Trek Pilot 5.2 WSD £2100

As the world's largest developed economy, it's no surprise that America is such a powerful force in the cycling industry too. Nor is it a surprise that every market - from niche to mainstream - is represented in depth and strength.

BikeRadar score 4/5

Trek's Pilot WSD is aimed at women, the great untapped (relatively) cycling market. Trek were amongst the first to realise that women want to buy performance bikes at a variety of price points (including the high-end) too, but bikes built specifically for women.

 

FRAME

The Trek's sheer pinkness certainly stands out from the crowd. While it may seem more at home on a sunny Californian day, we still thought it looked great. Under the pastel finish is a Tour tested OCLV 120 carbon frame that's superbly finished and particularly strong for its weight. A weight which is impressively low at 1197g, and when paired with the 500g OCVL Race X Lite fork, gives the Pilot the heart of a climber despite its oversized physique. But the compact geometry teamed with a higher front end really sets it apart from the race dedicated Madones. As it's a women-specific design (WSD), it has a slightly shorter top tube - by about 3mm - than the men's equivalent too, which helps accommodate the average women's torso length. Trek quote the bike as being mudguard friendly but as only the frame has eyelets they wouldn't be the easiest to fit up front. We also noticed that the paint at the crown of the fork could have been smoothed down a bit neater.

 

HANDLING

It's worth mentioning that the Trek took a knock in transit before testing, damaging the fork and causing the steering to feel slow initially. Fitted with a replacement, it was still slower than you might expect and certainly not as nippy as my old Trek 5200. This means it's more relaxed to ride, but takes an extra nudge to steer at low speeds.

What really stands out about the bike is its incredibly smooth ride

Even with the 80mm stem, handling is solid and assured. Descending is steady, though it does have a tendency to straight line

and needs a little extra lean to make high-speed corners. That said, it is quick and light up climbs thanks to the stiff frameset. But what really stands out about the bike is its incredibly smooth ride - it effortlessly soaks up bumps mile after mile. Teamed with a more upright position and shorter stem with a high rise, the Pilot is comfortable over long distances and is perfect for cyclosportives or audaxes.

 

EQUIPMENT

If you're coming from a standard men's bike, the first thing you'll notice with the Trek is the short-reach levers, which are really confidence inspiring and make shifting and braking so much easier. Also specced are female friendly crank lengths down to 165mm in the smallest size, or up to 172.5mm for the 57cm. This level of fine-tuning does inch up the costs for the manufacturer, but it is what really defines a women-specific bike. Another strong point for the Pilot is the smooth shifting Ultegra 10-speed groupset. The 52/39/30 triple and 12-25 block provide a sensible, knee-saving gear range that everyone, bar hardcore racers, will appreciate. The Bontrager Race Lite 80mm stem brings in the controls for shorter torsos, though the combination of a shortened top-tube and tiny stem may be OTT for some women but at least it's easy to swap stems. Likewise, the Select saddle is perfectly comfortable but, with hefty padding, may not appeal to all riders. Narrowing oversized bars can sometimes make them too stiff but the Bontrager bars fitted here are gel padded and comfy, albeit a tad fat in the fingers. Reach to the brakes is good in any position thanks to the low drop and the round bend of the bars. An easy to adjust Race X Lite carbon seatpost and Ultegra long pull brake callipers round out the impressive package.

 

WHEELS

Wheels are one way to judge a bike's character and the Bontrager Race Lites quietly insist on being both fast and smooth. They're a joy to climb on and are quick to accelerate, while the 700x25 rubber is consistent with the bike's comfy ride. Hoops strike a good balance between weight and performance - built up with 20 and 24 bladed stainless steel spokes, they're not as light as race-dedicated models nor as robust as 32 spoke handbuilt ones. Sealed cartridge bearing hubs add longevity though and over several 70-mile rides with a lightly loaded saddlebag, the wheels stayed perfectly true. We've come across them on a several bikes before and they've stood up well, even to winter commuting. The Race Lite AC tyres are nice and grippy in all but after-shower dampness, and proved resilient to punctures over the test period.

 

Summary

With its upright position, superb OCLV frame and brisk rolling Bontrager wheelset, the Pilot 5.2 WSD is perfect for long rides - such as an audax or cyclosportive. Full Ultegra kit is as expected at this price- the fact that the levers are tuned for women is what makes the real difference. Finished to an eye-catchingly high level with a plethora of female friendly parts, it's an impressive package. Just bear in mind that it's slower handling than you might expect. All said, the Pilot's simply a lovely bike to ride, and will have you itching to rack up the miles.

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