Skip to main content

Exclusive: Trek Boone 9 Disc first ride review

IsoSpeed 'decoupler' a game changer for cyclo-cross

Image 1 of 36

The Trek Boone 9 Disc is truly a game changer thanks to the unique IsoSpeed 'decoupler' that's built into the seat cluster

The Trek Boone 9 Disc is truly a game changer thanks to the unique IsoSpeed 'decoupler' that's built into the seat cluster (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
Image 2 of 36

A chain catcher is built into the base of the seat tube

A chain catcher is built into the base of the seat tube (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
Image 3 of 36

The Shimano ST-R785 hydraulic/electronic Dual Control levers are comfortable in your hands and the brakes offer a light and silky feel. The flat portion up top is somewhat unusually long, though, so keep that in mind when you're setting up the cockpit

The Shimano ST-R785 hydraulic/electronic Dual Control levers are comfortable in your hands and the brakes offer a light and silky feel. The flat portion up top is somewhat unusually long, though, so keep that in mind when you're setting up the cockpit (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
Image 4 of 36

The all-aluminum cockpit features a Bontrager Race X Lite stem and comfy Race Lite IsoZone handlebar

The all-aluminum cockpit features a Bontrager Race X Lite stem and comfy Race Lite IsoZone handlebar (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
Image 5 of 36

Bontrager CX3 Team Issue clinchers are mounted to HED Ardennes Plus Disc tubeless-ready wheels

Bontrager CX3 Team Issue clinchers are mounted to HED Ardennes Plus Disc tubeless-ready wheels (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
Image 6 of 36

The tread pattern is fantastic in mud but the stiff casings roll disappointingly slowly. Given the generously proportioned, 20mm-wide HED Ardennes Plus rims, we also expected them to measure larger than their printed 32mm width

The tread pattern is fantastic in mud but the stiff casings roll disappointingly slowly. Given the generously proportioned, 20mm-wide HED Ardennes Plus rims, we also expected them to measure larger than their printed 32mm width (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
Image 7 of 36

The inverted design of the no-cut integrated seatmast means that there's no way for water to get in up top

The inverted design of the no-cut integrated seatmast means that there's no way for water to get in up top (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
Image 8 of 36

The stock Bontrager Evoke 3 saddle is comfortable and well shaped. Smooth edges make for more consistent remounts, too

The stock Bontrager Evoke 3 saddle is comfortable and well shaped. Smooth edges make for more consistent remounts, too (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
Image 9 of 36

A thick rubber protector keeps chain slap at bay

A thick rubber protector keeps chain slap at bay (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
Image 10 of 36

The Shimano Ultegra crankset is fitted with 'cross-friendly 46/36T chainrings

The Shimano Ultegra crankset is fitted with 'cross-friendly 46/36T chainrings (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
Image 11 of 36

The Ultegra Di2 front derailleur has more than enough oomph to execute perfect gear changes even under full power

The Ultegra Di2 front derailleur has more than enough oomph to execute perfect gear changes even under full power (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
Image 12 of 36

The Ultegra Di2 transmission doesn't offer much in the way of tactile feedback but it shifts with robotic precision each and every time

The Ultegra Di2 transmission doesn't offer much in the way of tactile feedback but it shifts with robotic precision each and every time (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
Image 13 of 36

The variable radius bend is covered with cushy Bontrager gel-backed tape

The variable radius bend is covered with cushy Bontrager gel-backed tape (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
Image 14 of 36

Tube shapes on the Trek Boone bear a lot of familial resemblance to other bikes in the company's carbon range

Tube shapes on the Trek Boone bear a lot of familial resemblance to other bikes in the company's carbon range (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
Image 15 of 36

The big main tubes lend excellent front-end stiffness on the new Trek Boone

The big main tubes lend excellent front-end stiffness on the new Trek Boone (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
Image 16 of 36

Tire clearance is very good through the carbon fork crown

Tire clearance is very good through the carbon fork crown (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
Image 17 of 36

You can just barely make out the rivnuts on the underside of the seat stays that act as fender mounts

You can just barely make out the rivnuts on the underside of the seat stays that act as fender mounts (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
Image 18 of 36

Even the rear brake hose is routed internally through the frame. There is no external option

Even the rear brake hose is routed internally through the frame. There is no external option (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
Image 19 of 36

The enormous chain stays are notably asymmetrical. Heel rub hasn't been a problem during our early testing so far

The enormous chain stays are notably asymmetrical. Heel rub hasn't been a problem during our early testing so far (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
Image 20 of 36

Instead of being rigidly connected, the seat tube and top tube/seat stays are joined with an axle and cartridge bearings that allow the joint to flex under impact

Instead of being rigidly connected, the seat tube and top tube/seat stays are joined with an axle and cartridge bearings that allow the joint to flex under impact (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
Image 21 of 36

Although it's visually discrete, IsoSpeed provides incredible benefits in terms of ride quality and rear wheel traction. In fact, the rear end is so smooth that we were consistently able to power through bumpy sections that would otherwise force us to stand and/or coast

Although it's visually discrete, IsoSpeed provides incredible benefits in terms of ride quality and rear wheel traction. In fact, the rear end is so smooth that we were consistently able to power through bumpy sections that would otherwise force us to stand and/or coast (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
Image 22 of 36

Slender seat stays add further cush to the rear end and their bridgeless design increases mud clearance

Slender seat stays add further cush to the rear end and their bridgeless design increases mud clearance (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
Image 23 of 36

There's about 15mm of room on either side of the stock, 32mm-wide tires

There's about 15mm of room on either side of the stock, 32mm-wide tires (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
Image 24 of 36

The matching IsoSpeed fork can't quite match the bump-leveling abilities of the pivoting rear end but it's admirably smooth nonetheless - and certainly more comfortable and less jarring than may other tapered 'cross forks out there

The matching IsoSpeed fork can't quite match the bump-leveling abilities of the pivoting rear end but it's admirably smooth nonetheless - and certainly more comfortable and less jarring than may other tapered 'cross forks out there (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
Image 25 of 36

The internal routing is convertible for mechanical or electronic drivetrains. Although Trek bills the frame as being "weatherproof", water can clearly still get in through the rubber grommets

The internal routing is convertible for mechanical or electronic drivetrains. Although Trek bills the frame as being "weatherproof", water can clearly still get in through the rubber grommets (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
Image 26 of 36

Hidden fender mounts are featured both front and rear for added versatility

Hidden fender mounts are featured both front and rear for added versatility (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
Image 27 of 36

The rear disc brake is mounted to the chain stay where it's well protected. Trek specs 160mm-diameter rotors but 140mm ones will fit at both ends

The rear disc brake is mounted to the chain stay where it's well protected. Trek specs 160mm-diameter rotors but 140mm ones will fit at both ends (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
Image 28 of 36

Note how the slender IsoSpeed fork blades curve slightly more than usual. The aluminum dropouts then have to 'reach back' to the axle in order to maintain a proper rake dimension

Note how the slender IsoSpeed fork blades curve slightly more than usual. The aluminum dropouts then have to 'reach back' to the axle in order to maintain a proper rake dimension (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
Image 29 of 36

The front brake hose is neatly routed along the fork blade

The front brake hose is neatly routed along the fork blade (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
Image 30 of 36

The highly asymmetrical seat tube flares out dramatically as it approaches the bottom bracket

The highly asymmetrical seat tube flares out dramatically as it approaches the bottom bracket (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
Image 31 of 36

The stout chain stays measure 425mm in length

The stout chain stays measure 425mm in length (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
Image 32 of 36

The burly chain stays and slim seat stays would probably lend a good ride quality on their own but when paired with the IsoSpeed 'decoupler', the feel becomes magical

The burly chain stays and slim seat stays would probably lend a good ride quality on their own but when paired with the IsoSpeed 'decoupler', the feel becomes magical (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
Image 33 of 36

Tire clearance is a little tighter down through the chain stays but there's still about 10mm of space on either side of a 32mm-wide tire, plus there's absolutely no shelf behind the bottom bracket shell on which debris can accumulate

Tire clearance is a little tighter down through the chain stays but there's still about 10mm of space on either side of a 32mm-wide tire, plus there's absolutely no shelf behind the bottom bracket shell on which debris can accumulate (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
Image 34 of 36

Those two bolts on the backside of the seat tube secure the internally mounted Shimano Di2 battery. The internal routing is generally well done but we would have preferred to see the front derailleur wire exit up near the mounting tab where it's better protected

Those two bolts on the backside of the seat tube secure the internally mounted Shimano Di2 battery. The internal routing is generally well done but we would have preferred to see the front derailleur wire exit up near the mounting tab where it's better protected (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
Image 35 of 36

The internally mounted Shimano Di2 battery inserts through the bottom of the frame. It's only accessible after removing the crank but given that the battery doesn't need to be removed for charging, it shouldn't need to be done often at all

The internally mounted Shimano Di2 battery inserts through the bottom of the frame. It's only accessible after removing the crank but given that the battery doesn't need to be removed for charging, it shouldn't need to be done often at all (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
Image 36 of 36

How asymmetric is the seat tube? Keep in mind that the water bottle bolts are mounted on the centerline of the frame

How asymmetric is the seat tube? Keep in mind that the water bottle bolts are mounted on the centerline of the frame (Image credit: Jonny Irick)

This article originally published on BikeRadar

One of our first thoughts after we first tried Trek's Domane endurance road bike was that its bump-leveling IsoSpeed 'decoupler' would be fantastic on a cyclo-cross machine. That day has now come with the introduction of the Boone. BikeRadar got an exclusive first ride on the top-end Boone 9 Disc model and after racing it at the 2014 US Cyclo-cross Nationals, we can confidently declare that this thing is a legitimate game changer.

Ride and handling: smoother = faster

We took delivery of the bike on a Saturday and raced it at the US National Championship just four days later on what turned out to be a very bumpy, slick and technically challenging course. Though the Boone would likely be a fine machine without IsoSpeed, it's that unique mechanical pivot at the seat cluster that defines and absolutely dominates this bike's ride and performance characteristics.

In combination with the integrated seatmast, IsoSpeed allows the entire seat tube to flex much more than usual under impact. The affect on comfort, rider freshness, pedaling efficiency, and traction is real and dramatic. It's akin to running clinchers with 30psi versus tubulars at 25psi – it's that profound.

The rear end of the Boone isn't just less jarring; it's silly smooth. On one section of the course that was straight but disruptingly bumpy, we were able to stay comfortably seated and continue to apply power, whereas we would have been forced to stand and/or coast on other 'cross bikes. This, of course, pays dividends in terms of speed, but it also left us feeling fresher at the end of the race than we expected. And in the specific case of cyclo-cross, the slight give in the seatmast made for gentler remounts, too.

Not only were we able to more consistently apply power, but we also discovered benefits in terms of rear wheel traction. One particularly tricky corner – the treacherous 'Pete's Plunge' – was very off-camber, slick, and littered with grassy lumps covered in melting snow and mud. Grip and stability were of the utmost importance here and the Boone supplied both in spades. Even with not-so-supple clinchers installed, all we had to do was stick a leg out, maintain weight on the saddle, and basically rail it while many others around us were forced to tip-toe through the corner to avoid sliding out.

We can't really think of any drawbacks to incorporating the IsoSpeed decoupler, either. According to Trek, the system only adds about 50g, there's no undue bounciness, and no negative affect on overall frame stiffness that we could notice. Riders who might be worried that the Domane's ultra-smooth ride might be a little too soft on the Boone shouldn't worry, either, as the pivot point has been repositioned to be more inline with the seat tube to firm it up slightly while still being incredibly effective.

Just as we found on the Domane, though, there is a slightly unbalanced feel as the front end just doesn’t level out the ground as well as the rear – which isn't surprising since there's no mechanical pivot like there is out back. Nevertheless, Trek has still done a very good job making the most of a conventional setup with dramatically curved fork blades terminating in rear-reaching aluminum tips to maintain a proper rake. While the impact isn't as big, the slender fork does still offer a notably smooth ride when compared to most tapered carbon 'cross forks – particularly ones with huge crowns and oversized blades.

Even ignoring the fantastic IsoSpeed benefits, there's a lot to like here. Frame geometry is wholly lifted from the aluminum Crockett and it's fantastic. The low bottom bracket is stable and confident through corners, the front-end geometry is both agile at low speeds and calm at high speeds, and in general the bike seems more than happy to attack slippery corners.

Overall stiffness is very good, too. The Boone is quick to respond when you apply the power and the solid front end contributes to the predictable handling, especially when the ground is slick.

Mud clearance is also generous throughout thanks to the widely set chain stays and the broad stance of fork crown. There are no bridges on the seat stays or chainstays, either, and there's absolutely no shelf whatsoever behind the bottom bracket on which mud and debris can collect. With true-to-width 32mm tires installed, we measured no less than 15mm of space around the fork and seatstays and a still-ample 10mm between the sidewalls and chainstays.

Frame: a Domane adapted for the dirt

In many ways, the Boone's carbon fiber frame is simply a Domane that has been rejiggered for use on a 'cross course with extra clearances, revised geometry, and the aforementioned modified IsoSpeed pivot leverage ratio. Of course, our disc-specific test bike also adds post mount tabs at the fork and on the chainstay.

Many of the tube profiles are quite similar, too, with mostly organic shapes throughout and few abrupt edges to speak of.

The Boone has clean lines and a shoulder-friendly top tube

Not surprisingly, the Boone also has similar frame features, including an extra-wide BB90 bottom bracket shell and tapered 'e2' 1 1/8-to-1 1/2in head tube – both with drop-in bearings – Trek's usual no-cut integrated seatmast, and convertible internal routing that can be used with either mechanical or electronic drivetrains.

Trek has taken some impressive steps toward versatility and component integration, too. In addition to the hidden full fender mounts and dual bottle bosses (which isn't always a given on top-shelf 'cross bikes), there's even a dedicated pocket inside the bottom of the seat tube to affix an internal-style Shimano Di2 battery. Given that the charge port for Shimano's latest electronic drivetrains now conveniently resides on the box beneath the stem, most users will likely never need to access that Li-ion pack at all – and if they do, they'll just have to remove the crank and bottom bracket cover to get to it.

We do have to take issue with Trek's claim that the Boone frame is "weatherproof". While the integrated seatmast design does eliminate the usual entry point for water, the access ports for the brake and derailleur lines are hardly hermetically sealed. Water will eventually get into this thing, especially if you plan on regularly using a power washer, but at least there's a drain hole down at the bottom.

We haven't had a chance to tear down our test bike for actual frame and fork weights, but Trek claims 1,000g for the former and 400g for the latter. Our disc-specific fork will certainly weigh more, however, given the aluminum steerer instead of the rim brake version's full carbon fiber construction.

Equipment: Awesome Ultegra Di2 transmission, fantastic brakes, great wheels

Our top-end Boone 9 Disc tester came well-equipped for 'cross duty with a Shimano Ultegra Di2 electronic transmission, the company's new R785 hydraulic disc brakes, and a full complement of Bontrager finishing kit. Surprisingly, though, the Bontrager was not applied to the wheels, which instead come from HED in the form of its fantastic Ardennes Plus Disc tubeless-ready clinchers.

Much as we love Di2 on the road, we're of a slightly mixed opinion for 'cross. As usual, shifts are robotically precise and consistent regardless of conditions. Simply push the button and you're rewarded with a perfect shift every time.

That being said, the small buttons are especially tough to feel with full-fingered gloves – more so when it's cold or bumpy – and there's still barely any tactile feedback, particularly since the shifts themselves are so flawlessly (and fluidly) executed. The Ultegra Di2 variant is also a bit heavy, which generally doesn't create much of an issue until it's time to pick the bike up for barriers and run-ups – which in the case of the US National Championship course was 3-4 times per lap.

Total weight for our 52cm test sample was 8.08kg (17.81lb) without pedals – hardly a boat anchor but not nearly as light as it could be with a mechanical drivetrain.

We were quite willing to deal with that slight increase in weight, however, as it's currently the only way to get into Shimano's utterly amazing R785 hydraulic disc brakes. Just as with the company's off-road brakes, these offer a light and silky smooth lever feel, outstanding power, and fantastic fingertip control that allowed us to consistently flirt with the limits of traction. They also run virtually silently, even when wet, and given the full-hydraulic design self-adjust for pad wear (which is critical for 'cross racers who regularly tackle wet conditions). Trek specs 160mm rotors front and rear but both ends will accept 140mm ones.

The HED wheels may have been a surprise but they're a pleasant one. The wide-profile rims (20mm internal width) provide a great foundation for bigger tires, they offer confidence-inspiring stiffness, and the front and rear grease ports are a godsend after soupy races.

The matching Bontrager CX3 tires, however, were more of a mixed bag. On the one hand, the aggressive tread pattern is awesome in slippery conditions with stout knobs that bite hard even when there's little traction to be had. However, the casing is surprisingly stiff – and thus, noticeably slow-rolling – for a 120tpi tire and we expected them to measure wider than their 32mm printed width given the extra-wide rims on which they were mounted.

Also, while we applaud Trek for including tubeless-ready wheels, the tires use standard tube-type beads and don't readily seal. We had to add a second layer of Gorilla Tape on top of the stock adhesive rim films in order to get a reliably tight fit. Thankfully, tires are such a location- and conditions-specific item that you'll likely need to switch to something else anyway.

Otherwise, the rest of the Bontrager gear do their respective jobs competently and without complaint. The Race Lite IsoZone aluminum bar features a comfy bend and genuinely effective under-tape foam padding, the matching forged aluminum Race X Lite stem is suitably stiff and secure, and the Evoke 3 saddle is reasonably light and comfy – solid and dependable stuff all around.

At least for now, UK customers will unfortunately be limited to the mid-range Boone 5 Disc (£2,400) complete bike and the rim brake-specific frameset (£1,750).

The verdict: Only once in a great while does a bike come along that truly changes the game. The new Boone does just that. The IsoSpeed 'decoupler' offers an uncannily smooth ride that no other 'cross bike can match at the moment, and the performance benefits it imparts are real and significant. While we have some issues with the spec, they're relatively minor and don't significantly take away from what is otherwise an utterly incredible bike for hitting the barriers.

Price: US$6,299
Weight: 8.08kg (17.81lb, 52cm, complete, without pedals
Available sizes: 50, 52 (tested), 54, 56, 58, 61cm
Highs: IsoSpeed 'decoupler' offers amazing ride quality and traction benefits, great geometry, precise Di2 transmission, awesome full-hydraulic disc brakes, solid workhorse wheelset
Lows: A bit heavy, slow-rolling and narrow tires
BikeRadar verdict: 5 stars
More information: www.trekbikes.com

Complete bike specifications

Frame: Trek Boone Disc
Fork: Trek IsoSpeed Cross carbon disc
Headset: FSA Orbit integrated, 1 1/8-to-1 1/2in tapered
Stem: Bontrager Race X Lite
Handlebars: Bontrager Race Lite IsoZone
Tape/grips: Bontrager Gel
Front brake: Shimano BR-R785 hydraulic disc w/ 160mm SM-RT99 Freeza rotor
Rear brake: Shimano BR-R785 hydraulic disc w/ 160mm SM-RT99 Freeza rotor
Brake levers: Shimano STI Dual Control ST-R785
Front derailleur: Shimano Ultegra Di2 FD-6870
Rear derailleur: Shimano Ultegra Di2 RD-6870
Shift levers: Shimano STI Dual Control ST-R785
Cassette: Shimano Ultegra CS-6800, 11-28T
Chain: Shimano Ultegra CN-6800
Crankset: Shimano Ultegra FC-6800, 46/36T
Bottom bracket: Trek BB90 integrated
Pedals: n/a
Wheelset: HED Ardennes Plus Disc
Front tyre: Bontrager CX3 Team Issue, 700x32c
Rear tyre: Bontrager CX3 Team Issue, 700x32c
Saddle: Bontrager Evoke 3
Seatpost: Bontrager Ride Tuned Carbon seatmast

Thank you for reading 5 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access

Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription

Join now for unlimited access

Try your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1