Editorial by Greg Pelican
There was a period when racing a “state of the art” bike could be a scary experience because of the bike design!
It’s interesting to look back at how much racing bikes have evolved and improved over the past 20 years.
During this period I was a competitive masters racer and worked in the bike industry, owning Bethel Cycle in New England and currently working for Trek Florida as our Marketing Manager. I’ve been lucky to test, race and sell the best bikes in the world from Cannondale, Cervelo, Guru, Serotta, Seven, Look, Colnago, Pinarello and Trek.
Over the years some bikes stand out both good and bad.
There was a whole period from about 2000 to around 2012 when most of the brands sought to increase the stiffness or decrease weight resulting in a bike that was either too harsh riding or too flexible descending. It took a lot of nerve and skill to race these bikes at the limit.
I can remember descending on a Look carbon bike that had a fork with a 1 inch carbon steerer tube. It was fine climbing but downright dangerous descending. The bike was so flexible it couldn't hold a line cornering and was prone to high speed wobbles. The contrast to this was Cannondale. Owning a shop in their hometown of Bethel Connecticut, I was intimately familiar with their oversized aluminum bikes. Light, tough and great for sprinting but if the road was rough your wheels bounced off the ground.
Back then the big brands put more of a priority to hyping stats such as the lightest weight or stiffness to weight ratio then they did to ride quality. It is no wonder why custom brands like Serotta, and Seven flourished and were sought after. The forgiving yet strong properties of steel or titanium matched with great design produced awesome riding bikes.
It’s fair to say that during the first decade of the 21 century bike manufacturers were learning how to work with carbon fiber. The art was not totally refined and mistakes were made. Several carbon fiber fork companies had design failures and didn’t survive. I had a teammate who got badly injured when his carbon fork snapped.
All during this period Trek developed and refined the first mainstream full carbon bike, the OCLV, which offered a nice balanced ride. Early on Trek understood the need for oversized headset bearings and an oversized tapered steering tube for their carbon frames and forks. Trek took a more conservative approach, focused on ride quality and as a side note won a lot of big races.
Fast forward to the current day… cycling research and technology has advanced nicely. It is now common knowledge that good brakes allow you to race faster, wider rims – tires and lower air pressure help you corner faster and do not increase rolling resistance, and the right amount of suspension keeps your wheels safely planted on the ground. All of these advances make you faster, but also have the really nice side benefit of making the bike more comfortable and easier to ride fast!
Trek’s aero Madone is now in it’s second generation. Trek did an awesome job refining the already industry benchmark aero bike. Trek’s excellent white paper explains their research and design objectives for the Madone SLR.
The new Madone SLR is the epitome of the evolution of the road racing bike! Not only is it the fastest aero road bike, it is smooth and stable in all conditions. Trek incorporated the following features into the design.
In conclusion, the Madone SLR is like a well-balanced knife, very sharp but easy to control. What blows me away is how easy and fun it is to ride fast! The Madone SLR takes the lead in ride quality and refinement of the current generation of racing road bikes. And is light years ahead of the first generation carbon fiber bikes.
If you are riding a road bike more than 5 years old I highly recommend testing a Madone SLR and see for yourself!