Aero road bikes might slice through the air with relative ease but as a category, they’re not exactly known to be comfortable or light. The new Trek Madone 9 Series should go a long way toward dispelling that reputation with a super sleek and comparatively feathery chassis that’s not only fast but freakishly cushy on rough roads, too. We’ve only logged a few hundred miles on our long-termer so far but initial impressions are extremely favorable.
Highs: Cuts faster through the wind but without beating you up along the way, fantastic handling, still impressively light
Lows: At least interest rates on second mortgages are still low
Buy if: You want to get there in less time but still want to be able to ride the next day, too
The first two rides on this bike were on the ‘dairy roads’ surrounding Trek’s global headquarters in Waterloo, Wisconsin. It’s a seemingly endless expanse of sinuous tarmac that’s gloriously free of traffic but also relatively coarsely paved with plenty of frost heave and other imperfections that often seemed perfectly sized to swallow a road tyre – not exactly an ideal proving ground for a bike that’s anything less than smooth.
Trek says the new madone’s aero shape can save its rider 19 watts of effort over a non-aero bike at 40km/h: trek says the new madone’s aero shape can save its rider 19 watts of effort over a non-aero bike at 40km/h
Such deep-profile tubes wouldn’t normally suggest a smooth ride but the new Madone is remarkably comfy
But alas, the new Madone isn’t just comfortable “for an aero road bike” but comfortable, period – no caveats required. Despite appearances to the contrary, the deep-section carbon frame ably damps road buzz but it also rounds off bigger and harsher bumps in a way usually only expected of more traditionally shaped bikes.
It doesn’t take long before you how you’re seeing all of those bumps but not really feeling them through the rear end – and in fact, I even found myself consciously aiming for stuff I would normally avoid if only just for the novelty. Credit goes entirely to Trek’s awesome IsoSpeed ‘decoupler’ – a mechanical pivot at the seat tube-top tube intersection – and the Madone’s clever dual, nested seat tube design that, in combination, allows for much more flex at the saddle than you’d otherwise get out of a more traditional frame.
The isospeed ‘decoupler’ is neatly hidden beneath painted-to-match covers. it might seem gimmicky but it works really, really well: the isospeed ‘decoupler’ is neatly hidden beneath painted-to-match covers. it might seem gimmicky but it works really, really well
Trek’s excellent IsoSpeed ‘decoupler’ strikes again, and to great effect
Unlike on Trek’s similarly IsoSpeed-equipped Domane endurance platform, which incorporates an even cushier rear end but can sometimes feel somewhat harsh up front, the new Madone delivers up a more balanced and cohesive feel front to rear. It might not be as comfortable out back as a Domane but then again, as a full-blown race bike, it should be firmer and more communicative.
That all said, riders interested in an aero road bike aren’t going to be considering ride quality as their primary metric – we’re talking about free speed, after all, and this new Madone seems to have that in spades, too. We haven’t had a chance to verify Trek’s drag claims – specifically ones comparing it to its major competition – but repeated runs on my regular fast-and-flat test loops surrounding BikeRadar’s US offices in Boulder, Colorado have certainly returned consistently lower times relative to non-aero machines. As expected for this segment, the chassis is plenty stiff, too.
As expected, trek continues to refine its kammtail virtual foil tube shapes, which feature flat trailing edges that supposedly maintain the aerodynamic benefits of traditional airfoils but with increased stiffness: as expected, trek continues to refine its kammtail virtual foil tube shapes, which feature flat trailing edges that supposedly maintain the aerodynamic benefits of traditional airfoils but with increased stiffness
The front end is fantastically sleek
Helping matters further is the Madone’s impeccable handling. A slight variation from Madones of yesteryear – and identical to the current Emonda – this new Madone 9 Series is nevertheless equally adept at carving up sinuous mountain descents or gobbling up long stretches of straight road, feeling utterly composed and competent throughout.
Reigning it in
Boulder isn’t exactly known for being flat, however, and the countless canyon roads to the west also demand plenty of braking. Thankfully, the new Madone’s proprietary center-pull rim brakes are not only cleanly integrated into the frame and fork for aero purposes but they also work well – a good thing since there are no other options.