Before we start things off, yes, this bike is equipped with Di2 (electronic shifting), and no, it's not as astronomically expensive as you might think. In fact, a mechanical Dura-Ace equipped bike would cost near identical to this bike, so it was really a no-brainer for me; get another mechanical Shimano drivetrain (I've logged thousands of miles on various levels of Shimano groupsets) or try the latest and greatest electronic shifting? Obviously, it's electric.
Anyway, back to the bike as a whole. This bike is a prime example of what you can do with Trek's Project One program. I started out with a standard Madone 6.2 and spec'd a full Ultegra groupset; wheels, brakes, and Di2 transmission. Why not go with the SSL you ask? I had a limited budget to work with, and I broke the bank to get the Di2, so no SSL for me, at least not this year. Plus, the difference in weight is less than 100 grams, and when you ride big bikes like I do, you are never really overly concerned about weight. Even when I've tried to do a super lightweight build, 16 lbs seems to be the magical number. This bike tips the scales at 17lbs. In this modern era of sub 15lb bikes, a 17lb bike sounds heavy, but when you stop to think about it, the average 4th grader carries around more weight in books than my bike weighs, so I'm not complaining.
On to the fine details. If you're a Shimanophile like me, then you'll be keen on the fact that the WH-6700 wheelset is tubeless ready. And tubeless they are! I'm running the Hutchison Atom tubeless road tire with Stan's NoTubes sealant. This is essentially the same wheelset I was running last summer, so it was no surprise to me that the ride was equal parts fast, plush, and supple. I've said it multiple times, but road tubeless is here to stay, and I encourage everyone to try it. The rest of the wheelset is standard Shimano; the hubs are traditional cup and cone, and all the surfaces are polished. Sure, I could save weight by going with a Bontrager RXL wheelset, but I'll take a ~100gram weight penalty for the smoothness and reliability of my Ultegra wheels.
I went with my traditional, tried and true full aluminum cockpit; Bontrager RXL stem and Bontrager RL Blade handlebars. I always spec aluminum for the cockpit with durability and reliability in mind. I really don't feel like I've given up anything in the ride department; the bike still has a full-carbon fork. But what I gain is that piece of mind that aluminum gives when you go down (I'm not planning on crashing, but sometimes it happens). Carbon can sometimes hide it's damage, only to reveal itself, rather catastophically, later on down the road. Last, my butt is being handled by a Bontrager Affinity RL saddle. Initially I wrote off this saddle because it feels a bit too softly padded for me, but out of necessity I've left the saddle on (didn't have anything else to use) and it's slowly growing on me. All my other bikes are equipped with RXL level saddles, but I've been pleasantly surprised by the lesser RL. It should be noted that I have been lusting after the Bontrager Team Issue saddle, and I can only resist the temptation for so long....
And finally, the drivetrain. I will say that when I pulled the bike from the box and put it in the stand and installed all the components I was a bit nervous about setting up the Di2. Then I read Shimano's Di2 manual and found out that installing and tuning Di2 is actually easier than working on a mechanical drivetrain. I had the drivetrain dialed and ready to go in less than 5 minutes!! How does it ride? Pretty much exactly like the mechanical equivalent with one exception; the accuracy and precision with which the Di2 drivetrain executes each shift is unparalleled. Particularly when shifting from the small chainring up to the big chainring. It will bang out front shifts in every scenario, all day long; shift under power, shift while climbing, shifts while cross-chaining, you name it and Di2 does it, without protest. If there were any flaws to discuss it would have to be this; just like any other electronic device, garbage-in equals garbage-out. Sure I've had some missed shifts, but when I went back and actually analyzed what happened, the drivetrain actually did what it was told to do. The error was that of the user (You mean I'm liable? No way!).
Here's what happens; the shift levers on mechanical Shimano are a combination of the brake lever (Shimano calls this 'X') and the inner shift paddle (Shimano labels this 'Y'). This combination provides two separate and easily distinguishable targets for your clumsy fingers to stab at while riding. On Di2, the 'Y' paddle is still there, and is in fact larger than the mechanical equivalent, but the 'X' paddle has given up most of it's territory. No longer is the 'X' paddle the entire brake lever, but not it is this small little sliver wedged between the now fixed brake lever and the 'Y' paddle. Shimano's concession here was to elevate the 'X' paddle and give it some texture, but it's still a significantly smaller target. So, yes, I've missed shifts, but it wasn't because of the drivetrain, it was because I 'fat-fingered' the wrong shift paddle. Now I can see why some of the classics specialists and top-sprinters prefer mechanical Shimano over Di2.
|Mechanical Shimano, 2 distinct targets|
|Shimano Di2, too many targets for my digits|
Now that we've discussed the fine details of the bike (yawn) I feel like I should take a minute to describe the ride. In one word; amazing. I've had Madone's before, but never a 6-series. This bike is telepathic, it goes where you want it to go with nary a hint of hesitation. The ride is stiff, but not punishing. Trek's seatmast design yields just enough to give that sought after "vertical compliance," and the Shimano WH-6700 wheels with Hutchison tubeless tires soak up road irregularites with aplomb. I wouldn't say I'm an early adopter of road tubeless, but this is my second year riding tubeless on the road and it's definitely a game-changer. It's been a solid two-years since I've had a flat with my road tubeless setup, plus with the added bonus of tubular-level ride quality I won't be going back to tubes anytime soon.
If Trek hadn't just released the Domane, I'd say this is the bike I never knew I needed, but not anymore. That's not to say I'm not blown away by my Madone, it's just that now I'm lusting for something different. The grass is always greener......