themselves. When I saw the new Domane I would be riding for the day, I wasn’t surprised to see it was all dressed up in the molten lava paint scheme you likely saw on Trek-Segafredo bikes at the Tour de France.
It’s a great way to announce something new and cool. The question I wanted to answer was whether there was anything truly new or cool about the bike that lay beneath the fancy paint. Was this just another iteration, a slight change wearing the disguise of a new bike?
Look past the paint and you’re certainly looking at something new, but with its roots in the old. In other words, the Domane still does what we know the Domane should do: add tons of compliance in both the front and rear of the bike, without wading into the suspension waters. But the new Domane does that and much more.
For starters, the frame has been redesigned to add more aero tube shaping. That’s in keeping with the now-constant category blending going on in the road world; we’re seeing all-around bikes morph into a combination of aero, endurance, and climbing bikes rather than segmenting the three into an entire stable of bikes. The Domane encapsulates this process nicely.
All told, Trek says the new Domane is one minute per hour faster than the previous version. That’s the product of aero tube shapes, as well as better cable integration and greater clearance for wide tires. That cable integration doesn’t fall into the cockpit integration trap, though. The cables route behind the steerer, which means it’s compatible with traditional bars and stems.
Speaking of tires, the Domane can officially fit up to a 38mm tire, with 4mm of clearance around it. So really, it can fit larger tires, but Trek won’t say so officially. You can do the math, though.
For a “traditional” road experience, 28mm tires come stock, and there’s a 32mm option mated to 25mm internal rim width rims. This opens up a lot of options for tire sizes, but also for rides on which the Domane can excel. Paved or unpaved, the Domane has plenty to offer.
That essentially means you can still be a roadie and get your fill of gravel too — without having to buy two bikes. The Domane can handle both, so if you’ve got a bit of gravel on your agenda but won’t be committing full-on to a post-tarmac life, the Domane pulls double duty.
Another nice versatility touch is completely hidden. There’s a storage space integrated into the down tube where you can stash a tool kit, snacks, or even a light jacket. (Bontrager even developed the BITS tool roll to fit perfectly in there.) To access it, you just need to pull a small lever behind the bottle cage, and the panel pops out. It’s sleek and clever, and it keeps your jersey pockets from bulging.
Perhaps more importantly, it allows you to ditch the seat bag, and instead use one of Bontrager’s integrated lights that mount where your seat bag would normally reside.
Despite the new look, the geometry has not changed. You can, however, get Trek’s H1.5 fit in Project One, which offers a more aggressive riding position than the stock endurance geometry.
Trek has also done away with women’s-specific sizes, opting instead to offer the entire range of sizes as unisex. According to Trek representatives, this ensures anyone has access to colors, sizes, and builds that make sense for them.
The rear decoupler mirrors that of the Madone, ditching the previous Domane’s seat-tube-based system. This allows a more consistent damping system across frame sizes, whereas the previous system was limited by the size of the seat tube itself. The shorter the seat tube, the less adjustability the rider got. That meant lighter riders got less compliance options, while tall riders probably got too large of a lever, translating to a squishier feel. The new system eliminates such discrepancies by mating to the top tube instead. And there’s a bumper to control rebound damping. It’s overall a better, more consistent system.
With the addition of aero tube shapes and a more complex decoupler system, of course the overall weight of the bike goes up. But I think it’s about time we stopped freaking out about weight when a component actually adds functionality to a bike. We’re at a point now in which manufacturers actually have to figure out ways to make bikes heavier to keep them UCI legal, so while the decouplers and longer tube shaping adds weight, the Domane is by no means bulky and I’m not bothered by the extra grams. It rides lighter than it actually is, so in terms of ride quality, it is no detriment. Will the pros riding Paris-Roubaix on this bike balk at the extra weight? Sure, but their mechanics will find a way to lighten the load. They always do.
Perhaps more importantly, Trek has added a T47 bottom bracket to the Domane. It’s a threaded system, so forget about press-fit creaks. Like the version on Trek’s Crockett, the Domane’s T47 bottom bracket is slightly different than others on the market, but only slightly. It features a larger flange, basically to stabilize tool purchase when you’re installing it. In order to create that lip, Trek reduced the bottom bracket’s width by one millimeter. But the bike is compatible with any T47 bottom bracket out there, so there’s no issues with using other T47 bottom brackets.
The Domane SLR is available as a disc-brake-only build. The Domane SL features the seat tube-based decoupler system rather than the top tube system, but it takes a significant step down in price as well. While the top of the line Domane SLR9 runs $11,900, the SLR7 costs $7,800 and the Domane SL models range from $2,500 up to $6,000.
I liked the last Domane. But I love this one.
As I was riding through the hills in northern Italy on the Domane, it occurred to me how many truly excellent bikes I had ridden in the past several months. The BMC Roadmachine, the Wilier Zero SLR, the Specialized S-Works Tarmac and Venge — the list goes on. We’re truly in a special era in which it’s very difficult to make a bad bike, and even more difficult to stand out among the crowd.
The Domane does so here. From its looks to its compliance features, and its geometry that more closely mirrors a race bike without getting absurdly aggressive, the Domane gets a lot right.
But those decouplers really make the difference. I don’t even notice them until I need them, but if I wanted to, I could just adjust the rear one to feel more compliant. They’re not bouncy, they’re not squishy; they feel supportive yet forgiving. That to me strikes the right balance.
The aero touches really streamline the Domane, making it a better-looking bike. But more importantly, Trek seems to be getting wise to a trend that Wilier also recently capitalized on with the launch of its Zero SLR: aero belongs on all bikes. Again, the balance here really works wonders: The Domane gets aero refinements but not the full aero treatment.
If you’re a weight weenie, sure, you’ll find this a bit bulky due to the extra componentry needed to make the rear decoupler work well. But honestly, I was surprised at how light and lithe this bike felt on the climbs. We have long talked about how endurance bikes are the rides most of us should be on, but man, they sure did look and feel goofy. No more.
The Domane joins the growing list of bikes that shatter the endurance stereotype and take us one step closer to eliminating the category altogether. The Domane is a race bike that happens to be comfortable.
Traditionalists will love the classic frame lines; everyday riders will find the decouplers a saving grace over the long term; racers will appreciate the geometry and snappy handling; and everyday adventurers will get a kick out of how well the Domane is equipped to handle a variety of terrain.
As with any bike that tries to do it all, the Domane comes with compromises. But Trek has limited those compromises in ways we have yet to see in such bikes. I’d like to spend more time on the Domane for a long-term perspective on it, but if my first ride impressions hold true, the Domane’s a home run for Trek.