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Verdict: 
Seriously fast aero race bike with great handling, but not the smoothest and not the ultimate spec it should be
Weight: 
7,730g

The Trek Madone SLR 9 Disc delivers the speed that its impressive looks suggest, backed up by good handling and, thanks to the new adjustable IsoSpeed decoupler, reasonable smoothness. Make no mistake, though, it's still very much a firm ride. The £10k price doesn't look out of place these days, but the specification is lacking a few things to make it the ultimate bike it so nearly is.

  • Pros: Seriously fast, good handling, geometry, fit, looks, spec
  • Cons: Not the smoothest, no power meter, compact chainset, heavy

> Find your nearest dealer here

All about the speed

If you want to go fast, get yourself an aero bike. Yes, at the end of the day it's about the rider and the legs, but swapping from a regular road bike with round tubes to the Trek Madone SLR reveals an immediately noticeable increase in speed, with higher speeds more easily reached for less effort.

Trek Madone SLR 9 Disc Project One - riding 2.jpg

Speeding on the Madone SLR really is very addictive. It's impossible to go out for a gentle jaunt. It wants hammer-time all the time. How it stacks up against other aero bikes needs some proper independent wind tunnel testing, but my seat-of-the-chamois impression, along with speed and power data from regular testing loops, confirms that it's easily comparable to the key rival aero bikes in this sector.

Some bikes just look fast, the Madone actually is fast. A regular proving ground for testing bikes is my local chain gang. Where better than a power hour to put a race bike through its paces, with rolling terrain, some punchy climbs and some fast drags, and people a lot fitter and faster than I am to keep up with? The Madone has given me the best advantage yet, not only allowing me to keep up but also slice a massive two minutes off my PB for the 40km route.

Trek Madone SLR 9 Disc Project One - riding 3.jpg

It's clearly insanely fast at high speeds. Get it up to 30kph and the speed really ramps up as you pile on the watts. But it doesn't feel quite as snappy at lower speeds, out of tight corners, and the weight holds it back on steeper gradients.

Handling and geometry

The Madone's handling is race-focused, as you'd expect. The new H1.5 geometry, which replaces the previous choices of slammed H1 and relaxed H2, is well judged. It provided a comfortable fit with a bit of stretch to the handlebar.

Trek Madone SLR 9 Disc Project One.jpg

I shuffled a few spacers about – an easy task as the aero spacers are split – to get my desired position, a bit lower than standard. In the drops, it's an aggressive position but it's comfortable on longer rides too, but then I am used to race bike geometry which certainly helps.

Trek Madone SLR 9 Disc Project One - riding 4.jpg

The new two-piece bar and stem allow more fit adjustment than before, with the angle of the handlebar adjustable to suit your preference. The bar is a comfortable shape with the swept back design providing manageable reach to the hoods and drops.

Trek Madone SLR 9 Disc Project One - stem top.jpg

It's a handlebar intended to be ridden in the drops or hoods the majority of the time – there's no tape on the tops. You can still cruise along gripping this section if you really want. The narrow 38cm width is good for reducing drag and keeping your arms tucked in, but might not be everyone's cup of tea. On a bike of this price, you can easily spec the bar width to suit your requirements.

Better brakes

The biggest improvement over the previous generation Madone, in my opinion, is the change from the custom designed integrated brakes with the head tube flaps (Vector Wings, in Trek speak) to disc brakes.

Trek Madone SLR 9 Disc Project One - rear disc brake.jpg

You'll have your own preference of braking system, and Trek is still offering the Madone SLR with rim brakes. In fact, it's one of the few brands still to offer rim brakes – many rival brands have fully embraced disc brakes with their latest aero bikes.

Compared to the slightly finicky integrated brakes of the previous Madone, the hydraulic disc brakes are easy to live with and required no maintenance during my time with the bike. Power is plentiful and lever feel is perfect for meting out the power smoothly in every situation. I experienced some occasional noise in damp weather but never for long.

Trek Madone SLR 9 Disc Project One - bars 3.jpg

Another benefit of disc brakes is increased tyre clearance, with 28mm tyres supported. That's a good option if you want to increase comfort. By contrast, the rim brake Madone only takes up to a 25mm tyre.

Trek Madone SLR 9 Disc Project One - clearance.jpg

Fast and comfortable? Fast or comfortable?

I remember riding some of the first generation aero bikes and coming away impressed with the speed compared with regular road bikes, but less taken with the reduced ride comfort. Big aero tubes aren't good for building compliance and comfort into a bike.

Trek Madone SLR 9 Disc Project One - front.jpg

Trek's solution, rolled out with the last Madone and upgraded with adjustability on this second generation bike, is the same IsoSpeed decoupler first developed for the Domane, an endurance bike designed to tame the cobbles of Paris-Roubaix.

Trek Madone SLR 9 Disc Project One - frame shape.jpg

Trek has now integrated the IsoSpeed decoupler into the top tube, from its previous location in the seat tube, and made it adjustable, allowing you to choose how soft or firm it is.

The IsoSpeed decoupler basically allows the seat tube and seatpost to move independently of the frame in a controlled manner, with a new elastomer bumper to control the rebound. Undo a couple of bolts and you can move a small slider to choose the firm, soft or somewhere-in-between setting.

Trek Madone SLR 9 Disc Project One - UCI sticker.jpg

If you're going from smooth crit circuits to bumpy normal roads you might adjust it frequently. Or, as in my case, you might play around with it for a few rides then just leave it in the softest setting.

Does it work? Yes, it does. How much compliance does it actually provide? Trek says: 'Compliance at the saddle of a 56cm frame ranges from approximately 119N/mm to 175N/mm depending on the slider's position. According to these figures, the new Madone is capable of both more compliance (+17%) and less compliance (-22%) than its predecessor.'

Trek Madone SLR 9 Disc Project One - seat tube junction.jpg

What does that mean on the road? In my experience the IsoSpeed softens bigger impacts, say if you clip the edge of a sunken drain or pothole when you're in a peloton and can't read the road ahead of you.

But make no mistake, the Madone still provides a very firm and hard ride. It just doesn't seem to be sensitive enough to smooth out poorly surfaced roads, the type where the top layer of tarmac has eroded away, or worse still, surface dressed roads. It's easy to overlook when you're galloping along, but on casual rides I found it a bit tiring.

Frame design

If there's an award for the biggest aero down tube, the Madone wins hands down. No other aero bike goes to such extremes to reduce drag as the Madone with massive profiles at the fork, down tube, seat tube and stays, all intended to reduce drag as much as possible.

Trek Madone SLR 9 Disc Project One - downtube.jpg

The two-tone paint job gives an air of quality, a sparkly gloss paint over matt black. It's one of a handful of stock colour options too, and there's also Trek's Project One where a world of custom paint schemes awaits.

Trek Madone SLR 9 Disc Project One - Madone decal.jpg

Integration is a key buzzword in bike design these days, and with the Trek Madone it's the IsoSpeed decoupler hidden away underneath the top tube, and a new aero handlebar and stem with greater fit adjustment than the old one-piece aero handlebar.

Trek Madone SLR 9 Disc Project One - head tube.jpg

All cables and hoses are routed inside the Madone, right from the front where they are hidden inside the handlebar and stem and into the frame. The only exposed cabling is just where they exit ahead of the derailleurs and callipers.

Trek Madone SLR 9 Disc Project One - cable detail.jpg

The Di2 junction box is hidden inside the handlebar for easy charging and gear tweaking.

Trek Madone SLR 9 Disc Project One - shifter and bar.jpg

Aero handlebars are a prime method for reducing frontal surface area, which is why nearly all aero bikes now feature them. The downside is the limited fit adjustment. Trek's new handlebar uses a design that splits the stem, allowing the angle of the handlebar to be adjusted with a range of +/-5 degrees. Under the stem are four bolts you can loosen to adjust the tilt of the handlebar. Computers and other accessories can be bolted to the front of the handlebar using a GoPro-style mount.

Trek Madone SLR 9 Disc Project One - stem.jpg

As I said earlier, the Madone uses Trek's new H1.5 geometry. This replaces the previous low and stretched H1 and slightly more upright H2 options. The 56cm model, for example, has an effective top tube length of 559.9mm – we might as well call that 560mm – a head tube of 151mm, a stack of 563mm and a reach of 391mm. Trek says it hits the sweet spot, and I would tend to agree.

Trek Madone SLR 9 Disc Project One - riding 5.jpg

The seatpost is an integrated design and is easy to adjust with bolts at the back, but you do want to pay close attention to the manual and the recommended torque settings. The saddle clamp is nice and easy to set up, with individual bolts for adjusting the fore-aft and tilt, and there's a choice of setback to tune your position.

Trek Madone SLR 9 Disc Project One - seat post bolts.jpg

Build

For £10,000, this Trek Madone needs to be the ultimate bike, and it nearly is but for a couple of issues. It's specced with the sort of kit you'd expect on this level of bike, including the Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 groupset, which is flawless.

Trek Madone SLR 9 Disc Project One - drive train.jpg

However, I can't help but question the 50/34-tooth compact chainset on a race bike – surely a 52/36 would have been better, Trek?

Trek Madone SLR 9 Disc Project One - crank.jpg

The 11-28 cassette is largely standard even on race bikes these days, and I appreciated it on some hillier rides.

Trek Madone SLR 9 Disc Project One - rear mech.jpg

Bontrager's Aeolus XXX 6 wheels enhance the aerodynamic performance greatly. They look fantastic and they sound great when you sprint the Madone up to speed. The wide profile provides a good base for the 25mm Bontrager R4 320tpi tyres too, and the wheels are tubeless-ready should you want to ditch the inner tubes. I found the wheels a bit of a handful in strong crosswinds but they were never erratic, you just have to be prepared.

Trek Madone SLR 9 Disc Project One - rim 3.jpg

I had zero issues with the Bontrager Montrose saddle nor the two-bolt seat clamp, which as I said above provides easy angle and fore-aft adjustment.

Trek Madone SLR 9 Disc Project One - saddle and post.jpg

All the parts build up to a 7.7kg weight for the size 56cm bike tested. For comparison, the Specialized S-Works Venge in the same size and with similar parts tickled the scales to 7.15kg, so the Madone is carrying a bit of timber.

Rivals

The Venge is the main rival that springs to mind because it's the aero bike I tested most recently. The Venge is lighter, cheaper (not by much), includes a dual-sided power meter, has more easily adjustable handlebar and stem, and the ride quality is a notch above the Madone. If it was my money, that's where it would be heading.

Other aero bikes we could throw into the ring include the Cervelo S5 Disc and Cannondale SystemSix (we haven't reviewed these bikes yet), Giant Propel Advanced SL Disc (we tested the £3,000 Propel Advanced Disc last year) and Bianchi Oltre XR2.

> Buyer's Guide: 18 of the best and fastest 2019 aero road bikes

The XR2 is a good comparison because it also attempts to provide extra compliance by infusing the carbon layup with a special vibration-damping material, and it does provide a pretty smooth ride. It's not in the same ballpark when it comes to aerodynamics and integration, though.

Another rival comes from Trek itself: the recently introduced Madone SL, which brings the price down by virtue of using cheaper carbon fibre, though it still comes out of the same mould so you're getting the same aero performance and IsoSpeed decoupler. That range starts off at £3,600 which, if you love the look of this Madone but want to save a bit of cash, could be the bike for you.

Conclusion

The Madone SLR 9 Disc is ferociously fast and will enable you to smash PRs and dominate road races, with striking looks, some clever integration and a faultless build, but the firm ride makes it a chore to ride on regular roads at less than race pace, and it's a bit portly too. Those gripes aside, it's a very impressive bike, but I'm left just wanting a bit more refinement and finesse.

Verdict

Seriously fast aero race bike with great handling, but not the smoothest and not the ultimate spec it should be

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road.cc test report

Make and model: Trek Madone SLR 9 Disc

Size tested: 56cm

About the bike

List the components used to build up the bike.

From Trek:

Frame

700 Series OCLV Carbon, KVF (Kammtail Virtual Foil) tube shape, Adjustable Top Tube IsoSpeed, Micro-adjust seatmast, tapered head tube, BB90, flat mount disc brakes, 12 mm thru-axle, invisible cable routing, control centre, precision water bottle placement, Aero 3S chain keeper, DuoTrap S-compatible

Fork

Madone KVF full carbon disc, carbon tapered steerer, carbon dropouts, hidden cable routing, flat-mount disc brake, 12 mm thru-axle

Wheels

Wheels

Bontrager Aeolus XXX 6 Tubeless Ready Disc, 12 mm thru-Axle

Tyres

Bontrager R4 320, 320 tpi, 700x25 c

Max tyre size

28 c Bontrager tyres (with at least 4 mm of clearance to frame)

Drivetrain

Shifters

Shimano Dura-Ace Di2, 11-speed

Front derailleur

Shimano Dura-Ace Di2, braze-on

Rear derailleur

Shimano Dura-Ace Di2

Crank

Shimano Dura-Ace, 50/34 (compact)

Bottom bracket

BB90

Cassette

Shimano Dura-Ace, 11-28, 11-speed

Chain

Shimano Dura-Ace

Pedals

Not included

Components

Saddle

Bontrager Montrose Pro, carbon rails

Seatpost

Madone carbon seatpost, 25 mm offset w/integrated light mount

Handlebar

Madone-specific adjustable aero VR-CF, internal cable routing

Grips

Bontrager tape

Stem

Madone-specific internal cable routing

Head set

Madone integrated, stainless cartridge bearings, sealed, 1-3/8in top, 1.5in bottom

Brake set

Shimano Dura-Ace flat-mount hydraulic disc

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 says, "Madone SLR 9 Disc is the hero of the road disc revolution. Advanced road bike aerodynamics, our lightest OCLV Carbon layup, adjustable compliance and a Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 electronic drivetrain make it the final stop in your search for a top-of-the-line aero road bike.

"A lightweight 700 Series OCLV Carbon frame with Kammtail Virtual Foil aerodynamic tube shaping and road-smoothing Adjustable Top Tube IsoSpeed, KVF full carbon disc fork, 12 mm thru axles, an adjustable aero bar and stem, a 2x11 Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 electronic drivetrain, Tubeless Ready Bontrager Aeolus XXX 6 wheels, a micro-adjust Madone seatmast and Dura-Ace flat-mount disc brakes."

Where does this model sit in the range? Tell us briefly about the cheaper options and the more expensive options

Sits right at the top of Trek's aero bike category, it doesn't get better than this.

Frame and fork

Overall rating for frame and fork
 
9/10

Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?

Exceptional quality, as you'd expect and hope at this price.

Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?

Highest grade 700 OCLV is used to make the frame and fork.

Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?

Uses Trek's new H1.5 geometry which splits the difference between the slammed H1 and laid back H2.

How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?

The stack and reach are predictably aggressive given it's a race bike, with a long reach and low stack. The new H1.5 cuts a nice compromise between the previous very slammed H1 and upright H2 geometry. I found the fit very good, only moved some spacers to lower the handlebar.

Riding the bike

Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.

Yes and no. It's not the smoothest ride on rough road surfaces, but the position makes it comfortable on longer rides.

Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?

It sure doesn't lack the stiffness you want in a race bike.

How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?

Extremely well for sprinting out of corners and attacking mates.

Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so was it a problem?

None.

How would you describe the steering? Was it lively neutral or unresponsive? Quite laid back.

Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?

Handling is a highlight, with good stability at high speeds, and it's pretty docile at lower speeds.

Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?

You could go up to 28mm tyres, which might certainly impart a bit more comfort for dealing with crappy road surfaces.

Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's stiffness? would you recommend any changes?

I'd like to see a 52/36t chainset and a power meter included at this price.

Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's efficiency? would you recommend any changes?

No changes.

Rate the bike for efficiency of power transfer:
 
9/10
Rate the bike for acceleration:
 
7/10
Rate the bike for sprinting:
 
8/10
Rate the bike for high speed stability:
 
9/10
Rate the bike for cruising speed stability:
 
9/10
Rate the bike for low speed stability:
 
8/10
Rate the bike for flat cornering:
 
8/10
Rate the bike for cornering on descents:
 
8/10
Rate the bike for climbing:
 
6/10

The drivetrain

Rate the drivetrain for performance:
 
9/10
Rate the drivetrain for durability:
 
9/10
Rate the drivetrain for weight:
 
9/10
Rate the drivetrain for value:
 
8/10

Wheels and tyres

Rate the wheels for performance:
 
8/10
Rate the wheels for durability:
 
8/10
Rate the wheels for weight:
 
6/10
Rate the wheels for comfort:
 
6/10
Rate the wheels for value:
 
8/10
Rate the tyres for performance:
 
9/10
Rate the tyres for durability:
 
8/10
Rate the tyres for weight:
 
8/10
Rate the tyres for comfort:
 
8/10
Rate the tyres for value:
 
8/10

Controls

Rate the controls for performance:
 
8/10
Rate the controls for durability:
 
8/10
Rate the controls for weight:
 
8/10
Rate the controls for comfort:
 
8/10
Rate the controls for value:
 
8/10

Your summary

Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes

Would you consider buying the bike? No

Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Probably

How does the price compare to that of similar bikes in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?

There are quite a few impressive rivals at this price and it compares well against those, but the lack of a power meter is a glaring omission.

Rate the bike overall for performance:
 
8/10
Rate the bike overall for value:
 
5/10

Use this box to explain your overall score

I love the speed and handling and looks, but it's not the smoothest ride and the spec doesn't make it the ultimate bike it needs to be at this price.

Overall rating: 7/10

About the tester

Age: 31  Height: 180cm  Weight: 67kg

I usually ride:   My best bike is:

I've been riding for: 10-20 years  I ride: Every day  I would class myself as: Expert

I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo-cross, commuting, touring, mountain biking

David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds.

8 comments

Avatar
handlebarcam [1287 posts] 3 weeks ago
4 likes

I don't drive.

I have never learned to drive.

I hate cars.

I think they're not only poluting the planet, but also making people selfish and entitled.

But if I were given ten grand to spend, Brewster's Millions style, on a one-off purchase of a form of private transportation, I'd buy something like a Volkswagen Up over this. Even just to park on my drive as an ornamental feature. Or to take apart and admire the engineering of thousands of parts.

£10,000 is simply a ludicrous amount of money for a bicycle. And this one is not even nice to look at.

Plus Trek screwed over Greg Lemond.

Avatar
Chris Hayes [427 posts] 3 weeks ago
0 likes

Q: Which component would you recommend changing to improve the product? A: None.  Wheels - 6/10....but then again better wheels would no doubt increase the price and lower the already paltry 5/10 value for money score. 

Avatar
yupiteru [57 posts] 3 weeks ago
1 like

10,000 pound for a reinforced plastic bike!  I bet any money the people at Trek are laughing so much that there must be concerns for health and sanity within the company, not as concerning of course for the loonies that would actually buy something like this at this price.  This bike probably costs pennies to make and the profit margin must be astronomical, nice one Trek.

Trek are not alone of course while people are willing to purchase this 5 minute wonder craze madness at prices that are totally immoral.

The world has gone totally mad, I tell you, you will be telling me next that Boris Johnston will be the next leader of the country, Ha, Ha, Ha, it's so crazy it's not even funny.

Please will somebody wake me up as this dream has become seriously bad and not funny.

 

Avatar
Dingaling [98 posts] 3 weeks ago
3 likes
yupiteru wrote:

10,000 pound for a reinforced plastic bike!  I bet any money the people at Trek are laughing so much that there must be concerns for health and sanity within the company, not as concerning of course for the loonies that would actually buy something like this at this price.  This bike probably costs pennies to make and the profit margin must be astronomical, nice one Trek.

Trek are not alone of course while people are willing to purchase this 5 minute wonder craze madness at prices that are totally immoral.

The world has gone totally mad, I tell you, you will be telling me next that Boris Johnston will be the next leader of the country, Ha, Ha, Ha, it's so crazy it's not even funny.

Please will somebody wake me up as this dream has become seriously bad and not funny.

 

It isn't £10,000 for reinforced plastic.  The Trek frame probably costs less than half the total.

I've read that a lot of people spend £15,000+ on a wedding. Now that is barmy.

 

Avatar
Htc [105 posts] 3 weeks ago
2 likes
handlebarcam wrote:

I don't drive.

I have never learned to drive.

I hate cars.

I think they're not only poluting the planet, but also making people selfish and entitled.

But if I were given ten grand to spend, Brewster's Millions style, on a one-off purchase of a form of private transportation, I'd buy something like a Volkswagen Up over this. Even just to park on my drive as an ornamental feature. Or to take apart and admire the engineering of thousands of parts.

£10,000 is simply a ludicrous amount of money for a bicycle. And this one is not even nice to look at.

Plus Trek screwed over Greg Lemond.

It’s only ludicrous if you can’t afford it.

Avatar
Griff500 [382 posts] 3 weeks ago
3 likes
Htc wrote:
handlebarcam wrote:

I hate cars.

I think they're not only poluting the planet, but also making people selfish and entitled.

£10,000 is simply a ludicrous amount of money for a bicycle. And this one is not even nice to look at.

It’s only ludicrous if you can’t afford it.

True. Once you get above a subsistence level of income and start to be able to afford non-essential "luxuries", there are those who will question how you spend your money. I for example think it is ludicrous to spend £1,000 on a mobile phone, with a useful life of 2 years, after which it is extremely difficult to recycle, but plenty of i-phone users would disagree. There are those who who spend £10,000 on a cruise after which they have nothing to show but a few selfies, or spend £10,000 on a hifi component or camera, or £2k per year on golf club membership, and why not if they have the cash and that's their interest?  But in the context of any of these, a bike, which will probably still be giving somebody some use 15 years from now,  (hence, unlike your unused VW UP, mitigating  the pollution caused by its manufacture and eventual disposal) doesn't seem to be a bad choice.

You could argue that consumerism in general might be screwing the planet, but I'd put bikes a long way down the list of problem items!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Avatar
handlebarcam [1287 posts] 2 weeks ago
1 like
Htc wrote:

It’s only ludicrous if you can’t afford it.

If you want to try to redefine the word "ludicrous" out of existence, well... that's pretty ludicrous in itself.

Avatar
matthewn5 [1357 posts] 1 week ago
0 likes

Why is the reviewer comparing it to the 2013 Oltre XR2? The Oltre XR4 is the current model and has been since 2016.

Is this another of these Road.cc recycled articles?