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Trek Speed Concept 9 Series

Laser-focus on aerodynamic performance

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Trek Speed Concept 9 Series: Trek's latest TT/Tri iteration shaves nearly a pound off the 2013 model

Trek Speed Concept 9 Series: Trek's latest TT/Tri iteration shaves nearly a pound off the 2013 model (Image credit: James Huang)
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Trek Speed Concept 9 Series: The plastic fairing did not set perfectly flush on our test bike - a definite miss on a bike of this price

Trek Speed Concept 9 Series: The plastic fairing did not set perfectly flush on our test bike - a definite miss on a bike of this price (Image credit: James Huang)
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Trek Speed Concept 9 Series: Trek's system allows for clean aerodynamics in a UCI-legal front end

Trek Speed Concept 9 Series: Trek's system allows for clean aerodynamics in a UCI-legal front end (Image credit: James Huang)
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Trek Speed Concept 9 Series: Plenty of air - or tire - clearance up front

Trek Speed Concept 9 Series: Plenty of air - or tire - clearance up front (Image credit: James Huang)
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Trek Speed Concept 9 Series: Optimizied for yaw angles from 0 to 12.5 degrees, the Speed Concept features plenty of

Trek Speed Concept 9 Series: Optimizied for yaw angles from 0 to 12.5 degrees, the Speed Concept features plenty of (Image credit: James Huang)
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Trek Speed Concept 9 Series: We are fans of ANT+ integration, such as this speed/cadence sensor port

Trek Speed Concept 9 Series: We are fans of ANT+ integration, such as this speed/cadence sensor port (Image credit: James Huang)
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Trek Speed Concept 9 Series: The Campy battery prevents use of the 'Speed Fin' fairing that normally bolts onto the bottom of the bottom bracket shell to shelter part of the rear wheel

Trek Speed Concept 9 Series: The Campy battery prevents use of the 'Speed Fin' fairing that normally bolts onto the bottom of the bottom bracket shell to shelter part of the rear wheel (Image credit: James Huang)
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Trek Speed Concept 9 Series: The Draft Box was widened for 2014. But the bike is still faster with this on than without, Trek claims

Trek Speed Concept 9 Series: The Draft Box was widened for 2014. But the bike is still faster with this on than without, Trek claims (Image credit: James Huang)
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Trek Speed Concept 9 Series: The Draft Box blends aerodynamics and aesthetically with the frame. Plus, it's pretty darn handy

Trek Speed Concept 9 Series: The Draft Box blends aerodynamics and aesthetically with the frame. Plus, it's pretty darn handy (Image credit: James Huang)
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Trek Speed Concept 9 Series: We were able to easily fit in a spare tube, two CO2 cartridges, a breaker, a patch kit, a towel and a little wipe. If you race tubulars, you can fit a spare tire in here, too

Trek Speed Concept 9 Series: We were able to easily fit in a spare tube, two CO2 cartridges, a breaker, a patch kit, a towel and a little wipe. If you race tubulars, you can fit a spare tire in here, too (Image credit: James Huang)
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Trek Speed Concept 9 Series: The tall and fat Bontrager Aelous 9 D3 clinchers were fast and stable in the wind. Plus, they were easy to change flats on

Trek Speed Concept 9 Series: The tall and fat Bontrager Aelous 9 D3 clinchers were fast and stable in the wind. Plus, they were easy to change flats on (Image credit: James Huang)
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Trek Speed Concept 9 Series: Trek's internal system keeps cables hidden until the bitter end

Trek Speed Concept 9 Series: Trek's internal system keeps cables hidden until the bitter end (Image credit: James Huang)
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Trek Speed Concept 9 Series: The bike uses a BBRight system

Trek Speed Concept 9 Series: The bike uses a BBRight system (Image credit: James Huang)
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Trek Speed Concept 9 Series: Set your brakes right the first time, as there is no on-the-fly adjustment

Trek Speed Concept 9 Series: Set your brakes right the first time, as there is no on-the-fly adjustment (Image credit: James Huang)
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Trek Speed Concept 9 Series: The front brake is tucked behind a plastic fairing

Trek Speed Concept 9 Series: The front brake is tucked behind a plastic fairing (Image credit: James Huang)
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Trek Speed Concept 9 Series: The bike is a blast to ride, and always felt stable and predictable in the wind

Trek Speed Concept 9 Series: The bike is a blast to ride, and always felt stable and predictable in the wind (Image credit: James Huang)
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Trek Speed Concept 9 Series: The front end of the bike is UCI legal

Trek Speed Concept 9 Series: The front end of the bike is UCI legal (Image credit: James Huang)
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Trek Speed Concept 9 Series: Trek engineers narrowed the front profile for 2014

Trek Speed Concept 9 Series: Trek engineers narrowed the front profile for 2014 (Image credit: James Huang)
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Trek Speed Concept 9 Series: Stack and reach are adjustable via various stems and riser blocks

Trek Speed Concept 9 Series: Stack and reach are adjustable via various stems and riser blocks (Image credit: James Huang)
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Trek Speed Concept 9 Series: If you know your stack and reach measurements, Trek provides a chart specifying which stem and which riser block to use

Trek Speed Concept 9 Series: If you know your stack and reach measurements, Trek provides a chart specifying which stem and which riser block to use (Image credit: James Huang)
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Trek Speed Concept 9 Series: Clean on the outside means messy on the inside. All the cables are run through the bars, riser block, stem and then frame

Trek Speed Concept 9 Series: Clean on the outside means messy on the inside. All the cables are run through the bars, riser block, stem and then frame (Image credit: James Huang)
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Trek Speed Concept 9 Series: Electric transmissions are a boon for engineers creating integrated systems, as they can be crammed into tighter spaces more easily than cable systems

Trek Speed Concept 9 Series: Electric transmissions are a boon for engineers creating integrated systems, as they can be crammed into tighter spaces more easily than cable systems (Image credit: James Huang)
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Trek Speed Concept 9 Series: Raising the bars 1cm means undoing the entire front end - shifters included - as the whole system is stacked together like a necklace with the wires running through the center of it all

Trek Speed Concept 9 Series: Raising the bars 1cm means undoing the entire front end - shifters included - as the whole system is stacked together like a necklace with the wires running through the center of it all (Image credit: James Huang)
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Trek Speed Concept 9 Series: Once together, though, the front end is quite clean to the eye and the wind

Trek Speed Concept 9 Series: Once together, though, the front end is quite clean to the eye and the wind (Image credit: James Huang)
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Trek Speed Concept 9 Series: There are four extension options

Trek Speed Concept 9 Series: There are four extension options (Image credit: James Huang)
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Trek Speed Concept 9 Series: Allowances are made, should you need to trim

Trek Speed Concept 9 Series: Allowances are made, should you need to trim (Image credit: James Huang)
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Trek Speed Concept 9 Series: The mono extensions limit computer placement as well as hand positions

Trek Speed Concept 9 Series: The mono extensions limit computer placement as well as hand positions (Image credit: James Huang)
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Trek Speed Concept 9 Series: Fore/aft adjustment of the extensions is infinite within 4cm, but pad adjustment comes via four sets of bolt options here plus four more sets on the pad rests

Trek Speed Concept 9 Series: Fore/aft adjustment of the extensions is infinite within 4cm, but pad adjustment comes via four sets of bolt options here plus four more sets on the pad rests (Image credit: James Huang)
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Trek Speed Concept 9 Series: Once you have the fit dialed, the Speed Concept is a tremendous machine for solo efforts

Trek Speed Concept 9 Series: Once you have the fit dialed, the Speed Concept is a tremendous machine for solo efforts (Image credit: James Huang)

This article originally appeared on Bikeradar

The new 9 series Trek Speed Concept is a bitching bike, in two ways. Once built, the bike flies out on the open road with stable steering, great aerodynamics and good looks. But while you (or your mechanic) are building it or working on it, you will be bitching.

Pros: Excellent aerodynamic performance: fast and stable; range of builds and paint jobs through Project One; add-ons like the trunk add real functionality and claimed aero benefit
Cons: Adjusting front end for fit tweaks and/or travel is a chore; plastic frame parts feel cheap

Like most of the super bikes these days, the Trek Speed Concept is a purpose-built machine with a complete prioritization on performance above all else. Trek engineers can trot out reams of data on how the aerodynamics are superior to previous iterations, and looking at the svelte front profile and internalization of not only cables but fasteners as well, it’s not a stretch to believe that the bike performs admirably in the wind tunnel.

We tested the bike over a few hundred miles in training and in an Ironman 70.3, and came away very impressed with the bike. Our only gripes were the challenge of front-end adjustability and the relative sub-par performance of the plastic parts.

Trek sent a test bike with a Campagnolo Record EPS electronic group, but since this bike is available as Project One custom builds, we will focus on what is unique to the bike, plus the wheels.

To tweak the original Speed Concept, Trek engineers studied real-world wind conditions on Ironman courses, and settled on optimizing the bike for yaw angles between zero and 12.5 degrees. (They found 3-5 degree average yaw in Arizona, up to a 13 degree average yaw in the notoriously windy Kona worlds course.)

By slimming the front profile and tweaking the Kamm tail tubing, the 2014 version is substantially faster and lighter than its predecessor, Trek claims. For our purposes, we were only going on feel, not wind tunnel data, and in our experience, the bike handled very well in all wind conditions. With a head tube angle of 72.5 degrees on the three larger sizes, and a seat tube angle of 80 degrees across all sizes, the Speed Concept was never nervous or twitchy, even with the 90mm-deep Aeolus 9 D3 wheels in blustery sidewinds. For sure, you can feel side pressure from the wind, but the handling is always predicable and manageable. We were comfortable riding in the aero extensions through fast corners and down windswept hills.

Bottom bracket area stiffness isn't so much of a concern on such a bike, but the bike does accelerate with some snap, perhaps due to the relatively short but robust chainstays, enormous bottom bracket area and huge down tube. The low bottom bracket (8cm drop) contributes to stability.

Comfort on the frame is good. We swapped out the stock saddle for a firmer option, and were still comfortable for two- and three-hour efforts on the bike.

Total bike weight for our Large sample was 19.18lb. While Trek declined to quote a frame weight, its engineers say the frameset, cockpit setup, headset, BB and small frame parts come out to 1,874g, which they claim is less than comparable measurements on a Cannondale SliceRS, a Specialized Shiv Tri or a Cervélo P5-6.

 

Modular front end: For engineers, aerodynamics trumped convenience

Granted, this bike is way out on the pointy end of aero performance, and machines with such low-drag front ends have until recently been custom creations for the world's best pros. So we appreciate the challenge in building a stock bike that has both a superior aero shape and the ability to adjust to fit a range of riders. Trek's solution is a modular front end, with a collection of stem heights/lengths and riser blocks. From there, one of four monocoque extension bars mounts atop the riser block of choice, and the pads are mounted via a collection of bolts and mount options. Should you have your measurements dialed ahead of time, Trek provides a worksheet that will get your fit close, specifying which stem and riser block to use.

Trek has improved the cockpit options somewhat for 2014. You can tilt the extensions with the adjustment of three bolts, which is nice. But the base bar remains dead level. This is best for aerodynamics, of course, but we would have preferred a slight upward angle on the outer handles for a bit more grip security.

And while there are four styles of extensions to choose from — S-bend, straight, ergo and short ergo — none allow width or angle adjustment as they are one-piece designs. Whether it's another price paid for aerodynamics or perhaps just simplicity in construction, it's certainly something to keep in mind. We used the ergo bar and found that while the bend angle was comfortable, we missed the rotational adjustment you can get on most aftermarket bars.

Knee clearance when out of the saddle was not an issue with the bar - as it sometimes is with TT/tri machines with large aero basebars.

Other components: Seatpost is super user friendly, but plastic parts aren’t the same caliber as the rest of the bike

The Speed Concept's spring-loaded seatpost clamp is a thing of beauty. It's just... easy. One 5mm bolt at the front for final tightness combines with a finger-operated dial at the rear for angle adjustment. A spring pushes the top plate up when loosening the bolts, and unlike many seatposts, there aren't loose parts to fall out when you swap saddles. If only all seatposts were this easy. Kudos, Trek.

The plastic parts are a bit disappointing. The front brake fairing - while it does offer little holes for pad holder adjustment on either side - did not sit perfectly flush with the fork on our test bike. For a bike of this cost, that's not cool. Also, while we love the functionality and general design of the Draft Box, the lid attachment feels chintzy, relying on the elasticity of plastic latches to lock it into place. The one time we crammed the Box to capacity, it popped open when we hit hard bumps like railroad tracks. When not jam-packed, the lid stays shut, but the connection mechanism definitely has room for improvement.

Trek sells the Speed Concept as a frameset and in a variety of bike builds. While we won't go into the Campagnolo EPS Record group here, it is worth noting that the Bontrager Aelous 9 D3 carbon clincher wheels were flawless throughout the testing. Having carbon clinchers on this bike makes good sense to us as there's no reason you can't race and train on the same wheelset. Yes, your buddies and perhaps total strangers will make fun of you for training on super-deep carbon hoops, but this is much better than training on shallow wheels then jumping on deep wheels for race day and freaking out every time the wind blows because you are unaccustomed to the feel. And besides, if you're going to spend this much on a bike, why not rock the hot wheels every day?

Bottom line: The 2014 Trek Speed Concept is a highly specialized machine within an already specialized category of bicycles. Working on it is not easy, but it does seem to live up to Trek's promises of a very fast, very functional machine for solo efforts — and with custom paint options, to boot.