It’s 7:00 p.m. on Thursday, June 26. I’m in Francorchamps, Belgium with about 20 hours of travel, eight hours of jet lag and two strong Belgian beers in me. The result is an Ambien-like stupor and it has not been helped one bit by the comfy theater seat I am currently slouched in. When the lights dim and the assembled audience hushes for the upcoming presentation, I know I am moments from losing consciousness. This is going to be embarrassing. My eyelids drop and my breathing slows, when suddenly a flicker of light catches my eye. Groggy synapses register in my brain that the presentation is starting, and I squint to get a look at the images on the screen.
A new Madone. Okay, I knew that was coming, but this thing looks sexy. Certainly the sexiest Trek I’ve ever seen. My eyes open a bit wider. That head tube is low, the rear looks tight and race-ready. I lean farther forward. Are those aero tube shapes? Isn’t it missing the rear brake? I am wide awake now and scrambling for my notebook. This is more than a new Madone, this is a new chapter in Trek’s racing history and I’m paying attention now.
The Madone had always been a one-platform solution. Trek’s race teams have always been on the same bike their half-century-loving, could-stand-to-lose-a-few-pounds fans have been riding. It’s a testament to the bike’s abilities that it has kept those two categories of rider—and all those in between—happy for so many years. The Trek Madone dealt with the increasing distance between the endurance rider and the racer with multiple head tube heights and a slightly more forgiving ride, a ride that some racers called soft. The new Madone is no longer walking this fine line between categories; it’s a race bike, pure and simple.
This was foreshadowed in the spring when the all-new Domane was launched. Following the equation that spring classics equal endurance, Trek created a bike for their classics riders that their century riders could get excited about. This allowed their engineers to go full-tilt race with the Madone. It was a bold move because it meant transitioning the majority of Madone customers to an all-new platform—the upstart Domane—and potentially seeing it outsell the new-look Madone.
All-new Meets Tried and True
The 2013 Madone relies on a mix of tried-and-true Madone features many riders will recognize, and combines them with new and innovative technology. Let’s cover the new stuff first because, well, it’s just flat-out exciting. The feature that really had us drooling after the announcement was the new Kamm tail tube shapes. Kamm tail refers to truncated airfoils that essentially fool the air into thinking it is flowing around a much deeper (and UCI-illegal) shape. It’s technology they launched with their Speed Concept TT bike, widely recognized as one of the three fastest TT bikes in the peloton. These Kamm tail tube shapes are all over the bike: fork blades, down tube, seat tube, head tube and even seat stays. And as fast as they are—25 free watts according to Trek numbers—they have traits that make them perfect for an aero road bike. Airfoils are great at creating lateral compliance and vertical stiffness, exactly what you don’t want in a bike. The Kamm tail, with its blunt trailing edge, creates lateral stiffness while allowing some vertical flex and yet remains aero. It’s quite a trick. The head tube is a particularly complex Kamm tail shape of integrated tube joints and tapered steer tube that hints at incredible stiffness and aerodynamics.
The development of the Speed Concept inspired the Madone in another standout visual/technical feature: Bontrager-integrated brakes. While an aero decision, integrated with the fork blades and tucked under the bottom bracket, putting the rear brake under the BB makes sense in so many ways. A brake mount needs to be stiff for optimum brake response, while seat stays need to flex to take the sting out of the road, and these two goals are diametrically opposed when it comes to seat stay-mounted brakes. Moving brake mounts to the chain stay is ideal. It puts the brake where stiffness is inherent and frees the seat stays to move as needed for compliance. The handsome white Bontrager calipers essentially vanish into the white fork, while the black calipers don’t have the same high-end finish as their SRAM, Shimano, or Campy counterparts. Under the BB this doesn’t matter, but keep this in mind if you’re dreaming of a new Madone with black forks.
Of course, the core of all of this is Trek’s long-standing OCLV carbon expertise, StepJoint tube connections, the 90-mm wide bottom bracket shell, and E2 tapered and ovalized steer tube. The head start Trek originally enjoyed in carbon manufacturing has been erased by a few top manufacturers, but there is no denying Trek still has carbon chops and the new Madone represents the pinnacle of their know-how. The 600 Series carbon used on our test bike was as high as the previous Madone went. For 2013, 700 Series carbon exists, but the 600 Series carbon is still wonderful stuff. Our 60 cm weighed 15.1 pounds. A 7 Series Madone at this size will easily fall under the UCI weight limit without any special attention. In fact, a 7 Series 56 cm with Trek’s new five-gram Vapor Coat paint tips the scales at 750 grams. Not the lightest frame available, but new territory for Trek—territory they are treading in Waterloo, Wisconsin. Bucking the global outsourcing trend, Trek is making the brand-new Madone in the USA.
A host of other nice touches await the new Madone owner: an integrated chain catcher, DuoTrap sensors, mechanical and electronic internal routing, and the ability to choose the racey H1 head tube or the more relaxed H2 height. Our test bike had the H1 head tube and was built with Dura-Ace 7900, new Aeolus 3 D3 wheels, Bontrager XXX carbon bar and stem and Bontrager Affinity RXL saddle. While this exact build isn’t available as a stock bike, it can easily be built for around $8,000in Project One. You can also just start with a 6 Series Madone frameset, $3,630, or go big with a $4,200 7 Series frameset.
Long, Low and Lively
Upon mounting up for our first test ride, the Madone, like a lousy poker player, telegraphed its new personality immediately. The bike is longer and lower, resulting in a position inspired by modern day pros. The H1 head tube for the 60-cm Madone is only 180 mm, 30-mm shorter than the H2 option, and it says “race bike” loud and clear. Hit the gas and it confirms these intentions. The chain stays are shorter and stiffer than the previous Madone, and you can feel it immediately. The bike is so much livelier and spirited under acceleration, it matches up favorably with any carbon superbike on the road. This could not be said of last year’s bike. In fact, we kept wondering what the 700 carbon would be like; we imagined an even stiffer and livelier frame. This feel was there from a quick jump on a climb to a full-blown, high-speed sprint for the line. The bike is just plain fun when you turn the screws, pure stiffness-to-weight-ratio good times.
The shorter head tube, stretched out position and tighter rear put you in great position for aggressive riding, whether in the corners or in the bunch. It may not rip a tight corner as quickly as some of the twitchier bikes on the market, but it will never feel ragged either. It likes to be leaned, not steered and it remains very composed at all times. It was also here that we truly appreciated the new Bontrager brake calipers. They don’t pull with the same immediate force of a Dura-Ace brake, but that is only because they have more to give deep into the lever. Their power band is placed very evenly through the entire range of travel, and it makes high-speed descending good fun. The incredible stiffness, front to back, ensures the bike keeps a laser focus on whatever line you choose.
Of course the new bike’s aero performance is tough to quantify (well, impossible to quantify on the road and near impossible to quantify in the wind tunnel), so we won’t be telling you how many watts we saved, but the bike, with Aeolus 3 D3s, likes to roll. We were never afraid to take a pull, and more often than not we upped the tempo. In crosswinds, the bike really feels magical. We can’t quantify it, but it just feels faster the more the wind blows, and on our coastal routes the wind likes to blow hard.
There is one feature many previous Madone owners won’t like. The bike is stiff. While the rear does an incredible job of harmonizing the epic power transfer with all-day race ability, thanks in no small part to those brake less seat stays, the Kamm tail head tube and new E2 fork are very stiff, transmitting quite a bit of road chatter. This is stiffness any racer will welcome, but some riders looking for the comfort of the old Madone will find it a bit much. Those riders need to transition to the Domane, and they will find themselves very, very happy with their choice.
The Madone rider could be as new as the bike. A big crit sprinter, the weight weenie, the solo breakaway specialist—all of these riders didn’t have the Madone on the top of their list before, but it deserves a spot there now. Riders looking to turn up for a fitness ride on a race bike better forget about Lance and introduce themselves to Fabian, because the Domane is for them.
Weight: 15.1 lbs with Bontrager carbon cages
Details: Shimano Dura-Ace 7900, Aeolus 3 D3 wheels, Bontrager XXX cockpit, Bontrager RXL Carbon saddle