Thursday, June 7, 2012

A Bike Review: Trek Domane 6 Series

 I am a lucky boy. Not only did I get to marry my SSHW, have a world (Okay, would you believe nationally? How about locally? Pretty popular amongst some people? My Mom?) famous blog and get to stare at this beautiful mug in the mirror every morning. I also on occasion get to do product reviews. Some of them like the Focus Izalco Pro and the Bontrager Aeolus 5  reviews are still some of my most popular posts. So when the opportunity came a long to review the new Trek Domane 6 Series I jumped at the chance.

I'm not going to lie. My life doesn't always suck...

So on with the review.

The stunning back drop in the bike shop. And no, those wheels (Or the awesome bars on the floor.) don't come with it...

The Trek Domane 6 Series is the fast performance road bike (IE comfort) replacement for the no defunct Pilot series.  The Pilot never did very well in the market place. It did what it was advertised for very well. But I get the feeling that it suffered some PR problems. Especially when it was brought out in the peak Lance years. Making it difficult to explain to a customer why they didn't want to be on the bike Lance Armstrong rode and that they would be far happier on something like the Pilot. Yeah, see what I mean? The poor Pilot was kind of screwed from the start.

Trek has been smarter about how they brought the Domane out to the general public. By showing them what the bike is really capable of under a PRO racer in a gnarly race like Paris-Roubaix. Trek is already giving the Domane model a far better chance of being accepted into the fold.

The price will do a good job as well, starting at $4500 MSRP with full Ultegra and Bontrager Race Lite wheels it is at a good price point for this market. Conversely, if money is no problem and you like doing the full Monty. You can also get it with full Dura-Ace Di2 and Bontrager Aeolus 5 carbon clinchers for an almost astronomical 12K (I just choked a little.)

Visual Impression:

When I first saw the bike I thought it was quite pretty. The black and white color scheme. While having been done to death lately. Looks very nice on this particular ride. The black lines really help accentuate the curves. Which I like a lot.

As with most Trek products the bike is very well made. Joints are tight and clean. Paint is smooth, glossy and no visible blemishes. And if you are thinking to yourself, "Well yeah, it's new...". Think again. I've seen brand new bikes from other companies straight out of the box that left a lot to be desired in the fit and finish category.

There were several design features that caught my eye when looking at the bike.

First was the non-symmetrical chain stays. Since the cycling world has gone to carbon in a big way asymmetrical chain stays are nothing new. In fact, my last three road bikes all featured them. On the Domane however you really notice the difference in size and shape. The drive side is like a beam set on it's edge. Fairly straight and quite large (Vertically). The non-drive side on the other hand has a shocking amount of curve and far more width than than it does height. I assume that's to give the ride that age old cliche of "More vertical compliance and increased lateral stiffness." If I had a nickle for every time a bike manufacturer used those set of terms I'd have a lot of nickles...

And no I didn't turn it around for the photo (Smart ass...).
 Another thing that struck me were the drop outs in the fork. I don't think I've seen drop outs that curved back that far. I'm sure this was to give the fork the proper rake. But it still caught my eye. And it made me wonder why they didn't change the shape of the fork in some manner (Probably something to do that whole lateral /vertical thing...)

Of course any bike that was made for "Spartacus" to ride on the pave of Paris-Roubaix has to have a built in chain watcher. Nothing but the best for the Swiss Bear....

You don't want this guy looking down his nose at your bike....
 The thing that makes the Domane different than any other bike on the market right now is the ISO Speed technology. Sure Specialized has elastomer inserts (Soooo 2005...) But the ISO Speed helps with dampening the most important part of your anatomy on rough roads. As the British like to say, your arse.

Here is a short  propaganda film from Trek to explain why their bike works so well with the Vertical/Lateral problem.

You can really see the space between the seat stays and the seat tube where the elastomer bushing is.
The Ride:

When I review a frame I try my hardest to get the fit as close as possible to my normal set up. As well as using a set of wheels that I'm familiar with. Next to a frame, wheels make the biggest difference in ride Quality. So I used my older Bontrager Aeolus 5.0 for the test ride. I've used that particular set for thousands of miles. That let me know how the frame itself would really behave without focusing on to many things at once.

So lets get to the meat of it.

The Domane does everything that Trek advertises it to do. Almost in a shocking (Get it? Hahaha, I crack me up...) way. Let me explain.

In a lot of comfort or performance bikes the cushiness of the ride is apparent all over. The Cannondale Synapse, the old Trek Pilot and the Specialized Roubaix all have (had) really plush rides. Frankly, to the detriment of power to the ground in some, if not all those cases. In some of those models you only notice it when you're really going hard. With others its all the time.

But the Domane mostly keeps the stiff parts stiff and the squishy parts squishy. I say mostly, and I'll get to that part in a moment. But the ISO Speed dampening system does what it advertises. I was amazed at how different the ride felt through out the three points of contact with the bike (Hands, ass and feet). While riding I would have a lot of road feel through my hands and feet and almost none through my butt. Quite honestly it was a little un-nerving at first. I'm use to getting pretty equal feedback through all my body parts. But regardless of the terrain I barley felt anything through the saddle. Don't get me wrong. You would feel a chuck hole or a seam in the road. But it was severely muted. It's worth a test ride on your own just to feel what I'm talking about. It's that marked of a difference.

The Domane excels at flat rough pavement and descending. With every push of the pedals you would feel the bike move forward. Like wise with descending, the bicycle would remain steady and the steering was accurate and true but not twitchy. It also cornered quite well. Although I don't think it dove into tight corners as well as a purpose built race bike. But then again. It wasn't intended for that either...

Trek set out to build a bike that's designed for a cyclist who wants a light (With Ultegra it weighs in at 16 pounds.) fast, comfortable bike. Something that an average club rider or century killer could use and enjoy. And for those things I think Trek hit it out of the park.

But... (You knew this was coming right? It can't be all farting rainbows.)

It does have a couple weakness in my opinion.

First, climbing in the saddle. I'm not sure how to put this. But it was just harder than it felt like it should be. I'm not sure if it was because of the flex in the ISO system or something else. But if I got out of the saddle that "difficulty" in climbing seemed to go away.

Like wise, I may have been fatigued from previous rides. But I know the route that I took the Domane out on like the back of my hand. And I definitely felt more tired by the end of the ride. Again, part of me wonders if all that awesome flex in the seat post isn't making your legs push that much farther. Maybe even adding a touch more resistance. Or it could be I'm just a big weeny. All of those are true possibilities...


If you are a person who wants to ride all day long with far less fatigue then this is the bike for you. Like wise, if you're the type of person wants 85-90% of the speed and cornering abilities of a race bike but you don't like to get beat up in the process then I can whole heartedly suggest you try the Domane. Its a good bike and worth a consideration.

However if you want to dabble in racing or perhaps you lives at the base of the Dolomite's you may want to look else where. Different horses for different courses...

Thanks for reading!

Rubber side down,

Big E


  1. I hear it's also a good bike if your last name is Cancellara and you're riding cobblestones. :)

  2. SO have you tried the Domane again on that same road? Does it still tire you? I've spoken to quite a few others who have ridden this bike for long distances without claiming it made them any more tired than usual. Could it be that the problem is something other that the iso thing? thanks, jeremy

    1. Hey Jeremy! Thanks for the comments. I have tried it since but not for very long distance. It is of course possible that it was just me on the day and not the bike at all. I still get kind of a nagging feeling about it. So I'm going to stick to my original opinion. But it is etirely possible that I was wrong. I would suggest that you go give it a long test ride yourself. Some people absolutely love it and it is a great bike. Thanks again

  3. Big E,
    I've been trying to wrap my head around this bike for a while now and indeed I just thought of something; looking at video's of that seatpost moving on the trek testing machine it certainly looks as if the heavier the rider the more monkey motion will inevitably be served up. As your tag is "big" i'll go ahead assert that maybe rider weight (who knows maybe your only 130lbs and its your persona thats big!) plays a big role with the domane. Maybe they will have to make that post in two levels of stiffness- or maybe as trek eluded to they simply don't have the right materials to make it work any better right now- i.e. too stiff and even heavier riders wouldn't budge it? Strange but there's still very little info about this bike out there- just mostly the euro launch stuff from the end of march. j

    1. I am a heavy rider (200lbs.) and that could very well have something to do with it. I honestly hadn't thought about that before. But your observation is well thought out. I'll be very curious to see what happens with this model over time. Trek is pretty good about making tweeks between model years. So we very well could see something like you suggested in the future. Thanks for the input.

  4. Big,
    There's no power loss on this bike at least if your 160-180 lbs range like our friend in France.
    It may eventually be seen actually as an unfair advantage. jeremy

  5. What an interesting review!! -- and that response comes from someone who knows next to nothing about bikes! It's because you treat it like a work of art, which it is, and add all the interesting information surrounding it. I love the illustrations and media you've chosen too. Thank you Earl!

    Looking forward to reading more of your writing.


  6. I bought one a couple of weeks ago and I think it's brilliant. Really smooth on rough roads despite 9 bar pressure in the tyres. I've ridden a lot of bikes over the years but I can say that this is the first road bike I've ridden which didn't give a hint of any aches or pains after 3 hours in the saddle. Criticisms? -the bars are perhaps a bit wider than I prefer and the shape of the lever tops not as nice as my old durace ones, but this is just niggling. Can't wait to get it on a fast mountain descent as it feels really stable and predictable. Try one and odds on you'll buy it!

  7. Comparing the Madone 6 series to the Domane 6 series with the identical components/ equipment moved from one frame to the other; you are in for A SURPRISE.
    If you are an ardent bike racer with one bike; stay with the Madone.
    Same if you are a sprinter or a crit rider, or climb mainly long and steep hills.
    If, on the other hand you like to feel relaxed, enjoy riding long distances with comfort, and like predictable and stable steering when descending ; buy the Domane.
    The Domane is impressive; I have owned more than 25 bikes over the years and ride 20-30 hours weekly, and this design is perfect for those who want to enjoy riding with the purpose of riding experience.