Okay, this isn’t the full WorldTour-spec model, which is in short supply. But the new Domane promises to be one of the year’s most radical and compelling frames – and it’s not like a 7.58kg Ultegra Di2-equipped model is exactly slumming it.
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Trek’s original Domane was groundbreaking, with its IsoSpeed decoupler effectively creating a pivot in front of the junction of the seat tube and top tube. It worked too, offering a soft-tail-feel that smoothed bumps and damped vibrations.
The new incarnation takes things a step further. IsoSpeed remains, but the pivot is now in line with the seat tube with the tube itself split, allowing the two halves to work independently. Even more radically, you can adjust the amount of flex the system offers using a slider that runs the whole length of the seat tube.
Trek claims that the new design delivers a 14% increase in vertical compliance over the previous model.
There are changes elsewhere too, with this Domane also featuring ‘Front IsoSpeed’. It’s a system that builds in float in the top section of the headset, which sounds, er, interesting, but Trek assures us that this has no effect on steering, handling or strength.
What it does deliver is a claimed 10% increase in vertical compliance. The final touch is the new ‘IsoCore’ bar, which retains the earlier bar’s elastomer pads but with the addition of thermoplastic elastomer layers to damp high-frequency vibrations.
Silky yet reponsive ride
We were expecting a soft and bouncy feel as a result of all these features, but what you actually get is a positive, rapid and responsive ride. At its shallowest setting the ride feels like the Madone’s, with just enough damping to keep road buzz at bay.
At the other end of the scale we expected the difference to be more marked, and the ride to be super-plush. When we hit cobbled roads and rutted, gravelly byways the system really does come into its own. Ramp up the speed and absolutely go for it over the worst surfaces and the SLR comes alive, easily matching speeds over the rough stuff that we’d only previously experienced on dedicated gravel machines.
The Domane’s ability to cope with the worst surfaces you can throw at it, and at speed, is truly stunning. And any doubts we had about the Front IsoSpeed were unfounded, with the steering feeling as direct as on its Emonda stablemate.
Bontrager’s tubeless-ready wheels have wide rims, and Trek has made the most of that by fitting fat 28mm tyres. They roll smoothly, are as fast as slimmer tyres and they grip superbly through corners. These contribute to limpet-like traction on descents, allowing you to confidently attack even the roughest corners, the twin-IsoSpeed setup never getting unsettled like super-stiff carbon frames can.
The direct-fit Bontrager Speed Stop brakes are very effective in combination with the alloy rims. We think Dura-Ace and SRAM Red have a slight edge in terms of feel, but these look great and we can’t fault the performance.
The new Domane sets another benchmark in comfort, combining clever technology with an exciting ride. And for added practicality it even comes with hidden mudguard/fender mounts. Neat. Now we just need to get hold of that elusive pro version…