Whatever you think of Lance Armstrong, few professional cyclists in history have made as big an impression on the public as the seven-times Tour de France winner.
Take a look at your fellow riders on the line of your next sportive, and odds on there’ll be someone wearing a faded Discovery Channel jersey or riding a Trek Madone painted in US Postal Service livery.
We’re inclined to think that those on a Radioshack Madone 6.9 will be a little rarer – and not just because of the price. Let’s be honest, the gunmetal grey and red colourway isn’t that lovely.
It is only one of the choices from the Trek Project One Signature range, though, so if you don’t like it you can get the same spec in a different suit. Whatever look you choose, the chances of you being disappointed are slim indeed.
This is a bona ﬁde Tour de France winning machine – Team Astana had this model at its disposal during last year’s race, which Alberto Contador won.
This can sound pretty scary to us mere mortals though. Like F1 cars, MotoGP motorbikes or Robert Green’s goalkeeping gloves, you assume that a top end piece of sporting equipment like the 6.9 can only be handled safely by a highly skilled pro. The Madone, though, will make everyone feel like a sporting god – even if you’re just popping to the shops for some milk.
The Madone does everything a pro needs it to do. The oversized BB90 bottom bracket allied to a chunky down-tube and sturdy, asymmetrical stays means power is delivered without fuss and virtually no loss through ﬂexing, while the handling is pin sharp and as quick as you like. It’s a racing bike, make no mistake, but there’s more to it than that.
Some top race bikes let you know about their intended use by beating you up as soon as you hit rough road, or scaring you stupid if you drop concentration on a curvy descent – not the Madone. It’s comfortable and predictable.
Obviously, pro riders spend hours in the saddle – that’s their job – but it’s still surprising just how cushioned the 6.9 feels. Some of that is likely to be down to the carbon Bontrager XXX bar – with rather short drops on our test bike – and stem combination, which has just enough give to smooth out road buzz at the front, but is plenty stiff enough to cope with out-of-the-saddle honking.
But the XXX carbon clinchers? These are drum tight, take no effort to get rolling and simply ﬂy – it’s hard to believe that there’s much give here.
Comfortable and predictable, of course, sounds like slow and dull. Hush your mouth! The Madone is anything but. Yes you can ride it for hours, but you can ride it very quickly for hours. (Fitness and talent terms and conditions obviously apply here.)
The frame – Trek’s top end Red OCLV carbon blend – is light at just 943g for a 58cm, and takes minimal effort to get moving. Once rolling, it quietly encourages you to explore your speed addiction, and changes pace instantly when demanded. Climbing, even with the standard SRAM Red 53/39 chainset, is not effortless of course, but it’s rarely a chore.
The handling is perhaps not as quick as the most demanding of cornerers may desire, but for everyone else it’s an absolute pleasure. Chuck it into a bend, even a tight one on a descent, and the Madone goes exactly where you want – the cork brake pads working incredibly well with the carbon rims – before ﬂying off to ﬁnd the next turn. No dramas but plenty of thrills.