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Trek Madone 9 Series first ride review

Aero speed without the usual compromises

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 Trek has radically redesigned the 2016 Madone, turning it into a full-blown aero road racing machine but yet still compromising little to do so (James Huang / Immediate Media)

Trek has radically redesigned the 2016 Madone, turning it into a full-blown aero road racing machine but yet still compromising little to do so (James Huang / Immediate Media)
(Image credit: James Huang)
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(Image credit: James Huang)
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 The narrow frontal profile required Trek to develop these nifty, spring-loaded 'vector wings' that pop open when the bars are turned

The narrow frontal profile required Trek to develop these nifty, spring-loaded 'vector wings' that pop open when the bars are turned
(Image credit: James Huang)
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There are separate, independent adjustments for both arm position and spring tension on each side. They're clearly marked, too, to help with setup and maintenance. A tidy quick-release lever is built into the caliper, too

There are separate, independent adjustments for both arm position and spring tension on each side. They're clearly marked, too, to help with setup and maintenance. A tidy quick-release lever is built into the caliper, too
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Underneath the outer aluminium cover (which also helps reinforce the mechanism), you can see the brake's inner guts at work

Underneath the outer aluminium cover (which also helps reinforce the mechanism), you can see the brake's inner guts at work
(Image credit: James Huang)
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As usual, Trek fits the new Madone with its long-standing BB90 bottom bracket design, which features an ultra-wide 90mm width and bearings that press directly into the carbon structure

As usual, Trek fits the new Madone with its long-standing BB90 bottom bracket design, which features an ultra-wide 90mm width and bearings that press directly into the carbon structure
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Cables, wires, and housing are only barely visible in a handful of locations on the new Madone

Cables, wires, and housing are only barely visible in a handful of locations on the new Madone
(Image credit: James Huang)
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(Image credit: James Huang)
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While many aero road bars practically insist that the tops remain untaped, the Madone setup at least gives you the option without messing up the aesthetics

While many aero road bars practically insist that the tops remain untaped, the Madone setup at least gives you the option without messing up the aesthetics
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Trek says the new Madone's dedicated carbon cockpit by itself saves 37g of drag over a Bontrager XXX Aero bar and standard stem

Trek says the new Madone's dedicated carbon cockpit by itself saves 37g of drag over a Bontrager XXX Aero bar and standard stem
(Image credit: James Huang)
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A close-up look at how the rear brake cable passes into the top tube without being seen

A close-up look at how the rear brake cable passes into the top tube without being seen
(Image credit: James Huang)
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The 'Madone Control Center' incorporates both the junction box and battery into an easily accessible hatch in the down tube - or for mechanical systems, a large barrel adjuster and a pair of hidden housing stops

The 'Madone Control Center' incorporates both the junction box and battery into an easily accessible hatch in the down tube - or for mechanical systems, a large barrel adjuster and a pair of hidden housing stops
(Image credit: James Huang)
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A look inside the 'Madone Control Center' in both electronic and mechanical versions

A look inside the 'Madone Control Center' in both electronic and mechanical versions
(Image credit: James Huang)
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(Image credit: James Huang)
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 The new Trek Madone 9-Series may be super quick in terms of aerodynamics but it doesn't ride like most other aero bikes (Jamie Forrest)

The new Trek Madone 9-Series may be super quick in terms of aerodynamics but it doesn't ride like most other aero bikes (Jamie Forrest)
(Image credit: James Huang)
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(Image credit: James Huang)
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(Image credit: James Huang)
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(Image credit: James Huang)
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 A built-in chain keeper mounts to the base of the seat tube (James Huang / Immediate Media)

A built-in chain keeper mounts to the base of the seat tube (James Huang / Immediate Media)
(Image credit: James Huang)
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 The non-driveside chainstay has a pocket for Bontrager's DuoTrap S wireless speed and cadence sensor (James Huang / Immediate Media)

The non-driveside chainstay has a pocket for Bontrager's DuoTrap S wireless speed and cadence sensor (James Huang / Immediate Media)
(Image credit: James Huang)
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 With such proprietary shapes front and rear, standard accessory mounts just won't work well. Trek has thankfully incorporated dedicated light, computer, and camera mounts (James Huang / Immediate Media)

With such proprietary shapes front and rear, standard accessory mounts just won't work well. Trek has thankfully incorporated dedicated light, computer, and camera mounts (James Huang / Immediate Media)
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Instead of a conventional clamp, Trek has fitted the new Madone with a tidier two-bolt setup

Instead of a conventional clamp, Trek has fitted the new Madone with a tidier two-bolt setup
(Image credit: James Huang)
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The new seatmast head features separate adjustments for fore-aft and

The new seatmast head features separate adjustments for fore-aft and
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Since the cables run down alongside the steerer tube and through the upper headset bearing, it'd be a nightmare to raise or lower the stem with conventional spacers. Instead, Trek cleverly uses split spacers that can be inserted or removed without having to undo everything

Since the cables run down alongside the steerer tube and through the upper headset bearing, it'd be a nightmare to raise or lower the stem with conventional spacers. Instead, Trek cleverly uses split spacers that can be inserted or removed without having to undo everything
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Trek says the new Madone's aero shape was designed with water bottles in mind

Trek says the new Madone's aero shape was designed with water bottles in mind
(Image credit: James Huang)
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The asymmetrical chainstays only look relatively small because the main tubes are so big

The asymmetrical chainstays only look relatively small because the main tubes are so big
(Image credit: James Huang)
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 The seat tube features a deep profile throughout its length, but it's actually concealing a secondary seat tube inside (James Huang / Immediate Media)

The seat tube features a deep profile throughout its length, but it's actually concealing a secondary seat tube inside (James Huang / Immediate Media)
(Image credit: James Huang)
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(Image credit: James Huang)
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(Image credit: James Huang)
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(Image credit: James Huang)
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(Image credit: James Huang)
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 The seat cluster is unquestionably complicated in its design, with cutouts around the seatstays for air to pass through and Trek's brilliant IsoSpeed 'decoupler' pivot mechanism hidden beneath cosmetic covers (James Huang / Immediate Media)

The seat cluster is unquestionably complicated in its design, with cutouts around the seatstays for air to pass through and Trek's brilliant IsoSpeed 'decoupler' pivot mechanism hidden beneath cosmetic covers (James Huang / Immediate Media)
(Image credit: James Huang)
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 As expected, Trek continues to refine its Kammtail Virtual Foil tube shapes, which feature flat trailing edges that supposedly maintain the aerodynamic benefits of traditional airfoils but with increased stiffness (James Huang / Immediate Media)

As expected, Trek continues to refine its Kammtail Virtual Foil tube shapes, which feature flat trailing edges that supposedly maintain the aerodynamic benefits of traditional airfoils but with increased stiffness (James Huang / Immediate Media)
(Image credit: James Huang)
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 As compared to the outgoing Madone's modestly aero shapes, the new version has much deeper profiles (James Huang / Immediate Media)

As compared to the outgoing Madone's modestly aero shapes, the new version has much deeper profiles (James Huang / Immediate Media)
(Image credit: James Huang)
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(Image credit: James Huang)
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 Trek says the new Madone's aero shape can save its rider 19 watts of effort over a non-aero bike at 40km/h (James Huang / Immediate Media)

Trek says the new Madone's aero shape can save its rider 19 watts of effort over a non-aero bike at 40km/h (James Huang / Immediate Media)
(Image credit: James Huang)
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 A closer look at the dramatic down tube profile on the new Trek Madone (James Huang / Immediate Media)

A closer look at the dramatic down tube profile on the new Trek Madone (James Huang / Immediate Media)
(Image credit: James Huang)
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IsoSpeed is only one half of the Madone 9 Series' unusually comfortable ride; the other is the unique dual nested seat tube configuration, which allows for much more flex than an aero tube would normally allow

IsoSpeed is only one half of the Madone 9 Series' unusually comfortable ride; the other is the unique dual nested seat tube configuration, which allows for much more flex than an aero tube would normally allow
(Image credit: James Huang)
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The IsoSpeed 'decoupler' is neatly hidden beneath painted-to-match covers. It might seem gimmicky but it works really, really well

The IsoSpeed 'decoupler' is neatly hidden beneath painted-to-match covers. It might seem gimmicky but it works really, really well
(Image credit: James Huang)
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This gives you a good idea of how much is going on ahead of the steerer tube on the new Trek

This gives you a good idea of how much is going on ahead of the steerer tube on the new Trek
(Image credit: James Huang)
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The steerer tube uses a squared-off shape to accommodate the internally routed cables, which are tucked up tight against the steerer and run down through the upper headset bearing. The unique steerer tube still uses a conventional 1 1/8in stem clamp but requires a dedicated compression plug

The steerer tube uses a squared-off shape to accommodate the internally routed cables, which are tucked up tight against the steerer and run down through the upper headset bearing. The unique steerer tube still uses a conventional 1 1/8in stem clamp but requires a dedicated compression plug
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Madones with the aggressive H1-type frame geometry will be built at Trek's headquarters in Waterloo, Wisconsin. H2 and WSD frames will be made overseas from 600-series OCLV carbon fibre composite blends

Madones with the aggressive H1-type frame geometry will be built at Trek's headquarters in Waterloo, Wisconsin. H2 and WSD frames will be made overseas from 600-series OCLV carbon fibre composite blends
(Image credit: James Huang)
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 Whereas the current Madone uses a round no-cut seatmast design, the new Madone uses a much more aerodynamic shape, plus an all-new clamping mechanism (James Huang / Immediate Media)

Whereas the current Madone uses a round no-cut seatmast design, the new Madone uses a much more aerodynamic shape, plus an all-new clamping mechanism (James Huang / Immediate Media)
(Image credit: James Huang)
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 The integrated seatmast design allows the centerpull rear brake's cable to travel straight through the top tube (James Huang / Immediate Media)

The integrated seatmast design allows the centerpull rear brake's cable to travel straight through the top tube (James Huang / Immediate Media)
(Image credit: James Huang)
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 Going along with the new frame is a dedicated aero carbon cockpit. Cables and wires are routed through the bar and stem, and then travel straight into the frame for a sleek outward appearance (James Huang / Immediate Media)

Going along with the new frame is a dedicated aero carbon cockpit. Cables and wires are routed through the bar and stem, and then travel straight into the frame for a sleek outward appearance (James Huang / Immediate Media)
(Image credit: James Huang)
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 Integrated brakes use a center pull design that allows for a slimmer and trimmer profile. Note the fully concealed cabling, too (James Huang / Immediate Media)

Integrated brakes use a center pull design that allows for a slimmer and trimmer profile. Note the fully concealed cabling, too (James Huang / Immediate Media)
(Image credit: James Huang)
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(Image credit: James Huang)

This article originally appeared on BikeRadar 

Aero road bikes might slice through the air with relative ease but as a category, they're not exactly known to be comfortable or light. The new Trek Madone 9 Series should go a long way toward dispelling that reputation with a super sleek and comparatively feathery chassis that's not only fast but freakishly cushy on rough roads, too. We've only logged a few hundred miles on our long-termer so far but initial impressions are extremely favorable.

Click here for further detail on the Trek Madone 9 series

  • Highs: Cuts faster through the wind but without beating you up along the way, fantastic handling, still impressively light
  • Lows: At least interest rates on second mortgages are still low
  • Buy if: You want to get there in less time but still want to be able to ride the next day, too

Fast and smooth

The first two rides on this bike were on the 'dairy roads' surrounding Trek's global headquarters in Waterloo, Wisconsin. It's a seemingly endless expanse of sinuous tarmac that's gloriously free of traffic but also relatively coarsely paved with plenty of frost heave and other imperfections that often seemed perfectly sized to swallow a road tire – not exactly an ideal proving ground for a bike that's anything less than smooth.

Such deep-profile tubes wouldn't normally suggest a smooth ride but the new Madone is remarkably comfy

But alas, the new Madone isn't just comfortable “for an aero road bike” but comfortable, period – no caveats required. Despite appearances to the contrary, the deep-section carbon frame ably damps road buzz but it also rounds off bigger and harsher bumps in a way usually only expected of more traditionally shaped bikes.

It doesn't take long before you how you're seeing all of those bumps but not really feeling them through the rear end – and in fact, I even found myself consciously aiming for stuff I would normally avoid if only just for the novelty. Credit goes entirely to Trek's awesome IsoSpeed 'decoupler' – a mechanical pivot at the seat tube-top tube intersection – and the Madone's clever dual, nested seat tube design that, in combination, allows for much more flex at the saddle than you'd otherwise get out of a more traditional frame.

Trek's excellent IsoSpeed 'decoupler' strikes again, and to great effect

Unlike on Trek's similarly IsoSpeed-equipped Domane endurance platform, which incorporates an even cushier rear end but can sometimes feel somewhat harsh up front, the new Madone delivers up a more balanced and cohesive feel front to rear. It might not be as comfortable out back as a Domane but then again, as a full-blown race bike, it should be firmer and more communicative.

That all said, riders interested in an aero road bike aren't going to be considering ride quality as their primary metric – we're talking about free speed, after all, and this new Madone seems to have that in spades, too. We haven't had a chance to verify Trek's drag claims – specifically ones comparing it to its major competition – but repeated runs on my regular fast-and-flat test loops surrounding BikeRadar's US offices in Boulder, Colorado have certainly returned consistently lower times relative to non-aero machines. As expected for this segment, the chassis is plenty stiff, too.

The front end is fantastically sleek

Helping matters further is the Madone's impeccable handling. A slight variation from Madones of yesteryear – and identical to the current Emonda – this new Madone 9 Series is nevertheless equally adept at carving up sinuous mountain descents or gobbling up long stretches of straight road, feeling utterly composed and competent throughout.

Reigning it in

Boulder isn't exactly known for being flat, however, and the countless canyon roads to the west also demand plenty of braking. Thankfully, the new Madone's proprietary center-pull rim brakes are not only cleanly integrated into the frame and fork for aero purposes but they also work well – a good thing since there are no other options.

The dedicated centerpull brakes work well with generous power and control, plus fantastic lever feel

Caliper flex is practically nonexistent thanks to short and compact aluminum arms and a fully boxed-in layout that bridges the ends of the direct-mount pivots. Meanwhile, the cable wedge moves on rollers while both pivots are fitted with cartridge bearings to return a silky smooth and light lever feel that's noticeably devoid of excess friction.

Total braking power leaves a little to be desired with the Bontrager carbon-specific cork pads included here and they're also prone to squealing but modulation is very good. We'll likely switch to a set of SwissStops as the long-term testing progresses.

A look at the inner workings

Clearance is great, too. Trek officially says the new Madone will swallow tires up to 28mm wide and rims up to 30mm wide (external measurement), depending on the exact combination.

Sweating the details

Another usual pitfall of proprietary componentry is lack of compatibility. In that sense, there's no grand departure here as the Madone's dedicated aero-profile one-piece carbon fiber bar and stem won't work with aftermarket computer or camera mounts, and the similarly aero-profile no-cut extended seatmast won't take anything other than the dedicated Bontrager head.

The aero cockpit is actually quite comfy to hold

But on the upside, Bontrager has at least given the cockpit an agreeable shape with versatile semi-anatomic drops and flattened tops that you can still comfortably wrap your hands around. And while Trek says it's faster to leave the tops untaped, the subtle 'Madone' graphics are sized such that you can still wrap them up as usual without looking funny.

Likewise, there may not be much in the way of seatpost options but at least the one included is easy to live with. Bontrager's updated head design now features truly independent tilt and fore-aft adjustments, and so far, it's held rock solid.

Custom mounts are included for lights, computers, and cameras

And as for accessories, Trek even includes custom mounts for computers, cameras, and lights for the cockpit and seatmast – meaning you can still attach your favorite gadgets but won't have to look at any unsightly clamps or rubber straps.

Such an obsessively hidden internal cable routing setup – it's all fully concealed save for a short section of wire for the rear derailleur – is certainly going to be more challenging to service when the time comes but Trek has at least made bar height adjustments less easy. As compared to other similar setups that require a full recabling, Trek has cleverly fitted the new Madone with custom split headset spacers.

Split headset spacers should make for relatively painful height adjustments

Unflappable build kit

Trek will initially offer the Madone 9 Series in several standard builds but BikeRadar got an early sneak preview at the upcoming Project One custom version – which, in this case, doesn't stray far off the beaten path in terms of components or wheels but definitely goes off-center visually with a very non-standard green-on-green paint scheme.

There's not much that needs to be repeated on the Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 group: it's functionally without fault with perfect shifts each and every time. It'd still be nice to have some more tactile feedback from the shift buttons but that's still a matter of personal preference.

As usual, the Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 transmission is superb

Bontrager's latest Aeolus 5 D3 TLR tubeless-compatible carbon clinchers are proving to be great all-rounders, too, with a newly widened tire bed that mates well with the 25mm-wide Bontrager R4 tires used here. As we've noted before, the blunt, 50mm-deep rim shape is fast yet manageable in strong crosswinds. Their weight is also quite good although as with all tubeless-compatible Bontrager hoops, the chunky molded plastic rim strips add nearly 100g per set.

All told, this 52cm H1 test sample came in at just 6.79kg (14.97lb) without pedals or bottle cages.

Raising the bar

Overall, Trek's new Madone 9 Series is off to a fantastic start to its long-term test: it's fast, remarkably comfortable, and easy to live with. Unfortunately, the prices have climbed in lockstep with the technology but at least Trek will offer several somewhat more reasonable options with identical shaping but lesser build kits.

Not all riders will feel any burning need to go aero but when that extra speed comes with so few compromises, the arguments against it certainly become less compelling. Ever-increasing retail costs? That gets a big 'boo' from this end but the idea that aero road bikes can also just be really good road bikes in general is a trend I can get behind.

Faster, comfier, easier to live with.

Complete bike specifications

Frame: 2016 Trek Madone 9 Series, H1 geometry, 700-Series OCLV carbon fiber
Fork: 2016 Trek Madone KVF
Headset: Integrated
Cockpit: Trek Madone integrated
Bar tape: Bontrager gel cork
Front brake: Trek Madone integrated w/ Bontrager carbon-specific pads
Rear brake: Trek Madone integrated w/ Bontrager carbon-specific pads
Brake levers: Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 STI Dual Control ST-9070
Front derailleur: Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 FD-9070
Rear derailleur: Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 RD-9070
Shift levers: Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 STI Dual Control ST-9070
Cassette: Shimano Dura-Ace CS-9000, 11-28T
Chain: Shimano Dura-Ace CN-9000
Crankset: Shimano Dura-Ace FC-9000, 50/34T
Bottom bracket: Enduro
Wheelset: Bontrager Aeolus 5 D3 TLR clincher
Front tire: Bontrager R4 clincher, 700x25c
Rear tire: Bontrager R4 clincher, 700x25c
Saddle: Bontrager Montrose Pro
Seatpost: Trek Madone 9 Series
Weight: 6.79kg (14.97lb, without pedals or accessories)