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  • Steve H

    As someone who rides in rainy conditions, the winner is the one with fender mounts. It confuses me how Specialized didn’t think to include something like that, which could have been a huge selling point for a lot of people.

    • Bahrd

      Does a lack of mounts exclude them entirely? I use fenders which are provided with a kind of clip-on mounts.

      • James Huang

        Not necessarily, but proper mounts provide for the most stability, as well as the widest range of options for style and coverage.

      • Matt Newman

        My issue with the clip-ons is that they never seem to work as well and usually scratch my frame up. But then again, I’ve got the winter beater for the wet and snowy nonsense.

  • HRC-E.B.

    Would have been great to make this a three-way match including the new Cannondale Synapse Hi-Mod, as I would suspect most non-brand loyalist endurance bike shoppers to cross-shop those three bikes. I certainly will.

    • Martin Hayman


    • Edzo Boven

      Agree!! I have a Domane (however a 2013 model) and a Synapse Hi-Mod (2017) and I prefer the Synapse over the Domane!
      Despite the Hollowgram carbon wheelset on the Synapse versus the DT-Swiss alu-wheelset with which I have upgraded the Domane.

      • HRC-E.B.

        Edzo, may I ask what the issue is with the Hollowgram wheels is with the Cannondale? I suspect they are part of the reason why the Hi-Mod builds are so expensive.

        • Edzo Boven

          There is not any issue at all with the Hollowgram wheels!. The Hollowgrams are a very nice wheelset. Very pleased with them!
          What I mean is, they are carbon, instead of alu, so considered to be less comfortable than alu wheels.
          The Hi-Mod Synapse with the carbon wheelset is as comfortable to ride as a Trek Domane with an aluy wheelset.

      • Matt Newman

        Try the current Domane and see what you think. My old man was on the 2016 Synapse Hi-Mod and I moved him over this year and apparently the difference is striking.

      • James Huang

        I’m not surprised. As I mentioned in the review, I always liked the IsoSpeed feature on the older Domane, but it made the super-stiff front end feel even harsher in comparison. I never warmed up to that lack of balance, and it’s for precisely that same reason (at opposite ends) that I preferred the new Domane SLR over the Roubaix.

    • James Huang

      Fair enough, but I intentionally pitted just these two bikes against each other because they both employ some sort of mechanical device to help improve the ride quality.

      • Edzo Boven

        In my opinion it is better to have NO mechanical device at all. Something mechanical needs maintanance, maintanance will cost you some money over the years and it will wear out at one time……… so the Synapse does not have any mechanical devices, it is just as it is and as comfortable as both other bikes (or even more comfortable). So a no brainer in my opinion to buy a Synapse instead of the Roubaix or the Domane.

        • James Huang

          That is true to an extent, but keep in mind that the sliding elements on the FutureShock are completely covered by a big rubber boot, while both IsoSpeed units on the Domane SLR are quite well protected from the elements. Save for riders who regularly head out in the wet day after day, I suspect none of those devices will require much regular maintenance at all. That said, if that sort of thing is a major concern, simpler is always better.

          • Edzo Boven

            Still both devices are machanical and will waer out over time. However you have to ask yourselve if you still have the bike when the device gets broken. Most of us will already have replaced the bike for a newer one I assume :-).

            • Bmstar77

              I’ve had a Domane for 5 and a half years now. About 30,000klms, mostly hilly, bumpy roads and a bit of dirt. No problem with the IsoSpeed decoupler so far.

          • Fellow_Ratepayer

            Would any maintenance on the IsoSpeed setup likely be as simple as replacing a few cartridge bearings? I’d presume given the small amount of movement they would see and the protective covers they should almost last indefinitely anyway.

            • James Huang

              Having taken apart both devices myself, yes, that would seem to be the case. And yes, given the limited amount of movement, I suspect that very little attention would be required.

  • Oldan Slo

    Good article! Comparisons make much better reading than single bike descriptions.

    • James Huang

      It’s something we’ve already discussed internally, and you’ll definitely see more of them moving forward.

      • jeremy

        I think you guys should compare one of these with a full suspension bike like the Pinnerello K8-S. or maybe even a titanium bike with a smart softail design that is efficient. ultimately manufacturers will settle on full suspension for the rear as it provides more traction on rough roads as well as comfort when out of the saddle. It’s just much harder to design.

        • James Huang

          I reviewed the Pinarello GAN GR-S earlier this year: https://cyclingtips.com/2017/03/pinarello-gan-gr-s-disc-review-a-gravel-bike-for-the-loyalists/

          Can’t say I was a huge fan. The concept is solid, but the rear end was far, far too stiff to be all that useful.

          • jeremy

            As specialized has found has found as well it’s very hard – even with Mclaren helping – to design a rear suspension (they tried and didn’t find theirs to work that well) that provides travel while being comfortable and not robbing power on climbs. It’s funny but the best way to get it may in recreating something like what Serotta made with their DKS a few years back. Kirk says he got 12mm out of that and it was efficient according to most who rode them. Seems the natural bend and frequency of titanium might be better than than that of elastomers. Who knows maybe the carbon guys can do it with new combinations of carbon. Thanks

    • Tom Shield

      Agree, I’d also add thanks but it seems to me that getting to ride these bikes for that long was it’s own reward.

    • Ashok Captain

      Great article! Well balanced and JH, thanks for including engineering criticisms. I hope the folks who build ’em are taking note!

  • winkybiker

    I would never consider either of these bikes. Too gimmicky with extra complexity and moving parts. Ugly as sin, too. Just my 2-cents.

  • Ssanchez

    Prefer slimmer tube profile of the roobaix, but colour is deadset awful.
    Fluro/neon/whateveryoucallit is fugly on bikes as a single colour

    • James Huang

      That specific model is available in a more subdued color option, too. The bright thing definitely isn’t for everyone.

  • Robert Merkel

    I have to ask – how much of the comfort on these bikes is simply down to the fat tyres?

    • James Huang

      I run every test bike periodically with the tires inflated at unreasonably high pressures to answer just that question. The tires help a ton, but the comfort features on these bikes really do work, and genuinely add to the ride quality.

  • David

    Be interesting to see how a bike without a mechanical device to aid comfort would compare to these: That is, with these two on regular 25mm tires and the other on 28 or bigger tires. In other words, do I really need to buy one of these frames to gain comfort, or can I simply fit bigger tires on my current bike?

    • James Huang

      Having ridden plenty of bikes with wider tires (and a huge range of pressures), I can certainly say that tires are the most important thing —but they’re not everything.

      • epakesa

        I, too, would be very curious to see a comparison between the new school and old school approaches to road bike comfort: how about taking a complex carbon masterpiece like the Domane, and pitting it against a technically very simple, stalwartly traditionalist, dare I say Jan Heine-y bike; perhaps like the steel-framed marvel the man has written in his blog at length of late.

        • jeremy

          Funny enough I collaborated (giving him the idea and bike that is) with Jan over a decade ago- back in 06′. I donated a new trek elastomer bike to him to test the usefulness of rear suspension. I suspected at the time he would be surprised at the use of such a design. And indeed, he wound up liking the bike rather more than he had expected to. I believe one of his main issues with the bike- besides the obvious issues that come with a cheaper stock bike (around 2k at the time)- was that it could bob too much when pushing hard. Ironically, I believe this same criticism is still leveled at the much newer Pinerello dogma k-8s which effectively uses a very similar elastomer as the trek. I still to this day think a system more like serrottas old DKS may very well turn out to be the best of both worlds; providing bump absorption with little bobing and importantly being useable when out of the saddle. Alas the only people working on such ideas anymore are custom titanium builders with very small budgets. Although I do hear that cervello may be working on a similar concept of applying a different material over flexy carbon seatstays as an effective damper. I think there is potential in that. Last Jan I believe has a good point with regard to his skinny bladed flexible old school front forks, they seem to work rather well indeed maybe better than those on the new Domane. This is a very interesting area for further experimentation. Thanks

          • epakesa

            Intuitively, considering that the simplest solution equals the least amount of drain on one’s resources (time and money), leading to more optimal use of resources (more rides and mid-ride coffees and post-ride beers), I would think that adding suspension elements to the frame of a bike is a far inferior way to go about things when you could just use larger tires.

            That said, I suspect that there’s reason beyond mere tradition and mimicry of the pros as to why riders and manufacturers gravitate towards these apparently over-engineered carbon creations: while I can’t vouch for it based on personal experience, I suppose road cyclists consider the feel of narrow, hard tires essential to the experience of road biking; thus complicated efforts to join that sensation with the comfort of fat tires may be entirely justified, if quite superfluous.

            Perhaps then the comfortable, narrow-shod and carbon-framed road bike is truly a luxury item — as you could surely build a bicycle with a fraction of the price tag yet identical performance, by using a simple metal frame and plush, wide tires.

  • David Alexander

    Well-written comparison, thanks. There’s a small block of redundant text (search “squishy Zertz inserts”) that appears to have been left in by mistake.

    Have you tried Canyon’s endurance models? Their two-part leaf-spring post is available in the aftermarket. It’s a pretty astonishing improvement on any conventional post and I’m curious how the Domane’s similar approach compares.

  • Scott Thompson

    Excellent article. Well written. I’ve been kicking the tires on these 2 bikes for 2018. I actually contacted Specialized to inquire about the fender options. Not happening. They steered me towards the Diverge. Fender options are a absolute must in my climate (Vancouver Island). Trek it is. Been on Specialized products for 2 new bikes now and I do like the product. This lack of fender options is baffling here for us and a deal changer. Let’s hope the Trek is a quality ride.

    • George Darroch

      The aluminium Cannondale Synapse has fender mounts, and is worth considering.

  • Stefan Tull

    Great article. Be interesting to see how they compare with the Defy and Synapse.

  • Quickdraw

    Now do Giant Defy vs. Cannondale Synapse.

  • jstevez

    Trek gives you the full Shimano groupset while Specialized goes cheap with the crank, at least to me that’s important.

  • Brendan Jeffrey

    Thank you for doing a head to head comparison and actually stating which product you prefer. So many “shootout” articles chicken out on committing to a winner. Very well done review!

    • James Huang

      Thanks for the compliment! Sadly, too few publications do that sort of thing for fear of alienating current/potential advertisers. That may be, but it’s also been my experience that the companies you’d rather do business with are the ones who can take well-reasoned criticisms and use them to make their products better, anyway. I’ve certainly heard from coworkers on the “other side of the fence” that, unfortunately, there are plenty of companies who just take it personally.

      No one likes to end up in second place, but the smart outfits just use those occasions as motivation so it doesn’t happen again.

  • Christian Parker

    Small correction. Roubaix pro and sworks have a bb30 bottom bracket. ” outfitting every new Roubaix (save for the top-end S-Works version) with a conventional threaded shell”.

  • Rodd Hall

    James, What model Roubaix, and what color, is the bike in your photos?

    • Cameron

      It’s the 2017 Roubaix Comp in “Gloss Bright Yellow / Moto Orange Edge Fade / Clean”. They’re practically sold out but you might still find one at your LBS.

  • Chris

    Thank you very much for the detailed review and your clear opinions. I thought of buying the new Diverge for my gravel rides, but your description of the headset adjustment makes me concerned. Suddenly the Cannondale Slate (which also has its shortcomings) seems more attractive to me.

  • Eat More Lard

    How much comfort do you expect on a road bike? You’re not sitting on the couch! I’ve not ridden either of these bikes but I do own a 2014 Synapse and the original BMC Teammachine before that and both bikes are super plush without the need for any fancy gadgets or active suspension (save that for the gravel or mountain bike). I only moved to the Synapse because it was a bargain price and could fit 28mm tyres, unlike the BMC. I can’t imagine requiring more comfort on a bike than the Synapse provides without turning it into a totally dead riding experience.

  • Eugene Chan

    Perhaps also worth noting that the Domane SLR is available in the most aggressive H1 fit offered by Trek for those who want it. My H1 54cm Emonda SLR has a reach/stack of 390mm/526mm and the the H1 54cm Domane SLR is 396mm/526mm.

    • James Huang

      Is that still available, though? I know that Trek offered the Domane SLR Race Shop Limited in restricted quantities, but that was a while back, it was only available in sizes used by team riders, and never in a disc-brake version. It’s current unlisted on the Trek web site.

      • Eugene Chan

        Looks like prospective owners would have to go through Project One.

  • Mike Skaggs

    Great review James. How would you compare these two to the Canyon Endurace?

  • Conscience_of_a_conservative

    i think specialized wins because the orange paint job looks great. otherwise they are both good bikes

December 16, 2017
December 15, 2017
December 14, 2017