Trek Madone 4.5 Compact £1600

Affordable and ideal for longer rides

BikeRadar score 3/5

Trek's multi Tour de France winning Madone family has been around for years, and the 4.5 is the most affordable member for 2010. it does mean you get Oriental TCT carbon, rather than the pricier US-built OCLV carbon of the 5 and 6 family bikes, but it’s the overall ride, not the origin, that matters here.

Ride & handling: Agile and confident handling complements friendly overall feel

While Trek don’t do a specific sportive bike, Madones have always been a popular choice among high-mileage riders, and we can see why. It’s immediately obvious this bike is smooth from fork to far end, sitting on the road quietly over rough sections that rattled many price rivals.

Despite sharp and snappy-looking angles on paper, it’s got a neutral stability too, letting us ride no-handed without worry when fishing energy bars out of back pockets.

It’s not just the easy mid-picnic handling that encourages you to put those extra miles in either. This bike just melts away underneath you, barely registering the tactical tarmac conditions that are a real issue on stiffer bikes.

The Bontrager tyres are usefully smooth rolling without being worryingly slippery in wet corners. The short stem makes exploring the traction limits fun on descents, with an agile twitchy feel through the steering when you’re flicking between manhole covers and potholes, or changing lines mid-corner.

Stability and the stiffness of the front end means this never develops into anything nasty on long, fast descents though, with only the soft brakes acting as a mental parachute.

While it’s a great smooth, ‘go the distance’ choice for longer rides, the pliable smoothness of the Trek can work against it as workload goes up. Its buoyant, floated ride when you’re tapping out a tempo develops into a real bounce as you press the pedals harder.

This results in a definite rubber-chain effect if you’re fighting the hill. The compact chainset ratios mean you can spin rather than stomp most of the time though, and the light wheels hold speed towards summits well too.

Chassis: Smooth and comfy frameset, but weight limits upgrade potential

At 1,250g the frame isn't the lightest at this price, but the reasonably light tapered alloy steerer fork puts it back into the right ball park. The extended hourglass profile E2 head tube puts stiffness and accuracy into the steering.

The triangular top tube gets a flattened centre section to feed some comfort back in, and while the down tube is broad, it’s also relatively shallow to suck out some road sting. The seat tube is single diameter, which means a conventional front mech fits fine.

The bottom bracket is an external screw-in rather than oversize push-fit type. Mid-size multi-section rear stays meet at simple alloy dropouts, with a scalloped wishbone section morphing smoothly into the seat tube/top tube area.

The polished seat collar matches the similar-finish Shimano 105 gear and you get twin bottle cage mounts. A metal plate protects the chainstays if you drop the chain off the back, and there’s even a socket for Trek’s Duotrap computer speed and cadence sensor unit.

The unusual crossover brake cable routing under the top tube gives a clean look with a UK-style left-hand front brake. With no fewer than seven sizes they'll fit most riders, although you have to hop up to the Madone 4.7 (£1,900) to get Women's Specific Design versions.

Equipment: Bontrager kit shaves weight and Shimano transmission performs well

Like most bikes at this price, transmission is predominantly Shimano 105 with a similar-quality FC600 compact chainset. A 27-tooth big sprocket on the cassette means a proper crawler gear for climbs, with the option of a triple chainset.

Shimano Tiagra brake callipers feel soft, but the combined STI levers and shifters are 105, and fitting cartridge brake pads will make a big difference to feedback. Gear adjusters next to the levers make in-flight tweaking easy. The rest of the bike is a selection of Trek’s Bontrager house-brand kit.

Saddle and seatpost kept everyone happy, while the well-shaped handlebars sit on a big stack of carbon headset spacers for easy adjustment. The Bontrager kit – particularly the wheels – is light enough to offset the extra frameset mass and put the Trek back into contention on weight.

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