Trek Domane SLR 6 Disc Review
21st April 2017
Over recent years, the Trek Domane has built a wellearned reputation as a comfortable ‘endurance’ bike that’s equally at home in a race environment. However, Trek’s engineers – with a bit of help from ‘Spartacus’ - have now taken the 2017 model’s ability to have a foot in both camps to a whole new level.
In fact, the new Trek Domane SLR Disc has been pretty much completely redeveloped, with Fabian Cancellara on hand to cast a critical eye over the R&D team’s best ideas. He is understood to have hammered the prototype bike across numerous sections of cobbles and other rough road surfaces to ensure the bike could deal with anything and everything the toughest terrain could throw its way, yet still perform on the tarseal like a good race bike should.
Based on that real-world feedback, Trek’s clever engineers then reworked how the tubes of the frame brace each other, with the result that they now claim to have ‘redefined how a road bike interacts with the road and the rider’.
They have done this by adding They have done this by adding what is effectively suspension – Trek’s IsoSpeed Decoupler. It’s this technology which first attracts the eye on the Trek Domane SLR 6 Disc, with the IsoSpeed pivots front and rear. So far, so normal (in this sort of bike) but where Trek has stepped outside the box is in the addition of a rear sliding adjuster.
Moving the slider to the top produces a stiffer, less compliant ride; which dropping it to the bottom offers the most comfortable ride the bike can deliver. As a result, this is a machine
that really is two bikes in one.
The overall comfort is helped by the newly-installed IsoSpeed setup at the front end. Combine this with the IsoSpeed handlebar (a strip of rubber runs inside the carbon here) to wash out buzz at the front end, extend the wheelbase and it’s supremely smooth ride.
These innovations are backed by other aspects of the design, such as the generous tyre clearance that allows room for 32mm clinchers and more.
Other features of the build on the bike we road tested include: Bontrager Affinity Comp Tubeless Ready Disc wheels with 12mm thru-axle keep you rolling smoothly; Shimano’s bulletproof Ultegra groupset on drivetrain duties with a 50/34 compact crank and an 11-28 rear cassette; and Shimano’s RS685 hydraulic shifters with Shimano RS805 hydraulic
disc Flat Mount disc brakes.
Essentially the Domane SLR 6 Disc is based around Trek’s more relaxed endurance geometry – which provides a more upright position and predictable handling. The endurance geometry (higher stack and shorter reach) creates a bike which sits underneath you with utter composure. And, of course, pedalling in a more upright position makes it easier on your back and arms.
Aiding this comfort is Trek’s high-end 600 Series OCLV carbon fibre, the Domane’s swooping fork and the innovative IsoSpeed technology.
Need more comfort? That’s easy, simply slide the Domane SLR into maximum compliance mode – which lets the carbon flex more vertically with fore and aft movement while restricting side-to-side movement - and it tackles any terrain whilst taking out sheer vibration.
However, all this comfort does come at a price; it means the precise, pinpoint agility of a race bike is compromised a little. And that’s where the IsoSpeed Decoupler comes in to ‘balance the books’.
Because as much as the IsoSpeed Decoupler provides an extra level of comfort, it can also be adjusted to switch the Domane into ‘race’ mode. Slide the Domane into minimal flex mode, it’s very responsive, tackles quick accelerations and is set up to perform well at the local criterium.
They say you can’t have your cake and eat it too – but this bike comes as close as possible to giving riders the best of both worlds; whether you’re heading out for a gravel adventure or smacking it on the tarseal with your mates.
ON THE ROAD
The opportunity to test this Trek couldn’t have come at a better time, with our testers having recently caught ‘the gravel bug’ and feeling hungry for adventure. Between the notorious ‘309 road’ in Coromandel, the back gullies into Kennedy Bay, Onewhero, and the rugged gravel roads around Puhoi, it’s fair to say we smashed it…yet the Trek kept giving. Over a trial period of three months and every bit of gravel we could find, the only ‘mechanical’ was a rear tyre puncture!
The disc brake system made the hairy, muddy descents around Coromandel a cinch. While the suspension system allows you to hack the gravel sections (especially the corrugations) and still be comfortable enough to check out the scenery and even have a drink and some food.
If you’ve been brave enough to explore some adventure sections on your roadie, you will know what we mean; multiple tongue bites, lost bananas and bottles and a shattered phone screen will have you looking for a bit more give in the frame. When you start exploring the New Zealand back roads, you also quickly realise the benefit of decent braking and a generous gearing system.
We were generally OK with the gears on this bike, as on gravel sections you are wanting to keep a good amount of torque on the chain and work with a lower cadence; yet we would have loved a couple more gears on a couple of the pinchy climbs over the back of Puhoi.
We were also surprised (in a good way) by the smooth tyres that came with the bike. Our first thought was we’d be better off on rough surfaces with something with a bit more
tread, yet these were totally fine.
The Domane SLR 6 Disc is a versatile bike that is light enough to keep up with the crew on the tarmac, yet leaves them for dust on the gravel and dirt sections. For those looking for something with a bit more ‘give’ across our cold chip roads or those seeking some adventure and wanting to get off Tamaki Drive to do something other than the usual loop – this would be the perfect bike for you.
It is a ride you need to get used to at first, as the suspension and longer wheel base which are built in to make the challenging terrain more comfortable, certainly have an impact on tarseal ascents.
Yet, we came away happy that Trek had got the balance just about spot on; a little bit more work on the uphills is a small price to pay if it means we can ride the road less travelled with the sort of comfort and control the Domane SLR 6 Disc offers.
Images: Darryl Carey
Orginally published in the NZ Road Cyclist Jan/Feb Issue. For more in-depth reviews and exclusive articles grab the latest copy on-sale today!