In this post I am going to review the Trek Domane 4.3 road bike. Or rather, I’m going to wax lyrically about it, ignoring any sort of protocol that requires me to be impartial and objective.
I purchased the bike in early July, as part of a bike fit / new bike / new knee saga, which I documented in this post and this one. I used it in my final training for RideLondon, and then for the event itself.
Interestingly (to me at least), one intelligent (and no doubt good looking) reader of this blog purchased a Domane after reading those posts. In fairness he’d already chosen to buy one, but I think I had some (positive) influence on the frame size he went for.
So there’s a lesson for you all: Don’t Fear The Grimpeur (’s advice).
I may as well get this out of the way up front. I am in no way qualified to ‘review’ a bike.
I haven’t ridden lots of bikes. I have no frame of reference against which to describe how a bike handles or its ‘road feel’ (which might not even be a thing).
I only have my legs, my eyes, my arse, my wallet and my emotions. I am going to review this bike with my arse.
So What’s It Like?
In the word of my son, “Good” (spoken with a faux-Derbyshire accent, as the poor southerner tries to fit in).
You Might Need To Give Us A Bit More Than That
So, clearly, it’s a lot better than anything I’ve ridden before. It’s noticeably lighter than my aluminium-framed Dawes road bike. Partly that will be the wheels and the other guff, but making the switch to carbon has definitely knocked off the pounds*.
(*I’ve no idea what it weighs exactly – this is not going to be a technical review)
The ride is significantly kinder than my Dawes. The geometry of the bike is tailored to sportive riders rather than racers (i.e. people like thee and me). The body position is more upright. The head tube is slightly higher.
According to my bike fit, my back angle on the Trek is 48 degrees from horizontal, rather than the inappropriately-aggressive 40 degrees that I had been enjoying on the Dawes.
Whilst neck pain has never been a particular issue for me, longer rides on my old steed did result in some discomfort. The 100 miles of RideLondon (plus cycle travel to and from it) was 70% longer than I’d cycled before. The ride caused discomfort in many areas (emotional, legs, undercarriage) but my neck and back were fine.
Talking of my undercarriage, which I like to do at any opportunity, the Domane is specifically designed to provide a smooth ride over even the bumpiest and lumpiest of road surfaces.
At the high end, top-of-the-range Domanes were used this year by Fabian Cancellara to win the cobble-fueled pain fests at Paris-Roubaix and the Tour of Flanders. At the low end, a Domane 4.3 is used by Andrew Montgomery to conquer the cattle grids and pot holes of rural Derbyshire.
Unusually for bikes that don’t fall apart, the seat tube is not connected to the top tube. Instead there is something called an ‘Isospeed Decoupler’, which is a sort of bracket that allows the seat tube to move in isolation from the rest of the frame. Because it’s not connected at the top, the seat tube has more opportunity to bend and cushion the impact of rough surfaces (or ‘British roads’, as they’re more commonly known).
Putting Down The Hammer
Unlike the aforementioned Spartacus, I am not known for putting huge amounts of power through my pedals. The great mass of carbon around the bottom bracket (the “widest available on a road bike”, according to Trek) is therefore rather lost on me.
Still, it’s nice to know that if I do suddenly develop a foot like a traction engine, my Domane won’t be a-twistin’ and a-flexin’ under the sudden influx of power.
Talking of speed (I was, sort of), switching to the Domane has definitely made me faster. On my first ride out, and without trying too hard, I recorded my best times on a couple of local climbs.
There is a 40km loop of rolling terrain that I’d done a couple of times on the Dawes. My first time round on the Trek knocked a full 8 minutes off my previous best time (though in the spirit of full disclosure, I should say that this also followed a reasonable block of training in Majorca).
All The Gears, No Ideas
The Domane 4.3 comes with a Shimano 105 drivetrain (i.e. gears and shizzle).
You can either have a compact chainset or a triple. I chose the compact, which, conveniently, was the one that was more readily available at my local bike shop. As a spinner, not a grinder (which I may have mentioned before), the lower gearing suits both my weakling legs and my spiky, pointy local terrain.
The only deviation from 105 is the rear cassette, which is the cheaper Tiagra version. Every cloud has a silver lining though – the largest sprocket on the Tiagra 10-speed cassette numbers (count ’em) 30 teeth. Combined with the 34 tooth smaller front chainring, that’s almost a 1:1 ratio in my easiest gear.
As you can imagine, using this secret weapon gear to spin casually up Leith Hill whilst still sat on my saddle made me look like an absolute RideLondon legend*.
* Assuming you ignore the fact that I was travelling at less-than-walking pace.
Other Things I Probably Should Mention
The Domane comes with an understated matt grey paint job. This probably suits you if you’re not after a garish colour scheme or you already have too many hues in your cycling wardrobe.
The good people at Trek have kindly left a hole in one of the chainstays. On the face of it, this sounds less than ideal, until you realise the hole is meant to filled with something called a Duotrap.
Rather than some of tandem toilet, a Duotrap is an ANT+ speed and cadence sensor that fits inside the chainstay, instead of being strapped on top of it with plastic cable ties. Trek claim aerodynamic benefits from having it tucked away. I just think it looks neat.
If you don’t want to splash out on a Duotrap, the hole comes filled with a pretend version which you can just leave in place.
The bike has brakes. They’re an awful lot better than the ones on my Dawes (which, to be honest, is not saying much). They’ve done all I’ve asked of them (i.e. stopped my bike).
Where There’s Muck, There’s Brass
As a Yorkshireman, I don’t like to part with money. As I disclaimed above, I haven’t been exposed to enough bikes to get a feel for whether the Domane offers value for money.
At £1,800, it’s certainly not cheap, but then I feel as if I’ve got a well-designed, well-made bike.
You can certainly get carbon-framed road bikes with Shimano 105 gears for less money. Spend a little more than the cost of the Domane 4.3 and you are into territory where Ultegra-level drivetrains become available.
Maybe what I’m saying is, it’s in the middle. Which is not something you’d see written in a magazine bike review. Bite me.
You’ve probably worked this out by now, but I am very happy with my Domane. It’s been a pleasure to ride. My average speeds increased immediately. It’s very easy to climb on. It got me round the 100 miles of RideLondon.
Given the value I received from being measured up pre-bike purchase, and then fitted up afterwards (as it were), I’m not going to recommend purchasing a bike online without trying it out. If you don’t want to heed this advice, you can certainly buy one from Evans Cycles here (affiliate link)
and (disappointingly for me) pay £200 less than I paid (not any more – they’re selling the 2014 model back at the RRP).
Are there any other Domane owners amongst you? What have your experiences been? Let me know in the comments section below.
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