In May of this year we received a 2013 Trek Domane 6.2 Project One bike for long-term testing. The Domane (pronounced dough-mah-neeeee) is Trek’s ‘endurance’ road bike – built for the cobbles with geometry and frame details designed to absorb the bumps. The two most notable features of this bike that people instantly see are the dramatically raked fork with rearward set dropouts and the Isospeed decoupler system that separates the seat tube from the top top and seat stays with a bearing. As odd as it may look at first, these features really work and the bike has caught on with both the amateur crowd and pros alike (look closely at Andy Schleck’s bike from this years Tour de France…).
At first glance the frame appears to be a typical endurance geometry road bike – short-ish top tube and a long headtube. The fork is raked out with rearward set dropouts to maintain the correct geometry while providing great vertical compliance. The real talking point on this bike, however, is the IsoSpeed decoupler system that makes the rear end so compliant. While it almost looks like a Trek Pilot-esque elastomer, underneath the plastic cover is a bearing that serves as an interface between the separated seat tube and top tube/chain stays. This bearing decoupler essentially makes the seat tube act like a bow – you can actually see the tube move toward the front of the bike when you lean your weight on the saddle. It bends ever so slightly and is visible right around the bottle cage area.
Now I had preconceived notions about this bike from the minute I saw it at our local Trek store – old person road bike, rebirth of the Trek Pilot, soft tail road bike, blah blah blah. It seemed totally lame until I heard some ride reports and claims that the bottom bracket on it is just as stiff as the top-end Madone. Well after I got my hands on it and rode for a few months here’s how I describe the ride:
- The rear end is very compliant. You feel bumps hit your front wheel and they almost disappear under your rear wheel. And this is with a very compliant fork too.
- The bike excels on the dirt. I first rode the bike on a dirt road/trail a month after getting it and was astonished at how well it did. The rear end becomes very active and smooths out bumps/rocks/everything you throw at it. I now try to incorporate at least one dirt section into every ride.
- The bike begs to be thrown hard into turns on twisty downhills. There’s a particularly fun downhill here in East San Diego county with some choppy pavement in a few of the turns. On this bike I’m continually amazed at how the rear end soaks up the rough road and begs to be pushed harder.
- It does not feel as lively as other bikes. I’ve had several Madones over the years and this bike doesn’t feel quite as lively when you get out of the saddle and sprint. I’m guessing this is because of the longer chain stays.
- The short top tube and tall front end is great geometry for people like me with long legs and a short torso. It allows me to achieve a normal saddle to bar drop with a top tube length that fits my torso even with the saddle all the way at the max height.
Other Notable Features
A few other details to note about the frame that aren’t apparent to the untrained eye:
- Full internal cable routing
- Di2 ready – plugs for the cable openings and battery mount under the bottom bracket
- Vanishing fender mounts – micro mounts for rainy weather riding at the rear dropouts. Hard to even see at first.
- E2 headtube – 1.5″ lower bearing tapering to 1 1/8″ at the top
- Asymmetric steerer – the middle of the steertube (between the two bearing contact points) is flattened side to side. This is designed to provide vertical compliance while maintaining lateral rigidity.
- BB90 bottom bracket. Yes I know you’ve heard enough about bottom bracket standards, but this one is actually pretty simple and effective. Normal (not BB30) spindle and simple press-in bearings.
- Integrated chain keeper in the front derailleur mount comes standard.
- Duotrap compatible – If you regularly measure cadence these bikes have a pretty nicely integrated option for adding a speed/cadence sensor
This bike is a winner in my books. I was quite skeptical at first and didn’t expect to like it as much as I do. For me it’s a perfect blend of comfort and performance. I was coming off a titanium frame and knew the ride wouldn’t be as buttery smooth, but the stiffness and light weight of carbon make up for that in my books.
Buy this bike if
- You want the performance of a race-oriented bike but your back screams back after a few hours on the latest and greatest race machines.
- You like breaking all the rules and riding road bikes on dirt
- You ride in the rain often (my condolences) but don’t want a cross bike or a lame touring bike
- Your roads aren’t perfect (whose are anyway?) and you’re tired of getting vibrated to death of today’s ultra-stiff carbon frames
And now for the photos:
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