Trek Domane 4.3 review

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£1800

Trek Domane 4.3

BikeRadar verdict

4.5 out of 5 stars

"Astonishingly smooth but still a top performer"

Saturday, March 23, 2013 8.00am By

We were blown away by the premium 6-Series Domane, which introduced us to the pavé-pancaking IsoSpeed fork at the front and decoupler technology at the rear. You get these on the 4.3 as well, and the bike finished in the top five of our 40 Cycling Plus Bike of the Year contenders:

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Tech ed Warren Rossiter talks through the Domane 4.3

Ride & handling: Comfort without compromise

Any worries that a lower grade of carbon or spec would dilute the effectiveness and performance of the 4.3 are unfounded – it’s 1.8kg (4lb) heavier but also £5,200/US$4,430 less than the 6.9, and for £1,800/US$2,499 you get a simply astonishing frame and an addictive ride quality.

First ride impressions are fairly conventional, until you realise that the usual road chatter and vibration is muted to the point of being barely noticeable, although the road feel, so crucial to precise handling, is unaffected. 

Arguably, the road feel was accentuated because the Domane seems to be in contact with the surface more of the time. Turning into corners on roughly patched tarmac was refreshingly undramatic, the wheels seeming to tuck in and bite instead of skipping across the surface. 

With such impressive stability and poise, exploring the Domane’s limits becomes de rigueur on almost every ride. Go looking for rough stuff expecting to lose fillings and instead you’re cosseted by a sublimely floaty feeling.

Of course, on the most extreme roads there’s still an element of vertical movement, but sudden kicks and general vibration are removed. Not beating about the bush – the Domane’s ride is little short of astonishing.

Frame & equipment: IsoSpeed tech with functional kit

The IsoSpeed system doesn’t have a threshold below which it feels inert. There is no intrusive movement that could affect your pedalling action, as the active component of the Domane is the whole seat tube, not just the seatpost. 

The decoupler is basically a rotational pivot attaching a lug on the front of the seat tube to the top tube, allowing the tube to bow and flex along its length in isolation from the frame, with no more effect on seating position than a slim carbon seatpost. The increased active length results in several times more shock absorption without the need for excessive movement in a restricted space. 

Complementing the rear end is the IsoSpeed fork. This has a 1 1/8in to 1 1/2in tapered steerer tube for huge rigidity, and a constant radius curve that continues slightly ahead of the dropout to maximise its bump-smoothing ability. 

Despite sounding like a full suspension bike, the Domane sports an oversized down tube and muscular asymmetric chainstays, which envelop a simply massive BB90 bottom bracket shell, and combined with the fork’s lateral stiffness make it as responsive as any fast road bike out there. 

As ever, at this price there are some parts we’d quickly upgrade, and with so much technology in the Domane’s frame the wheels are the obvious place to start. The Bontrager Approved hoops roll well and resisted the worst we could fling them at with no problems, but they aren’t on the same level as the frame and are a little sluggish. 

Shimano’s 105 was faultless as ever, though Trek still include an integrated chain catcher to prevent it dropping between chainset and bottom bracket. The exclusively Bontrager finishing kit is all competent stuff, but could benefit from judicious upgrading when budget allows. 

That said, we’d gladly choose to take the Domane out more often than more exotic machinery because the frame offers so much comfort with no performance penalty. A stunningly simple but superbly accomplished design. 

This bike was tested as part of Cycling Plus magazine’s 2013 Bike of the Year feature – read the full results in issue 273, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.

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Specification

Name:
Domane 4.3 (13)
Brand:
Trek
Price:
£1800

Available Colours:
Black 'n' Grey
Available Sizes:
50 52 54 56 58 60 62
Bottom Bracket:
BB90
Brakes:
Shimano 105
Cassette:
Shimano Tiagra 12-30, 10 speed
Cranks:
Shimano R565, 50/34 (compact)
Fork:
Trek IsoSpeed carbon, E2
Frame Material:
400 Series OCLV Carbon, E2, BB90, DuoTrap compatible, IsoSpeed
Front Derailleur:
Shimano 105, braze-on
Front Hub:
Aluminium
Front Tyre:
Bontrager
Grips/Tape:
Bontrager Gel Cork tape
Handlebar:
Bontrager Race Blade VR-C, 31.8mm
Headset Type:
Integrated, cartridge bearings, sealed, aluminium, 1 1/8in top, 1 1/2in bottom
Rear Derailleur:
Shimano 105
Rear Hub:
Aluminium
Rear Tyre:
Bontrager
Saddle:
Bontrager Affinity 1
Seatpost:
Bontrager Carbon, 20mm offset
Shifters:
Shimano 105 STI, 10 speed
Stem:
Bontrager Race Lite, 31.8mm, 7 degree
Weight (kg):
8.79
Weight (lb):
19.38
Brake Levers:
Shimano 105 STI

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