Trek is one of the most recognisable bike brands in the world
and the Madone has been one of the most successful race bikes of
the last two decades. In this two-part series, we'll explore the
history and evolution of the bike that has brought Trek so much
success over the years.
Throughout history racing cyclists have become synonymous with
bike brands: Fausto Coppi raced a Bianchi during his post-war
racing career, Eddy Merckx and Colnago during his Molteni rein,
Miguel Indurain dominated on a Pinarello (the last cyclist to win
the Tour on a steel bike), and disgraced Tour winner Lance
Armstrong gave Trek an incredible period of dominance with the
It's impossible to separate Armstrong and Trek when talking
about the early history of the Madone. Here was a partnership that
brought seven straight Tour de France victories (since wiped from
official records) and rocketed Trek into the spotlight, helping it
to become a global player in the road bike market. It also saw a
transition from Italian dominance at the world's biggest stage race
to one of US conquest.
Love or loathe him, it was Lance's push for better bikes and the
obvious marketing opportunity of a multiple Tour de France winner
that challenged the Trek engineers to develop the Madone platform.
The bike evolved rapidly in a short period of time, and the history
of the Madone is one that covers some of the most significant
developments for the racing bicycle.
Perhaps Trek's biggest contribution to the cycling world is OCLV
(Optimum Compaction, Low Void). Trek was an early adopter of carbon
fibre and is construction process was first introduced on a road
frame in 1992. Trek was and still is an innovative company, and
subsequent years would see Trek embrace the rapidly changing
technologies that transformed road bikes during the later part of
the 20th century, from 1in quill stems and 9-speed Dura-Ace to the
press fit bottom brackets and tapered head tubes that are
Armstrong's first Tour victory came aboard Trek's 5000-series
race bike, the Madone's predecessor and the first model to be given
the carbon fibre treatment. The Madone name wasn't actually
introduced until 2003 and has since gone on to evolve massively in
the 14 years since it was first launched. The very first Madone was
noticeable only for the shift from a number to naming convention,
the underlying technology had changed little. Armstrong would race
the new Madone during his last two years before his 'first'
The Madone took its name from the Col de la Madone in France, a
13km climb with a 6.7% average gradient, steepening to 8% in
places, going from sea level up to 925m at its summit. It's a climb
that has never been used in a race but it has been made famous by
the Armstrong association, who used it as a key test of fitness. In
the years since it has become a popular training climb for pro
cyclists based in the south of France. Bespoke Cycling rode it
recently and you can read
Barry Scott's account of the climb here. Amstrong's fastest
time was 30.47 but Chris Froome has gone faster since, reportedly
in a time of 30-09. We've no idea how fast Barry got up it…
The Madone underwent many changes during its formative years,
with Armstrong first winning the Tour de France with it in 2004.
While it got lighter and gained a few key developments, it still
retained the same visual language, including the forward sloping
top tube that typified race bikes before the turn of the
For 2008, however, it was out with the old and in with the new.
Trek scrapped the old bike completely and introduced its most
radical redesign ever, centering around an adoption of the compact
frame design that had been pioneered by Giant with its TCR.