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Ridden & Reviewed: The New Madone

August 14, 2012

Fast is everything? Fast as anything!

It’s only fitting that to accompany the Domane review from a few weeks back that we take a look at the all-new Madone from Trek. And where better to do that than at Trek’s dealer show, Trek World, in Madison, WI.

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Trek’s new Madone. Right outside the building where it was built by hand.

With the new Madone, Trek looked to not only see increases in typical race-oriented performance metrics—weight and lateral stiffness—but also looked to improve the aerodynamics of the bike. That’s a good thing. In a trend similar to the growth of the endurance road bike category, the aero road bike category is quickly maturing. Unlike the Domane’s emergence in that former category, the new Madone is quick to the aero party, and comes right near the top of the fast class.

The new Madone, like it’s predecessors, features Trek’s OCLV carbon tubing, with the 7 and 6 Series models being made right here in the USA, down the road a bit from Madison in Waterloo, WI home of Trek’s world headquarters. And, like the prior Madone, the new model features internal cable routing, Trek’s BB90 bottom bracket standard, E2 tapered head tube and steerer, and what I’m quickly becoming enamored with, Trek’s elegant seatmast. Of course, the new Madone is largely about aero, and that means technology borrowed from their Speed Concept TT/Tri bikes in the form of Kammtail Virtual Foil (KVF) tube shapes.

KVF tube shapes make the new Madone fast.

Trek’s independent testing shows that the KVF tube shapes—essentially truncated airfoil shapes—not only provides what amounts to a free 25 watt savings, but that it better responds to real-world wind conditions, particularly the bane of many aero products, crosswinds. The KVF tube shape is seen on the new Madone on the head tube, down tube, fork, and seat stays. Slippery shapes for tubes that see the most wind make for a fast bike.

Look ma’! No brakes! At least not where they are usually located.

The other big part of the new Madone’s aero story is the brakes. Up front, the “integrated” brake actually sits under the lower portion of the head tube and in essence is recessed into the front of the fork crown. Out back, rear break duties are performed by a second integrated brake that resides under the bottom bracket shell. This hides the brakes from the wind, and also reduces the amount of hardware needed to mount the brakes in the first place. The rear brake in particular greatly contributes to the bike’s sleek and clean appearance, at least to me.

Integrated front brake hides it from the wind.

My spin on the new Madone platform came right in line with my Domane test ride—a Six Series, made in the USA frame along with a Shimano Ultegra build featuring a compact crankset. Given the identical kit on the bike, I knew the performance of the drivetrain was going to be spot on. But I was most curious about the bike’s overall ride quality, particularly compared to the Domane.

After boarding the bus in Madison and taking the quick 30 minute drive over to Waterloo, I quickly got into my shop kit and made a quick dash for the road bike demo tent. I was in luck as there was a 58 cm Madone for me to ride. While I knew that with the number of folks in attendance that I wasn’t going to get to tinker with my bike a bunch in terms of fit, I knew that even setting my preferred saddle height on a bike that was more my size (unlike the 56 Domane I rode) that I’d be a happy camper. A quick safety check of the bike, some air in the tires, saddle height set, and I was off to ride the ten mile loop set out around the farms surrounding Trek.

The bike did not disappoint. Point and shoot like a modern camera, the Madone simply accelerated anytime you did anything aside from soft pedal. The stable geometry that I loved on the Domane, and that I recall from the 5900 I had years ago, shone through, although the front end of the bike did feel a little livelier. The terrain immediately around Trek was gently rolling and I was able to punch the bike of the small hills easily. Unfortunately there was nothing very steep so I couldn’t really make a fair climbing comparison. Bigger hills loomed on the horizon, but I was pretty sure Trek was going to want their bike back in a reasonable time, and I had already set my mind to riding the 10 mile loop more than once for sure (I went around a couple of times. Don’t tell anyone.)

Like the other aero bikes I’ve had the good fortune to review here, the new Madone felt fast. Yes, the pavement in Waterloo was meticulous, and yes, I was aboard a brand new bike that had been built in the building I was outside of, but it was readily apparent that the bike was indeed built to be fast. I was riding solo, without a group to hide from the cool (yes, I said cool) breeze that was blowing, and I never once felt like I was riding into a headwind, even though I clearly was on certain parts of the loop. Again, like the feeling of riding aero wheels on a non-aero bike, the new Madone gave the sensation of riding faster, easier.

Overall, the bike rode very comfortably. Again, I was only aboard it for a little over an hour, and I didn’t get to ride anything like the wonderful chip seal we have back in Austin, but even over some small road imperfections, the bike gave more feedback than the Domane. That’s a good thing in my mind, particularly when talking about a race bike. And I think that speaks well of the Domane—it does the job it was set out to do just like the new Madone does.

With the Domane complimenting the new Madone, Trek has really upped their game in terms of getting each road rider on the right bike. And with both models sporting line-ups across a good range of build options, frame levels, fit options, and prices, there’s bound to be something for nearly everyone interested in a Domane or the new Madone.

The new Madone. Fast as anything for sure.

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