Is the Trek Domane (pronounced Doh-Mah-Nay) the perfect bike for Irish roads ? That was the question that I had going around in my head after first seeing one in the flesh last year. The reviews online suggested that it might be. The info and sales pitch on the Trek website were convincing that it would be. But I wasn’t going to be convinced until I had tried one out for myself.
As a previous owner of both the on road and off road versions of the Allsop Softride many moons ago I have always been in search of a bike that could make my ride as comfortable as possible.
Unfortunately the Allosop whilst having a few redeeming characteristics felt like cycling along on one of those big orange space hoppers.
The handling was also pretty sketchy to say the least. If you were cornering on an up bounce you lost all traction to the rear wheel. But on those rough sections of road where ‘tarmac’ would have been a long forgotten and a totally absent ingredient, it did occasionally feel much smoother.
Further along my quest for comfort I had a Viner Maxima custom built for me with a custom carbon lay up to cater for my specific type of riding. It is very smooth but I can still feel the jarring effect on the rough Irish roads.
I regularly ride tubeless tyres in search of the smoother ride that they give. I find them great, a good deal more comfortable than regular clinchers but still notice the vibration on rough roads.
Last year I spent most of the year on an Orbea Orca Silver. The frame has ‘Attraction’ seat stays that absorb the vibration coming from the rear of the bike by twisting the stays which has a similar effect to placing a hand over a tuning fork to deaden the noise that it makes. It was a lovely bike, probably the most comfortable that I had ridden so far and would be a good point of reference for the Domane.
So, last week our Trek Domane Demo fleet arrived and I couldn’t resist the temptation to be the first to try one out.
The 5.2 features 5 series OCLV tubing with the Domane Iso speed coupler which acts like a suspension. What does OCLV mean? There is a technical explanation but basically if you look at most carbon used in bicycles today under a microscope you will see many air bubbles and tiny holes on the surface of the tubing. All other manufacturers cover these in using a clay like resin paste which can become brittle over time. Trek use an air bladder under extreme high pressure to compress their carbon together which results in the strongest Carbon fibre available on a bicycle frame today. It leads to frames that fatigue less and are stronger which makes it very easy for Trek to offer a lifetime warranty with all of its products.
The Groupset on the 5.2 is the 11 speed Ultegra version that was launched last year. It is almost as good as Dura Ace for half the price. My Viner has Campag Super Record but mechanically I prefer Shimano. Everything fits together without any fuss and it all just works seamlessly. The gears are crisp and precise. I’m used to 11 speed but it is a nice treat for anyone who has been using 9 or even 8 speed all winter. The brakes work well under pressure and are undramatic.
The Bontrager Race Tubeless ready wheels had standard Bontrager R3 25mm tyres which gripped well and were lively enough. I’m looking forward to trying them with tubeless tyres. On my test ride I happened upon a farmer cutting a ditch with a hedge cutter with thorns all over the road and the expected puncture never materialised which impressed.
I like to have my brakes pretty tight and out of the saddle I often get a little brake rub from the rim touching the brake blocks as I swing the bike side to side. No rubbing from these wheels. The hubs run beautifully smooth, but I guess only time will tell for how long.
WHAT ABOUT THE RIDE ? I hear you say.
Well it was only sublime. Initially the expected sponginess never really materialised. Instead I spent the entire journey from Clonmel to Limerick via Golden, Dundrum and Cappamore feeling as if there was a 5mm cushion of air between the tyres and the road. Anything less than a 5mm rough patch on the road went by unnoticed whilst anything bigger including sunken manhole covers and drains were barely noticeable.
Cornering with a slightly longer wheelbase is not quiet as razor sharp as a pure race bike but because your weight is constantly pressing down on the rear of the bike over rough surfaces it grips better and actually corners and descends like it’s on train tracks.
The oversize down tube and bottom bracket area make for a very stiff lower section of the bike. This translates into real high end race responsiveness out of the saddle powering up a hill. It is actually a little disconcerting at first for such a soft comfy bike to have this type of kick when putting the power down through the pedals. It is even noticeable in the saddle if you try powering over the crest of a drag. In car terms it would be like a plush Mercedes S-Class accelerating like a Ferrari.
The front end is pretty good too. The unusual looking kicked back dropouts on the fork do actually work as does the rubber insert on the top of the bars to give the smoothest hand contact area that I have ever used. The drops I found too long. With my big hands reaching in under the levers I noticed that my wrists hit off the top of the bars when swinging the bike out of the saddle. But this was pretty minor as anyone using the bike will be spending 90% of the time up on the hoods or the top of the bars.
I spent three hours on the bike into a block headwind mostly in the rain but still enjoyed the spin. As I reached my destination I wondered how best to describe a 3, 4, or 5 hour spin on a Trek Domane compared to most other bikes. What came to mind was to consider the relief of sitting on a wooden or plastic chair having been standing for most of a morning. It would be a great relief for a while but after 30 minutes or so your ass would get a little uncomfortable and you would begin to shift a little in your seat. After an hour or two you might use the excuse of leaving the room for a moment to gain a little extra relief. Then consider those big plush armchairs in a Cinema and how comfortable they still feel after sitting through a 3 hour movie without a break. The Domane is the bike that could be classed as a Cinema chair.
So is it the perfect bike for Irish roads ?
Without hesitation I would say a resounding Yes. It is perfect for sportive riders who need a bike that’s comfortable enough to spend 6 or 7 hours in the saddle. For anyone racing it is lively and fast in an undramatic way over hard Irish road courses whilst not rattling your bones. That means that you will arrive at the finish that little bit fresher in time to unleash your rapid sprint. If it is good enough for Fabian Cancellara it’s good enough for anyone.
With prices for the Aluminium Domane starting at €1369 and the bike that I test rode coming in at €3299 they offer serious value for money too.
If you would like to try one out for yourself we now have a Demo fleet of both ladies and gents models available. We also have some nice Giant’s available to test ride with a review coming on those soon. For €50 you get to try a dream bike out for a day, along with receiving a €50 voucher to use towards a new bike or anything else that we have in the shop, so essentially it’s free !
Call us on 052 6121146 or email us on firstname.lastname@example.org to book your test ride now.