When Trek announced they had redesigned their Madone we were intrigued; when they said they had given it an aero makeover we were concerned. In gaining the ability to cheat the wind, bikes can lose the character that made them great in the first place, all for a few extra watts.
Highs: Swift and lithe – a brilliant ride
Lows: Powerful brakes take some adjustment in application
Buy if: You want a bike whose ride is as impressive as the technical know-how that went into creating it
Trek have been clever, though, using their KVF (Kammtail Virtual Foil) tube profile. This uses an aerofoil shape with a chopped-off tail that not only complies with UCI regulations but is also rigid and resists torsional twist. Crucially, ride quality is not compromised: it immediately feels very similar to the previous Madone chassis.
If anything, the oversized tapered steerer and head tube feel even more sorted. Tipping the 5.2 into high-speed corners on descents it feels planted, direct and sharply responsive, its deep down tube, massive BB90 bottom bracket shell and asymmetric seat tube allowing no unwanted flex from front to rear.
With the seatstays now slimmer and not connected at the seat joint, there’s a noticeable softness to the rear end over rough surfaces, resulting in a superbly smooth and connected ride.
The frame is made from Trek’s high-end 500 series OCLV carbon; considering the price we’d have expected some kit downgrades but the only deviation from Ultegra is a 105 cassette. Its 50/34 chainset and 11-28 cassette should be ample for most of us. In-house brand Bontrager provide the finishing kit, the highlight being the Race wheels – well-sealed, stiff, smooth-rolling and tubeless-ready.
Trek madone 5.2: Future Publishing
The compact bar and aluminium stem fit the bill, though not all of us liked the flattened section of bar near the hoods, which puts pressure on your hands on extended rides.
The dual-pivot brakes are mounted directly to the frame. They’re lighter, more aero and more powerful than standard, and feel equally powerful through the lever stroke – which means a little adjustment in how you apply your brakes.
We’ll admit to more than a little reticence trying out the new Madone. The old Madone was one of our favourite rides, but Trek’s designers have delivered a delight, improving what was already a classic. Chapeau, Trek!
This article was originally published in Cycling Plus magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.