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Ridden & Reviewed: The 2014 Trek Boone 9

March 11, 2014

I know. It’s March. It’s too early to be talking cyclocross bikes. But with the recent Holey Roller gravel grinder and upcoming Castell Grind, talking cyclocross bikes in Spring makes perfect sense.

This cyclocross season was a big one for Trek. It was the second year Katie Compton was riding for them and her second year to take the women’s UCI World Cup title on a Trek, they were signing the sport’s biggest name and greatest ambassador, Sven Nys—maybe the worst-kept secret in pro cycling—that would see him ride both Trek and Bontrager products starting January 1, 2014, it was the second year for the Trek Cyclocross Collective their own homegrown team, and they released the much anticipated Boone cyclocross bike.

The Boone was a few years in the making, going all the way back to the Domane road bike. When that bike was released, the first thing cyclocross racers said was, “put that thing on a ‘cross bike,” referring to the excellent IsoSpeed decoupler. Of course, it’s not that simple. So before we saw the Boone, there was the Crockett. The Crockett was developed with Compton’s input and was a complete redesign of Trek’s prior cyclocross geometry featured on the Cronus line of bikes. The changes ended up being a welcome relief as the Cronus CX, which I rode two seasons ago, was “temperamental” in terms of handling, thanks to toe overlap on even the larger sizes and a long trail number and resulting tendency to wheel flop. It was a shame since the bike was so excellent in terms of appearance, spec, and price.

So for her first year with Trek, 2012, the year I rode the Cronus, Katie Compton rode prototype aluminum rigs (proving in part that the material is still relevant even at the sport’s highest level) that tested the tube angles that became the basis for the aluminum Crockett’s geometry. What the 2013 Crockett represented then was Trek’s final dialed in new ‘cross geometry, while Trek engineers sorted out how best to incorporate the Domane’s IsoSpeed decoupler in a carbon frame using the Crockett’s design. By late 2013, everyone “knew” a carbon Crockett was coming, most suspected the IsoSpeed decoupler would be part of it, but nobody knew when exactly.

When the Boone was finally released it was early 2014 under Compton and Nys. Both riders took wins at the Boone’s debut, conveniently at the GP Sven Nys in Baal, Belgium. The bike was made from Trek’s well-known OCLV carbon, it shared the same geometry as the Crockett, it featured the IsoSpeed decoupler, and what Trek describes as a “weather sealed” frame for the repeated washings a ‘cross bike typically gets. It also had all of Trek’s well-known and proven road bike technologies, such as their BB90 bottom bracket standard, E2 tapered head tube and steerer column, and a nifty integrated chain catcher. Everything that everyone “knew.” What nobody knew was how the bike rode, aside from Compton, Nys, and a few other folks at Trek.

With an inside line through my friends at Cyclocross Magazine, to say nothing of the guys in the buyers’ office at Bicycle Sport Shop, I knew New Year’s Day was the day we’d all see the Boone. What I was hoping was that the bike would be ready for the masses at basically the same time. While production wasn’t fully ramped up, Scott our bike buyer let me know there were some Boone’s available for purchase and I ordered one, sight unseen. I considered it a bit of a risk given my relative disappointment with the Cronus, but also had faith that with design input from Compton—the best US cyclocross rider ever—and the stamp of approval from the sport’s best-known star Nys, it had to be good.

It isn’t good.

It’s great.

When it did arrive it was just in time. I put the Boone’s ride quality to the test–aside from on a spin around the shop parking lot in a pair of Converse–at the Holey Roller gravel grinder. Fifty miles of pavement, dirt, rocks, sand, and fun. The combination of the carbon frame and decoupler lead to a ride that can only be described as sublime. That’s not to say you can’t feel a single a bump, but the cumulative effect of every imperfection was so severely reduced that aside from the stiff headwind I would have welcomed another 12 miles to make it 100k or even another 50 miles to make it a century, despite the ride surface quality.

Having built it just the day prior, my Boone 9 covered in dust from the Holey Roller.

Having built it just the day prior, my Boone 9 covered in dust from the Holey Roller.

The Boone looks much like the Domane in terms of tube shapes. Like on the Domane, the IsoSpeed decoupler has the effect of reducing vibration that reaches the rider. Notable differences though include generous clearance for cyclocross tires (a given) as well as a slightly repositioned IsoSpeed mechanism. The more rearward location of the Boone’s IsoSpeed device serves two purposes; it increases the size of the front triangle offering riders more room to shoulder the bike, and it also gives a measure more compliance to the Boone’s ride quality. On a cyclocross bike the effect is amplified by the fact that you’re typically riding around on 32 mm wide rubber at 40 psi—or much less depending on your tire set up. It does not feel power robbing when getting after it, but it does also feel like added control on sustained sections of less than perfect surfaces.

The Boone IsoSpeed decoupler on the left, the Domane on the right. One of the few instances where my road bike is dirtier than my 'cross bike.

The Boone IsoSpeed decoupler on the left, the Domane on the right. One of the few instances where my road bike is dirtier than my ‘cross bike.

The Holey Roller was the perfect testing ground for the new platform. Sections of slight inclines along with headwinds and loose surfaces, not to mention the lead group of riders not taking much time to enjoy the scenery, meant the chance to see how the bike responded to hard efforts. The Boone rewards riders who put the power to the pedals and gets up and goes quite well. I’ve noticed this characteristic on rides on the Boone since then as well. The bike simply feels fast. Once I flatted out of that front group and my pace slowed as a result I could really focus in on the bike’s comfortable, solid ride.

And the front end of the bike is a delight. Nimble without feeling nervous, it strikes a balance more towards where other cyclocross bike manufacturers have gone—lower bottom bracket heights and steeper angles. Very different from the Cronus. The result is a bike that up front feels very similar to a road bike, aside from the typical, and welcome, higher and shorter reach on a ‘cross bike, putting a bit more weight on the back end for added traction and control. When it came time to move around slowing riders or off particularly rough sections to slightly less rocky ground along those country roads out near Smithville the Boone changed lines easily and predictably.

Since that gravel grinder I’ve had the chance to ride the Boone on more cyclocross race-like rides in terms of terrain and turns and the Boone’s steering in tight corners is similarly fantastic. Gone is the wheel flop tendency of the Cronus and in its place is a bike that goes precisely where you point it. But it also won’t punish you if you make an error in judgment in terms of say, heading too fast into a slightly uphill off camber u-turn. You can correct and keep rolling without the bike trying to compensate for your error or, worse in my opinion, not wanting to come back from the “point of no return.”

What the Cronus had going for it, and what the Boone keeps, is the excellent spec. There are four models to choose from and while Trek says they aren’t making the braking choice for you, options between disc and cantilever brakes are at least a little bit limited based on which model you go with.

The grey and blue Shimano 105/FSA equipped Boone 5 smartly comes in a canti or mechanical disc version. The SRAM Rival/FSA equipped lime-green Boone 7 is a canti offering only. The Boone 9 features a full Ultegra drivetrain and TRP’s excellent canti brakes. The Boone 9 disc not only adds disc brakes, but they are in fact Shimano’s hydraulic road (or in this case ‘cross) discs mated to their Ultegra Di2 drivetrain. Both Boone 9 models share a stealthy black look with red outline logos. The haydraulic/electronic set up on the Boone 9 disc means a significant price jump from the Boone 9, but the drivetrain performance according to some is beyond comparison. You can also get the Boone as a frameset in disc or canti configurations in the Boone 9 colorway. And it’s important to note every Boone shares the same frame while disc versions feature a fork with an aluminum steerer instead of the carbon one found on the canti bikes. The disc-ready Boone bikes and frame also features hidden finder mounts, something that somewhat strangely isn’t the case on the canti models.

The Boone 5, 7, 9, and 9 disc, clockwise from the upper left.

The Boone 5, 7, 9, and 9 disc, clockwise from the upper left.

Each of the complete bike models feature wheels that are tubeless ready, although the disc bikes don’t run Bontrager branded rims. (Bontrager is expected to release their own tubeless road/’cross disc wheel this year.) What’s unfortunate is that none of the bikes are sold with a tubeless ready cyclocross tire. While Bontrager doesn’t yet have a tubeless ‘cross tire offering there are a few others on the market. That means extra dollars spent to make the conversion, money well spent in my opinion but still additional dollars. The added finishing bits are all Bontrager as one would expect and each of those pieces does the intended job.

The model I chose for myself was the Boone 9. The mechanical Ultegra drivetrain is a revelation. I haven’t been on a Shimano bike in 5 years and the light lever action and crisp, nearly silent shifting is fantastic. While I still judge front derailleur performance against Campagnolo, the Shimano system gives it a run for its money thanks likely in large part to Shimano’s excellent crankset and chainrings. I know that for some riders there’s a vanity that compels them to ride absolutely top-shelf bits for every single piece of gear. I know because I’ve been there. But if you’re looking at a bike and you’re not considering something like Shimano’s Ultegra kit or Bontrager’s aluminum tubeless ready road wheels, you’re doing yourself a disservice.

One thing I’m not quite as keen on is the Boone 9’s finish—matte black. Don’t get me wrong, I love the appearance of it and the quality of the finish is top notch. What I’m less enthused about is cleaning a matte finish bike. Matte finishes are notoriously hard to keep clean. The surface texture seems to “trap” water, cleaning products, fingerprints, etc. It’s not that it looks bad, it’s that it’s not as easy to clean as a bike with a glossy clear coat. On a bike that’s going to get repeatedly filthy and then washed, that would be a great feature. You find it on the Boone 5 and 7, both of which have clear coats.

Off season means 'cross bike spins to the burger stand.

Off season means ‘cross bike spins to the burger stand.

Since it isn’t ‘cross season I haven’t had much occasion to hop off the bike and run with it, although I’ve done a few dismounts and remounts. It feels much like a ‘cross bike in that regard, and always needing to work on my technique I’m less bike-focused in those moments. Still, the bike is easy to grab whether suitcasing it or shouldering it. The relevant tube shapes are now almost industry standard flat under the top tube and nearly beer can sized in terms of the down tube. Both are welcome.

Since it is the off season I’ve mostly ridden the Boone on recovery rides or spins around town to grab a bite or goof off. Needless to say, I’m ready for cyclocross season. I just need a pair of Bontrager’s Aeolus 3 D3 tubulars for race day.

The rest of my Boone 9 is good. No. Great.

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15 Comments leave one →
  1. david permalink
    April 1, 2014 1:26 pm

    Hi, don’t suppose you could check to see if there’s clearance for a Stages power crank on the frame?

    • djcurtin permalink
      April 9, 2014 11:34 pm

      Checked in with our Trek rep. Stages should work fine on the Boone! Happy riding!

      • David permalink
        April 23, 2014 9:36 am

        Thanks for your help. If only I could find someone with stock in the UK!

  2. djcurtin permalink
    April 5, 2014 1:42 am

    David: Not positive, but it looks like it would work. Let us check for ya!

  3. Mark permalink
    April 30, 2014 4:48 am

    How did you find the sizing? Ie, if you ride a 58cm Madone, would you ride the same size Boone?

    • djcurtin permalink
      May 30, 2014 8:38 pm

      Hello, Mark! Thanks for reading! I’m not one to size down for my cyclocross bike, so yes, I’d ride the same size Madone and Boone. Geometry differences between the bikes may mean slightly different riding positions (higher and shorter on the CX bike most likely) but that’s ok. Happy riding!

  4. larry miller permalink
    June 5, 2014 3:56 am

    How much did this puppy weigh and what size??!?!?!?!

    • djcurtin permalink
      August 5, 2014 2:39 pm

      This is a 56 and out of the box it was right around 16 pounds. With race wheels (Bontrager carbon tubulars) and a few little changes it should land right at 15 or so. Thanks for reading!

  5. August 11, 2014 2:42 am

    How is the Boone compared to a Domane with wider tires?

    I am considering buying a Domane 4.3 (since Trek doens’t sell Boone 5 in Brazil), and get a second set of wheels with wider tires and ride at some dirt roads.

    • djcurtin permalink
      September 9, 2014 3:48 am

      The Boone and Domane are totally different geometries with the Boone oriented to cyclocross racing. The Boone will, by definition, fit wider tires, up to 34, while the Domane will run 25 or maybe 28s. That said, depending on the severity of the terrain, the Domane with 25s have been fine on dirt roads around Austin.

  6. Ian permalink
    September 17, 2014 2:32 pm

    Hi, I’m in the process of buying a Boone 9 frameset for my first ever CX frame but am worried about frame size issue between road and CX bike. My current road bike (Focus Izalco) is a 56cm and I am 5ft 11in. or so. How does my height compare to yours and your use of a 56cm Boone. Thanks

    • djcurtin permalink
      October 29, 2014 12:14 am

      Ian, while it’s essentially impossible to tell you about fit through a blog comment–best practice is an in person assessment and fitting, I’ll tell you I am 6 foot and ride a 56 Boone. Bear in mind that I run the longer seat mast and a 120 mm stem. Why? I prefer a significant amount of drop from saddle to bar and a 58 cm simply doesn’t allow for it given the proportionately longer headtube. When considering investing in any bike, expert fit advice obtained in person from someone you trust is the best way to go.

  7. October 8, 2014 2:25 pm

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  8. Simon Fisher permalink
    April 1, 2015 12:33 pm

    Hello,
    I know this is an old thread but i thought I would ask a few questions just incase it notifies you.
    I need to replace a broken Domane 4.3. Was considering the 4.5 disk but then found out about the Boone 5 and 9 disk. These have a 6 series frame that I like due to internal cabling and the seat mast (more compliant than a internal pst I am told). The Bone 9 is also cheaper than the Domane 6.2 despite similar specs for some reason. The geometry seems a little racier than the Domane, with slightly steeper head angle and shorter head tube.
    Do you think a Boone would work as a road bike if I had my 25c tyres on it. Bearing in mind I wouldn’t want to lose any performance over the Domane.
    Thanks

    • djcurtin permalink
      April 1, 2015 3:17 pm

      Hello Simon. Thanks for reading. The Boone is definitely a race bike and feels like one. But bear in bind the geometry difference between the Boone and the Domane is that the Boone is built primarily as a cyclocross race bike–for off-road racing. it also sports more frame clearance as cyclocross races happen in all manner of weather and through bud, sand, and the like. The Domane, with slightly more relaxed body position is an endurance ride bike. The Boone can certainly be ridden on the road, but will sport that more aggressive body position because of the race-focus of the bike. Hope this helps!

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