Trek Domane 5.2 Test Ride
Trek has been in business since 1976 and many of us (especially us baby-boomers) have probably owned a Trek at one time or another. By my recollection I’ve owned four, one of which is still in my posession. Also, my first “plastic” bike just happened to be a 2008 Trek Madone 5.2. I saw a lot of asphalt on that bike and after every ride I would be telling myself, “What an awesome bike!” Still, when it came to bombing down a descent on one of our beat up Sonoma-County-pavé backroads it often left something to be desired. This led me to a fascination for the bikes that are known for their success in pavé Spring Classics and that fascination has now coincided with the new Trek Domane.
After hearing many glowing remarks about the Domane I started to think it might be something worth checking out. Of course anyone will give you “glowing remarks” about their own new bike but what caught my attention was that they chose the Domane after a previous test ride on a completely different bike, one that I have that I had often recommended.
With a little procrastination on my part I finally got myself down to the Santa Rosa Trek store and got set up with a demo. My model was a 54cm Domane 5.2 with Ultegra components and Bontrager Race wheels. These wheels have a 23mm wide rim which, after riding thousands of miles on Hed Ardennes, is something that I’ve become a huge fan of. Bontrager now offers three alloy clinchers with 23mm wide rims. My Domane came with the lower end Race wheelset, which has an advertised weight of 1720 grams. This wheelset should suit most riders but if you do a lot of climbing then the Race Lite at 1518 grams or the Race X Lite at 1440 grams would be something to consider.
The power transfer of my previous Madone always amazed me and in looking at the tube shapes of the Domane I could easily see that same pedigree had been inherited. Elsewhere you can see several subtle design differences, the major one being the ISO Speed Decouler. This design feature has a very neat look and it’s function is to effectively isolate the seat tube from the top tube / seat stay juncture. Trek’s website claims that this doubles compliance and comfort with zero performance drawbacks. Another detail that I noticed was what appeared to be small threaded inserts at the rear facing lower ends of the forks and seatstays. Along with the internal cabling and the “vanishing fender mounts” Trek has made a very trim looking package.
Before heading out on my test ride I swapped out the Bontrager wheels with my own set of Hed Ardennes. Since these are the wheels I often ride on then using them for my test ride would help me get a truer comparison of the qualities in the frame itself, plus it would make the climbs ahead of me a tad easier. My test ride took me east through the Valley of the Moon to Lawndale road and my first patch of Sonoma County pavé. I’ve ridden on this road countless times and had become used to the punishing potholes and surface irregularities but this time the ride was way different. The road was the same but the comfort and control on this bike made the broken and scarred asphalt pass beneath me with little notice. And like any pavé bike, the faster you went the better the ride and as the rough patches of asphalt passed beneath me I noticed that I was more relaxed than usual.
When climbing I tend to favor being seated as opposed to being of out of the saddle but when I’m doing this on a short wheelstay bike I have to be careful about my center of gravity. If I allow it to move too far aft then I’m likely to see my front wheel come off the pavement on power strokes, especially if my cadence get sloppy, and that happens plenty. The Domane has a wheelstay that is a scant 1.3cm longer than the Madone but that difference was enough to keep the front wheel always planted on the pavement while climbing seated up the steeper grades of Sonoma Mountain Road. That may not sound like a big deal but having to watch your center of gravity and cadence becomes just one more thing to occupy your attention. I noticed on this ride that not having to watch those things made the climb more relaxing and, as a result, more enjoyable. Maybe that’s also why the climbs seemed shorter than usual to me.
Fast “technical” descents are something I love and and bombing down Sonoma Mountain Road on the Domane was better than I had expected it to would be. The road irregularities were easily soaked up and I was never found the ride uncomfortable, whether I was standing or seated. Everything was always balanced and responsive, never skittish, providing a stable and controlled ride.
I’m admittedly a “hack” cyclist. I’ve never raced and even though I enjoy going fast and far I easily get dropped by the big dogs. That doesn’t keep me from enjoying the feel and performance of a fine race bike and while this one may not deliver the same “snappy” handling of a shorter wheelbase frame, like it’s close cousin the Madone, it’s other characteristics easily make this a go to option for most riders. Let’s face it, most cyclists don’t race but that doesn’t keep them from being competitive, if not only with themselves. And on a bike like this it’s hard to imagine a cyclist not wanting to faster and farther then they might on their current bike because the more relaxed ride one experiences on the Domane adds a huge “fun” factor to the riding experience. In short, the Trek Domane has definitely raised the bar in terms of comfort-and-performance to a new level.