Comfort without compromising performance (or vice versa) is the Holy Grail of road bike design. The Trek Silque is the closest I've come to perfection to date: a smooth, compliant ride experience, versatile performance that handles climbs, sprints and descents with ease, and a ride feel that encourages you to just keep on going.
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Trek has had a longstanding commitment to women's cycling and women's specific bike design, and the Trek Silque is aimed towards the endurance race end of the spectrum. It's a bike that's designed to allow optimum performance over long distance.
Women's specific design
The carbon frame has a women's specific geometry - Trek call it 'WSD' (women's specific design) - rather than sharing a unisex frame design with an equivalent model in the unisex/men's range, which some brands do.
In this case, when compared to the nearest equivalent in the men's range the Domane, which is designed to fulfill the same purpose or niche, the Silque hasthe same reach and effective top tube length, but has a slightly taller longer head tube length. This gives a slightly more upright ride position, though it doesn't feel as upright as the next closest contender in the comfort stakes, the Specialized Ruby. There is also a slightly more pronounced slope to the top tube.
Each frame size is also 'tuned' for rider height. Rather than just designing a bike in one size and scaling it up or down, each individual size has been designed to provide the same performance using different tube sizes, etc.
Technology deployed for comfort
The Silque S 6 features Trek’s rear IsoSpeed decoupler technology and if you’re not sure how that might work, oh my goodness, it’s a game changer! Of all the bikes I tested in this bracket, this one manages to strike the optimum balance between stiffness and comfort.
The Silque S 6 sprints and climbs as jubilantly as any other high-end carbon road bike, but the IsoSpeed decoupler allows the seat tube to flex independently of the top tube and seat stays, dampens vibrations over longer distances and rough terrain, and significantly reduces fatigue and soreness for the rider.
Although the S 6 doesn’t have front IsoSpeed (like the Silque SLR 6 and SLR 7), I found that hand comfort was also significantly increased, with no numbness even after several hours hard riding on uneven tarmac.
The Bontrager Comp VR-S bars offer a shallower drop and a shorter reach, and the Ultegra levers are far less of a handful than their 105 counterparts. Even though I have bigger-than-average hands, I felt this gave me far more control when braking from the hoods and when getting down onto the drops for long winding descents, which the Silque S handles beautifully. The smoothness with which it glides over bumps and slides round corners is a reassuring boost even to the less confident descender.
The spec isn’t quite faultless. I couldn’t argue with the Ultegra groupset with its effortless shifting that adds to the Silque S 6’s overall impression of smoothness – but I would question Trek’s decision to stick with caliper brakes, given that hydraulic discs are fast becoming the industry standard.
Speed control was noticeably (though not dangerously) reduced when riding this bike in torrential rain, and whilst this scarcely detracts from the overall excellence of the Silque S 6, I suspect it’ll be a deal-breaker for some.
That said, the Silque S 6 is built for endurance and other riders may prefer to opt for a braking system that’s easier to fix should something go wrong 100 miles from home.
Trek has focused itseffort (and your investment) where it matters with the Silque S 6, no doubt recognising that if you’re willing to spend this much on a bike, you probably already have strong opinions on software like saddle and tyres.
The Bontrager saddle is spongy but serviceable, and you’ll probably want to hang on to the puncture-proof 25mm Bontrager R1 Hard-Case Lite tyres, even if you immediately upgrade to something a little more racy – or whack on a pair of 28s and head off on a 600km Audax. Given that the trade-off is an Ultegra groupset and a carbon seat post, I find it hard to complain.
There are a few other nifty details, including the Trek 3S integrated chain keeper – which stops your chain falling off the small ring – and the option for a frame-integrated DuoTrap ANT+ speed/cadence sensor (which you’ll have to buy separately).
Good quality spec
As mentioned, the Trek Silque comes specc'd with a smooth-shifting 2 x 11 Ultegra with a compact 50/34t chainring and 11-32t cassette, which gives plenty of range for long climbs and fast sprints.
The Bontrager wheels are one area where a future upgrade would be well placed. While they performed well, with alloy hubs and tubeless-ready rims fitted with the quality tyres mentioned above, a lighter set would shave weight off the bike and up the performance a notch.
The Silque is finished with a carbon seatpost and a 8mm offset, Bontrager Comp handlebars with gel cork tape, which help absorb road vibration, and a Bontrager Elite stem with computer and light mounts.
What really sets the Trek Silque S 6 apart is the power, ease and joy with which it tackled everything I threw it at, from 1:4 climbs to twisting descents, via long sprints on unforgiving tarmac and occasional detours onto gravel. It’s the sort of bike that encourages you to get lost, just so that you’ll get to spend more time riding it.
Pricing, sizing and availability
The bike is available in sizes 47, 50, 52, 54 and 56, which is a good range but not quite as expansive as the Specialized Ruby, for example, which is the closest bike in terms of comfort to the Silque, and runs down to an impressively small 44 framesize.
It's available to purchase directly from Trek online in the UK and US, and of course via Trek dealers and various retailers worldwide.
Price: £2,100 / $2,699 / AU$3,699
How we tested
This bike was tested as part of BikeRadar's Women's Road Bike of the Year, run in conjunction with Cycling Plus magazine, also published by Immediate Media Co.
The main tester was Emily Chappell. Chappell, a member of the Adventure Syndicate, is a former bike courier, long distance cyclist and author. In 2016, she placed 40th in the Transcontinental Race, an annual ultra-distance bike race that crosses Europe, and was the first woman to cross the line. If anyone knows about performance and comfort when cycling it's her.
Chappell tested the bikes in Wales and Scotland, covering a variety of terrain and conditions including mountain climbs and descents, flat, smooth sprint sections, uneven road surfaces and twisting roads.
In addition, all bikes tested as part of Bike of the Year were put through their paces by a panel of six BikeRadar Women readers over several days in the Mendip Hills in South West England. Each bike has been ridden by at least three testers and their feedback and verdicts have been incorporated into the reviews and overall judging.
Additional reporting by Aoife Glass.