By Ben Carbonetti
Aetna-Expo Race Team Member
Now that half the 2014 road season is behind us it makes sense to provide thoughts on the Trek Madone 6.2. The Expo Wheelmen Cycling Club have used Trek as their primary bike sponsor since the 1980s. Our sponsor shop, Manchester Cycle Shop, has been a Trek dealer since they were a small little-known American bike manufacturer, and they have watched Trek into a cycling powerhouse. The Aetna-Expo race team was thrilled to continue this long-standing relationship this year and we put our Madones through their paces and have been thrilled with how these beautiful machines have performed. Here are some quick thoughts from all our team members:
"The bike is both extremely comfortable and is stiff enough to rock the sprints--a rare combination."
"The Madone 6.2 is a beauty of a bike, the best I have ridden. The frame is vertically compliant for a silky ride yet laterally stiff so it goes like crazy when you stand and sprint or climb. It is a pleasure in a technical Crit since it rails through corners. And paired with Bontrager Aeolus 9s it practically feels as fast as my TT bike. Altogether an awesome ride!"
When I first got my Madone I was mostly struck by superficial (but let's be honest important) things like the color and decals. The bike is absolutely resplendent in red, white, and black. The website pictures don't do it justice, the metalic red sparkles in the sun and the bike is constantly and deservedly complimented on group training rides, races, and other events where we have our bikes. Beyond that, however, I was initially skeptical about several aspects of the bike, particularly the seatpost and the rear brake. After riding the bike and learning its little quirks and personality all my initial worries are a thing of the past, and I absolutely love the bike. It is the best handling, most comfortable, race bike I have ever ridden.
Things I Love About The Madone
Comfort: This bike is soooo comfortable for a stiff race bike with very agressive geometry. Since we were using these bikes mostly for racing we all opted for the H1 geometry which comes with a very short head tube allowing the rider to get that "long and low" position racers love. Desipte the agressive positioning it is a very comfortable bike. In my case I was pleased Trek provided some extra steer tube so I can run 1-2 spacers under the stem, but it still offers a very nice position that rotates you forward into that all important aero position. The bike is supple absorbing all the bumps and chattering, but feels planted over rough pavement.
The handling on the bike is incredible. I had not been on a Trek in years (my first ever road bike was a 2001 Trek 2000) due to sponsorships from other manufacturers in the past. I had heard Treks were known for their excellent handling, but experience truly tells the story. The Madone 6.2 rides like it is on rails. I have raced Pro1/2 crits at 30+ mph average speeds with 5 or 6 corners, as well as serious downhills in road races, and even some dirt in training, and the bike never feels like it is hard to control. We think this is due to the excellent "vertical compliance" that Gary Aspnes mentioned in the quote above. Regardless of how it happens we absolutely love the handling on this bike.
The mechanical Ultegra groupset the bike came with has been excellent. We are all big fans of Shimano components at Aetna-Expo racing and the groupset on the bikes, which was stock, has lived up to our expectations.
The Bontrager race lite tubeless ready wheels that came stock on the bike have been excellent for both training and early season racing. Of course, for most races we swap our race lite wheels for the very light but aero Aeolus 5 or Aeolus 9 wheels. As most New Englanders know, this year's winter was rough on the roads, and that includes many of the courses we have raced on. We have all be extremely impressed not only with the handling and feel of the Aeolus lineup of wheels, but also with their durability. We have nailed some serious holes during crits and the wheels have lived through them all.
Things I am not worried about anymore (but was initially)...
Starting with the seatpost. The Trek has an integrated seat post with a "topper" which slides down over the integrated post and bolts with one 4mm bolt. The topper also has Trek's unique one bolt seat clamp which can rotate up and down in a circular fashion. I was mostly worried that A) One small bolt for seat height couldn't stand up to a season of abuse, and the inevitable adjustments as the body changed throughout the season and B) the topper would slide down the post under incessant pounding C) the seat tilt would be difficult to adjust. None of these fears proved warranted.
We did learn early on that torque specs on the seapost clamp bolt are crucial as you make seat adjustments. I used a torque wrench and only brought it to 6 nm which seemed to work great. We did have a seatpost bolt failure at 7nm (the max recommended by Trek) but no problems since so keeping it at the bottom end of Trek's recommended range worked great. No slipping. I also learned that the seatpost tilt requires a bit of art rather than science. As you level your seat you must make sure each side of the seat support is "free" and rotating smoothly. The seat clamp uses compression to lock the seat in place and you must free seat rail supports before rotating the saddle. If you don't do it for both sides the seat can become crooked and creak and grown under you. It's easy to do once you get the hang of it and actually is much easier to adjust than a lot of dual bolt seat post clamps.
The rear brake on the Trek is located under the bottom bracket which I initially thought would be a really bad thing. Trek moved the brake there because of the aerodynamic advantages. My fears centered around the fact that this is "the dirtiest" part of the bike, and the hardest to clean and maintain. From an aesthetic standpoint, having the brake under the bottom bracket is great. Without the brake between the rear seat stays the back of the bike presents as clean and elegant. It also makes the visible portions of the bike much easier to clean as you don't have to work around the rear brake. Beyond that it has been like any other rear brake. Of course it gets gummed up, and you will pay if you don't clean it, but changing pads for my carbon wheels or aluminum training wheels is not difficult, and as long as I occassionaly run a rag and some lubricant through the brake it works just fine.