With its bold, contrasting hues and white wall tyres, the Madone 5.2’s aesthetics are like a throwback to the 1950s, but the dynamics are most definitely 2014. The third-tier Madone shares the design and features of the top flight 7-Series but with lower-spec carbon and less expensive parts.
- Highs: Incredible frame rigidity, stability and comfort
- Lows: The top tube is quite wide for muscly legs, and the colour combination won’t appeal to everyone
- Buy if: You want cutting edge frame technology with upgrade potential
At first glance, the 5.2 doesn’t look like a typical aero bike, with its enormous, angular down tube, but closer inspection reveals the subtly curved leading edge that forms a Kamm Virtual Foil (KVF) – a truncated aerofoil – profile. The head tube, seatstays and fork are also KVF shapes, with the front brake integrated into the fork crown and rear brake placed beneath the chainstays, leaving two independent, bridgeless seatstays for clean, drag-reducing lines.
Trek offers its bikes in three different geometries: H1 with the lowest position, H2 featuring a slightly higher head tube and H3 for women. The Madone 5.2’s H2 fit offers a long but not too low position, and should be ideal for the majority of riders looking to race. On the road our first impression is of the sort of stability found on a relaxed-geometry tourer – it just feels planted.
And then we stood on the pedals. In line with several top race bikes, the Madone has the sort of rigidity usually reserved for buildings or oil tankers, its immense BB90 bottom bracket shell ably braced by that vast down tube and muscular asymmetric chainstays, which instantly translate the merest pressure into forward motion.
The Madone 5.2's handling is predictably superb; it also offers a surprisingly comfortable ride
Despite the frame’s rigidity, the ride is firm but never jarring, giving surprising levels of comfort. Handling is excellent, seemingly creating extra time through the corners to amend your line, resulting in no unwanted drama. We did find the front half of the top tube a bit too wide, as your quads can rub against its edges when riding hard on the nose of the saddle or standing up climbing.
Bontrager’s tubeless-ready Race wheelset features 23mm-high, 24mm-wide rims, which definitely play a part in the bike’s stability, cornering ability and overall grip and comfort. They’re not especially light, but are quite accelerative and efficient, and are willing to hold speed well over distance. The Ultegra drivetrain performs faultlessly and the Bontrager integrated brakes do a decent job, though they don’t have the instant bite of Shimano’s direct-mount offerings.
The Bontrager bar is stiff and quite ergonomic, and the Affinity 3 saddle well padded and offering superb comfort. The complete package could benefit from an upgrade diet, but it’s competent and quick straight out of the box.