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Trek Domane ALR4 Disc review

25 Jul 2017
Verdict:

Solid, stable and comfortable, the Domane ALR4 Disc is a fun way to build your fitness in the saddle

Cyclist Rating: 
Price: 
£1,400

‘Don’t endure, conquer,’ Trek proudly shouts.

The key with its Domane range, including this alloy-framed, disc-braked ALR4, is that it’s designed to positively plough across the roughest road surfaces.

The high-end carbon race versions of this model have won the cobbled Classics of northern Europe since they were launched in 2015, but wide, 32c tyres and Trek’s IsoSpeed decoupler at the rear end should provide all-day comfort for all comers.

Frameset

Trek’s 200 Series aluminium is, in the company’s own words, ‘formed into sophisticated tube shapes for maximum strength and minimum weight.’

We’ve ridden lighter alloy frames but it certainly is an elegantly constructed frameset.

A slightly curving, flattened top tube, in common with the rest of the tubes, features very neat welds.

The difference between this top tube and other brands’ is that its swooping line towards the rear hub and almost seamless junction with the seatstays is punctuated by what Trek calls an IsoSpeed decoupler, which allows it to flex (almost imperceptibly) when met by harsh road surfaces.

The cables – with the exception of the rear brake hose, which is routed through the down tube – are all externally routed.

The front brake cable is zip-tied to the fork leg while the mech cabling is exposed along the underside of the down tube, meaning it’s open to attack from road grime flung up by the front wheel.

Trek’s endurance geometry employs a fairly tall head tube and relaxed head angle of a measured 71.7°.

A seat angle of 74.4° forces the rider over the front end for decent leverage.

Groupset

The Domane runs a groupset largely comprised of Shimano Tiagra equipment. It’s a step down (and heavier) than 105, but durable, reliable and easy to use.

A 50/34 compact chainset is matched to a 10-speed, 11-32 cassette, which offers a wide range of ratios for arguably any terrain, while the shifters/brake levers are Tiagra-level RS405 hydraulics.

Finishing kit

It’s no surprise to find Trek’s own Bontrager kit splashed across the Domane. At this price range, you expect sturdy alloy gear, and that’s exactly what you get.

Bontrager’s own Affinity Comp is one of our favoured seats. Flat-topped and all-day comfy, it’s a cracking choice.

Wheels

Bontrager’s tubeless-ready TLF rims are laced to unbranded hubs running sealed bearing units. These are fixed to the frame by way of 12mm thru-axles, rather than the usual quick-release skewer.

The intention is that this makes both ends less prone to flex, so the pads don’t rub on the brake discs.

Bontrager Hard Case Lite rubber wrapped around the alloy rims, in whopping 32c diameter, adds further comfort credentials to the Domane’s build.

The ride

There’s no escaping the fact that, in this aluminium guise, the Domane feels a little weighty. But that doesn’t preclude it from providing a decent ride. In fact, its all-up bulk of 9.86kg works for it in some respects.

The long wheelbase and relaxed steering geometry lend it a solid feel in the opening miles of our test, with little effort needed to turn at speed.

It certainly feels built for long distance, but how will it fare in the comfort stakes?

What soon becomes apparent is that the Domane isn’t as sluggish as its geometry and weight would have you think.

The sturdy chainstays do an admirable job of delivering your watts to the rear wheel, and the bike really does respond well to hard efforts.

Slightly less surprising, given the ALR4’s raison d’être, is that it’s possessed of almost otherworldy comfort.

The level of fatigue we felt was noticeably less than on so many bikes we’ve ridden on our test loop over the years, even when getting back into some shape ourselves after a winter diet of mainly After Eights and beer.

The long length of exposed seatpost works in unison with the frame technology to isolate the saddle from any harsh jarring, while the high front end and steep seat angle put us in a position of utmost comfort for hours on end.

The weight does start to show on the hillier sections of the ride, but a 32-tooth cog on the cassette does maximise progress.

This being a wide-ratio 10-speed set-up does mean that the jump between gears is fairly pronounced at times, however.

Of note is the fact that, even under heavy load, we don’t experience a single rub of pad on disc, thanks to the solid thru-axle set-up at the front and rear hubs.

The Domane can’t deliver race-like cornering ability, but does give its pilot stacks of confidence.

The contact patch of its reasonably quick-rolling Bontrager rubber is immense, given their 32c size, while the deep bottom bracket drop (vertical distance between bottom bracket and wheel hub) effectively lowers your feet – and centre of gravity – which translates to a feeling of peerless stability when cornering.

It might not drop into a turn like a sharply set-up racer, but once it’s keeled over, it tracks a line with precision allowing you to take diabolical liberties in terms of corner speed and lean angle.

The brakes can be used to gently scrub off speed on the entry to downhill corners, and meter your speed once you’re leant over, such is their delicate touch.

However, when the time comes to panic-brake (thanks, Mr Pheasant!), the force with which they can be applied means you can actually feel the front tyre deform as it’s nailed to the tarmac.

There’s a heck of a lot to recommend this bike to any rider aiming to boost their fitness while having fun.

Ratings

Frame: Almost otherworldly levels of comfort. 9/10
Components: Reliable Tiagra groupset, great hydraulic brakes. 7/10 
Wheels: Tubeless-ready rims and 32c tyres are on trend. 8/10 
The Ride: Incredibly stable, great for cornering at high speed. 9/10

VERDICT

A solid, stable and superbly comfortable bike, the Domane ALR4 Disc ensures you'll have plenty of fun while building your fitness in the saddle. 

Geometry

Claimed Measured
Top Tube (TT) 530mm 532mm
Seat Tube (ST) 475mm 475mm
Down Tube (DT) N/A 633mm
Fork Length (FL) N/A 388mm
Head Tube (HT) 145mm 145mm
Head Angle (HA) 71.3 71.7
Seat Angle (SA) 74.2 74.4
Wheelbase (WB) 1003mm 1001mm
BB drop (BB) 80mm 78mm

Spec

Trek Domane ALR4 Disc
Frame 200 Series Alpha aluminium frame, Domane carbon fork
Groupset Shimano Tiagra
Brakes Shimano BRR-S405 hydraulic disc
Chainset Shimano Tiagra, 50/34
Cassette Shimano Tiagra, 11-32
Bars Bontrager Race VR-C, alloy
Stem Bontrager Elite, alloy
Seatpost Bontrager, alloy, 27.2mm
Wheels Bontrager TLR, Bontrager R1 Hard-Case Lite 32mm tyres
Saddle Bontrager Affinity Comp
Weight 9.86kg (size 52cm)
Contact trekbikes.com

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