Trek's new range of women specific bikes aim to combine performance and comfort, but can the Silque SLX really do both?
Having long forgone my race silks and the need to bang elbows in a pack, I've welcomed endurance bikes with comfortable frames, relaxed geometry and stable handling, but secretly I've missed the turn of speed you get powering out of a corner with your head down and lungs bursting. So when Trek sent me their all new WSD Silque SLX, I looked forward to putting it through its paces on nice long rides and a good thrash with the girls.
The Silque Women's range is completely new to Trek's line-up and fits between the Endurance Race and Performance Race Women Specific Design (WSD) ranges. Interestingly on Trek's website the Silque range features in both the Endurance and Performance Race sections, perhaps trying to appeal to both types of rider? Either way, the Silque's new geometry is built around a taller head tube, shorter top tube, shorter chain stays and a racier fork than the Domane, yet they still share the IsoSpeed decoupler technology and all the comfort that brings. There is no doubt the Silque firmly treads the ground between and also overlaps both race machine and comfy endurance bike genres.
The frame is beautifully made from Trek's high end OCLV 6 Series carbon and comes ready prepped for electronic gears, with ports for cable routing and internal battery position in the seat mast, perfect should you wish to upgrade later. The high-tech carbon composition gives the Silque a very different ride feel from the Domane. I found it more compliant and capable of handling rough roads better and yet surprisingly responsive when the road kicked up.
This is where the good stuff in combining endurance comfort and a snappier ride gets exciting. Even fitted with skinnier 23mm tyres, I felt there was hardly any road buzz or vibration up through the frame. Luckily I had both bikes on test at the same time, so comparisons between the Domane and Silque were duly noted, and although the geometry numbers speak volumes, it's how the ride feels that ultimately matters.
On first ride the steering felt a bit unsteady especially on slow corners but once we dropped the stem right down more controlled steering prevailed - with a taller head tube it was a pretty obvious adjustment to make. Out and out racers may not enjoy the taller front end position and may miss the control a more aggressive position offers, but the Madone is probably what they should be looking at in that case.
The Silque delivered well in terms of pedal power directly equating to speed and forward thrust, and with a light frame weight it sure likes to climb too. It was definitely a sporty ride and I enjoyed blasting down steep hills on the drops.
I'm a big fan of the IsoSpeed decoupler, the independent top-tube and seat-tube system that allows both tubes to move separately and acts as a form of suspension. Rough roads are soaked up and vertical compliance is greatly increased, meaning that over long distances body fatigue is definitely limited and my backache was reduced dramatically.
Sleek lines are maintained thanks to the internal cable routing and as we previously mentioned, should you wish to upgrade to electronic gearing it's ready and waiting. Further features include the 'seat mast', a system whereby the seat-post fits over the seat-tube rather than the traditional post inside the seat-tube scenario. This method uses less material and is therefore lighter, yet gives a stronger junction with up to 10cm of height adjustment - just don't forget to use the torque wrench provided.
The E2 head tube tapers from 1 1/2in lower bearing to 1 1/8in upper bearing and has an asymmetrical shape from side to side, while is claimed to provide extra stiffness under steering loads. The fork is another work of beauty and being full carbon from steerer to dropout, it's light and matches the quality of the frame perfectly.
More OCLV carbon forms the Bontrager Race X Lite IsoZone handlebar designed to accommodate female riders with a shallower drop and provides added comfort thanks to the sensibly positioned IsoZone pads. This all adds to the comfort and integrates well with the WSD geometry and fit philosophy – to ride smoother, ride longer, ride faster.
A full Shimano Ultegra group set provides fault free shifting and braking. My only criticism is aimed at the poor quality plastic screw used to adjust brake lever reach - an essential feature for small hands requiring a comfortable and safe ride.
Ultimately the Silque stands out as another commitment by Trek to provide women riders with more options in their high end bike range and prove they are leading the way once again. Plus in terms of value, you get loads of bike for your money.
Compliant, versatile and light; could easily hold its own in a race or head out for a full day in the hills
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Make and model: Trek Silque SLX
Size tested: 52cm, Blue
State the frame and fork material and method of construction. List the components used to build up the bike.
Frame - Trek's 600 Series OCLV frame
Fork - Trek's full carbon road fork
Wheelset - Bontrager Race Tubeless Ready
Tyres - Bontrager R3 Hard-Case Lite, 700 x 23c
Brakes - Shimano Ultegra
Chainset - Shimano Ultegra, 50/34 (compact)
Chain - Shimano Ultegra
Cassette - Shimano Ultegra 11-28, 11 speed
Rear Derailleur - Shimano Ultegra, braze-on
Front Derailleur - Shimano Ultegra
Shifters - Shimano Ultegra, 11 speed
Handlebars - Bontrager Race X Lite IsoZone, OCLV Carbon, VR-SF shallow drop, 31.8mm
Stem - Bontrager Race X Lite, 31.8mm, 7 degree
Handlebar Tape - Bontrager Microfiber tape
Headset -Integrated, cartridge bearings, sealed, 1-1/8" top, 1.5" bottom
Saddle - Bontrager Affinity 2 WSD
Seatpost - Bontrager Ride Tuned Carbon seatmast cap, 20mm offset
Tell us what the bike is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about the bike?
The Silque is positioned in both Trek's Endurance Race and Performance Race range, which sounds a bit confusing but actually means it closes the gap between the relaxed geometry comfortable endurance and performance race bike markets. As an ex-racer who now prefers a comfy yet spritely ride, the Silque is right on target.
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
Beautifully crafted 600 Series OCLV Carbon with WSD-tuned IsoSpeed and full carbon fork. The frame features an assymetric shaped E2 headtube (1-1/8" top, 1.5" bottom) and BB90 bottom bracket; internal cable routing and integrated system should you wish to upgrade to electronic gears; 3S chain keeper; DuoTrap compatible; and Ride Tuned seatmast.
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
The 600 Series OCLV carbon fibre feels a big step up from the Domane.
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
It's on the racy side of endurance albeit with a high headtube, and relaxed ride position.
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
The stiffness of the frame gives a spritely ride and the quality of the OCLV carbon is obvious from the first pedal stroke, yet it was the compliant nature and shock-absorbing qualities that surpised us most. This is by far the smoothest carbon WSD bike we've tested yet and being a fan of the IsoSpeed decoupler system we already expected a high level of comfort. The stakes have been raised once again and the Silque is top of our comfort list for a long distance ride.
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
Definitely efficient and fast to respond when laying down the power.
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
It's been years since I've ridden a bike with a head tube tall enough to allow a gap between the down and top tubes, and the taller cock-pit took a bit of getting used to when steering round tight corners. Nothing a couple of rides and dropping the stem couldn't sort easily - I took out all but one of the steerer spaces. The Silque climbs really well, in and out of the saddle and it's not shy to get going on the flat or descents either.
Anything else you want to say about the componentry? Comment on any other components (good or bad)
We had some issue with the reach adjustment of the brake levers. The adjustment screw inside the hood is a plastic screw that lasted a few turns of the screwdriver. Coupled with the adjustment being only just sufficient for my average sized women's hands it's a big thumbs down to Shimano on this front. Everyone with small hands - men and women alike - would benefit from Shimano making a slightly scaled down STI lever.
Did you enjoy riding the bike? The more I rode the Silque the more I enjoyed the smooth and compliant nature of the frame and fork.
Would you consider buying the bike? Yes.
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes.
Age: 41 Height: 5ft 5inches Weight: 56kg
I usually ride: Specialized Ruby My best bike is:
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Professional
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, club rides, sportives, mtb,