Trek Do­mane SLR

Procycling - - Contents -

Back in 2012, Trek’s Do­mane rev­o­lu­tionised en­durance road bike ride qual­ity with its in­no­va­tive IsoSpeed de­cou­pler. It was fiendishly sim­ple but tremen­dously ef­fec­tive. In one fell swoop, the lim­its of what a car­bon road bike was ca­pa­ble of weren’t just ex­panded, they were rewrit­ten, and be­neath Fabian Can­cel­lara, the Do­mane quickly racked up one ParisRoubaix and two Tour of Flan­ders vic­to­ries. Can­cel­lara so loved the Do­mane’s feel that he raced it all year round, un­til Trek added IsoSpeed to the cur­rent Madone. But the orig­i­nal de­sign’s bum­peat­ing rear end was never matched by its IsoSpeed fork, mean­ing that your hands and arms felt most of the vi­bra­tions that your pos­te­rior didn’t.

Trek’s an­swer to this IsoSpeed im­bal­ance was to equip the head-tube with an evo­lu­tion of the same tech­nol­ogy. Fol­low­ing the prin­ci­ple of per­mit­ting only fore and aft flex from the seat-tube, the new front de­cou­pler has an in­ter­nal rocker cup that’s at­tached to the head-tube on each side with in­di­vid­ual piv­ots. The up­per head­set bear­ing sits at the top of the rocker, and the steerer-tube passes through the whole thing, al­low­ing it to ro­tate as nor­mal, but also flex fore and aft, in­de­pen­dent of the head-tube, and with no lat­eral move­ment.

But the changes don’t stop here – Trek have also re­designed the rear IsoSpeed de­cou­pler sys­tem and made it user-ad­justable. The orig­i­nal sys­tem had a con­ven­tional seat-tube that sprouted from the bot­tom bracket but wasn’t wo­ven into the top-tube, but rear IsoSpeed mark two is quite dif­fer­ent. From around one-third of its length above the bot­tom bracket, the rear half of the rounded seat-tube is scooped out up to the top-tube/seat stay junc­tion.

The front half of the sep­a­rate seat­post is curved to fit the seat-tube re­cess, and the rear neatly com­pletes the seat-tube’s pro­file. Be­low the top-tube it be­comes a sin­gle round shape, and is pierced by the de­cou­pler pivot. The bot­tom of the seat­post at­taches with an M5 bolt that dou­bles as the lower bot­tle cage mount, and is an­chored by a flush-mounted nut.

The re­sult­ing nar­row slot be­tween frame and mast con­tains a U-shaped plas­tic slider, with grip tabs pro­trud­ing on each side. Loos­en­ing the lower fix­ing bolt al­lows the slider to be moved from just above the bolt al­most to the top-tube, al­ter­ing the seat­post’s com­pli­ance. At its low­est point there’s more flex than when the slider is at the top of its travel. Think of it as a plas­tic ruler held over the edge of a ta­ble. Your an­chor point on the ta­ble’s edge equates to the bike’s lower mount, and the amount of ruler pro­ject­ing into the air equates to the slider po­si­tion – twang­ing a greater length of ruler means greater os­cil­la­tion.

So there’s the clever stuff. Although it takes some time to ex­plain, there’s very lit­tle to see un­less you look closely, and you’ll most likely never touch it, un­less you ad­just the rear com­pli­ance. It needs no spe­cial­ist main­te­nance, and there’s no weight penalty. The com­bi­na­tion of Trek’s 600 se­ries car­bon fi­bre, ex­cel­lent con­struc­tion and com­po­nents bring our 56cm Do­mane SLR in at an im­pres­sive 6.71kg.

Surely then it’s more like a bouncy moun­tain bike than rapid road ma­chine? Well, no. When it comes

to trav­el­ling quickly, the Do­mane SLR is at least as ef­fec­tive as any fast road bike on the mar­ket. Its wide BB90 bot­tom bracket al­lows for a huge down-tube and rock solid chain­stays, and the over­sized head­tube area not only pro­vides space for the IsoSpeed unit but main­tains mas­sive front-end tor­sional rigid­ity. The beauty of the IsoSpeed sys­tem is that it has pre­cisely no ef­fect what­so­ever on your ped­alling ac­tion, work­ing only to iso­late the rider from un­wanted im­pacts and vi­bra­tion.

Although not im­me­di­ately ob­vi­ous, the cu­mu­la­tive ef­fects of the frame’s in­built com­pli­ance re­ally de­lay the on­set of mus­cle fa­tigue, sav­ing you from count­less tir­ing vi­bra­tions and let­ting you en­joy rid­ing for longer. We set the slider for max­i­mum flex – why wouldn’t you? – and rev­elled in the magic car­pet ride. You still need to avoid pot­holes on the road, but when faced with a bro­ken sec­tion of tar­mac that you maybe can’t safely avoid, the Do­mane hap­pily glides over it.

There are other com­fort-in­duc­ing fac­tors as well. Our bike came with 28mm Bon­trager R3 tyres mounted on Ae­o­lus 3 rims, which are 19.5mm wide in­ter­nally, pro­duc­ing a gen­er­ous con­tact patch. The larger air volume makes it eas­ier to re­duce air pres­sure, so we mostly ran them at 80-90psi. Grip was gen­er­ally ex­cel­lent, save for one ride on par­tic­u­larly slimy roads when the rear end stepped out four times, although we sus­pect most tyres would have done so, and it was im­me­di­ately brought back un­der con­trol. The 30mm deep Ae­o­lus 3s en­sured that ac­cel­er­a­tion was al­ways brisk, and main­tain­ing high speeds over ev­ery­thing from rolling hills to false flats was never a chore. In­cred­i­ble frame com­pli­ance plus big tyres al­lows the bike to re­main in con­tact with the road sur­face al­most all of the time, in­creas­ing cor­ner­ing grip, steer­ing and brak­ing pre­ci­sion, and con­se­quently rider con­fi­dence and speed.

With no SRAM di­rect-mount brake avail­able, Bon­trager’s own Speed Stop units are fit­ted, along with Bon­trager-badged Swissstop Black Prince pads. The brake cal­lipers are com­pact in di­men­sion, but don’t have the smooth look of Shi­mano’s. Ten­sion ad­just­ment is okay, but not that pre­cise, and after the clamp it is pos­si­ble for the free cable to rub the tyre un­less care­fully po­si­tioned. But they work ef­fec­tively, with de­cent feel and enough power, and the pads re­mained con­sis­tent and noise­less in all con­di­tions.

This Do­mane SLR’s SRAM eTap was both the ic­ing and the cherry on top, en­sur­ing clean lines, in­tu­itive shift­ing and al­most no main­te­nance. The com­pact chain­set and 11-28 cas­sette match its go-any­where abil­i­ties, be­cause as well as dom­i­nat­ing tar­mac the Do­mane eas­ily copes with gravel and most sur­faces

The cu­mu­la­tive ef­fects of the frame’s in­built com­pli­ance re­ally de­lay the on­set of mus­cle fa­tigue, let­ting you en­joy rid­ing for longer

this side of cy­clocross. With lengthy 42cm chain­stays and a slacker than aver­age 71.9 de­gree head an­gle wrapped up in a fairly nor­mal 100.8cm wheel­base, the Do­mane is very sta­ble, plus it boasts gen­er­ous tyre clear­ance, help­ful for squeez­ing in even larger rub­ber or fit­ting mud­guards to the hid­den mounts.

Up front, the Bon­trager alu­minium stem sup­ports an Iso­core Pro VR-CF car­bon bar, with in­te­grated gel pads for ex­tra com­fort and con­trol, and the Affin­ity Pro car­bon-railed sad­dle is a great ad­di­tion. Bon­trager’s up­per seat­post is very sat­is­fy­ing for any­one who dis­likes road spray drib­bling down their seat­post and look­ing for a way in to the frame. Be­cause it’s ba­si­cally a capped tube that tele­scopes over the flex­ing seat­post, it’s sealed against filth ingress. The IsoSpeed slider gap can col­lect grime over time, and you’ll need to keep that mount­ing nut greased, but we’d read­ily ac­cept such sim­ple main­te­nance.

We did test the bike with the slider at its min­i­mum com­pli­ance set­ting too, and although no­tice­ably less bump-ab­sorbent than be­fore, the rear end still sub­dues rough roads with the feel of the very best com­peti­tor en­durance bikes. But with that added abil­ity on tap, why not use it? It’s hard to find a weak­ness in the Do­mane SLR’s make-up. Yes it’s ex­pen­sive, but cut­ting-edge tech­nol­ogy doesn’t come cheap and there’s a lot go­ing on in that frame. There’s no weight penalty, at least not in this spec­i­fi­ca­tion, the bike han­dles and ac­cel­er­ates as well as any­thing out there, has ex­cel­lent grip, stops re­li­ably and tames rough sur­faces like no pre­vi­ous fast road bike ever has. The frame even has a limited life­time war­ranty.

The Do­mane doesn’t feel in any way com­pro­mised by IsoSpeed or larger rub­ber. On the con­trary, the ben­e­fits of both - its pre­dictably se­cure han­dling and sur­pris­ing speed po­ten­tial - made it our first choice bike when­ever there was an op­tion.

Pros Ex­tra­or­di­nary com­fort, con­trol and per­for­mance Cons We’d pre­fer cleaner look­ing, sim­pler brake cal­lipers Ver­dict With dou­ble IsoSpeed and a su­perb build, the Do­mane SLR gives enor­mous rider con idence and truly im­pres­sive speed

The Do­mane gives a magic car­pet ride thanks to front and rear IsoSpeed units and big tyres

You can now ad­just the seat­post com­pli­ance with the up­dated IsoSpeed de­cou­pler sys­tem

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