First Impression: Trek Domane 4.5

By Adam Newman

Trek’s pedigree of high quality road bikes was firmly established years ago under the effort of a certain now-disgraced cyclist with the Madone platform. But as with most of aspects of cycling technology, the one-road-bike-to-suit-all model has been tossed aside in favor of machines that specialize in their respective disciplines. Some bikes put a priority on feathery weight, or all-out stiffness. Others borrow designs from time trial bikes to cheat the wind. Some, like the Domane, put rider comfort out front. After all, a comfortable rider is a fast rider.

When creating the Domane, Trek sought out the expertise of one of the most powerful riders of this generation, Fabian Cancellara. The winner of Tour de France stages, World Time Trial Championships, and handfuls of single-day Classics races. Cancellara is something of a freight train in the pro peloton—a big rider with an even bigger motor—and he excels when the conditions are difficult. The Domane is designed to give the rider a distinct advantage under those difficult conditions.

 

The most crucial piece of this carbon-fiber puzzle is the IsoSpeed “de-coupler” between the top tube and the seat tube. The two tubes are joined by a small bearing that allows the seat post to flex fore and aft to smooth out the ride. Make no mistake—this is no suspension system but it does do a marvelous job of isolating large hits and high-frequency vibrations. This video demonstrates how it works:

The rest of the carbon fiber frame abounds with high-tech features like the integrated DuoTrap computer sensor attachment point, the integrated chain keeper, a massive BB90 bottom bracket shell, and a tapered head and steerer tube that is wider than it is deep, front to back, for a more compliant ride. My favorite feature though is the amount of tire clearance and the hidden, removable fender mounts. Three cheers for a dry behind.

The $2,730 Domane 4.5 model I’m riding differs from the more expensive models with a standard, round, 27.2mm seatpost rather than Trek’s integrated seatmast, external cable routing rather than internal. I actually prefer both these features as they keep things simple and don’t seem to hinder performance very little.

 

So how does the IsoSpeed system work? In my first few rides I’d say seamlessly and flawlessly. I can’t feel it actively working, but when I hit a pothole or railroad crossing my behind stays planted in the saddle rather than being bounced off. That contact is what allows the rider to stay on the gas over irregularities, and I can say this comfortable rider certainly feels faster.

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