With Lance Armstrong as one of their main wind tunnel guniea pigs for the last decade, Trek have invested a whole lot of expertise in their drag-beating Equinox triathlon/time trial range. But is producing a more affordable version of the carbon flagship model really just a case of making the same shape in alloy?
Ride & handling: Stiff frame converts effort into speed, but it's hard work on steep climbs
There’s no getting away from the Trek's high weight (9.76kg/21.5lb without pedals) once you climb aboard. Even on the flat, the Equinox needs more time and effort to get up to a gallop than other bikes at the same pricepoint. It runs out of steam fastest when the road turns upwards too.
The one caveat is that the frame is large for a 56cm and we’d have been happy with a size smaller than usual, which would have saved a few extra grams of frame material. Choosing a smaller frame size would also reduce the cockpit-raising effect of the massive head tube and enable a more efficient aerodynamic position.
While we’re talking about size, the cockpit is gagging for some serious pruning unless you’re a giant or a gibbon. The wide base-bar has super-long extensions and the shifters at the far end of the Race Lite clip-ons are in a completely different postcode to the rest of the bike. Again, this adds weight, although the broad bars mean plenty of leverage for controlling the snatch-prone frame and forks through blustery moments.
While there are definitely obstacles to overcome with the Equinox, it does some things extremely well. For a start, the frame channels every muscle twitch into the back wheel. Despite the oversized main tubes, it’s not as jarring as we expected either. You’ll be very aware of any Tarmac that’s less than perfect, but the bump and buzz of our back road circuits were generally bearable.
Where the Equinox really shines though is on long, straight sections, especially when the gradient, tailwind or your own grunt get you beyond about 25mph. Suddenly, the extra weight transforms from hindrance into momentum, smoothing your pedalling and putting a flywheel effect into your rhythm.
At the same time, the fork and frame lock down into an ultra-stable, super-aero anvil for hammering the pedals round and pushing your aerobic limit. If you’re a big, powerful rider and you're likely to race on flat courses, then the Trek is ideal for you.
Chassis: Superb aerodynamics borrowed from Trek's high-end models
This alloy Equinox is a genuine carbon copy of Trek’s high-end bikes in terms of its frame layout. And, unlike most rival models at this pricepoint, it comes loaded with the latest aerodynamic design features.
A massively elongated teardrop head tube flows into an equally huge hydroformed top tube and ovalised down tube, while up front a deep-bladed carbon fork creates a super-aerodynamic leading edge.
The extended seat tube is a deep teardrop fin with a wheel-hugging cutout at the bottom, and a long aero seatpost is clamped in place at the top with a cunning Allen-bolted wedge.
The gear cables snake into the frame behind the stem and travel through the down tube while the rear brake cable is routed internally too. The seatstays are flattened blades while tapering round-section chainstays sit close to the rear wheel before kicking out to the bulbous dropout junctions.
Equipment: Mid-range parts are a compromise on a £1,500 bike
The 7.0 is a full £600 cheaper than the identically specced Equinox 9.0 carbon bike. But those components are from Shimano's mid-priced 105 range so you’re still paying a premium for the frame. Functionally, it’s good stuff and the Lycra-nosed Bontrager tri saddle and neat and comfy-to-use brake levers are highlights.
While the paired-spoke wheels and colour co-ordinated Race Lite tyres look good, they’re heavy at 1,291g (front, including tyre) and 1,804g (rear,including tyre and cassette)
It’s a small point but the Equinox comes in a useful security strapped and padded cardboard box which you can use for flying, so make sure you get that from your dealer with the bike.