Trek Domane 2013 Review
There is a lot to be said for being comfortable. Nobody likes uncomfortable armchairs, beds or underpants.
Some people will put up with anything. A bike in the sale with the irresistible price tag that's two sizes too big. The rider on a time trial bike, who tries to achieve full aerodynamic efficiency at the cost of being able to breathe, the 40 year old desk jockey, who must have the rigid carbon semi-aero Venge as his first bike.
- Specialized S-Works Venge DI2
The above are scenarios that, as someone who works in bike sales, I see often. The bargain dream machine will put your back out if you ride it for more than twenty miles, if you can't breathe properly it will outweigh any aerodynamic advantage and someone who has sat at a desk without doing much else for the past ten years will hurt on a Venge.
Comfort is very important.
The fact is that whilst the explosion in bike sales has certainly happened it hasn't been driven by young riders keen to follow in the footsteps of Cav and Trott. Those people exist but they are greatly outnumbered by middle aged men, men who maybe are not as active as they used to be for whatever reason.
Our biggest selling bike at Grafham Cycling for years has been the Specialized Secteur (or Roubaix if you buy a carbon one). It's a bike with a long head tube length that tips the rider back over the trunk of their bodies, reducing support required from neck and back. The frame has elastomer inserts in the frame and fork to absorb high frequency vibration being transferred from the road surface to the rider. It's comfortable over distance, fast, and perfect for the born again rider with big dreams. It was the bike we recommended to all who were walking from the golf course to the London-Paris start line.
But is that about to change?
This year see's the launch of the Trek Domane (DOH-MAH-NEE). For years the Waterloo Company denied that they were working on a competitor to the Secteur. But last year saw Fabian Cancellera debut the Domane on the Strada Bianchi and take the victory and since then riders have been curious to see the mysterious isolated seat post. Starting at £1000 and coming in a standard and women specific design this could be the bike to kick Specialized into touch.
Like the Secteur the Domane has some tricks up its sleeve to provide the rider with a comfortable long distance ride. The long head tube to take emphasis from the rider's core and the fork has a long rake with a set of dropouts that fold back underneath themselves. This allows the fork to flex absorbing buzz from the road whilst keeping the wheelbase shorter than it has to be on another comfort bike. Whilst the Secteur frame wears its comfort heart on its sleeve via the gazelle leg seat stays, you need to study the Domane a little bit closer. The top tube of the frame actually splits and passes down either side of the seat tube. The two tubes are connected by a bearing that passes through the top tube into a node on the seat tube where the two intersect.
The result is a saddle with plenty of comfortable fore and aft flex that removes most of the sting from the road. A lot of people have immediately equated this with a suspension system and therefore a loss of efficiency. The distance between the saddle and the bottom bracket remain at a virtually fixed constant and the down tube is so flared as it hits the BB shell that it would be miraculous if any effort from a pedal stroke managed to get lost through the frame.
So what's it like to ride?
I decided one day to take home one of the Domanes from our demo fleet and ride it into work the next day. Hopefully it would run smoother than the previous weeks effort where floods had seen me diverted away from uncross-able angry rivers and put an extra 10 miles onto my 27 mile commute. That and the lashing freezing rain had made for a thoroughly miserable ride. I set off keen to see what the new bike could offer. It felt like a standard comfort bike at first it zipped through the quiet early morning town roads, the carbon being considerably easier to push than my steel framed workhorse. I stopped at the Grafton crossroad to put on overshoes as it was decidedly chillier than the weatherman had lead me to believe the previous evening. The bit of road that was approaching is a notoriously bad spot in terms of surface condition. I was keen to discover if the Domane was as 'eerily smooth' as I had seen it described in magazine reviews and as I rode over the beginning of a piece of road that - in the past-had seen me replace a spoke at least once a week I held my breath. Did I feel any of the lumps and craters underneath my wheel? Yes I did, but not how I expected.
Imagine being punched.
In the face.
Hurts doesn't it? Now imagine being pushed in the face.
You have the same force applied to your face but it's a more gradual build up that results in you being moved backwards and not having your nose broken. That's what riding a Domane over a rough surface is like. You feel the bumps in the surface but on a much less punishing scale. The seat tube was allowed to flex and was isolated from the vibration and knocks that were heading up the seat stays. Let's be clear the bike isn't like a hovercraft, it doesn't float over anything but the feeling it gives over rough surface is a peculiar one. But it does exactly what it claims to do. The time I made it into work belies its hidden race agenda.
What about price? How much more is the feeling of having your bottom massaged as you ride along with a big smile on your face going to cost you?
Shimano 105 is the benchmark groupset for most roadies so we'll focus on that. 105 shifting starts at £1200 on an aluminium Domane 2.3 with carbon fork. Specialized are no longer offering 105 on an aluminium frame which means dishing out £1500 for a Roubaix Sport with Shimano's workhorse, to get 105 on a Domane (4.3) is £1800. The price difference is down to the fact that there's more 105 components on the Trek than the 105/Tiagra mix of the Roubaix and the Domane frame holds more tech and is built using Trek's impressive OCLV carbon forming techniques.
The question of carbon vs. Aluminium is an interesting one in the case of the Domane. People assume that the upgrade from an aluminium frame to carbon is a purely a question of weight. Its true to a degree, the carbon frame is slightly lighter but in reality you are only getting the noticeably light carbon when your start shelling out the big bucks. The main reason is down to compliancy. With carbon, frame designers can dictate where a frame flexes and where it doesn't. Adjusting comfort levels against stiffness depending on what purpose the bike is designed for. However, Trek has managed to design and build a frame made from aluminium that behaves like a carbon frame. If I were to opt for a carbon Domane over aluminium I would find it hard to attribute that choice to ride quality. It would be about the bling.
So has the reign of Specialized as the number one manufacturer of distance endurance machines come to an end? If you were looking at spending under £1000 certainly not, the Secteur is still the best there is for that price point.
But over a grand?
You'd be mad to a least not try it out for yourself.
Would you like to test the Trek Domane for yourself?
Upon hiring the bike, if you decide you like it and would like to purchase one, we will discount the price of your hire off the bike when you buy.
Bikes in the Domane Range
- Trek Domane 2.0 - 2013
- Trek Domane 2.3 - 2013
- Trek Domane 4.0 - 2013
- Trek Domane 4.3 - 2013
- Trek Domane 4.5 - 2013
- Trek Domane 6.2 - 2013