The Trek 1.2 is a very good value option that would be an ideal choice if you're after your first road bike.
The 1.2 is the middle of Trek's three 1 Series aluminium road bikes, sitting between the Shimano Claris-equipped 1.1 (£575) and the 1.5 (£750), which comes with Shimano Tiagra components.
Is it the right bike for you? We've picked out four reasons why it might be, along with a reason that might make you think twice.
1 It provides solid performance with few surprises
The 1.2 puts in a solid performance out on the road, offering a stable, predictable ride, the only real disappointment being the lack of braking power (see below).
Hitting the scales at 9.48kg (20.9lb), the 1.2 isn't as lively as many lighter bikes, but for £650 this is certainly a decent enough weight. Compared to bikes of a similar price, it accelerates well. You'll find a little more flex in the frame and fork than in higher level models in Trek's range, but this is a bike that's well capable of holding its own when you crank up the power.
You could't say that the 1.2 is the fastest climber but it's far from sluggish when things get lumpy. It's helped in its hill-climbing endeavours by a compact chainset (with 50-tooth and 34-tooth chainrings rather than 52 or 53 and 39). Most bikes of this price come with something similar these days. Matched up to an 11-28-tooth cassette, it'll allow you to get up the vast majority of gradients without your knees popping or your lungs bursting, while still providing enough big gears to keep you bowling along quickly on the flat and downhill.
Aluminium frames have a reputation for feeling harsh but that's a gross generalisation. Some are jarring – as some carbon frames are – but plenty aren't. This bike is certainly comfortable enough for racking up the big miles.
For a start, it comes in Trek's H2 fit. That requires a brief explanation. Compared to Trek's H1 fit, H2 has a taller head tube: 3cm taller in the case of our 58cm test model. Why? It puts you into a more upright riding position with less strain on your lower back and neck. You could achieve a similar position by adding a bunch of headset spacers on an H1 bike, but if you want your bars at that height, you're better off going for an H2 fit because the front end will be stiffer and the handling will be better.
The Bontrager Race VR-C alloy handlebar has a shallower drop than usual too: 124mm rather than the 145mm you get on Bontrager's Race Lite Classic, for example. That means it's that much easier to get down on the drops. A lot of people have a bar with a deep drop and rarely take their hands off the hoods.
The other reason for the comfort is that the 1.2 is inherently pretty smooth. Sure, there are plenty of bikes out there that will filter our more road vibration but this one does a decent enough job on that front. Swapping the 23mm tyres for 25s would add more comfort but this bike isn't crying out for them by any means.
The Bontrager Gel Cork bar tape provides good cushioning for your hands and the Bontrager Affinity 1 saddle has plenty of padding too. Truth be told, I found it a little too soft, verging on squidgy, but everyone has their own taste when it comes to saddles.
2 You get a neat, well-proven frame and fork
All three bikes in the 1 Series share the same 100 Series Alpha Aluminium frame. It's fairly busy looking with a squared off upper edge to the down tube that makes it resemble that of Trek's more costly Madone.
The top tube slopes towards the seat tube junction and tapers down as it does so, and slim seatstays provide compliance at the back.
You get mounts for a mudguard and a rack back there too. They'll be useful if you want to ride the bike year round and perhaps carry stuff to and from work on a daily commute.
You don't get the oversized bottom bracket or tapered head tube that are regular features designed to add stiffness to higher-end performance bikes, but this is a £650 bike and the frame is good for the money. The welds are pretty tidy throughout and the same can be said of the paint job.
The fork is Trek's own with carbon blades and an alloy steerer. Like the frame, it comes with eyelets for fitting mudguards that will save a lot of faffing.
It's worth noting that the Trek 1.2 is available in eight sizes from 47cm up to 62cm. That range will cover nearly everyone.
3 Shimano's Sora shifters and mechs are excellent for the money
Nine-speed Sora is Shimano's fifth tier road groupset (if you don't count the electronic variants) and it offers fantastic value for money.
Back in the olden days (before last year), you changed gear on Sora by pushing the brake lever to the side or by using a small thumb lever on the side of the shifter body, depending on the direction you wanted to shift.
Now, though, Sora levers are Dual Control, so instead of that thumb lever, there's a lever tucked behind the brake lever. It's the same design that Shimano use right up to top-level Dura-Ace and it's a big improvement, making it far easier to change gear from the drops.
Resting your hands on the hoods is comfortable and there's a little gear indicator on the top of each of the levers that you might find useful. I can't say I ever checked them – I just couldn't get into the habit – but they're there if you want to.
Whereas the gear cables run underneath the bar tape on Shimano's higher level groupsets, they head out from the side of the levers with Sora and loop around to the frame in the fresh air. That's certainly not a problem from a functional point of view, although visually it's a less tidy way of doing things. That's being picky, though. Sora shifting has taken a massive leap forward with this latest design. It works very much like the highest level offerings from Shimano, just adding a little weight. Even there, the difference isn't massive.
Trek don't give you a complete Sora groupset here, just the shifters and mechs. The chainset is FSA Vero, a square taper design that does its job just fine, and the brakes, as mentioned, are unbranded.
Most other big brand bikes at this price, such as the Giant Defy 3 (£649) and the Felt F95 (£649), have Shimano Sora components too. It's worth comparing the spec sheets to see exactly how they match up, but don't buy a bike solely on that basis.
4 Bontrager's wheels and other components are good, reliable kit
The wheels are made up from Bontrager's own alloy hubs, containing cup and cone (rather than cartridge) bearings, and Tubeless Ready http://www.bontrager.com/technology/why_tubeless_ready rims. That means you can run the wheels without inner tubes at some point in the future, although you'll need to upgrade to Tubeless Ready tyres first.
The tyres that come fitted as standard are Bontrager's T1s (700 x 23). They're some pretty hefty rubber, made for durability rather than all-out speed, but they're reasonably resistant to punctures and they hold the road well even in damp conditions.
I had no problems at all with the wheels during the month-long test period. They're not the lightest wheels ever, taking some coaxing up to speed, but they're still as round and as true as they were out of the box, and there's a lot to be said for trouble-free operation. Fast wheels aren't so fast when you're standing on the side of the road trying to remove a broken spoke.
Most of the rest of the kit is no-nonsense stuff from Bontrager too, the handlebar, stem and seatpost being reliable alloy options and the Affinity 1 saddle providing at least as much cushioning as most people will want.
And the compromises
There are no two ways about it, the 1.2's brakes are disappointing. Trek have put the Shimano Sora theme to one side here and specced nameless dual pivot callipers that lack bite. Don't get me wrong, they're consistent and they'll stop you, just not as quickly as you might like. You have to engage the brakes for a bit longer than normal or pull the levers a bit harder to get down to your desired speed.
You adjust to this within a ride or two and don't really think about it until you ride with people who have better brakes on their bikes, or jump back on to a bike with better brakes yourself. Then you're struck by the contrast.
Swapping the brake pads helps, but the bottom line is that these brakes are a compromise to make a price point and, for me, they're the weakest aspect of the entire bike.
Other compromises? There's nothing that really stands out. Trek offer a decent all-round package here.
The Trek 1.2 is a very good bike for the money. The frame and fork are sound, reliable options and the Sora shifters and mechs are better than anything previously available for this kind of cash. They're a great example of the benefits of trickle down technology.
Yes, if you pay a couple of hundred pounds more you'll get a lighter bike that leaps into life more eagerly when you up the intensity for a sprint or tough climb, but that's always the way. As it is, the Trek 1.2 is a very able road bike that'll reward your efforts with decent speed, and it's comfortable enough to ride all day long. The fact that it comes with mudguard and rack eyelets increases its versatility, so you can use it as a year-round workhorse if that's what you're after.
We'd have no hesitation recommending this bike for someone after their first proper road bike, or for anyone else looking for plenty of value.
Very good value, ideal for anyone looking for a first real road bike, with just the brakes as a low point
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Trek 1.2
Size tested: 58
About the bike
State the frame and fork material and method of construction. List the components used to build up the bike.
Frame 100 Series Alpha Aluminium
Fork Trek carbon road
Sizes 47, 50, 52, 54, 56, 58, 60, 62cm
Front hub Bontrager alloy
Rear hub Bontrager alloy
Rims Bontrager Tubeless Ready
Tyres Bontrager T1, 700x23c
Shifters Shimano Sora, 9 speed
Front derailleur Shimano Sora
Rear derailleur Shimano Sora
Crank FSA Vero, 50/39/30 (triple)
Cassette SRAM PG-950, 11-28, 9 speed
Pedals Nylon body w/alloy cage, toe-clip/strap
Chain KMC X9
Bontrager Affinity 1
Seatpost Bontrager Alloy, 2-bolt head, 27.2mm, 8mm offset
Handlebar Bontrager Race, VR-C, 31.8mm
Stem Bontrager Elite Blendr, w/computer & light mounts, 31.8mm, 7 degree
Headset 1-1/8" semi-cartridge bearings
Brakeset Alloy dual-pivot
Bar tape Bontrager gel cork tape
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?
Trek say: "1 Series aluminium road bikes feature the same aero shaping and race-ready detail as our top-end bikes. They're strong, light, and built to fly over the pavement," [Trek, being from the US, use "pavement" to mean the surface of a road rather than a path].
Frame and fork
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
It's a tried and tested frame built to a high quality. The same goes for the carbon leg/alloy steerer fork.
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
The frame is made from aluminium: what Trek call 100 Series Alpha Aluminium.
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
The 1.2 is built to Trek's H2 geometry that I've explained in the body of the review. Essentially, it's slightly more relaxed than a full-on aggressive race position, but it's still speed orientated.
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
It's a little taller at the front end than a traditional low and stretched road bike.
Riding the bike
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
I found it comfortable both in terms of ride position and ride quality. It's certainly a long way from being a bone shaker.
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
It's not mega-stiff but it's not too flexy either.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?
I found the saddle a touch too squidgy for my taste, but I'd rather that than too firm.
In all of these marks, I'm comparing the bike to similarly priced alternatives.
Wheels and tyres
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes.
Would you consider buying the bike? It would certainly be on my shortlist if I was after a bike at about this price.
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? I'd recommend it should be on their shortlist too.
Anything further to say about the bike in conclusion?
Nearly all big brand bikes at this price have these features: aluminium frame, fork with carbon legs and alloy steerer, an incomplete Shimano Sora groupset (chainset and brakes being the most frequent omissions), in-house aluminium handlebar, stem and seatpost. If you simply compare spec lists, you'll see that the 1.2 comes out better than some and not quite as well as others.
However, we'd caution against making a decision based solely on a comparison of spec sheets. We've not reviewed all of the 1.2's chief rivals, but we can tell you that this bike will provide you with a very good all-round performance, the brakes being the only real low point.
About the tester
Age: 43 Height: 190cm Weight: 75kg
I usually ride: My best bike is:
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding,
Mat has worked for loads of bike magazines over 20+ years, and been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. He's been road.cc technical editor for eight years, testing bikes, fettling the latest kit, and trying out the most up-to-the-minute clothing. We send him off around the world to get all the news from launches and shows too. He has won his category in Ironman UK 70.3 and finished on the podium in both marathons he has run. Mat is a Cambridge graduate who did a post-grad in magazine journalism, and he is a past winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer.