Trek’s director of road bikes explains the tech behind the new Madone

Trek’s Jordan Roessingh discusses the development of the Madone with BikeRadar

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It’s been said many times that performance aero race bikes now all look the same – deep tube sections, dropped seatstays and one-piece integrated cockpits typify the modern aero road bike.

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That changed with the launch of the new seventh-generation Trek Madone though; its radical seat tube design, with the saddle cantilevered over the rear of the bike and its cut-out at the top of the seat tube, helps to set it apart from other options on the market.

“It needs to be a bike you can just look at and say ‘wow’ and that’s differentiated from everybody else. Our industrial design language helps the bike’s performance as well,” says Jordan Roessingh, director of road bikes at Trek.

The new Madone has spent plenty of time in the wind tunnel and out on the road.
Trek

Trek says the new Madone is also very efficient, losing 300 grams of weight from the previous model and gaining 20 watts of aerodynamic advantage. This adds up to a saving of around a minute for every hour of riding over a range of speeds, according to the brand.

We talked to Roessingh about the development of the new Madone and its benefits.

Reduced weight

Development of the latest seventh-generation Madone started almost three years ago, as soon as the previous generation was launched.

“We already knew a lot of areas of improvement that we could apply to the next version,” says Roessingh.

Trek’s main focus was on reducing the weight of the new Madone.

“Any time we’re talking about a race bike, speed, aerodynamics and weight become the primary factors that we focus on. The previous version of the Madone was a really fast bike, it was a great-riding bike, it was not a light bike,” Roessingh continues.

“So when we talked to our internal riders and our professional teams, their first comment on how to improve on the previous version was through weight. We wanted to maintain the ride quality and maintain or improve aerodynamics, but we wanted to dramatically reduce weight.”

A shift away from IsoSpeed

Trek’s solution to add compliance to previous generations of the Madone was IsoSpeed.

This system decouples the seat tube from the top tube/seatstay junction. However, an early design decision with the new Madone was to move away from this.

“[IsoSpeed] provides a lot of compliance, but it’s not the lightest way to provide this. Feedback from riders was that oftentimes they weren’t using the adjustability and even the everyday racer didn’t need the amount of compliance that IsoSpeed provided,” says Roessingh.

The move towards larger tyres has somewhat negated the need for IsoSpeed.
Ashley Quinlan / Our Media

The trend to wider tyres has also meant frame compliance isn’t as important a part of the comfort equation as it used to be.

“The tyre is doing a lot more of the work than it was 10 years ago when you were on a 23mm tyre at 120psi,” says Roessingh. “Now, you might be on a 25mm or 28mm at 75 or 80psi; there’s a dramatic difference in how that tyre performs and how much it absorbs.

“We incorporated that into our product development; we can get away without IsoSpeed as we’re using bigger, lower-pressure tyres than we were.”

A lighter, more aerodynamic solution

The primary focus for Trek’s design team was on the seat cluster, where the top tube, seatstays and seat tube merge.

“It really affects all the different aspects of bike performance; there’s a significant effect on aerodynamics where the seatstays merge into the rest of the frame,” Roessingh continues.

“It has a significant impact on the compliance of the bike too. How vibrations and impacts translate through that area is super-critical to the ride quality of the bike.

“It’s also a really important junction structurally and how efficiently you can make all the tubes connect affects how light and how stiff you can make the bike, so our focus became on that area and we needed novel solutions for how to manage all three of those parameters: ride quality, weight and aerodynamics.”

Trek experimented with a range of different solutions to improve aerodynamics at the seat cluster, using computer modelling to simulate the airflow.

Computer fluid dynamics (CFD) modelling is an aspect of bike design that’s developed considerably in the last 10 years.

Trek has its own in-house supercomputer to run simulations. These simulations now incorporate a rider and are dynamic rather than static, as its CFD system used to be.

Including a rider in models is important. This is because the turbulence a rider generates, and the interaction between the bike and the rider, are important components of the overall system aerodynamics.

IsoFlow replaces IsoSpeed on the new Madone.
Trek

The result of Trek’s modelling was IsoFlow.

With IsoFlow, the seatstays meet the top tube and support the seatpost, which is cantilevered over the rear of the bike. The seat tube then splits lower down and the two halves join the seatstays to leave a space below the rider.

“[IsoFlow] has aero and compliance benefits because it channels air into a low-pressure area behind the rider. It’s also super-efficient from a structural perspective because of the wide stance of the seatstays, and because they’re higher on the frame they add torsional rigidity. It’s also a really efficient design,” Roessingh tells us.

CFD modelling and wind tunnel testing also resulted in new tube profiles, which improve aerodynamic performance, according to Trek.

The Madone SLR gets Trek’s top-spec 800 Series OCLV carbon, and that carries over for whichever Madone SLR you buy.
Ashley Quinlan / Our Media

A higher shelf at the bottom bracket reduces the space between the frame and the bottle cages, which reduces turbulent airflow.

Together, these new design elements account for around half the aerodynamic gains and weight savings, taking almost 10 watts of drag out of the system.

The new design also reduces the frame weight by around 150g compared to the previous-generation Madone.

Greater usability for a wider range of riders

Trek has looked to make the seventh-generation Madone usable for a wider range of riders, not just the pros.

“It needs to be not just super-fast, but a bike that you can ride. We think of it as an everyday, all-day bike,” says Roessingh. “Our pros wanted a really fast bike that was still comfortable and way lighter. Those are the things that the everyday racer who’s racing on the weekends or doing group rides wants too.”

Trek’s H1.5 geometry is a good halfway house for most riders.
Ashley Quinlan / Our Media

That means Trek has stuck with its H1.5 geometry for the Madone.

H1.5 sits halfway between its H1 geometry, which was developed for the pros and applied to its previous generations of pro-level bikes, and its H2 geometry, which it uses for mainstream riders.

“H1.5 geometry balances accessibility for the vast majority of riders and accommodation to our professional fits. The pros have adapted to more modern, traditional fits rather than the extreme fits of 10 years ago,” explains Roessingh.

More fit options

The second half of the new Madone’s weight saving and aerodynamic gains comes from the new integrated cockpit, which adopts the aero profiles used in the bike’s frame.

This new cockpit saves around 10 watts of drag and drops another 150 grams from the Madone’s weight, according to Trek.

Trek offers the cockpit in a wide range of reach and width combinations, and you can add up to 4cm of spacers under the bars to adjust your position. This makes the H1.5 geometry adaptable for the needs of many riders.

Narrower handlebars offer significant aero benefits.
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Trek noted the trend towards narrower bars across the bike industry and the new bars feature a 3cm flare from the hoods to the drops. This means a bar that’s 42cm wide in the drops will measure 39cm across the hoods.

“We validated this within our own testing and the benefits are dramatic. Going from a 42cm bar in the hoods to a 39cm offers a 10-watt benefit,” says Roessingh. “In the context of performance road bikes, that’s a huge amount of aerodynamic benefit.”

Having validated this figure using its modelling and testing, Trek says it brought the design to its pro riders.

“As soon as we provided the pros with the design to try, they felt that they were getting the benefit we’d found.”

But riders of the new Madone aren’t tied to the flared bars.

“The bike is also compatible with a traditional bar and stem, so you can choose something outside the integrated solution,” says Roessingh.

“So if your fit is outside what we provide, or you just want different ergonomics or a different drop shape, you can still apply that to the bike and you get most of the performance gains still.”

“The 3cm flare from the drop width to the hood width is really beneficial for performance, but it was important to allow riders who don’t want that degree of flare to get all the benefits of the awesome ride of the Madone,” he states.

The new Madone is available with two seatpost options.
Ashley Quinlan / Our Media

There’s increased adjustability in the seatpost too, with Trek offering two lengths, as well as two setback options: zero and 20mm offset.

Trek has made more weight savings here and a flippable clamp adds even more height adjustment.

“Making sure that the widest variety of riders can be accommodated on the bike is super-important,” says Roessingh.

Proven in the big races

Although launched just ahead of the Tour de France and used in only a few races prior to that, the new Madone already has an impressive list of wins.

That started with a victory from the breakaway on Stage 13 of the Tour de France by Mads Pedersen and was followed by another three stage wins and his domination of the points classification at the Vuelta a España.

Pros have always tended to be very conservative about changes. Witness the reaction to disc brakes and the reluctance to switch from tubular to tubeless clincher tyres.

However, Roessingh sees that changing with the younger generation of riders. Trek’s pros have been quick to see the benefits of the new Madone’s radical design solutions.

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“If you can show a distinct performance benefit, a lot of the riders are really interested in trying those ideas out and getting all of those incredible benefits so that they can win more races,” he concludes.