First-look review: 2016 Trek Madone

by Dave Everett


In the build-up to this year’s Tour de France we see yet another bike launch from one of the big players of the industry. This time it’s Trek with the launch of the company’s 2016 edition, 9 Series Madone. CyclingTips’ Dave Everett was in The Netherlands for the launch and wrote this about his first impressions of the bike.


In an upmarket hotel theatre in Zeist, The Netherlands, Trek president John Burke took centre stage at a glitzy presentation as he showcased the 2016 Trek Madone. His first words made it clear what Trek feel they have created: “the ultimate race bike”.

The bike in question has had a few spy shots of it snapped over the past month after Bauke Mollema was spotted racing it at the Criterium du Dauphine.

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In the flesh, the bike looks to be a big leap forward when compared to the older Madone model, thanks to deeper tubing and a whole raft of new features.

It’s a bike that’s been in development for more than one and a half years with input from Trek’s professional road team. Trek says that it’s been through more than 100 different versions to arrive at what will be hitting stores in August.

On hand to help with the presentation was Trek Factory Racing’s “Ambassador of Awesome”, Jens Voigt. He, along with early test pilot Bauke Molloma, had a hand in the development. In Voigt’s own words: “I feel like I’ve retired too early. I need to make a comeback — the bike is really sexy”.

Much like the recently released Specialized Venge ViAS, Trek claims the new Madone is the fastest bike on the market. But this isn’t the only thing Trek is using to market its new bike — component integration and the ride quality are other factors that guided the design and development of the bike.

More Aero

The new Madone carries over Trek’s KVF tubing from the previous model, a kammtail tubing design that in essence sees the tail edge of a teardrop-shaped tube sliced off. This creates a much ‘boxier’ shape while facilitating the same aero advantages as the teardrop shape. The new Madone sees this design taken further than the previous model with deeper tubing in several places.

The new Madone is available in Trek's Project One custom program.
The new Madone is available in Trek’s Project One custom program.

The deeper tubing is only one part that helps to reduce drag. Bottle cage placement, like on the new Cannonade Evo Hi-Mod, is something that Trek has addressed. According to Trek, over 140 iterations were carried out on bottle cage placement before they settled on the final position; a position that provides a claimed 5.5% reduction in the drag (of that section of the bike). This optimisation process was done with the use of a software package called HEEDS.

However, computer simulations and wind tunnel testing are only part of Trek’s testing protocol.

Back in January we visited Trek while they were testing three of their riders’ time trial positions for the upcoming Paris-Nice ITT. At that time they were using an analysis program called Alphamantis. Several days after our visit the team attended the Palma track again and tested a prototype version of the Madone using Alphamantis. On the track and using the software, Trek found that the bike provided a claimed 19-watt advantage over a standard road bike (the Emonda) at 40km/h.

Real-world testing of the new bike was also undertaken, but more on that in a moment.

Compliance

For me, the most impressive thing about the new Madone is the way Trek has seemingly managed to produce a more compliant and comfortable ride while still maintaining the aero tubing shape.

With large, deep, boxy-shaped tubes comes the problem of a harsh and unforgiving ride. Trek claims that they have eliminated this problem through the use of their IsoSpeed system. We’ve seen this before on Trek’s Domane road bike and it’s also available on Trek’s top-end hardtail mountain bike, the Procaliber. The 2016 Madone takes the IsoSpeed design in a slightly different direction with an impressive tube-in-tube design.

Left: A view of the internals of Treks new IsoSpeed tube in tube system. Right: An exploded look at how the tube in tube design is held in place at the top of the seat tube.
Left: A view of the internals of Trek’s new IsoSpeed tube in tube system. Right: An exploded look at how the tube-in-tube design is held in place at the top of the seattube.

Trek came to the conclusion that they needed to separate the aero properties of the bike from the comfort. To do this, the outer body tubing of the frame takes the load from the bottom bracket and takes care of the aero properties of the frame. Inside this tube sits a more rounded and more compliant tube that reportedly flexes to reduce what would otherwise be, as Trek admits, “a harsh ride”.

We here at CyclingTips can’t say if the IsoSpeed solution works as claimed as we haven’t yet had an opportunity to ride the bike. But we will have a long-term test coming up soon.

The Trek white paper on the new Madone states that: “The internal tube of the IsoSpeed system deflects and maintains the excellent vertical compliance Madone is known for. The result: an incredible 57.5% improvement in vertical compliance over the nearest competitor.”

According to Trek, this “nearest competitor” was the Giant Propel.

How does Trek measure this compliance?

“Trek have a bike with a mesh-like strain gauge system, power meter and accelerometers covering it,” Trek’s global road product manager Ben Coates told me. “This is used in a real-world environment by our professional test riders [to give us a detailed feed of information on how the frame is performing.”

Integration

Component integration is something we’ve seen with several new bikes recently and Trek adds to this growing trend with several features that make the bike look sleek even when it’s standing still. The one huge talking-point at the launch was that of the Vector Wings.

The Vector Wings flap open when the forks are turned. They make a small 'clink' sound as they fall back in to place once the fork is straight again.
The Vector Wings flap open when the forks are turned. They make a small ‘clink’ sound as they fall back in to place once the fork is straight again.

These fairings hide the upper part and the cables of the front brake. Hinged doors placed on either side of the base of the headtube swing open on springs when the forks are turned, forced opened by the upper part of the brake. It’s a neat design feature that catches the eye and solves the problem of having cables exposed to the wind.

When asked how they managed to get the design to meet the UCI’s stringent rules on fairings, Ben Coates said: “It’s not actually a fairing — it’s a covering; a rain protector”. Hats off to Trek’s marketing arm for managing this coup as many would class the Vector Wings as a fairing of sorts.

The Vector Wings are just a small part of an overall integrated system. One component that a few brands seem to dismiss when designing a new bike is the junction box for Shimano’s Di2 or Campagnolo’s EPS electronic groupset. Specialized have tackled this problem by placing the box under the bottom bracket while Trek have placed it in the downtube just behind the headtube in what they dub “the control centre”.

Here it is accessible and held in place via a removable cover that houses the junction box as well as the battery. Removing this cover via a small tab allows you to access the battery for charging. When the cover is closed you still have access to the usual buttons on the junction box.

When running a mechanical groupset the control centre has a barrel adjuster for the front derailleur.

The junction box on the Di2 model Madone is housed and accessible from a small box on the top of the downtube. You have access to the junction box button via this opening too.
The junction box on the Di2 model Madone is housed and accessible from a small box on the top of the downtube. You have access to the junction box button via this opening too.

I asked Ben Coates whether disc brakes had been an option for the new Madone at any stage of development. He told me: “Disc brakes as of now aren’t ideal for an aero bike. They have their place, but the trade-offs aren’t ideal for this bike.

“The performance is better with discs without a doubt, but the extra weight and reduced aero performance aren’t worth that trade off yet. That’s not to say that that won’t change in the future though”

The brakes on the new Madone are yet another talking point. Direct-mount centre-pull brakes have been designed in conjunction with the frame. The design allows all the usual adjustments you’d find with a calliper brake, via several screws. The brake arms use independent spring tension adjustment screws to centre the brake pads and adjust the lever pull force to the desired feel. Additionally, the two spacing screws allow precise pad adjustments.

The brakes have been developed in conjunction with the new frame. As you may notice they have no Bontrager branding on them. Remove the two front screws and behind the plate there is access to the cable and other internals.
The brakes have been developed in conjunction with the new frame. As you may notice they have no Bontrager branding on them. Remove the two front screws and behind the plate there is access to the cable and other internals.

The spacing screws’ range allows up to 6mm of difference when and if you swap between rims widths without having to adjusting the centre wedge.

The rear brake cable comes out from the rear of the seattube having run down the toptube from the bars. It’s a direct line that, due to different frame sizes, required a couple of different solutions. With the smaller frame sizes (52cm and below) the seatstay has a cut out to allow the brakes to sit in a position that allows the cable to have the same routing.

Trek claims that this bar and stem setup, with its internal cables, saves 34 grams of drag (0-20 degrees yaw average) when compared to the current Bontrager XXX Aero bar. The cables are tucked away inside the bars and a channel along the front edge of the fork allows access to the front brake cable.

Hiding the cables in this fashion has a claimed 40 grams of drag saving.

On the left side of the headset it is possible to see the rear brake cable enter the toptube.
On the left side of the headset it is possible to see the rear brake cable enter the toptube.

Mechanics may dread these hitting the stores as I’m guessing there’ll be a learning curve involved in trying to route the cables. One feature that eliminates the problem of having to reroute the cables if you need to adjust the stack hight of your stem is the inclusion of split cam-like spacers.

The spacers come in two halves and clip together. When extending or lowering the bar/stem you simply undo the stem and slip the two parts in or out of place. It’s a feature that I’m sure many will appreciate.

Headset spacers come in two parts that click together to allow ease of use so there is no need to fully remove the bar and stem to heighten or lower the position. This eliminates having to re-wire or re-cable the bike again.
Headset spacers come in two parts that click together to allow ease of use so there is no need to fully remove the bar and stem to heighten or lower the position. This eliminates having to re-wire or re-cable the bike.

The 2016 Trek Madone is being offered in three different sizings: the race-orientated H1, the taller-headtubed H2, and a women’s-specific Madone. Five models will be available:

  • The Race Shop Limited edition, a carbon copy of what the team uses and that retails at AUD $15,999
  • The 9.9 and 9.9 women’s version (both $13,999), which are kitted out with Di2 shifters and mechs plus Aeolus 5 wheels
  • The 9.5 ($7,999), which comes fully loaded with mechanical Dura-Ace and Bontrager’s Paradigm RXL wheels
  • The base model 9.2 ($6,400), equipped with mechanical Ultegra and Bontrager’s Paradigm Elite tubeless wheels

Each of the H2 versions come with compact cranks. All will be available in seven frame sizes, from 50cm through to 62cm in 2cm increments. The women’s version is only available in four sizes, 50 through to 56.

Finishing kit level varies depending on each model, but all come from Trek’s in-house brand Bontrager.

The design and development of the new Madone is something that Trek clearly feels proud of. Indeed, John Burke announced that the launch was “the biggest day in Trek’s history”. We’re looking forward to test riding the new bike and seeing if it lives up to the promises Trek has made.

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