While the carbon fibre Trek Domane 4.3 got all the attention when the bike launched last spring, and made the Cycling Plus Bike of the Year top five, an aluminium frame incorporating the same IsoSpeed seat tube decoupler rolled out quietly.
Highs: Uncannily smooth ride, good value and competitive weight
Lows: Bar shape not to all tastes; a carbon version isn’t all that more expensive
Buy if: You’re planning to do big miles at a high pace on cruddy roads
We’ve been very impressed by the IsoSpeed setup, and it works just as well here as on the more expensive models. In some ways it’s more impressive – we’re used to the idea of stiff yet forgiving carbon frames, but IsoSpeed blows the popular perception of ‘harsh’ aluminium frames completely out of the water.
By allowing the seat tube to deflect within the frame, the Domane offers a spectacularly smooth ride, letting you stay in the saddle for longer on broken tarmac or cobbles. In this incarnation there are also 25mm tyres to take out even more vibration.
Visually, the 2.3’s frame isn’t as sleek as that of its carbon siblings. A rectangular top tube and healthily sized down tube deliver confident tracking, though the head tube takes a conventional untapered fork.
While the IsoSpeed fork, with its tapered blades and reverse-offset dropouts, takes out enough road vibration to give a good balance with the back end, a tapered steerer unit would add that extra dash of precision. But given that the Domane’s handling is intentionally on the relaxed side, ultimate steering stiffness isn’t perhaps a prime consideration.
The isospeed decoupler lets the seat tube deflect, for a comfortable ride: www.robertsmithphotography.co.uk
The IsoSpeed decoupler lets the seat tube deflect, for a comfortable ride
The angles are still racy, but laidback racy, ideal for big miles on unpredictable road surfaces – on rough roads a bike that’ll find its own way a little is a boon.
The frame and fork have some neat convenience features hidden away. The fork has a SpeedTrap pocket on the inside of the fork leg, for a wireless computer sensor, while the fork and frame both feature concealed mudguard mounts – easy to ignore if you don’t want them, but there if you do.
Apart from the Shimano 105 transmission and brakes, most of the parts are from Trek’s Bontrager stable. The bar is a slightly unusual shape, with more forward extension from the stem than the usual compact drops and a somewhat tighter curve.
A shorter stem means the reach to the hoods isn’t anything out of the ordinary, but we’re not big fans of the bar shape.
This article was originally published in Cycling Plus magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.