Bicycling (South Africa)
Trek Domane SL6
R74 999, trekbikes.com
Trek’s third-generation Domane is the best road bike we’ve tested all year.
That may surprise some; especially in South Africa, where the Domane is often overshadowed by the lighter Émonda (we love to think we’re all Tour de France contenders); but this model does what no other drop-bar road bike has done for some time...
Through creative design and smart engineering, Trek has injected life into a category that has seen very little change over the years. And they did it within the confines of the hyperrestrictive UCI regulations that govern race-bike design. What they produced is an endurance road bike that you can race, or take on gravel adventures.
Trek intended the Domane for pros to race in classics such as Parisroubaix. Like other endurance road bikes, it excels on rougher roads, and puts the rider in a slightly more comfortable position.
But unlike most other bikes in the category, this one is quick and lithe, energetic, and highly efficient. It has an aerodynamic frame, yet it’s as pleasing and enjoyable to ride as any road bike we’ve tested. And it might be made for elite racers, but you don’t need a pro contract to afford one.
Even compared to similar endurance road bikes, the Domane
feels extraordinarily smooth – thanks to Trek’s Isospeed decouplers, which allow additional flex in the bike’s seat tube and fork. The technology adds high levels of comfort without sacrificing any of the punch and speed we expect from a performance bike.
The Domane is crisp and stiff at the bottom bracket, and it responds efficiently. So it moves like a race bike, but it glides across bad roads like no other race bike we know.
This ability of the Domane to suck up bumps improves traction and control, and its relatively long wheelbase gives it a lot of composure over the rough stuff. The steering is quick and reactive, but the bike flows – rather than darting too excitedly, the way some bikes can – from the apex of one turn to the next. Less experienced riders will gain confidence on this bike; fast riders can pedal harder and brake less in tricky conditions.
It weighs more than some similar bikes, but you really only feel it on long, sustained climbs. For most rides, the gains in comfort, control and speed across most surfaces make the sacrifice worth it.
Of all the changes this version has undergone, we’re most excited about the extra tyre clearance. The frame now accommodates tread up to 38mm wide. Creating space for tyres that wide on an aerodynamic, bump-smoothing frame is exactly the type of ambitious design that has been missing from road bikes till now.
Of course, most pros will opt for narrower rubber; but you don’t have to. A tyre swap transforms the Domane from a fast road bike into something ready for moderate gravel races and routes. And unlike the skull-rattling experience you’d expect from a road bike on dirt, the smooth, well-balanced Domane is a joy to ride.
The bike also gets hidden fender mounts and a hatch in the down tube that lets you store a repair kit, food, and even a light jacket inside the frame. All this without any weird proprietary mounts, fixtures or doodads. It even has a threaded bottom bracket. Hallelujah!
This year has been challenging and unpredictable in ways few others have. But this bike is a disruption we can get behind, shaking things up and bringing creative ideas to the road bike category.
The high-performance and versatile Domane is the bike for this moment. It lets us enjoy the kind of road rides we love, but it’s ready to take us somewhere new when we need a change. – Matt Phillips