So, you’re kinda still married to riding that old Trek carbon racer from 1998, the one with the garish red, white and blue graphics and a Shimano rear shifter that doesn’t work that well anymore? While it was fun watching you-know-who dominate the Tour de France for seven consecutive years, it’s time to step up and consider another Trek, one more suited to your needs.
Time to rise up off those racing bars and take better control of your bike! A higher handlebar position makes riding in traffic and on bike paths easier and safer, especially with a backpack or messenger bag bogging you down. The head tube is taller on commuting-specific bike like the Lync 5, and with a wide, flat handlebar, you can ride with more confidence.
The Lync 5 has several tasty features that may make your commute more memorable for different reasons.
First, the integrated lighting system is smart: a couple buttons reside underneath the top tube to control the LED headlight and taillights, which are built in to the head tube and rear seat stays, respectively. They’re powered by a USB-rechargeable battery mounted on the down tube (which provides up to five hours on a single charge).
Second, slowing and stopping gets a bit easier thanks to hydraulic disc brakes, which take less effort to modulate and squeeze compared to cable-actuated brakes. And third, even though Trek decided to leave off a kickstand, there’s a handy kickstand plate welded onto the lower frame so you can park your bike anywhere without the fear of it tipping over and denting the metal fenders, which do an admirable job of keeping your back dry on mornings after rainfall. You’ll just need to spend another $10 or so on a kickstand at the Trek dealer.
Pudgy tires—in this case 700x32c—provide better cushion on busted concrete and asphalt than 700x23s, dramatically cutting down on pinch flats. Who wants a perfectly good ride cut short due to an easily avoidable flat? Trek is smart to include a reflective ring on the sidewall of the Bontrager H2 Hardcase Lite tires—which are also puncture resistant—providing more visibility from perpendicular traffic. Bonus points for Trek for including theft-resistant skewers that require a 5 mm Allen key to loosen.
The Lync 5 is made with an aluminum frame and fork, which is a good thing for a few reasons. First, aluminum is easy to manipulate into shapes conducive to managing ride quality (stiff is good for bike handling and steering, and oval is good for providing tire clearances).
With the Lync 5, integrated rubber ‘bumpers’ are added to the top tube and down tube to protect the frame from damage when locking to a post or when transporting on a train. Second, aluminum doesn’t wilt in bad weather, and can take winter road salt and moisture better than steel.
Finally, it allows a product designer to add better components to the Lync 5 like its ergonomic grips and a stem system which handles smartphone attachments, plus a bell.
A bike designed for transportation and a bit of cargo hauling needs to feel steady and be free of fuss, i.e. janky shifting under load. The Shimano below-bar thumb shifters are responsive and dutiful, always leading the chain where I want it to go. The gear range works in all terrain, with a 9-speed 11-34 tooth cassette and 48/36/26 triple crankset up front handling drivetrain duties (more on that below).
The Lync 5 tracks straight and clean, allowing for the occasional hand turn signaling in traffic. My time on the test sample was split between short jaunts to the downtown library and coffee shop, to multi-modal journeys to San Francisco from my office in Mountain View via CalTrain. The bike is heavy duty like a utility bike should be, but not too heavy to lift up steps. And there are two places in the front triangle to mount water bottles, either for drinking or stashing tools or supplies.
Room for improvement
There’s no such thing as the perfect vehicle, and the Trek Lync 5 is far from perfect. The rear rack is designed for hauling a U-lock and lightweight panniers, but if you want to use a top-mounted bag or carry extra gear, consider the Bontrager BackRack Deluxe for $49.
I also hated the stock saddle—my rear end couldn’t handle the shape or thickness no matter what I was wearing. And the tiny third front chainring is not only unnecessary, it’s bolted to a cheap crankset that makes you feel like you’re straddling a horse.
Most bike companies choose a triple front crankset, so Trek isn’t the only guilty party. The $899 Lync 3 has a single front chainring connected to a 9-speed rear cassette, but lacks hydraulic discs.
Also, while most riders will appreciate the integrated LED lighting system, a downtube lithium ion battery that needs removing to recharge is a bit of a hassle compared to a front dynamo hub that generates its own electricity. What Trek is doing is a step in the right direction, so give them time to improve.
Other than these issues—hey, it’s my job!—the Lync 5 can certainly be considered to replace your worn-out Trek OCLV from Bill Clinton’s last year in office.
- Price: $1,199
- Weight: 30.1 pounds
- Sizes: 15, 17.5, 20, 22.5 (tested), 25