Trek’s long-running endurance road bike, the Domane, has an impressive history of wins, including both of the most famous cobbled Classics, Paris-Roubaix and the Tour of Flanders.
Over the years, the Domane has evolved from a soft-tail road bike to a front and rear IsoSpeed suspension-equipped bike with aerodynamic shaping, inspired by the Wisconsin-based brand’s aero road platform, the Madone.
The Domane chassis, along with its suspension, also has a class-leading tyre clearance of 38mm.
All of these elements combine to create a machine that should prove the Domane capable of meeting anyone’s endurance-bike needs, and much more beyond. It’s fully deserving of its place in the endurance category of our 2022 Bike of the Year Awards
The original Domane was based around a simple idea of separating the seatstays and top tube from the seat tube, to allow the seat tube to act like a long seatpost moving fore and aft and taking the sting out of rough roads.
This was achieved via Trek’s IsoSpeed decoupler; the design constrained the seat tube laterally, but it was joined via a ‘pin’ joint that rotated around a slick bush as the seat tube flexed.
The Domane has evolved with a front IsoSpeed system that works in a very similar way. The traditional headset is replaced with a rocker cup located at the top of the headset that locks in the steerer tube laterally and, like the rear, allows the steerer to flex fore and aft, smoothing out the road.
The Domane frame routes the brake hose under the bar and stem, and around to the rear of the head tube (not dissimilar to how Cervélo routes its S-Series bikes). It’s an obvious nod to aero, though Trek hasn’t gone as far as the full integration seen on Cervélo’s Caledonia.
I like that the frame boasts some great practical features, including proper mudguard mounts (Trek has dedicated Bontrager mudguards for the Domane) and top-tube mounts for bento-box style storage.
It even has a storage chamber hidden underneath the down tube bottle bosses that’s large enough to store a spare tube, CO2 cartridge and multi-tool, plus it comes with a custom-sized tool wrap to stop any rattles.
Trek Domane SL6 eTap specifications
The SL6 might ‘only’ be available constructed from Trek’s OCLV 500 series carbon, compared to the 700 series found on the much pricier SLR models, but despite weighing a few extra grams it’s still very much a premium carbon chassis with some clever tech built in.
The drivetrain comes courtesy of SRAM’s very impressive and affordable (considering it’s electronic) groupset, Rival eTap AXS. Its shifting is a match for SRAM’s more expensive wireless offerings, and it shares the same tunability and connectivity through the brilliant, and free, AXS app.
The 46/33, 10-36 gearing combination is pitched perfectly for a bike such as this. The 46/10 bottom gear has all the speed potential I want when descending or pushing hard on the flat.
At the other end, the 33/36 offers such a light, easy-to-spin gear that I found myself actively looking for steep climbs on my test rides just to see how achievable the Domane makes climbing.
Elsewhere, as you’d expect on a Trek bike, parts are all from Bontrager (Trek’s component partner brand).
The wheels are Bontrager’s Paradigm 25s. As the name suggests, these have a shallow depth rim that’s impressively wide at 25mm (internal), and they’re shod with Bontrager’s R3 tyres in a generous 32mm width.
With the Domane, Trek was one of the first brands to properly explore wide rims and tyres on an endurance bike. It’s certainly set a trend – just look at the specification of Cannondale’s Synapse and BMC’s Roadmachine for evidence.
The cockpit combines a simple alloy Bontrager stem (compatible with the range of Blender out-front accessory mounts) and IsoZone VR-SF handlebar.
The bar is designed to work with Bontrager’s gel pad and tape combo and is, quite frankly, brilliant.
Oversized top sections fit perfectly in the hand, while the compact drop is so well shaped that, even if you’re the most hood-hanging of riders, you’ll find yourself enjoying the aero advantage of staying down in the drops comfortably.
Out back, Trek has a unique approach to the seatpost on the Domane, because the IsoSpeed system relies on the seat tube being able to flex unhampered.
Rather than using a standard post, the Domane has a shortened mast that inserts into the extended seat tube. This locks into place through an internal expanding clamp, accessed through a slot in the seat tube.
It works well, but make sure the bike is set up for you in store, because the minimal adjustment through the mast means you need to make sure you get the correct-length mast. It’s topped with Bontrager’s rather traditional-shaped and very amply padded Verse saddle.
Trek Domane SL6 eTap geometry
My 56cm test bike has a 591mm stack, combined with a short 377mm reach. It makes for a fairly relaxed ride position compared to the Cannondale Synapse, and especially the Cervélo Caledonia.
I found myself altering the saddle position, sliding it back to the limit on its rails to extend the reach and allow myself to get a bit lower.
The 71.9-degree head angle is more relaxed than most endurance bikes, while the 73.3-degree seat angle is steeper. Trek has kept the wheelbase short, however, at just 1,008mm.
|Seat angle (degrees)||74.6||74.6||74.6||74.2||73.7||73.7||73||72.8||72.5|
|Head angle (degrees)||70.3||71||71.1||71.3||71.3||71.9||72||72.1||72.1|
|Seat tube (mm)||390||420||450||475||500||525||548||567||586|
|Top tube (mm)||501||509||519||530||542||554||567||579||593|
|Head tube (mm)||95||110||130||145||160||175||195||220||245|
|Fork offset (mm)||53||53||53||53||53||48||48||48||48|
|Bottom bracket drop (mm)||80||80||80||80||80||78||78||75||75|
|Stem lenght (mm)||60||70||80||90||90||100||100||110||110|
|Handlebar width (mm)||360||360||380||400||420||420||440||440||440|
|Saddle width (mm)||155||155||155||155||145||145||145||145||145|
Trek Domane SL6 eTap ride impressions
The Domane is one of the smoothest road-going bikes ever made, and certainly one of the best-rolling bikes I’ve tested. That’s quite the bold statement, I know, but the way in which the Domane simply glides over poor surfaces is truly a wonder.
The Domane’s origins as a cobble-busting racer set the standard for its compliance, but its evolution makes it very much an endurance bike of today.
Not many racers would opt for a 32mm-wide tyre, but I’m sold; the R3s roll beautifully.
Yes, they may carry a bit more weight than a 26 or 28mm race tyre, and they’re wrapped around some pretty middleweight wheels in the Paradigm 25s (1,775g a pair). That may make some of you turn your nose up but, on the road, I didn’t notice any excess weight.
The Domane is a mean companion on ascents. Despite weighing close to 9.5kg, it simply wafts over rough tarmac, and the light end of the Rival gear range makes for comfortable climbing.
It breezes uphill if you’re sitting on the saddle and holding the tops, with their comfortable oversized diameter and wonderfully plush cushioning tape.
If you want to get out of the saddle up in the hoods and punch it to the summit, you’ll find a bike that responds in kind.
Descending is almost as impressive – the slightly relaxed head angle, combined with the compliance in the chassis, makes for a bike that’s so very assured going downhill at speed.
I found myself carving into corners, looking for the best line and ignoring imperfections in the road surface, safe in the knowledge that whatever I threw at the Domane, it simply smothered the bumps, swallowed the ruts and kept on tracking straight.
The Domane’s brilliant handling on rough roads, along with its generous 38mm tyre clearance, opens up the world of light gravel. Just like Cannondale’s new Synapse and the wonderfully different BMC Roadmachine X, the Domane is off-road capable – and it pre-dates both of those designs.
As part of my test riding, I took the Domane on unmetalled military roads and wide byways, and it coped admirably, swallowing ruts and lumps with ease.
As with the Synapse and Roadmachine, I wouldn’t head for technical singletrack on it, but excursions on Welsh forest fireroads, the rail trails of the Peaks, gravel roads of north Yorkshire, my home military roads of Salisbury Plain and New Forest tracks are easily within the Domane’s capability.
Trek Domane SL6 eTap bottom line
The Domane SL6 set the standard for the new breed of versatile endurance bikes. It may have been born from the needs of a few elite athletes in a few elite races, but it’s a bike that could easily be one of the most versatile on sale today.
The groupset is excellent: easy to use, packed with features beyond stopping and shifting gears, and very reliable. Although you can find it on much cheaper bikes, all of the components do their job well, yet none are particularly show-stopping.
Comfort is impeccable, even though for me the squishy padded saddle is a bit of overkill (though not uncomfortable).
The Domane, with the complexity in its chassis design, carries a bit more weight than its rivals, but none of them can match its smoothness.
Endurance Bike of the Year 2022 | How we tested
The best endurance road bikes combine a comfortable ride position with heaps of versatility – including features such as mudguard or pannier rack mounts – and speed, to create a useful platform that will fare well no matter the ride.
Testing for our 2022 Endurance Bike of the Year category began with a high-tempo 2.5-hour ride to get an early impression of a bike’s ride quality and to carry out any adjustments.
For the meat of this year’s testing, each bike was taken on the same 82-mile/132km loop through rural Wiltshire.
After this, we rode the bikes back-to-back, coming to a decision on the best by comparing how well each handled across a variety of terrain and, in a competitive market, how its spec compares with the other bikes on test.
Our 2022 Endurance Bike of the Year contenders are:
- BMC Roadmachine X
- Bombtrack Audax
- Cannondale Synapse Carbon LTD RLE (category winner)
- Cervélo Caledonia Ultegra Di2
- Trek Domane SL 6 eTap
|Price||EUR €4699.00GBP £4300.00USD $5000.00|
|Features||Extras: Bontrager BITS internal frame storage bag|
|Available sizes||44, 47, 50, 52, 54, 56, 58, 60, 62cm|
|Bottom bracket||SRAM DUB, T47 threaded, internal bearing|
|Cassette||SRAM XG-1250, 10-36t, 12-speed|
|Cranks||SRAM Rival, 46/33|
|Fork||Domane SL carbon, tapered carbon steerer|
|Frame||500 Series OCLV Carbon|
|Front derailleur||SRAM Rival eTap AXS, braze-on|
|Handlebar||Bontrager Elite IsoZone VR-SF, alloy|
|Rear derailleur||SRAM Rival eTap AXS|
|Saddle||Bontrager P3 Verse Comp|
|Seatpost||Bontrager carbon internal seat mast cap, integrated light mount|
|Shifter||SRAM Rival eTap AXS, 12-speed|
|Stem||Bontrager Pro, 31.8 mm|
|Tyres||Bontrager R3 Hard-Case Lite, tubeless-ready, aramid bead, 120 TPI, 700x32c|
|Wheels||Bontrager Paradigm Comp 25, tubeless-ready, 25mm rim width|