Trek Domane 5.2 and 5.2 WSD Long Term Review
I reviewed the Trek Domane 5.2 a couple of months ago and gave it pretty high marks on almost every level. Now that Sarah and I have had the bikes for a while and have been in a variety of situations with them, I thought it would be nice to revisit the review.
Lets take a quick minute to review what a Trek Domane is and how it may be different than other road bikes. Trek calls the Domane an “endurance race” bike which means that it has a lot of the good technologies of the Madone race bike, but it is set up in a more relaxed position which will be comfortable mile after mile. Additionally, it is designed to be more comfortable over imperfect roads. The most direct competitor to this bike is the Specialized Roubaix which has been in production for quite a while.
How exactly is this achieved? First of all the top tube, the tube that connects the handlebar to the seat is a little shorter than on the Madone. The result is a rider that is more upright than a standard racing bike.
Riding on the top of the handlebars results in a rider that is upright, this is a function of the height of the handlebars, seat, and the length of the top tube.
In addition to the frame geometry, the bike has a technology called “isospeed” which means, in short, the seat tube is not welded to the top tube. Instead, they are pinned together which means the seat can move around independent of the bike, which can absorb shocks and bumps.
You can just make out the seat tube and top tube connection. You probably can notice that the top tube has a notch in it which receives the seat tube. Normally this connection is welded or formed as a single piece if it is carbon fiber.
The last thing Trek included to make the Domane more comfortable was to outfit it with 25mm wide tires. Traditionally road bikes run on 23mm wide tires. For years people have put on 25 and even 28mm wide tires to make bikes more comfortable. The bikes come stock with Bontrager R3 tubeless ready tires.
The bike comes in 5 versions, the aluminum 2 series, the 4-6 series, and the classics edition. The bikes between 4-6 are differentiated mainly by the level and quality of the carbon fiber used to build the bike, and to a lesser extend the componentry used on the bike. For example, the Domane 4.7 is essentially the same as the 5.2 except the frame is a higher quality carbon fiber. The difference between the 5.2 and the 5.9 is the shifters and brakes, while the 5.2 is Ultegra, the 5.9 is Dura-Ace or SRAM RED.
The standard wheel up until the 6 series is the Bontrager Race TLR aluminum clinchers which are the lowest Bontrager road clinchers available. This wheel is fine (and I still ride it) but Sarah did upgrade to the Race X Lite TLR wheelset when her original wheels were bent out of shape. The upper model wheels area bit lighter but what sets them apart are the DT Swiss hubs. These high quality hubs lead to a smoother ride and possibly a few less watts needed to push the bike. For those who don’t know, the hub is the part of the back wheel that prevent the pedals from turning when the back wheel turns. Then, when pedal, the hub engages the wheel and transfers power in the form of torque to the wheel. DT Swiss hubs have a distinctive click click click when they are rotated freely.
Having ridden a bunch of miles on these bikes we are no less happy with them now than when we bought them. The new bike smell is gone but we still love them. The frame is comfortable and responsive and the isospeed system works without compromising the stiffness of the frame. This is something hard to describe so I wont, go to a bike shop and see for yourself.
Configurable Items – Drivetrain
The Shimano 11 speed ultegra drivetrain is excellent. You might not notice much of a difference between the 105 and ultegra cassette shifting, but you will notice the crank shifting is much better. Plus, one more gear is nice. The price difference between the 4.7 and 5.2 is not extreme, go with the higher quality carbon plus ultegra or save your money and get the 4.3 with the 105 group. The brakes and crankset are both ultegra, making it a full ultegra group. A lot of manufacturer will claim ultegra but put a FSA crank and/or FSA brakes mixed with ultegra components. Trek doesn’t do that on the 5.2, and it is nice.
The stock wheels are fine and the upgraded wheels are very fine. I would buy the Domane 5 series and buy the upgrade wheels (keeping the old ones for spares/trainer wheels) before I would spend the money and buy a 6 series that comes standard with the higher end wheels. I would not bother with carbon aero wheels. I would also not bother with Shimano, Mavic, DT Swiss, Zipp or any other brand unless you are getting a really good deal on them.
If you are like my friends the first thing you do when you get a new bike is to swap the tires out with something like Continental Gatorskins which have decent flat protection. Don’t do this. The stock R3 are 120 TPI (threads per inch) while the Contis are only 170, so not a huge difference. Gators are notoriously hard to get off the rim and while they are flat resistant, I have seen at least 4 flats on gators. The R4 tires with 220 TPI is the next logical choice. Keep the 25mm width. You could go wider, but I would not go narrower. In fact, even if you rent a pair of race wheels, run 25mm (if you can) on the race wheels. You won’t regret it.
The bike comes with the Bontrager Affinity saddle but you should be riding a custom fit saddle on any bike you ride. So go get one. Cobb, Specialized, Fitzik, ISM, whatever.
The handlebars come stock with a padded material on the top of the bars which are designed to make it more comfortable to grip. And it does, I wouldn’t mess with this at all, it is one of the things that make a Domane a Domane. I was researching this before I did it and I could find very few instances of Domanes with aero handlebars. So I did it, and it worked fine.
Here is Sarah on her Domane in the aero position.
This position is comfortable enough to ride in for 4 hours or longer, so the answer is “YES” to whether you can or should use aero bars on the Domane.
The only thing of note here is that the chainstay has a built in compartment which fits the Bontrager Duo-Tap compatible cadence counter. It is compatible with Garmin devices and it is nice to have a cadence counter that isn’t strapped to your chainstay.
This bike is more than capable of keeping up with the Madone or the Cervelo R series bicycles. Trek makes a big deal out of it being comfortable (which it is) but don’t mistake it for being a slouch. It is an excellent all around bike, comfortable on the flats and hills. It is is a little heavier than the comparable Madone because of the isospeed technology but I doubt anyone would notice. If speed is paramount and comfort secondary, you could buy a “Classics Edition” Domane which is a little more aggressive and totally customizable. Even in stock form, I regularly ride faster than people on racing road bikes and TT/Triathlon bikes. What holds me back, and what would hold you back, is your fitness, not the bike.
If you walk into a bike shop and you are ready to purchase a serious bike and you happen to be in a Trek dealer; they will probably nudge you to this bike. This is because, while it is extremely high quality, it is much gentler on the rider than the Madone. A bike shop will figure that they will get fewer complaints if they sell a gentler, yet still excellent bike, to the general public. At $3600 USD, the Domane 5.2 is a serious bicycle with a serious drivetrain to match. Casual and serious riders alike will be able to take advantage of this bicycle’s capabilities.
Trek is a company people love to hate. People who have Treks love them. People who hate Trek tend to hate them for one of two reasons. 1) Trek is huge and a ton of people around the world ride them. Or 2) They had a Trek that had problems or serious customer service issues with the dealer. Number one isn’t an issue, that is like complaining that every rich guy has a Mercedes. Yes, because Mercedes makes a nice car. Number 2, I know of two instances where Trek or a dealer went above and beyond to satisfy a customer. In one example, a dealer mis-priced a Trek SpeedConcept $2000 less than MSRP. The dealer agreed to sell the bike at the discounted price. In another scenario, someone bought a Trek Madone second hand and they soon had issues with the frame. Trek replaced the frame and this didn’t fix the issue. Trek decided to replace the frame with the current and next model up for the customer, which resolved the issue.
Should you buy this bike? Probably.