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The Silque is the latest addition to Trek’s women’s-specific road bike range and in this review Caz Whitehead puts the Silque SLX through its paces.
Trek has been creating “Women’s Specific Design” (WSD) frames for some time now but the Silque is a brand new addition to the line-up. Designed with the aim of combining the responsiveness of the Madone with the ride-anywhere practicality of the Domane (see here for a comparison review between the two) the Silque is a bike made for comfortable riding, but without diminishing straight-line speed or handling ability.
The Silque line features five different builds, from the $2,199 Silque (with Shimano Tiagra) to the $6,999 Silque SSL (with Ultegra Di2) with custom options also available through Trek’s Project One. We were provided with the Silque SLX to review, which sits just below the SSL.
Before the ride
The carbon used in the SLX model of the Silque is the 600 series OCLV, which is claimed to have the best ratio of stiffness to weight in the industry. The frame is similarly designed to most relaxed, compact geometry carbon road bikes on the market today, with thin stays and thick, sloping main triangle tubes. The fork tapers from 1 1/8″ to 1.5″, creating rigidity without too much of the added weight of thicker headtubes.
One of the most interesting features is the seatpost, which differentiates this SLX model from those lower in the range; more specifically the no-cut seatmast (see here for more info). This is both a weight-saving feature and creates a better ride quality, with the added bonus of making sure bike fittings are correct when the bike is sold in store.
It is still extremely easy to change heights, as the seatmast has 10cm of available adjustment, unlike so many of the integrated seatpost options out there. The seat tube isn’t directly connected to the top tube, but rather features a rubber shock-absorbing collar surrounding the tube, which has been implemented to act almost as suspension, thereby dampening the road vibration.
The SLX comes with full 11-speed Shimano Ultegra, featuring the smaller, more ergonomic hoods, and faster, more precise front derailleur shifting. The frame also features a built-in chain catcher, which, Trek claims, provides flawless gear shifting even under rougher road conditions. Both the gear cables and rear brake cable are all internally routed, and the small detail of blue anodised cable end caps have been added to the white cables.
One detail the pictures don’t do justice to is the sparkle through the paint. Similar to what you’d be more likely to find in a Japanese NJS track racing frame than a carbon road bike, the blue paint contains specks of small glitter, which in the sunshine, gleam proudly.
The paint is well designed and placed; feminine without being pink and floral. The blue is matched up with a stark white (no sparkles), and touches of light green also appear in a couple of places. The bike comes standard with white bartape and saddle, and flashes of blue peek through the bartape perforations. Everything matches, and has been carefully thought out, and finishes off the visual aspect of this bicycle nicely.
After the ride
Being used to quite an unforgiving, aggressive frame, the Silque provided me with a different world of riding. Riding the same roads was an entirely different experience. The dampening in the frame worked better than expected; the rough surfaces were surprisingly smooth to traverse, to the extent that cobbles felt like a slightly rough road. The frame dampening didn’t at all impede performance, but rather increased the speed that could be carried over rough surfaces.
Straight line speed was easy to maintain, and with a similar wheelbase to that of a race-tuned bike, the immediate power transfer to speed was noticeable. Descending was a different story.
The bike wants to go quickly, and changes direction with ease but being in such an upright position meant the ability to get low enough for weight placement was difficult. This meant the bike would corner easily at lower speeds when wheel turn was applicable, but taking it into corners with more force would have the bike dragging off course, unable to be happily directed through the bend.
Out-of-the-saddle climbing was a breeze. The frame is so light, and quite responsive to input, even being thrown around on a climb, it maintained rigidity and responsiveness. Seated climbing was where my muscles became aware of the different position; being more upright meant the lungs were opened up more for oxygen intake, but the leg position meant a little potential power was lost. It’s marginal, but noticeable.
Gear changes, even while climbing, were immediate thanks to the Ultegra 11-speed, and the improved front derailleur made a difference to speed of large gear changes. Internal routing doesn’t seem to impede shifting at all, but rather keeps the cabling out of the elements, improving long-term shifting ability.
Handlebar shape is an interesting choice. The bars don’t have much bend through the tops, rather straight across, and almost a direct 90-degree bend directed toward the hoods. This means a lot of space on a smaller bar for placing hands while climbing, or for a moment to change position. The drop is ergonomically designed, and extremely shallow. For small hands, this can provide a little trouble as the design means the lever is further from reach whilst in the drops.
Even with Shimano’s new lever design, winding the lever 10mm toward the bar doesn’t seem to improve the reach quite enough and means a part of the lever digs in to fingers when hands are on the hoods. An issue easily remedied by a change of bars, and not a problem anyone with larger hands would encounter.
Final thoughts and summary
Overall, this bike perfectly suits the market it has been designed for, filling the gap between the rather sluggish Domane WSD, and the race-orientated Madone WSD. It’s a comfortable bike for big weekend rides, while also being nimble on bike paths and around tight corners. It’s perfect for exploring while at the same time being capable in bunches.
A bike for those who perhaps value the adventure over the speed and who enjoy the social side of riding more than chasing down a breakaway.