Trek Madone 3.5 review

Lives up to the Lance legacy

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0
GBP £1,800.00 RRP | USD $2,799.00

Our review

Wonderful ride, great value and it even has mudguard mounts!
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The Trek Madone 3.5 surprised and impressed us in equal measure. The frameset is quite brilliant and the fact that it’s completed with such good quality components makes the 3.5 a highly tempting proposition.

  • Highs: Incredibly smooth ride, impressive spec, and handling that’s the ideal blend of stability and sharpness
  • Lows: We’ve found the 3.5 difficult to fault; from its frame to its spec it’s all great performing and great value stuff
  • Buy if: You want a bike that’s a truly capable all-rounder, whatever the weather

Over the years we’ve been a little underwhelmed by the lower model Madones. It’s not that they’ve ever been bad bikes, more that, if you’ve ridden a sublime 6-series OCLV frame, the ‘lower orders’ have tended to feel a little bit neutral, never getting your pulse racing in the same way as the flagship unfailingly does.

That makes us all the more happy to report that the 3.5 is, quite simply, brilliant. The new OCLV carbon fibre frame has a beautifully smooth quality, evening out the ripples of poor roads with magic-carpet-like ease. At £1,800, the complete bike price is what we’d have expected to pay for a frameset of this quality just a few short years ago.

Trek haven’t skimped on the spec either, with a complete Shimano Ultegra drivetrain save for a 105 front mech and 105 brakes. The rest of the finishing kit comes from Trek’s in-house component line Bontrager, including a semi-compact drop bar that’s ideally shaped for plenty of in-the-drops efforts, and a superb Bontrager wheel and tyre combo: smooth and tough rolling, with gummy, grippy rubber.

The 3.5’s smoothness isn’t just about how it deals with rough surfaces, though. When the road starts to drop and you’re into a descent full of corners, the 3.5 is exactly where you want it to be. It might lack the knife-edge sharpness of the best bikes in this class, but it’s not far off, and we actually felt more confident aboard the 3.5; get it leaned over into a high speed corner and it tracks through exactly where you point it.

When the road starts to rise the Trek’s supple comfort comes to the fore. Extended in-the-saddle grinds are much more bearable when a bike cossets you the way the Madone does. That said, if you want to change the tempo and stand to attack a summit then the 3.5 rises to the challenge, feeling smooth and tight, the faultless Ultegra drivetrain handling pressure shifts under load well.

Lastly, we wouldn’t expect to see mudguard mounts on a bike of this type, but for riders in the UK, where wet seems to be our default weather, they’re likely to be much appreciated. We’re impressed. The 3.5 has an exceptional frameset and real quality component choices, and it’s fair to say Trek now have a mid-price Madone that’s more than worthy of the name.

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This bike was tested as part of Cycling Plus magazine’s 2012 Bike Of The Year feature – read the full results in issue 260, on sale Friday 2 March.

Product Specifications


Name Madone 3.5 (12)
Brand Trek

Description Chainset: Shimano Ultegra compact, 50/34 alloy rings, 175mm arms. Freewheel: Shimano 105 10-speed, 11-28. Wheels: Bontrager SSR alloy, alloy loose ball and cone hubs, 24 spokes, radial front, 2-cross rear. Tyres: Bontrager R1 Plus 700x23.
Rear Wheel Weight 1830
Top Tube (cm) 57.5
Standover Height (cm) 80
Seat Tube (cm) 49
Chainstays (cm) 41
Bottom Bracket Height (cm) 27
Weight (lb) 18.9
Weight (kg) 8.59
Trail 5.9
Stem Bontrager RL forged alloy, 10cm, 11/8in x OS
Shifters Shimano Ultegra 10spd
Seatpost Bontrager Race Lite alloy, single bolt clamp, 27.2x330mm
Seat Angle 73
Saddle Bontrager Affinity 2, chromoly rails
Rear Derailleur Shimano Ultegra short cage
Available Sizes 50 52 54 56 58 60 62cm 50 52 54 56 58 60 62cm 50 52 54 56 56 50 52 54 56 58 60 50 52 54 56 58 60 50 52 54 56 58 60 62cm 50 52 54 56 50 52 54 50 56 58 50 56 58 54 56 58 54 56 58 56 52 54 56 58 60 52 54 56 58 60 52 54 56 58 60 62cm 52 54 56 58 60 56 58 60 56 58 60 62cm 54 56 58 54 56 54 56 58 54 56 56
Headset Type Integrated aheadset, 11/8x1½in, sealed cart
Head Angle 74
Handlebar Bontrager Race VR-C, OS, shallow anatomic, 44cm
Front Wheel Weight 1326
Front Derailleur Shimano Ultegra 105 34.9mm clamp-on front
Frame Weight 1350
Frame Material Full carbon OCLV, alloy dropouts, replaceable hanger
Fork Weight 525
Fork Offset 4
Fork Carbon blades, alloy crown, dropouts, 11/8x1½in steerer
Chain Shimano 105 10-speed
Brakes Shimano 105 dual pivot
Bottom Bracket Shimano Ultegra, external sealed cartridges
Wheelbase (cm) 99