Lance Armstrong spent most of his pro career helping Trek develop their race bike into a world beater. Bikeradar.com’s technical editor, Jez Loftus, travels to the US to find that, in retirement, not much has changed…
The Madone has undergone many changes in its four-year history, but this is the first major redesign since Lance Armstrong rode the first one to victory in the 2003 Tour de France.
There’s no doubting the success of the old Madone. Famed for its stability, strength and reliability, it filled the role of race winner and all-round performance bike with ease. In fact, for a bike so hard to fault, the Madone has earned the reputation of being boringly good. With Armstrong now backstage, it’s time for Trek to take the limelight with the new Madone. We were given the chance to ride it in June at the product launch, and even go for a spin with the man who made the old bike such a renowned winner.
The absence of Armstrong’s winning ways has forced Trek to come out of their shell and pretty much go it alone.
The new Madone had to be something special and one that built on previous versions. Three years in development, Trek’s approach was to build a totally new platform. Gone is the forward sloping top-tube that had fans and detractors in equal numbers. The top-tube now slopes the usual way and brings the design in line with other compact frames. OCLV (optimum compaction low void) stays, as does the bonded, lugged construction, with fewer joints, meaning less weight.
Naming the range has been simplified, from the old OCLV 55, 110, 120 GSM (grams per square metre) grading to a simpler OCLV Red, OCLV Black, OCLV White, Red being the most expensive, high modulus carbon, through to OCLV White, which uses standard-modulus carbon. All red and white frames are made in the USA.
Wider bottom bracket
The new Madone is centred around the core of the frame’s seat cluster, seat-tube and bottom bracket shell, and has been designed to bolster front-end stiffness. Trek have done this by getting rid of the standard BB shell and have gone for an integrated bottom bracket design; 90mm wide, it does away with external bearing cups – instead, integrated bearings sit directly against the carbon shell.
Crank compatibility isn’t an issue as all crank configurations are catered for, Q-factor (distance between pedals) is also unaffected. It’s a simple and neat solution and gives designers more freedom to experiment with oversized tube profiles. It’s a bigger, stiffer and lighter bottom bracket assembly.
One of the most noticeable changes from the old Madone is the increase in front-end stiffness. The contoured down-tube flows from the wide BB shell and curves into an oversized head-tube.
Like the bottom bracket shell, the design integrates bearings directly against and into the carbon frame. The Precision Fit Sockets (Trek’s technical term) are moulded in at the same time as the tubes, which eliminates the need for secondary machining or the bonding of alloy inserts into the frame like the old Madone.
The oversized head-tube uses a 1.5-inch lower bearing (the same size as downhill mountain bikes) and a more standard 1-1/8-inch bearing for the upper assembly.
Gone is the seatpost in favour of a mast. The added advantage of the Madone’s mast over other similar bikes (Look, Time, Ridley) is that this one doesn’t need cutting to size. Instead, a cap with seat clamp sits atop the mast and can be adjusted for height. Available in two sizes, 120mm and 160mm, the system has the same height range as the old Madone with its 250mm seatpost.
The seatmast design on high-end carbon frames could well be the standard in the near future. Not only does it allow designers to shed a bit of weight but it also does away with the need for a traditional round seat-tube. This permits more complex tube profiles. The Madone’s seatmast has a slight curve to it and the design of the clamp moves the mast away from stress areas and also imparts a degree of flex for added comfort.
Ride and feel
We were able to put 150 miles into the new 5.2 Madone at the US launch. We would have liked more, there was some good riding to be had, but it was enough to get a feel for the new bike and how it compared to the Madone of old. It’s hard to break the Madone from its stable line, and it holds on to the road incredibly well.
And what a different machine it is. Geometry remains the same, Trek weren’t bold enough to mess with the measurements of the original, and we’re glad they didn’t, because the stable character of the old bike is what made it so popular. The biggest difference comes from the overall increase in stiffness, especially at the front. It’s also lighter; integrating the bottom bracket, headset, fork and seatmast and using 40 per cent fewer joints helps shed valuable grams (Trek claim it’s 250g lighter).
That increased stiffness does not rob the frame of any comfort. The bike felt incredibly comfortable and sure-footed. Even after six hours in the saddle the only ache was coming from weary legs. It’s hard to break the Madone from its stable line, and it holds on to the road incredibly well. In the presentation, Armstrong even likened it to the feel you get from riding a motorbike.
Thankfully, that solid feel doesn’t rob the bike of any life. Shift into race mode and the all-round stability and unshakable front encourages an aggressive style and dares you to challenge the bike’s underlying stability. Simply put, the new Madone is lighter, stiffer and faster.
Race and Performance
The new Madone will be available in two frame types. The geometry stays the same but the fits change. The Race fit has a lower head-tube, whereas the Performance fit gains 30mm in height to bring you more upright. If you’re more of an all-round, high mileage sort of rider we would recommend going for the Performance fit over the Race. Women-specific WSD models also feature a shorter top-tube.
From our experience so far, Trek have brought the Madone into a new era. The dullness of the original model has been banished and the only criticism of the bike is that it looks a bit like a Specialized or Orbea.
Delve into the frame though, and this is a completely new ride and one that looks set to be a prominent stage winner for the future. We gave the original Madone an overall 9 – for now, that mark stays firmly put. We’ll be giving the bike a thorough testing in future issue of Cycling Plus and long terming it on BikeRadar.
Specification – Trek Madone 5.2
Replacement value £2,250
Frame and forks
Size tested: 54cm
Sizes available: 50, 52, 54, 56, 58, 60, 62cm
Weight as tested: 7.3kg/16.1lb no pedals
Frame: Trek 120 OCLV Carbon
Frame weight: 1,070g/2.4lb
Fork: Bontrager RaceLite Carbon
Fork weight: 427g/0.9lb
Head-tube angle: 73
Seat-tube angle: 75
Fork offset: 4.5cm/1.8in
B/b height: 26.4cm/10.4in
Standover height: 72cm/28.3in
Braze-ons: 2 water bottle
Head tube: Perfect
Rear triangle: Perfect
Chainset: Shimano Ultegra SL 50/34T 172.5mm (also available in Ultegra triple)
Bottom bracket: Integrated
Freewheel: Shimano Ultegra SL
Chain brand: Ultegra w/ KMC quick link
Derailleurs: Shimano Ultegra SL
Gear levers: Shimano Ultegra SL STI
Gear ratio (in)
Front & Rear: Bontrager Race Lite
Tyres: Bontrager Race X Lite, 700x23c
Wheel weight: f: 1,040g; r: 1,460g
Handlebar stem: Bontrager Race X Lite, 31.8mm Handlebars: Bontrager Race Lite VR, 42cm Headset: Cane Creek IS-2 integrated with 1.5in lower bearing
Saddle: Bontrager Race Lite Seatpost: Carbon seatmast cap Brakeset: Shimano Ultegra SL