Trek Madone 9.5 - Bike Review

Does the technology packed new aero Madone leave other aero bikes reeling?

Trek has poured serious R&D into its road race bikes ever since it entered the professional peloton back in the 1990s, a constant quest to produce the most technologically advanced bikes to provide its athletes with the best equipment for winning races. And it's been pretty successful on both fronts.

The Madone has long been the US company's flagship race bike, and the latest version has morphed into a fully fledged aero bike. Packed full of unique design features and the IsoSpeed decoupler from its Domane sibling, it has been designed to not only be the fastest aero bike but the smoothest aero bike on the market.

- Related: The evolution of the Trek Madone

What's it like to ride?

Let's get down to the crunch, the Madone is thrilling and addictive to ride. I spent a good few weeks on a mid-range model and really, I didn't want to give it back at the end of the test. I really enjoyed riding the Madone; it's fast everywhere and gave me a fighting chance of keeping up with the fast boys in the weekly chain gang, smoothes out my roughest Cotswolds lanes without feeling soft and wallowy, and the handling is well balanced, neither too fast or slow.

Sleek in its matt grey paint finish, the Madone makes a striking presence. It's a good looking bike (well I think so anyway) with a purposeful stance generated by the huge profile tubes that clearly indicates this is a bike designed with one mission: going fast! Deep section carbon wheels are an aesthetic must on an aero bike in my book, and the Vision wheels are a good match. Though if I was handing over money for a Madone, I would be seriously tempted by the team edition red version.

Trek is unique among the big brands in offering a choice of geometry based on how aggressive you like your bike: H1 is the most slammed and used by the pros and those with extremely good flexibility, while the H2 of the bike I tested is a bit higher at the front and, to be frank, probably a better fit for people doing a 'mere' 6-10 hours a week of cycling and don't have a chiropractor on speed dial. I'd normally prefer a very low front-end but I actually grew to like the higher stack, if anything it meant riding in the drops was more comfortable for long stretches of time. If I was still racing regularly I'd opt for the H1 fit but in my advancing years the H2, as painfully as it is for me to say, probably serves me better.

How do you judge an aero bikes performance? You certainly can't stick it in a wind tunnel to verify the claims yourself, that's for sure. So I'm left with a seat of the pants impressions, backed up by data gathered from a power meter and riding specific routes and roads to provide some semblance of comparative data, allowing for a degree of variability due to weather and wind conditions and equipment differences.

The Madone felt fast and the numbers backed this up. My testing shows it's right up there with other aero bikes I've tested like the Specialized Venge ViAS, Pinarello Dogma F8 and Cervelo S3, but if anything my testing showed that it nudges ahead when the speed increases. But more than the time against the clock, it's the way the Madone feels at speed and the way it piles on the pace that really makes it an addictive bike to ride. It's smooth and controlled, with a real-world usability that is sometimes lacking in aero bikes. You could ride it every day (I certainly did) and not tire of it.

And that's because of the ace up its sleeve. Where it noticeably draws ahead of the other fast bikes is the smoothness of the ride. Aero bikes of old were undoubtedly fast but you would never call them comfortable, the rough ride was the price you paid for the aerodynamically efficient frame. That's not the case with the Madone.

It's all thanks to the clever utilisation of the IsoSpeed decoupler which separates the seat tube from the frame in a clever tube-in-tube design that allows the seatpost to deflect when the wheels encounter a bump or hole in the road. While you don't notice the saddle moving about under you, because you don't, you notice the lack of coarseness in the ride. To be clear, it's not buttery smooth like the new Cannondale Synapse, but it's certainly a lot smoother than many other race bikes. And that means it's less tiring over long distance and it enhances stability on fast seated descents.

The aero frame, the IsoSpeed decoupler, relaxed H2 geometry, and the no-nonsense build kit of Shimano Ultegra Di2 with Vision Metron wheels, all come together to form a very compelling package.

Tech highlights and build kit

The Madone used to be a bike model in the Trek range focused on low weight, but in 2012 aerodynamics started influencing its design and this latest version took that evolution to its natural conclusion. Nothing says aero more than deep teardrop tubes. Trek calls them Kammtail Virtual Foil profiles and they're used for all the key frame components. But it's in brakes and handlebar that are the standout features of this latest Madone.

- Related: Evolution of the Trek Madone - The Aero Years

To eke out more of an aero advantage compared to its peers, Trek has developed its own centre pull brakes and pushed the front into a cutout in the fork, and because the top of the brake is concealed inside the head tube, unique flaps (Trek calls them Vector Wings) open and close to allow the caliper to move when the fork is turned. The rear brake is mounted on the chainstay shunning the popular under chainstay location. Performance of the brakes is impressive: firm, powerful with good modulation. Making adjustments is relatively easy with several screws for aligning the brake blocks evenly either side of the rim.

Integration, or rather the act of hiding components out of the wind, has been a key design theme with the Madone. As well as the unique brakes, this design philosophy extends to the handlebar and keeping the cables out of the wind, an aerodynamic gain that meant Trek could widen the head tube to produce a stiffer frame.

The huge carbon one-piece handlebar and stem looks the business on an aero bike, but more importantly, it conceals all the cables and routes them into the frame through a special stem and steerer tube, and has a shaped intended to minimise drag. Take the stem off and it's like spaghetti junction, but handlebar height can be adjusted easily by adding or removing two-piece spacers. Fitting a Garmin mount isn't possible unless you really stretch the rubber bands, but Trek offers a range of mounts using a GoPro-style interface that fits underneath the handlebar.

The Di2 junction box now inhabits its own port in the downtube, a neater solution than being strapped to the stem as has been the norm for the past few years. It's nice to see a bike manufacturer packaging components like this, and we've started seeing other bike brands follow this lead.

Trek has specced this bike very sensibly. Ultregra might not have the shine and lustre of Dura-Ace but functionally there's little to separate them, and the fast gear changes match the speed of the Madone. The Vision wheels impressed with good lateral stiffness and decent braking in a range of conditions. I swapped the Bontrager R3 Hard-Case Lite tyres during my test, and I'd recommend you do the same; they don't flatter the bike at all though their puncture resistance and durability are commendable.


There's some impressive technology packed into the new Madone in the pursuit of ultimate aerodynamics twinned with the comfort-boosting addition of the Isospeed decoupler, and it all combines to create a fast, smooth and compelling choice for the racer or speed hungry cyclist. If that sounds like you then you need to take a closer look at the Madone.