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Trek Madone 9.9

Trek's all-rounder gets a radical aero makeover for 2016

Trek first launched the Madone back in 2003 but while that machine and the 2016 iteration share the same name, they bear no resemblance. In fact, the 2016 Trek Madone 9 Series, launched ahead of the 2015 Tour de France looks nothing like the version it replaced either – or just about anything else out there.

It’s one of the next generation of aero road bikes and a machine which marries aerodynamics and comfort in one seamless package.

When the Madone was first launched it was the Wisconsin-based firm’s carbon fibre race bike, named after the climb in the south of France which Lance Armstrong used to test his fitness. Back the, one bike was enough to do the job, but things have moved on and the market has become increasingly segmented – not least at the top level where professional riders, by and large, have a choice of at least two or three race bikes to choose from, each designed specifically for the job in hand, whether that’s to be aerodynamic, super-light or comfortable.

For Trek, that specialisation began with the arrival of the Domane in 2012 – the Classics-inspired bike designed with input from Fabian Cancellara and ridden to victory by Spartacus at Paris-Roubaix in 2013, and the Tour of Flanders in 2013 and 2014. Next came the Emonda in 2014; a 690g frame and the bike of choice for climbers in the mould of Frank Schleck.

The effect of the IsoSpeed decoupler is noticeable in how it smooths out ripples and imperfections in the road through the rear end

That left the Madone looking a little out-dated as the all-rounder of Trek’s range.

It was fairly light, but not as light as the Emonda, and had an aerodynamic flavour, but lagged behind the latest aero road bikes, while it didn’t come close to the Domane in terms of comfort.

So Trek went back to the drawing board and the Madone 9-Series was reborn as an out-and-out aero race machine – with a significant trick up its sleeve.

Integration is a key buzzword within the bike industry and applies wholly to the Madone, not just with the IsoSpeed decoupler but also in aerodynamic terms

And that trick is the integration of a new version of the comfort-boosting IsoSpeed decoupler first introduced on the Domane. It’s not a like-for-like copy of the Domane’s IsoSpeed decoupler as Trek have re-engineered the design to fit within the aero tube profiles of the Madone, instead using a tube-in-tube construction which places a round, flexing tube inside the aero-profile external tube.

The internal tube is bonded to the external tube above the bottom bracket and connects via a pivot at the seatpost junction. It offers 19mm or 21mm of movement, depending on whether the frame has a H1 (pro) or H2 (endurance) fit and, while not on a par with the Domane, extinguishes the notion that all aero road bikes are uncomfortable.

The effect of the IsoSpeed decoupler is noticeable in how it smooths out ripples and imperfections in the road through the rear end of a frame which has the stiffness and responsiveness you’d expect from a WorldTour-ready race bike – something which is appreciated whether sprinting or attacking a short, sharp climb.

It’s an incredibly smart piece of engineering but far from the only clever feature on the Madone. While comfort is important, aerodynamics are at its heart – and Trek have gone to town. The Madone uses Trek’s Kammtail Virtual Foil tube profiles across the frame. The idea behind a Kammtail profile is the truncated shape tricks the wind into continuing as if it were passing over a full airfoil, gaining an aerodynamic benefit while increasing stiffness and reducing weight.

Integration is a key buzzword within the bike industry and applies wholly to the Madone, not just with the IsoSpeed decoupler but also in aerodynamic terms. View the Madone from the front and not a single cable is visible – everything is hidden to help the Madone slip through the wind as smoothly as possible. Trek have designed proprietary, integrated brakes at the front and rear and, because the top of the front caliper sits within the headtube, the Vector Wings above the brake allow the handlebar to turn fully.

Integration continues with the handlebar and stem. It’s a one-piece design in a similar vein to what Canyon, Scott and Specialized have done on their own aero machines, the Aeroad, Foil and Venge ViAS. Elsewhere, the Control Centre on the downtube houses the front derailleur’s trim dial on a mechanical groupset, and the Di2 junction box (normally strapped inconspicuously on the stem) and battery from an electronic groupset. The water bottle mounts have even been placed with aerodynamics in mind.

There’s a lot going on and it’s all designed to make a bike which is as quick as possible. The Madone, ultimately, is a race bike, not a sportive or endurance bike. Like other aero road bikes in this mould, the level of integration and proprietary tech mean it’s not as easy to look after for the home mechanic. But for riders who crave speed, the Madone is a machine which offers that in spades – and the integration of Trek’s IsoSpeed decoupler is an innovation everyone can appreciate.

Trek offer the Madone in three off-the-shelf builds for 2016, starting at £6,000 for the Madone 9.5 with Shimano Dura-Ace, rising to £8,500 for the Shimano Dura-Ace Di2-equipped bike featured here, and topping out with the team replica Madone Race Shop Limited at £9,750. And if you want to go all out, it’s also available through Trek’s Project One custom program.

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