This article originally published on BikeRadar
Slung long and low with a fast-handling fork, the Trek Domane Classics Edition is one of the most interesting bikes we have ridden in some time.
Although certainly not for everyone (quite literally it's not for those who ride frames smaller than 54cm), this pro-edition Domane combines aggressive body positioning and steering with a stable wheelbase and ridiculously plush ride. Despite the long chain stays, the wide-stance BB90 shell anchors a rock-solid chassis for efficient power transfer.
Ride and handling: Crisp handling, meet rear suspension
While race bikes traditionally are tight and jumpy like cats, the Domane Classics Edition is more like a lion; the pro-edition fork offers plenty of agility up front, but there is no mistaking the fact you're driving a long bus. Turns and quick dodges can be rapidly and easily initiated, but the rear end takes a split second to come around. Depending on how you like your bike to feel — and where and how you ride — this can be a good thing.
On rough roads, for example, the Classics Edition truly shines. When you hit washboards in a group and the errant bottle escapes its cage on a bike in front of you, a quick flick of the bars will suffice to jump out of the way. But the bike floats gently and almost lazily over said washboards. Bumping elbows or hips with a rider next to you isn't panic-inducing; the bike calmly takes whatever is thrown at it with measured confidence.
There are few remarkable things going on with the geometry and frame construction.
The Classics Edition shares the crazy-low bottom bracket (7.5-8cm drop) and long chain stays with the rest of the Domane line. And, as with the rest of the line, the IsoSpeed 'decoupler' allows not only the seatmast but the entire seat tube to flex far more than with a rigidly connected seat cluster. Trek claims a two-fold improvement in comfort and it's wholly believable. But the Classics Edition gets a faster-handling fork that the Factory team riders demand, plus a shorter head tube for getting low and aero.
The heart of the Domane is the IsoSpeed 'decoupler', which allows the full seat tube to flex
The pro-edition fork still sweeps far forward (5.3cm rake) with the dropouts cutting sharply back, offering a mild leaf-spring suspension effect while retaining a tighter front end. Put it all together, and it feels more like you're riding down inside the Classics Edition than up on top of it.
While IsoSpeed offers hearty helpings of comfort, the Classics Edition is not magic. The bike is still constrained by many standard parameters of road bike design. For example, the fork does not flex anywhere as much as the IsoSpeed rear does (to do so would do bizarre things to the handling). As a result, you feel bumps about twice as much at the handlebar than at the saddle.
It's an odd sensation, akin to riding with a 120psi 19c tire up front and a 60psi 28c tire in the rear. Also, the lower-chassis stiffness required for racing means that you can certainly feel hard bumps at the cranks if you unweight the saddle before hitting them. We enjoyed coming into rough sections standing up — feeling all the turbulence — then sitting down, and marveling at how quickly it dissipated.
CORRECTED: Speaking of that lower-chassis stiffness, the bike is nearly as stiff laterally as the Madone H1. Trek lead production design engineer Tim Hartung told BikeRadar the Domane Classics Edition has a BB deflection of 55N/mm versus the Madone's 61N/mm under the same load. And while the seat tube may bow like a willow tree, the head/top/down-tube junction is resolutely inflexible (claimed head tube deflection is 96Nm/deg to the Madone's 97Nm/deg).
When combined with Bontrager's race-worthy and ultra-stiff cockpit, there isn't a shred of lost energy in propelling the bike forward for sprints or climbs. Sprinting does feel quite different than on a regular race bike, however, because of the long wheelbase: the bike rockets forward eagerly, but the side-to-side dynamic is muted.
While the standard Domane comes in nine sizes, 44-62cm, the Classics Edition is only provided in the sizes that the Trek Factory Team rides, 54-62cm.
Compared to Trek's other bikes — and those of the competitors like Specialized — the Classics Edition is the longest and lowest of the bunch. The head tube (14.3cm on a 58cm) is minuscule compared to the standard Domane (19.5) or a comparably sized Specialized Roubaix (22.5), but keep in mind that the bottom bracket is nearly a full centimeter lower than most bikes. So the number you want to look at here is stack, the vertical difference between the height of the bottom bracket center and the top of the head tube. Also, note the drastic difference in trail between the bikes. (What's trail, you say? Check out Calfee's succinct explanation of the geometry of bike handling.)
As noted above, the frames are only offered in 54-62cm sizes, but those frames all share the fork from the 54cm. Since we only tested the 58cm, we can't comment on how this affects the other sizes.
The IsoSpeed adds a bit of heft — 1,046g vs 880g for a Madone H1 — but our complete test bike still only tips the scales at an impressive 15.5lb/7.03kg.
Trek includes an integrated chain catcher and there's also a pocket on the inside of the left chain stay for a Bontrager DuoTrap ANT+ sensor for speed and cadence data without having to zip tie plastic bits to the frame.
Offered as part of Trek's Project One custom-build project, you can dress the Classics Edition a variety of ways. Trek sent this tester equipped with Shimano's latest and greatest, Dura-Ace Di2 9070, and outfitted with its house-brand wheels, cockpit and saddle. Quite often, "house brand" means "cost effective," but Bontrager has earned its status as a quality standalone brand. We endorse Di2 9070 highly, and we'll focus on the Bontrager parts here.
The Bontrager Aeolus 5 wheels features Zipp-made carbon clincher rims laced to DT Swiss hubs and spokes. Prior to this bike, we have ridden and raced both the clincher and the Bontrager-made tubulars on road, cyclo-cross and triathlon bikes quite a bit, and the aerodynamics, durability and braking are all on par with the best-in-class options out there. Bontrager recommends its cork pads with the Aeolus hoops.
As you'd expect with a bike aimed at taking the sting out of the road, 25c tires provide the cushioning grip, specifically Bontrager R4 clinchers on our tester.
Bontrager's XXX 31.8 stem is unflinchingly stiff and impressively light (123g for a 120mm). The handlebar delivered was an aluminum Race Lite Classic, which we opted to swap out for a PRO bar with a flat top as we prefer a flat perch from the tops clear around the bend and across to the hoods. But with 12 bars, Bontrager has a bend style for virtually all types of preferences.
Similarly, the supplied Team Issue saddle didn't float our boat, but we have enjoyed the new Bontrager Serano RL with its flatter shape and flared tail.
Those who want to damp the front end more to match the rear could opt for the Race X Lite IsoZone bar, which has foam pads on the tops and drops. But we were quite content with the ultra-stiff aluminum PRO grasped by the steadfast Bontrager stem — combined, they can really whip the bike to life.
All in all, this is quite the unique bike. We look forward to further testing in some of our local faux-Roubaix road races on dirt and gravel.
Available sizes: 54, 56, 58 (tested), 60, 62cm
Highs: Plush ride with IsoSpeed soaking up bumps; quick handling; ability to get a low body position on a type of bike typically associated with high handlebars
Lows: Lack of smaller sizes; only a single fork for all sizes; absence of lower priced options
BikeRadar verdict: 4 stars