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Trek Madone SLR 9 Disc: In-depth review

3 Aug 2019

Page 1 of 2Trek Madone SLR 9 Disc: In-depth review

Verdict:

Trek proves hands down that disc brakes, true-aero race geometry, light weight and sublime comfort no longer need to be conflicting

Cyclist Rating: 
Price: 
£10,550 (+£1,100 for special paintjob)
For 
• Incredibly comfy rear end that’s adjustable to suit rider preference • Super fast, with handling to back it up
Against 
• You may need to sell a kidney or remortgage the house to afford one

A bike that impressed in all areas and surpassed all its competitors, read Stu Bowers's review of the Trek Madone disc 2019

We’ve never had it so good. Recent road bikes launched for 2019 really do feel like they have taken giant strides forward. Disc brakes have revolutionised stopping power, and are no longer a hindrance to aerodynamics and weight.

Just look at the likes of the new Specialized S-Works Venge and the Cannondale SystemSix. I’ve tested both bikes recently, and they’re both incredibly fast, light and relatively comfortable to ride – at least as far as super-stiff aero road bikes are concerned.

Trek may not be happy with me mentioning two of its biggest rivals in a review of its own new flagship race bike, the Trek Madone, but it’s necessary in order to put it in context. My point is, the Venge and the SystemSix have set the bar very high, and not only has the Madone reached it, it has sailed clean over it.

One step beyond

I’ve been riding for more than three decades now, and have reviewed hundreds of bikes in my years on different cycling titles. During that time, I’ve written frequently that you ‘can’t have it all’ – it’s not possible to combine all the positive attributes you’d like in one bike. Well, the Madone SLR 9 Disc has made me eat those words.

We have now reached the sixth generation of the Madone, and few would argue that the previous version, launched in 2015, was a great machine but not without its foibles.

Issues around the complexity of the shrouded rim brakes (remember those little flaps on the head tube that opened so the brake didn’t interfere with steering?) and bike fit limitations imposed by the one-piece bar/stem were common gripes levelled at that model.

But it was also widely proclaimed as the new benchmark in comfort-versus-aero, mostly thanks to the inclusion of the IsoSpeed decoupling technology in the seatmast, which Trek borrowed from its endurance-focussed Domane.

Look at the present model and you’ll see a lot has changed, although it might not appear so at first glance (aside from the disc brakes, of course, although unlike Specialized and Cannondale, Trek does offer the new Madone in a rim brake version). Take a look underneath the top tube and you’ll notice something that definitely wasn’t there before.

A redesigned L-shaped version of Trek’s IsoSpeed concept is a brand new feature, bringing adjustable levels of compliance to the seatmast to tune the amount of shock absorption/flex/compliance/comfort – call it what you will – on offer.

Trek claims at the stiffest setting (with the slider all the way back) the new Madone is 21% stiffer than the old, non-adjustable version, for those who like it more racy. With the slider all the way forward, the Madone is 17% more compliant, Trek says, for added comfort. Which brings me nicely to my first test ride. 

In a hurry

So keen was I to get out on the Madone that I forgot to note the setting of the IsoSpeed. I merely went through my usual checks, setting my seat height, tweaking the bar position – which you can at least now do thanks to the neat two-piece bar/stem – and rode straight out of the gate. It took less than 2km for the ‘oh wow’ sensation to kick in.

I was blown away by how well the Madone delivered speed with not a hint of the jarring at the rear that has historically been the trade-off with full aero rigs. The IsoSpeed does its job superbly, turning the solid-looking seat tube into a pillowy, cushioned ride.

When I returned home I was convinced I must have been testing in the softest setting, but to my amazement it was set closer to mid-range.

Switching to the softest setting I subsequently found it to be even a little too squishy. It felt like I’d fitted a 32mm rear tyre and halved the pressure, whereas in reality I was running 90psi in a 25mm.

While that meant even the harshest surfaces were smoothed out – a cattle grid was barely noticeable – there was always palpable movement in the saddle, which I was less keen on.

Having worked my way right through the adjustment range, I found my optimum to be not far off the point where it was set on that very first ride, somewhere close to the mid-point. What’s important to note is that no matter where the adjustment is set, the smoothness of the ride is all that the IsoSpeed alters.

There’s no discernable loss of performance. The Madone SLR 9 Disc still feels every bit the lightning-fast race bike across the range of settings.

I’d even argue pedalling was improved on rough surfaces, aided by being able to stay seated and keep the power on when I might otherwise have had to slightly unweight the saddle to reduce jarring.

There is an element of the rear-end cushioning being so good that it exposes the Madone’s front as being overtly stiff, but that’s necessary to ensure the handling is unfaltering and the solidity of the frame holds true against big pedalling efforts.

Anyway, a little softening of the wrists and elbows and, voila, Mother Nature’s in-built suspension system can take care of a bit of front-end chatter.

All good things

The Madone SLR 9 Disc is without doubt the most comfortable road bike I’ve ever tested. And I’m not just talking about aero road bikes – I mean any road bike. I haven’t even ridden a gravel bike this good at absorbing bumps.

Is it the fastest too? Well, it’s close. I’d say the new S-Works Venge wins in the pure speed stakes, but only by a tyre width. For some people, speed is everything, but for me I’d plump for being able to go fast and still ride all day long. For that, the new Madone is knocking its rivals out of the park.

It was Keith Bontrager – whose brand Trek now owns – who came up with the adage about bikes: ‘Strong, light, cheap, pick two.’ To that list we might now add stiff, fast, aerodynamic, comfortable and usable in all conditions. With the Madone it really does seem like you can have it all. Except, of course, ‘cheap’.

How much can you get for a kidney these days?

Price

The Trek Madone SLR disc is currently on sale at Evans Cycles for £10,500 available to buy here.

Spec

Frame Trek Madone SLR 9 Disc
Groupset Shimano Dura-Ace Di2
Brakes Shimano Dura-Ace Di2
Chainset Shimano Dura-Ace Di2
Cassette Shimano Dura-Ace Di2
Bars Madone SLR VR-CF
Stem Madone SLR
Seatpost Madone SLR  
Saddle Bontrager Montrose Pro
Wheels Bontrager Aeolus XXX 6 TLR, Bontrager R4 320 25mm tyres
Weight 7.62kg (56cm) 
Contact trekbikes.com

Page 1 of 2Trek Madone SLR 9 Disc: In-depth review

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