Trek have radically revamped the Madone ahead of the 2015 Tour de France, taking the comfort-boosting IsoSpeed decoupler from the Domane Classics bike and integrating it into what is an unbridled aero machine.
The Madone first broke cover at the Criterium du Dauphine, where Trek Factory Racing riders were given the opportunity to test the all-new machine ahead of the Tour de France. Now we’re here in Utrecht, the Netherlands, at the pre-Tour official launch.
The introduction of the IsoSpeed decoupler is the headline feature on the 2016 Madone but it’s a bike which seeks to combine that comfort with, according to Trek, class-leading aerodynamics, thanks to a revamped frame which weighs a claimed 950g, and a host of innovative, integrated features. Trek say the Madone 9 Series will save a rider 19 watts compared to a non-aero bike, equating to two minutes an hour.
‘The ultimate race bike’
Regular readers will know that bike launches are invariably accompanied by hyperbole and bold claims, and Trek haven’t pulled any punches with the launch of the all-new Madone. It is, they say, a bike which “will live in history as the product that transformed the standards of race bike performance forever. With unparalleled aerodynamics, unmatched ride quality and unprecedented integration, Madone is more than a game-changer: it’s the ultimate race bike.” We’ll have the chance to ride the Madone 9 Series over the next 24 hours so will have the chance to form an early impression as to whether Trek have achieved that.
The Madone is a bike with a rich history at the Tour de France, having first been launched in 2003 and named after the climb near Nice where a former Trek-sponsored rider used to test his form. That same rider won the Tour on the Madone in 2004 and 2005, while Alberto Contador triumphed on the Madone in 2007 and 2009.
The bike has evolved significantly in that time and, with this launch, now fills the gap as Trek’s all-out aero machine, with the previous Madone something of an all-rounder. ‘Choose your weapon’ is Trek’s marketing slogan, with the Emonda, launched last year, pitched as the super-light climbing bike, and the Domane, first introduced in 2012, as the Classics/comfort/endurance bike. The new Madone is the “missing piece in the puzzle”, according to Trek president John Burke.
Aerodynamics are at the very heart of the Madone but, before we get into that, let’s take a closer look at the IsoSpeed decoupler. IsoSpeed was launched alongside the Domane three years ago as a way to reduce the impact of the cobbles of the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix, and the bike was developed alongside Classics king Fabian Cancellara. Since then, comfort has become a key trend in bicycle design – not just on bikes designed for the Classics, but almost all machines.
However, the extravagant tube shapes required to cheat the wind on aero bikes often have to compromise when it comes to comfort, as the aspect ratio of aerodynamic tube profiles is resistant to flex. Plus, large, thick tubes are, by their nature, less flexy than smaller, thinner tubes. Over the past year or so, bike manufacturers have sought to reverse that trend – Canyon’s semi-aero revamp of the Ultimate CF SLX uses an innovative design which lowers the seatpost clamp to increase the amount of of flex, and Trek have taken that to the next level with IsoSpeed, without compromising the aerodynamic performance of the bike.
The decoupler, which isolates the seattube from the rest of the frame, is said to offer between 19mm and 21mm of vertical compliance (that’s how much the seattube is allowed to flex), depending on whether the bike uses Trek’s H2 or H1 fit (which we’ll come on to). It’s not an exact replica of the Domane decoupler – the aero tube profiles of the Madone wouldn’t allow that – so, instead, Trek have used a tube-in-tube construction which takes an outer, aero-optimised tube and places a round, flexing tube inside it, fixed only at the bottom bracket. The result, Trek claim, is a 57.5 per cent improvement in vertical compliance over the nearest competitor, identified by Trek as the Giant Propel.
It should be noted that the Madone’s IsoSpeed decoupler doesn’t offer as much flex as the Domane – expect to still see the Trek Factory Racing team on that bike at the Classics – but instead puts it roughly on a par with the super-light Emonda in terms of comfort. Still, there’s a definite amount of flex in there, and if you stand off the bike and lean on the rear of the saddle it’s easy to see.
Aerodynamics and integration – ‘the fastest aero road bike’
“The new Madone is the fastest road bike there is,” says Ben Coates, Trek’s global road product manager. That’s a bold claim against a host of innovative bikes which have broken cover in recent years, not least the recently launched Specialized Venge ViAS and the latest version of the Scott Foil. Still, aerodynamics are the DNA of the new Madone and it does, subjectively, look incredibly fast, with a series of aero features from the tube profiles, to the integrated centre-pull brakes, to the one-piece handlebar and stem.
Trek have taken the Kammtail Virtual Foil (or KVF) tube profiles of the previous Madone and further developed them in this version. The Kammtail principle suggests that a truncated tube profile tricks the wind into acting as if it were passing over a full airfoil, without the extra weight which comes when you use more carbon fibre while retaining plenty of stiffness. Those KVF shapes are applied across the frame, as well as on the seatpost and the fork, and are significantly deeper than those used on the previous Madone, bearing more of a resemblance to the tubes of the Speed Concept time trial bike.
It’s impossible to talk about aerodynamics without mentioning integration, because the two go hand-in-hand in creating a clean, sleek machine designed to cut through the wind. Integration is another key trend in bike design, with manufacturers increasingly designing bespoke components in a bid to pick up aero marginal gains.
The brakes are the Madone’s most obvious integrated feature. Trek have designed a proprietary centre-pull brake which sits within the profile of the fork, with the internal cable routed through the fork steerer and head tube. While the rear brake takes up a traditional position, rather than behind the bottom bracket as on high-end versions of the old Madone, but remains hidden behind the seatstays. We can’t comment on how mechanic-friendly the brakes are at this point but Trek have added quick release tabs to make it easier to get a wheel in and out, while there are also spring tension adjustment screws to centre the brake pads, and another two to move the pads as they wear.
But perhaps the most novel feature of the brake system are the so-called ‘Vector Wings’ on the fork. Turn the handlebar sharply left or right and the corresponding wing opens to protect the brakes from the elements.
Another key part of the front-end is the integrated handlebar and stem. Trek aren’t alone in development a proprietary one-piece cockpit for their aero road bike, with the Canyon Aeroad and Specialized Venge ViAS to name two other machines which use similar setups, but what it does, along with the integrated brakes, is hide any cables from sight. This isn’t just to give the Madone a clean aesthetic but to increase its aerodynamics prowess as the front-end is key in this regard, being the first part of the bike to hit the wind.
Other integrated features on the Madone include the ‘Control Centre’, which is essentially a unit on the downtube which houses the front derailleur’s trim dial on a mechanical groupset, and the Di2 junction box and battery on a machine with an electronic groupset. Again, it’s designed to create a machine which is free from clutter, but Trek say they’ve also paid attention to usability. The frame, by the way is mechanical and electronic groupset compatible, but only with Shimano Di2 and not Campagnolo EPS.
Trek say the position of the water bottle mounts has also been optimised with aerodynamics in mind, with the seattube-mounted cage sitting as low as possible to hide it from the wind.
So, what does that all mean? “The new Madone significantly outclasses every other model in its category in aerodynamics,” says Burke. To put some figures on it, Trek say the integrated handlebar/stem alone saves 34g of drag (that figure is an average between yaw angles or zero and 20 degrees at 30mph) over Bontrager’s XXX Aero handlebar.
Trek also say they’ve wind tunnel-tested the new Madone against the Cervelo S5, the Felt AR and the Giant Propel, and their machine is fastest across a wide range of yaw angles. The new Specialized ViAS wasn’t available for testing but Trek told us that, according to Specialized’s data, the Madone is still faster.
Fit and pricing
The 2016 Madone will replace the existing model and four 9 Series bikes will be available, alongside a women’s-specific model and two frameset options.
The top-of-the range Madone Race Shop Limited uses Trek’s aggressive, low and long H1 fit, and is essentially a team replica bike. It comes equipped with a Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 groupset and Bontrager Aeolus 5 wheels for £9,750.
Step down a level and you have the Trek Madone 9.9, which features Trek’s slightly more relaxed H2 fit, and the same groupset and wheel spec for £9,000. The £750 price difference comes because the Madone Race Shop Limited uses Trek’s flagship OCLV 700 carbon fibre, whereas this uses the second-grade OCLV 600 carbon. The Madone 9.9 is also available with a women’s-specific WSD geometry.
Meanwhile, the Madone 9.5 wears a mechanical Shimano Dura-Ace groupset and Bontrager Aura wheels for £6,000, while the Madone 9.2 opens the range with a mechanical Shimano Ultegra groupset and Bontrager Paradigm Elite wheels for £4,500.
If you fancy putting together your own build then Trek will also offer the Madone as a frameset only, with the H1 version of the frame, made from OCLV 700 carbon fibre, costing £4,100, and the H2 version, made from OCLV 600 carbon, costing £3,350.
That’s it for now, but we’re off for a 100km spin on the 2016 Trek Madone 9 Series on the roads around Utrecht so watch out for a first ride report. Is it as fast – and comfortable – as Trek say it is?