Why did I want a road bike?
All my cycling life I’ve considered myself an off-roader, all my bikes have been some form of mountain bike apart from two! The last time I rode a ‘racer’ as we used to call them as children, I bought it second-hand from an advert in the local paper. It was made of Reynolds 531c Chromoly tubing, and had 10 non indexed gears operated with shift levers on the down tube. It wasn’t expensive, it wasn’t light weight, changing gear was an art, its brakes weren’t great and understandably I didn’t keep it long.
I’d dipped my toe into road cycling, and the experience I’d had left me in no doubt that I was not a road cyclist! That was 20 years ago. Over the last couple of years I’ve been cycling to work more. Last year I got a spanking new Whyte 529 that I reviewed here, and it has been fantastic. Lots of fun on the trails close to home, and I managed to get my commute time down by 20 minutes even with knobbly tyres on tarmac.
There has been renewed interest in cycling here in the UK since our success in the 2012 Olympics and Le Tour de France, especially with the opening stages of the 2014 Tour de France starting in Yorkshire. Local bike shops and cycling clubs are all enjoying a resurgence, and a lot more riders are cycling to work. This has meant more cyclists on skinny road bikes cruising past me on my commute; whilst I’m sweating they seem to just glide by – maybe it’s time to look again at a bike built purely for the road!
I looked at bikes from Specialized, Bianchi, Whyte, Trek and Giant. In the end it was between the Giant Defy 1 and the Trek Madone 2.1. Both were equipped with Shimano 105 components and had good warranty cover. I liked the look of the Madone and having sat on both models I preferred its fit over the Defy. The final deciding factor was that I couldn’t get the Defy in the right size as it was out of stock!
I used the cycle to work initiative again to get this bike so had to wait a few weeks for my voucher to arrive before I could collect the Madone, would it be worth the wait?
Trek Black/Trek Charcoal
Viper Red/Black Titanite
Frame: 200 Series Alpha Aluminum, E2, KVF (Kammtail Virtual Foil) tube shape, press-fit BB
Fork: Madone KVF carbon, E2, SpeedTrap compatible
Sizes 50, 52, 54, 56, 58, 60, 62cm
Wheels: Alloy hubs w/Bontrager Approved alloy rims
Tyres: Bontrager R1, 700x23c
Shifters: Shimano 105 STI, 10 speed
Front derailleur: Shimano 105, 34.9mm clamp
Rear derailleur: Shimano 105
Crank: Shimano R565, 50/34 (compact)
Cassette: Shimano Tiagra 12-30, 10 speed
Saddle: Bontrager Affinity 1, steel rails
Seatpost: Bontrager Race, infinite tilt adjustment, 20mm offset
Handlebar: Bontrager Race VR-C, 31.8mm
Stem: Bontrager Race Lite, 31.8mm, 7 degree
Headset: Integrated, cartridge bearings, sealed, alloy, 1-1/8" top, 1.5" bottom
Brakeset: Alloy dual-pivot brakes w/Shimano 105 STI levers
Extras: Vanishing fender mounts
Riding the Madone home from the bike shop was fun! I cycled my normal route and was surprised how comfortable yet exciting it felt; I expected the ride to be harsh but it wasn’t, it was fast and fluid over the wet roads. I had upgraded the pedals to my favourite Shimano M540 SPDs, and I asked for full mudguards to be fitted for winter riding. I worried that it would slip about on those skinny slick tyres even though I’d had puncture resistant Gatorskin 700x25s put on for winter use. I had worried that the gearing wouldn’t be low enough for the hills as I’m used to ridiculously low gears on my mountain bikes. I had also worried how strong it would be – I’m more a carthorse than a racehorse!
Well firstly it does not feel in any way flimsy! It is quite lightweight at around 20lbs but is really stiff, even stood up pedalling hard it does not flex around the cranks. The wheels feel really fast and even though they only have 24 spokes each seem very strong. Having fewer spokes lowers the drag as they cut through the air. According to Trek the aluminium frame is shaped so that it has less wind resistance, I don’t think most riders would see much gain from this but it does look impressive.
It handles really well, it inspires confidence and encourages you to push it further on the flat, harder uphill and faster downhill – I think I’ll be able to knock some serious time off my commute when the weather settles down.
I haven’t had to shift down to the lowest gear either yet. I thought I’d miss the lower end gears but because the bike is much lighter, I’ve just powered uphill in a higher gear than normal. Like most new road bikes it has brake levers that also change gear, and they are something else! Smooth reliable shifts every time – well apart from when I shifted down instead of up as I was just getting used to them. Of course everything is new and newly lubed and tuned so you’d expect it to be smooth but based on other riders experiences with Shimano 105, I expect it to stay this way.
I try not to use the brakes too much – but when I have they are powerfull enough and have a good progressive feel, what more do you need?
Whilst I have fitted full mudguards for winter rides, I can and will remove them when the weather improves. The Madone has mudguard eyelets on the stays and fork that can be completely removed when not in use so during the dry months it keeps things looking race ready and trim.
Dipping my toe into road cycling feels so much better this time round, it shows the difference in confidence and comfort that this bike inspires. I have considered joining a local cycling club and might even be tempted to enter a few events.
I really like the Madone; it looks the business, is lightweight, feels very sturdy and best of all is really fun to ride. For anyone wanting a strong, agile but at the same time comfortable road bike, in my opinion you can't go wrong with this bike!