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
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
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
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.