Once again, Trek bikes grabbed the headlines at Paris-Roubaix. He won the women’s edition of the race for the second straight year, with Trek-Segafredo’s Elisa Longo Borghini triumphing as Lizzie Deignan did in October. And like Deignan, the Italian did it aboard his advertised endurance bike, the Domane. Only this time it was using an unreleased model with lots of design changes to boot.
Although Trek has been tight-lipped on the Domane RSL (Race Shop Limited) new look thus far, there are some obvious differences from the two race-winning bikes. Most notable is the use of the IsoSpeed decoupler, a suspension system that has made the Domane such a favorite on the cobbles. The front IsoSpeed system has been removed entirely, while the rear decoupler has lost sliding adjustment. Gone is the seatpost mast too, with a traditional post now in its place.
Without Trek’s comments, the reasons for the changes to the IsoSpeed system are purely speculative. However, while they did an admirable job of smoothing out rough terrain, they added extra weight; the current top-tier Domane SLR 9 in a 56cm size weighs 8kg / 17.64lbs, which is heavier for a high-end race bike, although it places a premium on comfort.
Certainly, serviceability will be improved with the removal of the front IsoSpeed. It’s a tricky system that’s hidden inside the steerer tube and the bane of any professional or home mechanic. Removing it also allowed for new cable and hose routing, with both now entering the top tube at the front of the stem, rather than behind it.
Many teams opted to use their aero race bikes in Roubaix this year despite the jarring nature of the cobblestone. It’s a recent trend in racing impacted in part by the adoption of tubeless tyres, which provide extra comfort and help negate the lack of compliance in the frame; a pair of slippers to wear with the flight suit if you like.
In line with these current trends, the new Domane, which Longo Borghini describes as “the perfect bike for Roubaix”, seems to have tweaked its aerodynamic profile. The steering tube, devoid of a decoupler, seems reinforced and deeper. The downtube also looks bulkier and more aerodynamic, as does the seat tube.
The top tube has also been redesigned, although here the new shape seems to suggest improved stiffness and reduced weight. Much like the butt-in-a-steel tube design, Domane’s top tube is wider at the stem and seatpost, with a narrower center section. As with the current model, this latest Domane uses Trek’s lightest carbon layer, the 800 series OCLV.
With all these aero concessions and the removal of the front suspension, it looks like Trek has knowingly closed the gap between the Domane and the Madone, its die-hard aero bike. While that makes sense for a professional racing application, it will be interesting to see how well the changes are received by the general public who have bought the Domane in droves thanks in large part to the ride comfort it offers.
Now in its fourth iteration, the Domane has unquestionably continued to evolve with the times. With that in mind, the new bike still appears to feature the storage unit in the downtube, with mounts for a toptube “bento box” also visible. Other contemporary details specific to the Roubaix-ready Trek-Segafredo bike fleet include a SRAM Red AXS 1x drive chain, with Longo-Boughini running a 52-tooth front chainring, while in the men’s race Jasper Stuyven opted for a 54 tooth.
That the bike originally created for Fabian Cancellara and the cobblestones of Roubaix still excels in racing is a testament to Trek’s willingness to adapt what’s proven in an effort to improve performance. With the strength of the Trek-Segafredo women’s team (Lucinda Brand also finished third in this year’s race), could we see a hat-trick from Trek’s Roubaix next April?