Trek Domane Op/Ed

This joint flexes 25mm

On G+, Richard Masoner on Cyclelicious eloquently disagreed with my take on the Domane. As he figured out, what I’m reacting to is the marketing and not the design. Trek and their dealers need this bike to compete with other Fondo bikes on the market. Richard summarized it this way


and I replied

I don’t want a Soft Spartacus. No thanks. Want him instead to bleed through his bones on the cobbles, and feel it for weeks afterwards. That’s the essence of this sport, in its DNA. The bike undeniably has a market. It’s a Fondo comfort bike with 25MM of travel. This is the bike Spartacus rides when he’s retired. Not at the classics.

or Soft Cobbles for Spartacus!

A Madone with bounce

Upon hearing of this bike, Mark V dropped his wrenches, didn’t bother to wipe off his hands, and texted this…

Where is Trek getting 25mm of vertical compliance on a Madone? Where are they measuring that? Does that include fork deflection, tire compression, seatpost and saddle deformation too? How much force are they calculating to yield that compliance? And Trek media commandos really need to make an animated gif to explain a good reason why sticking a bearing into the middle of a hingeless truss is a technological breakthrough.

Note: Trek is saying 25MM and their site says 36MM, but not where.

Here’s Richard’s post in full. What’s your take?


My second disagreement with +DL Byron this week about bike design. I’m getting old and crotchety.

Trek’s “Domane” has lots of vertical give and is designed specifically for racing over the cobbles of northern Europe. Byron believes this isn’t relevant to the typical US enthusiast, who rides on smooth suburban roads. He also notes this is a lot of engineering with carbon to approach what’s always been available with steel.

I think Trek Domane is appealing to the aging MAMIL like me who appreciates a little more flexibility in the bike frame as our own biological frames begin to lose their flex.

This might also be a nod to the crumbling transportation infrastructure in the United States. Residents of Santa Clara County, CA pay 3X the national average on front end repairs because the roads are so bad. Where I live in California, the county public works department is so short on funding that they have been unable to repair roads that washed out in rain storms two years ago. They can barely afford the orange “SINGLE LANE AHEAD PREPARE TO STOP” signs they’ve erected to warn road users of the hazards. My bike commute route over the Santa Cruz Mountains is a cratered mess that is downright hazardous at speed.

I think the market reaction will be interesting. Specialized’s best selling road bike, the Roubaix, was designed for the cobbles as well and reaches the same aging demographic that the Domane seems targeted for. (Though Trek probably won’t like to hear “Domane: The Old Man’s Bike. Diaper Optional.”)


Finally, I’ll note we’re having fun here snarking a bike launch and chatting about it across various channels. It goes without saying that any launch takes a huge effort and this is a bike Trek’s dealers have been demanding. Trek is a very deliberate company, they’re about numbers, and I don’t doubt they’ve got pre-orders and these are en route to dealers now.

They live by the old saying, Win on Sunday, Sell on Monday. They also just softened a long-time suffering hero and to that I say, “What?” That’s like telling us the Bambino got served soft pitches for those home runs he slammed out of the park.


I’m surprised nobody has mentioned the front dropouts. The bike looks like it got rammed into a wall.

As for the 25mm of compliance, I think it comes from the emptiness in your wallet after dropping $11k for one of these bikes! ;)

Finally, I wonder about the Fondo-ness of the bike. In the photo the drops are really low - probably lower than I’d want them for a fast century. Have to say I don’t get this trend. What’s the point of drop bars if the drops are so low that you can’t comfortably ride in them and have to spend 90% of your time on the tops/hoods? I think about this after looking through hundreds of photos of guys from the 60s-80s and noticing that they mostly rode in the drops while on the flats whereas today’s riders spend almost all their time on the hoods. I’m chalking this up to Cipo and his “fashion ahead of function” outlook.


Mark and I were so stuck on the 26 - 38M of travel we didn’t notice that, but you’re right and they seem to want to keep the back level while not breaking it with flex. So if this is they’rr old man back, how they going to set it up with massive stack height? We’ve got to assume they’ll have a “sport geometry.”

And on this topic, even my custom bikes have a very head tube. I just don’t lay on the top tube anymore….

I always thought that the vertical compliance needed would be in the front end of a bike, not the back. When I ride lots of chip seal or gravel, I’m always trying to lower the front end tire pressure so that the handlebars aren’t jumping around so much. Same goes for a brevet. The rear triangle has never bothered me.

It just seems like this and the Volagi are trying to solve the wrong problem.

But on a funnier note, we have the Madone and Domane. Now what new model can use the same letters and get a different bike? How about a cyclocross bike called the Endoam? A touring bike called the Noemad? Don’t forget a tandem called the Do-name? (trying to work out a plural prefix here)

I was waiting for someone to crack the Master of Your Domane joke, but on the tech you’re right…as Mark said, where the F are they getting that much travel and in the rear? The front is where you want it, like the Ruby did.

Everyone gets hung up on the $11k.  These things start around $4k w/Ultegra or Force—plus you can pick your parts and paint.

People rarely buy a bike with their brain (or based on what they need)... they want something used by the pros.  While I would have rather seen a little more effort on the front end and even disc brakes.  We don’t have cobbles, but we have gravel roads.

I don’t know what the Domane rides like on regular roads, but I actually didnt like the way the Volagi felt.  I didnt notice or appreciate any improved compliance.

One more thing is that the grime kicked up from the road is going to destroy that carbon sliding joint and the elastometer in pretty short order. I guess the rider will have to make use of all that fender clearance and go for the 25’s and fenders.

clarification: Trek says 25mm vertical compliance on Madone, 36mm on Domane, and never said where or how they got those numbers. i was almost prepared to believe the Domane’s 36mm until i read about the Madone’s 25mm. 

the Ruby (ie Rock Shox Ruby fork) was rubbish.  the fork before it, the Rock Shox Paris-Roubaix SL, got AT LEAST 2 wins and a 2nd during 1992-1994. it was state of the art….for early 1990s. but Ernesto Colnago forbade his teams from using it, and one of those teams was Mapei which won 5 of the next 6 P-Rs.  Museeuw, Ballerini, Tafi…..heard those names? those were nails in the coffin of road suspension forks.

the biggest problem with road suspension forks is that they never developed them enough to get proper steering precision and then of course there’s a weight issue. 

i did notice the Domane’s fork.  basically it has a big forward sweep to the blades with the dropout tucked back inwards to get the offset back to a normal-ish dimension.  the idea being that the fork could flex more. does it work? it’s plausible, but it could easily be a gimmick.  even if the concept were sound, that still doesn’t mean that the execution actually succeeds in the way Trek claim.  that’s the truth when it comes to design&engineering;&marketing;.  i can say that the fork is fuck ugly, for those of you who need external validation for your bike’s aesthetics. 

i had read that the Domane will be available w/ 2 headtube lengths per size, so chalk one up for dudes who don’t wanna lean over. 

finally, today’s pro riders ride primarily from the hoods because they can, and they can do that comfortably because:

1) the hoods are bigger and more supportive to the hands than they were before integrated brake/shift levers
2) the pivot for the brake blade is situated on modern levers so as to make braking from the hoods almost as good as braking from the drops. with older levers (e.g. non-aero DA levers, Nuovo Record) you really can’t get full power atop the hoods.
3) today’s brakes are better than pre-1990s designs, which also helps #2.

note the virtual extinction of the “deep drop” dropbar.  today’s “compact” bars are shallower to compensate for riders putting the hoods at the level they now prefer.

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