The Trek Madone SLR 9 Disc is one of our Bike of the Year bikes for 2019 and has been crowned best superbike. To read reviews of the other contenders and the categories tested across road, mountain and women’s bikes, visit our Bike of the Year hub page.
I adored the previous generation Madone. It combined astounding speed, wonderful road manners and comfort, making it one of the best aero bikes to date.
It wasn’t without issues. The rim brakes were difficult to set up and adjust, and I got the chills when it came to maintenance and repairs due to the complexity of integration.
The geometry is race-bike stuff with an effective top tube of 57.4cmDavid Caudery / Immediate Media
The new Madone SLR 9 looks similar to its forerunner, with the same gentle arch of the top tube, deep aero sections and aggressive stance. It’s one of the best looking of the current crop of aero bikes, shunning dropped stays and cutouts on the seat tube and down tube in favour of a more traditional appearance.
As soon as you start pedalling the SLR it becomes apparent that this is something special, the pick-up is instantaneous and the acceleration is everything you’d expect from a superbike.
Trek Madone SLR 9 Disc wheel choice
The equipment it’s packing is superb with the Aeolus XXX 6 wheels a star of the show. At 60mm deep and 28mm wide, they’re not the sort of wheel I’d expect to use day in day out, but they’re light for their depth and the slick DT Swiss internals mean they run smooth.
When you get wheels as good as these it’s apparent that own-brand (or owned brand) components, are every bit the equal of their aftermarket rivals
It’s how well they handle in adverse conditions that really impresses. A 60mm rim is outstandingly fast in optimum conditions, but as soon as crosswinds pick up they can become a handful to control.
That’s not so with the XXXs. In some fairly stiff crosswinds, I could feel a little pressure on the front wheel, but nothing I couldn’t easily counter with a small weight shift or a little more grip on the bars.
Get the XXXs spinning and their tenacity to hold speed puts them among the very best we’ve tested.
When you get wheels as good as these — or the Rovals on the Venge, or, at a lower price, the SLR 1s on Giant’s Defy — it’s apparent, more than ever, that own-brand (or owned brand) components, are every bit the equal of their aftermarket rivals.
Shimano’s latest Dura-Ace Di2 is brilliantDavid Caudery / Immediate Media
These are some seriously impressive clinchers, and for all the positives of tubeless tyres (which the XXXs are compatible with) we’ve yet to find one that can match the supple ride of quality, cotton-cased clinchers.
The Aeolus XXX 6 wheels are shod in Bontrager’s equally impressive R4 tyresDavid Caudery / Immediate Media
Trek Madone SLR 9 Disc ride impressions
Trek has also managed to hit the high mark with the drivetrain. Shimano’s latest Dura-Ace Di2 is brilliant, the gear shifts slick and accurate, and the brake feel is exactly what you want from a disc system; powerful yet precise, allowing you to brake later and for less time on descents, so you can get back on the power sooner.
The net effect is you go faster on a bike that’s already proven to be seriously rapid.
You can adjust the bar angle +/- five degreesDavid Caudery / Immediate Media
The contact points impress. Trek has nailed integration with its new VR-CF bar/stem — adjustability is built-in so you can adapt it to your ride position. The slight back-sweep to the tops and angled transition towards the hoods means plenty of clearance when you’re down in the drops, and the flat tops are comfortable to hold, or rest your forearms on for a proper aero tuck.
The Madone’s geometry is, as you’d expect, very much race bike stuff. This, combined with the adjustable IsoSpeed — which allows you to customise the compliance to suit the terrain — makes it a ridiculously smooth ride.
Adjustments are made via two-bolts, and it all takes about five minutes. Once you find your preferred setup we doubt you’ll ever change it, save for a trip to ride the Belgian cobbles.
Trek’s Madone SLR 9 has the speed of a race bike but the compliance of an endurance machineRobert Smith
Occasionally I did feel the back-end shift ever so slightly when pushing hard through a corner. It feels like a tyre squishing but, once I’d got used to it, it never became an issue — it’s just one of the bike’s idiosyncracies.
Forgetting the price tag for a moment, the SLR 9 is a monumentally capable machine. It has all the speed, sharpness and handling you could ever want from a pro-level bike but with endurance-bike levels of comfort, and for that it deserves five stars all day every day.
But for £10k I want absolute perfection.
The Montrose saddle is comfortable, but I’d prefer a seat with a shorter noseDavid Caudery / Immediate Media
The Montrose saddle is a quality item, and comfortable enough, but I couldn’t help thinking that the SLR 9 would benefit from a short saddle, such as those found on aero bikes from Cervélo, Cannondale and Specialized.
The extra nose on the Montrose can get in the way when you’re hunkered down in an aggressive ride position.
I’d also like to see Shimano’s BW-WU111 wireless antenna in the Di2 setup, which allows the use of its E-tube project app so you can customise the Di2 operation to work with a Garmin and enable the hidden buttons in the top of the hoods — although the Trek dealer you’ve just given £10k to should be happy to make these changes for you.