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Trek Domane SLR 9 2020 review

9 Dec 2019

Page 1 of 2Trek Domane SLR 9 2020 review

Verdict:

Hard to fault in marrying superb ride quality with outstanding comfort but just not convinced on the execution of the BITS compartment

Cyclist Rating: 
Price: 
£9,550
For 
Supremely smooth • Wide tyre clearance • Direct handling
Against 
Lacks low-end punch • Somewhat heavy

The original Domane redefined the endurance road sector. Trek’s innovative IsoSpeed concept – a pivoting decoupler that isolates seat tube flex from the rest of the frame to offer more vertical compliance without impairing rigidity elsewhere – broke new ground on its release in 2012.

The resulting marriage of outstanding comfort and race-level performance helped Fabian Cancellara win the punishing Strade Bianche race on the bike’s first professional outing.

In 2016, Trek brought adjustability to the rear IsoSpeed and employed a similar ‘decoupling’ ideology to the head tube to temper impacts up front, too. Again it received high praise, including in my own review in issue 52 [see page 2 of this review]. This third generation 2020 version, then, has a lot to live up to.

New directions

‘We’ve really seen big changes in the way people ride road bikes,’ says Trek’s director of product for road bikes, Jordan Roessingh. ‘They want to ride on a variety of surfaces so we’ve really embraced that, focussing on versatility and making sure the rider can do as much as possible on this bike.’

To that end, there are a number of new features on the Domane SLR. Firstly, it now shares the same L-shaped, top tube-braced IsoSpeed as used on the most recent Madone, the company’s aero race bike.

This is an improvement because it not only offers more comfort, but is also easier to adjust. I also prefer its higher position on the bike, well away from the grit and filth flung from the rear tyre.

Trek claims the new IsoSpeed gives the Domane SLR 27% more rear-end compliance. To give that some context, that would make the new frame almost as compliant in its firmest setting as the outgoing model was in its softest.

I think that figure is over-inflated, and oddly I’d say I found the latest Madone a touch plusher when comparing the models in the softest setting. That’s not to say the Domane isn’t a very comfortable bike. It feels slightly less adept at dealing with small-amplitude impacts compared to the older model, but still absorbs larger hits exceptionally well.

Buy the Trek Domane SLR 9 from Trek for £8,750

Trek has also added a modicum of rebound-damping into the new IsoSpeed system, which makes it feel more controlled and less bouncy, although one gripe I have is the way the nose of the saddle can tilt up as the seat tube flexes.

It’s less noticeable in the firmest setting, but at the other end of the scale I found there was a persistent prodding at my nether regions. This can be overcome by setting the nose of the saddle down a fraction, but it’s something to be aware of.

The front IsoSpeed, which is unchanged from the previous iteration, continues to serve the Domane well. It’s just enough to take the edge off jarring impacts and, with assistance from Bontrager’s vibration-damping IsoCore carbon handlebars, the front end feels acceptably smooth.

Importantly, the comfort doesn’t come at the expense of performance. In fact the latest Domane has upped its game in terms of speed.

‘Everyone wants to go fast, regardless of how they ride, so there is a much greater aero emphasis for this new frame,’ says Roessingh. ‘It’s certainly not fully optimised like the Madone, but we’ve made some pretty big improvements at “real-world” speeds [30-35kmh].’

Trek hasn’t quantified those aero gains, and I can’t provide any hard evidence, but I can say this new frame, aided by Bontrager’s excellent Aeolus XXX 4 wheels, offered a noticeable step up in terms of pace over my regular test routes.

I was sufficiently impressed with the bike’s race credentials to consider whether it was beginning to encroach into the Madone’s territory. Ultimately it doesn’t quite, but what was once a very distinct line between them in performance terms is getting blurrier.

Of course, the Domane is still the more upright choice, based around Trek’s ‘endurance fit’, which allows even my creaky old spine to run with a slammed stem.

Tyred out

One feature that clearly sets the Domane apart from the Madone is its tyre clearance. Despite this test bike coming with relatively skinny 25mm tyres, the new Domane has room for some fairly beefy rubber, Trek suggesting up to 38mm.

It could potentially take even wider tyres if you ignore Trek’s advice to maintain 4mm of space around the tyre, and there’s no issue pairing wide (32-35mm) tyres with full-length mudguards, for which the Domane has some neatly concealed mounts.

It’s all part of the versatility that Roessingh talked about, and we haven’t even got to the Domane’s most unique feature yet…

Called BITS – Bontrager Integrated Tool Storage (thank goodness they didn’t call it Trek Integrated Tool Storage) – it’s a compartment in the down tube accessed via a quick-release cover, onto which the water bottle cage mounts. Inside is a purpose-designed pouch providing stowage for an inner tube, tyre levers, CO2 canister with head and a multitool, plus by my reckoning there’s also room to stuff an emergency gilet in there.

It’s a nice idea, allowing the rider to avoid over-stuffed jersey pockets, but I do have some concerns about it. The cover is not a totally locked-in fit and with a full water bottle and cage mounted to it there is visible movement as you ride, particularly on imperfect surfaces. It didn’t actually rattle during my test rides, but my worry is that over time it will wear and will inevitably start rattling in the frame.

‘There will be a little bit of relative movement between the cover and the frame with a full bottle but we don’t expect the cover to get loose over time,’ Roessingh says. ‘In the case that something did go wrong, though, we do stock replacement covers and it’s a relatively easy piece to replace.’

Trek did send me a new cover and it was slightly better, but some clearly visible movement remained. It’s not a big problem, but I found myself wondering how I would feel if I had bought a new Porsche and discovered the glovebox wobbled. Should I accept it on a bike costing nearly £10k?

It’s a small blemish on an otherwise shining example of how good and how versatile the Domane platform continues to be. So I congratulate Trek for its innovation, which is, after all, what made the Domane such a success in the first place.

Buy the Trek Domane SLR 9 from Trek for £8,750

Spec

Frame Trek Domane SLR 9
Groupset Shimano Dura Ace Di2
Brakes Shimano Dura Ace Di2
Chainset Shimano Dura Ace Di2
Cassette Shimano Dura Ace Di2
Bars Bontrager Pro IsoCore VR-CF
Stem Bontrager XXX
Seatpost Bontrager
Saddle Bontrager Arvada Pro
Wheels Bontrager Aeolus XXX 4, Bontrager R4 25mm tyres
Weight 7.67kg
Contact trekbikes.com

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Page 1 of 2Trek Domane SLR 9 2020 review

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