By Matt Pacocha
Back before Lance Armstrong won his first Tour de France he lived in Nice, France. In 1998, he, like many pros in the area, started using the Col de la Madone to test his fitness.
At 10 kilometers, the climb has been described by Armstrong as not easy, but not too hard, a perfect road to gauge fitness. Armstrong’s most magical moment on the Madone came in 1999. He went there by himself, on a normal training ride, and did the climb on his own. He recalls the time as 30:45, “with a lot of watts,” adding that he’s never gone any faster.
“It was the place that I went to discover if I was ready,” he said. So when Trek stopped production of the 5000-series models Armstrong used to win his first four Tours and switched to a new design, the company asked Armstrong for his input in naming it.
“It gave me the answer, regardless, that was special to me,” he said. “I conveyed that to the team and Trek, and the name stuck.”
This year marks the 10-year anniversary of that first Tour win for Armstrong and, therefore, for Trek. The manufacturer celebrates the occasion, and its most famous rider’s comeback, with a new bike, the 6-series Madone.
Trek started and finished developing this bike long before anyone knew Armstrong was even considering a comeback. Indeed, the only thing that Armstrong will have a direct influence on will be the color options for the Project One paint schemes.
Although his influence on the design may not be apparent, Trek engineers produced a complete package that has clearly met the standards of Armstrong and the entire Astana squad, a point underscored by the fact that all nine of them will be using the new model in the Tour.
“People always assumed you had to make a choice between stiff and light, or stiff and comfortable or a good fit and good handling,” said Tyler Pilger, Trek’s Madone product manager. “We did a lot of things in this bike so that you don’t have to make these choices. And we really feel that this is the most advanced (frame) platform that will be available.”
Stiff, yet compliant
The new Madone has 3 percent less surface area than its predecessor, yet Trek engineers claim it’s considerably stiffer in the headtube and bottom bracket. Oddly enough, Trek also says the bike is more compliant in those areas that most effect comfort, namely the seatmast.
Those refinements were accomplished, according to Trek, through careful use of Finite Element Analysis (FEA). But even before the FEA modeling, Trek engineers did field work, using a bike rigged with stress sensors over key points on the frame. Design engineers rode the test bike in every manner possible: They climbed both seated and standing. They sprinted, cornered, stopped and accelerated.
“We really got a good picture of how the bike is actually moving,” said Pilger. “It’s really the center of the bike that determines how the ends handle. It’s like a lever arm. So it’s really maintaining the width in the middle of the bike that allows the front and rear to stay connected.”
The resulting data gave Trek engineers renewed confidence in the BB90 design, because it allows for a wider downtube and chainstays. That, in turn, prompted an increase in width of the toptube and seatstays.
E2 Asymmetric Steerer
Other key features affect the bike’s handling characteristics. For example, Trek uses a 1.5-inch lower bearing paired to a 1.125-inch upper bearing that is said to provide a better transition for the fork legs to the frame.
“We’ve taken it a step further for 2010 and now we’re incorporating an asymmetrical steerer tube above the lower bearing,” said Pilger.
The new steerer is flat front to back, which should offer a little more fore-aft flex for improved comfort and tracking over bumps, while the wider overall section improves lateral stiffness, enhancing front-end stiffness and steering accuracy.
Ride Tuned Seatmast
Trek says its Ride Tuned seat mast system is 60-80 grams lighter than a traditional carbon fiber seatpost and clamp system without a need to cut it to size. The new mast offers greater lateral adjustment and frames 56cm and larger have an adjustment range that has been bumped up by a centimeter. Perhaps the greatest benefits, according to Trek, is that the mast moves the clamping area up above the stress zone of the frame, offering a natural flexing pattern to the seat tube, which is said to improve vertical compliance.
“Basically a bump feels 43-percent smaller than it would in our previous generation frame,” said Pilger.
DuoTrap ANT+, Shimano Di2
“Consumers today, whether it be computers, electronics, or automotive, really expect a complete package, I think that’s why Apple has been so successful in recent years,” said Pilger. “And we wanted to offer that same complete package.”
The new Madone, for example, routes cables internally, but does so in a remarkably accessible fashion. The system accepts Shimano’s Di2 electric shifting wires simply by replacing the cable ferrules with rubber gaskets and an integrated bottom bracket battery mount. Trek provides its own non-drive side chainstay integrated ANT+ speed and cadence sensor called DuoTrap.
The DuoTrap mounts through the chainstay and seamlessly talks to SRM, Garmin, PowerTap, Bontrager and other ANT+ computers. With the DuoTrap there is no need for this new frame to ever have a wire clamped to it with a zip tie.
Trek claims a 56cm ProFit Fuselage (frame, fork with full steerer, mast cap) weighs in at 1380 grams. The frame weighs just 890g.
That means the Madone 6-Series fuselage, made from Trek’s Red level OCLV carbon, is 150 grams lighter than earlier models. The frame makes up two thirds of the weight savings, while another 30 grams is saved from the fork and 20 grams are cut out of the seatmast cap.
The top 6.9 model costs $8,710 with a mechanical Shimano Dura-Ace group and Bontrager Aeolus carbon clincher wheels and Race XXX Lite carbon cockpit. The 6.5 model — also with Dura-Ace, but aluminum Race X Lite wheels and cockpit — costs $6,015.
Both 6-Series bikes, as well as the 2010 5-Series Madones are customizable through the standard Project One program at no extra charge. The standard program offers a choice of five paint schemes, as well as chainring size and crank length, cassette range, cable housing color and wheel decal color and a few other options.
While its lighter weight will surely help Trek sell the new bike, decreasing weight wasn’t the only goal. Through the use of tube shape and carbon layup, as well as the new asymmetric fork steerer, Trek claims it increased the lateral stiffness of the front end of the bike by 17 percent and a10-percent increase in the bottom bracket area.
We had the opportunity to ride the new Madone up the Col de la Madone outside of Nice this week. It was a brief encounter, but it was enough to offer a few impressions.
For one thing, the bike is noticeably stiffer and more precise than the previous model, which I’ve ridden extensively over the past year. We’d obviously like to get more time on it, but the bike made a very good first impression.
For his part, Trek’s top sponsored rider says he’s happy with the improvements.
“This is by far the nicest bike I have ever thrown my leg across,” Armstrong said in a video message filmed by Trek team liaison, Ben Coats. “Thank you for such a nice bike. I hope to do it justice. I hope to pedal hard and who knows: eight’s not a bad number.”