All-new Trek Domane

Fast is great, comfortable is great … both together is the holy grail for modern road bikes.

First ride thoughts and review – 2020 Domane SLR and SL models

The all-new Domane really capitalises on the disc revolution in road bikes, offering big tyre compatibility and huge stability at speed. Balance this with unmatched chassis comfort and you are left wondering if there is a bike more suited to modern road riding. And it is aero – and that means faster!

Trek is all about the ride experience not just paper specs; it fits with the industry’s most rigorous and comprehensive R&D programme and unparalleled warranty provision. So as a bike shop owner and rider I was invited to the European launch of the all-new Domane in Italy earlier this summer to test ride the bike. Because of how significant this model is, and just how loyal a following it has, I decided to take a step back before leaping on to the new bike. To do this I took our 2019 Domane SLR Demo model for a spin just for the purposes of comparison. How good would the new bike have to be to beat it?

The Domane as we know it up until now is a bike of rare qualities. It is super comfortable, race fast, and has a unique approach to frame geometry when compared to the competition. Riding it I am reminded of just why the model has been a mainstay and so popular. Equipped with 28mm tyres it is nimble and forgiving across all surfaces.  It has a comfortable fit, providing adjustment and scope for a big range of riders. It has that comfortable and stable longer wheelbase that is typical of the endurance road class, but it doesn’t have dulled handling because of its low centre of gravity.

The Domane is basically more nimble than its competitors because it is dropped by nearly a centimetre at the bottom bracket (8mm in fact) when compared to other Trek road bikes and most of what else is available out there. The closer to the ground the weight on a bike sits, the quicker it turns. This trick of design – rarely used in a world of copy-cat frame design has been an ace up the sleeve of the Domane each and every time you ride it. It has always balanced comfort, rider fit, and nimbleness. You push it and it settles down and motors, you sit up and tour and it cushions your day. Our test model has made a whole bunch of riders super happy – all of them amazed at the combination of pace and great manners.  High grade carbon means stiff yet compliant, whilst Isospeed decoupler technology has proved an enduring hit with everyone wanting to take the sting out of UK tarmac.

In all honesty I rode the bike and couldn’t easily see where it would be bettered. That made me proud of the Domane’s we have sold over the years and yet intrigued to find out what comes next for us all…

So, what of the new 2020 model…?

2020 Trek Domane – Launch Video

The most instantly visible hit with the new 2020 bike is that it has gone aero. Why? Because weight optimisation on bikes has plateaued  – the next way to go quicker for the same effort is to move through the air faster.

And the bike is a visual feast. It avoids the dubious trend of dropped rear seat stays (that squatting dog look), with classic lines that are moulded into swept curves and angles. Cables are routed internally through the bars and into the headstock like the market-defining Madone: the overall look is of uncluttered simplicity. Its purist lines connect the Domane into the history and language of bike design in such a way that this chassis will look great in years to come when lesser designs will have been consigned to history’s trendy-ugly bin.

In many ways, this bike represents the maturing of disc technology on Trek’s road bikes. The disc system look so right on it with everything else stripped back and all cabling and hoses internalised. The chunky aero downtube and other lines give the bike a mass and balance that is just so right. Like the previous model it takes mudguards through its hidden mount system, but it takes bigger tyres still, riding with 35mm plus guards or bigger still without. Across the range it has these capacities, with the amazing paint options that are going to give industry rivals more than a headache in the coming years.

So we can agree that it looks great, but what is it like to ride (because this is the ultimate test of any bike of course)?  And the answer is … that it rides like a Domane – a fast Domane. Everything you could love about the prior version is there in spades, but once it is travelling on the big ring it feels unfettered. It feels swift. Our test ride took us out across a big rolling valley floor for an hour and more where we bounced through a few lumps, climbed a few little nicks, and swept along at pace, carving and flowing in a peloton of 30 or so. This terrain felt like riding the bike in Warwickshire and Worcestershire lanes and B roads (only typically sunnier) and it excelled. It dealt with poor surfaces and changes of speed and direction with aplomb. It was rock steady on the brakes and a general thrill.

We were soon at the foot of a 6km climb at 10% gradient. Having bashed through the valley near the front of the group, I have to confess I wasn’t strong enough to really exploit the bike on the climb: let’s just say I got up it. But for every struggle comes reward – and for us it was an alpine style descent of sweeping open corners and tight hairpins. Right here, on this road, the bike explained itself to me. It descends like nothing else – it told me that we were going to go fast and that it was going to be OK. And we did go fast and it really was OK – it was fantastic. I passed other riders, I cooked the brakes, sliding into corners, and the bike forgave me (in my defence they were set euro-style with the front on the left). Out of those same corners you could stamp on it to get it back to maximum speed, tuck in, and just keep the curves coming at dizzying speeds.  That unique geometry of lowered centre meant we all felt part of the bike and super-confident on roads we just did not know at all. It is for moments like these that we invest in our riding with both ride time and the best tech.

Back on the valley floor we had a flat track home and all settled in to a straggly sort of time trial – all a bit over-excited by the speed of the descent. The quickest riders were away at fabulous pace, beating the rest of us home and all garbling excitedly when we finally got back. Whilst also pretending that we hadn’t really been trying. We handed back the bikes and settled on a terrace for a post ride beer and an honest appraisal of the bike. And the consensus was just overwhelmingly positive.

We might have years of industry cynicism, with manufacturers trying to impress us with their wares, but this time, we were back like kids looking through the bike shop window and waiting for Christmas! I want one mummy!

YEP ……….Aero. Aero. Aero.
CONSISTENT ……….Same fabulous and much-loved Domane geometry.
LOOKS ……….Great colour options and spec level choices.
TIDY ……….Internal routing for aesthetics and aero performance.
WOAH! ……….Glove box in the down tube…