Every occasion we get to ride Trek’s Domane we're astonished anew by its capabilities. From the outset it’s like climbing aboard a suspension bike – or at least a cyclocross machine with large, low-pressure tyres. But that description doesn't do justice to the urgency that’s matched to its unerring comfort – on the tarmac it just conquers any and every surface texture, from billiard table-smooth to broken and potholed.
It should have no right to be this good, but ride one and you’ll see why Cancellara prefers the Domane as his year-round race bike, not just for the cobbled Classics. The key is the Isospeed Decoupler, which allows the essentially floating seat tube to pivot and flex freely at the top-tube/seatstay junction, and the similarly effective Isospeed fork.
For dyed-in-the-wool roadies brought up to believe that stiff and rigid means more speed, and cushioning is for wimps, the result is mind-altering. Not only is the majority of unwanted road vibration killed off well before it reaches you, but power transfer and handling finesse are completely unaffected. You get a blisteringly rapid race bike with more comfort, more grip and more confidence. It’s the true definition of endurance – a bike that looks after your muscles and contact points, so you remain fresher for longer, and can therefore ride further, faster.
It really is a win-win situation. On short climbs, the Domane can punch with the best, and there’s no compromise on sustained gradients, but on the exposed, corrugated and heavily potholed gravel roads that comprise the high point of our test route, where winter had replaced dust with slimy mud – conditions only a ’cross bike should love – the Domane was never less than planted.
The ride quality with slick 25mm tyres inflated to 90psi felt more like 32mm tyres at 40psi. Control was never in question, slippy off-camber line changes and pothole weaving were simple, and rejoining rain-lashed tarmac we felt a level of trust in the Domane’s performance that enabled us to commit to technical corners with confidence.
The Domane's ride quality is awesome even on rugged surfaces – but there's no lack of killer instinct
Our frame may have lesser carbon than the one Fabian rides, but mechanical Dura-Ace is the big man’s choice for foolproof operation on the cobbles, and it would be our preference. Silky smooth, devastatingly efficient and ergonomic, it has pro written all over it. The Bontrager RL wheelset is a cost saver, but acquits itself very well, proving the value of matching wheels to a frame. They’re 24mm wide, shallow and asymmetric, with 25mm rubber that measures 26mm, adding extra stability to an already composed ride. With the asymmetric frame, the wheels give willing, if not electric, acceleration, but always feel positive and exceptionally nimble whether driving into a headwind or stomping up a local berg.
The clever Ride Tuned seatpost slides externally over the frame’s extended seat-tube. It’s simple to adjust, adds rigidity and seals the frame against water and filth ingress – just as well, given the conditions we tested in. Bontrager’s Paradigm saddle is a fine shape and extremely comfortable, and there are even Trek’s hidden mudguard mounts for those days you’re not racing to Roubaix.
There are no concessions to aerodynamics, just a superlative race bike that thinks it’s a fat bike. It climbs with the best, descends better than most, and will go places no other road bike should. It’s as much of an all-rounder as the man who took his third Flanders crown last spring.