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Review: Trek Madone 9 - Model 550261 (2018)

Trek Madone 9 specifications - Model 550261 (2018)

  • 600 Series OCLV Carbon, KVF (Kammtail Virtual Foil) tube shape, Madone IsoSpeed, Micro-adjust seatmast, E2 tapered head tube, BB90, invisible cable routing, control center, precision water bottle placement, Aero 3S chain keeper, DuoTrap S compatible
  • Fork - Madone KVF full carbon, carbon E2 steerer, carbon dropouts, integrated brake
  • Wheels - Bontrager Aeolus Comp Tubeless Ready
  • Tyres - Bontrager R3 Hard-Case Lite, 120 tpi, aramid bead, 700x25c
  • Shifters - Shimano Ultegra, 11 speed
  • Rear derailleur - Shimano Ultegra
  • Crank - Shimano Ultegra
  • Bottom bracket - BB90
  • Cassette - Shimano Ultegra, 11-28, 11 speed
  • Chain - Shimano Ultegra
  • Chainrings - 50/34 (compact)
  • Saddle - Bontrager Montrose Elite, titanium rails
  • Seatpost - Madone Micro-adjust carbon seatmast cap, 25mm offset
  • Handlebar - Bontrager Race Lite Aero, VR-CF, 31.8mm
  • Stem - Bontrager Pro, 31.8mm, 7 degree, w/computer & light mounts
  • Headset - Madone integrated, stainless cartridge bearings, sealed, 1-3/8" top, 1.5" bottom
  • Brake set - Madone aero, integrated
  • Pedals chosen: 2018 Ultegra SPD-SL
  • Weight - 54cm" - 7.75 kg


In the same way as the previous review of the Slash 9 (2016), this won't be a conventional review.  I'll be quickly highlighting straight away the key thinking behind this purchase as well as the similarities to the other "Numerical but non decimal offerings" that Trek does, which seem to hit key technologies but maintaining value for money by spending only where gives the greatest benefit.

Purpose and motivations for purchase. 

While my 10+ year old hardtail has now gone the way of the local community boke store (on-your-bike Taunton), there are many reasons for a mountainbiker to buy a road bike, but that's another article for another day...
For me, alone - it's the realisation that I had a fair capability for doing intense XC sessions fasted, as well as enjoying high speed periodic high power sprints and climbs.  With that in mind, you get to know your weaknesses which are long steady climbs and out of the saddle efforts on those climbs.  The timings for the technology and the fitness and competitive motivations are there, but you also buy bikes with your heart, and the Dinister (Matt) black matched the Slash 9 completely as well as being another "9"...
Competitive and non-competitive reasonings are also there, but also the personal challenge of getting on a drop-handlebar bike for the first time since the 80s, as well as the road-bike pedals, postition and shifting.  I was fairly sure it would be different from the wrong sized steel "racer" i borrowed from a friend in the 80's for a trip down the road. The Bristol Grand Prix however is something i'm going to do on this one.
No i don't shirk a challenge.

Key technology design / purchase timings. 

I'll rock through these quickly as promised as the world of cycling is going through some changes and i wanted to avoid "fads", too much untested technology and minimise weight throughout.
  1. Aero frameset - this being carbon while maintainining high performance in side winds and descents, and being the same as on Trek's £9000+ bikes, this had to be good.
  2. Rim Brakes - With local terrain being hilly rolling, and not that often steep, the philosophy would be i don't want to be using the brakes hardly ever.  With this in mind, the weight of the rim brake was great as well as being powerful from the offering from TRP.  I wanted a low maintenance option here compared to my other bikes too, with no chance of a squeaky-disc.
  3. Semi-Aero bars with non-aero stem.  A marvel of design enabling simple mounting of all the lights, computer mounts and most importantly regular stem 
  4. Hybrid carbon wheels with aluminium brake tracks.  Consistent braking for my level of expertise on a road bike seemed useful, and the price is at another level cheaper than a dedicated set of full carbon wheels.  With the wheelset being tubeless ready, this had the technology i needed while being very aero and offers something to upgrade later. 
  5. Up-to-date R9000 Ultegra Groupset.  With a new lightweight offering, this offers a good starting point for power-meters too, within a few years before the groupset becomes end-of-life.

Summary of real-world component behaviours

Before any compoent and behaviour of the bike should be considered, the many positive ride capabilties of the bike should be balanced against the bike-fit i got done by Bicyclechain, which included interview/questions on objectives, saddle fit, static flexibility and on-the bike fitting rig with sustained efforts recorded, including mind boggling levels of precision in fitting shoes, inner-soles and hand, foot and body position.  If the price of the bike fit is equal to or less than 10% of the price of your bike, then just get one done.  Personally i'm going to get it redone every 3 years or so i think, or when i buy a new bike ... Thanks to Steve @ the Bicyclechain for the fit (and the photos).

Rubber side down:  25mm tyres, aero-integration with the bontrager wheelset.  Can't be failted really, though other reviewers have pointed to issues with the R3's in the wet i haven't found it, but i have switched to conti 45-seasons for the coldest wettest days to avoid the chance of punctures which are never fun in the winter.  For this reason, i haven't gone tubeless yet, though i may do when i go and do a long sportive.

Front to back: Fork first...  The whole bike, being a dedicated speed machine wants to go fast, it's not twitchy at low speeds though, and certainly not when fast, but much like the confidence inspiring performance of the slash9 on it's first ride, the Madone 9 is the same.  Once you get used to the road-specific pedals, it just absorbs every bit of power you put through it and transmits it to forward motion in a very positive manner.  Super stiff but not at all uncomfortable considering it's pedigree.  But once the speed picks up on the descents or fast on the flat, it seems to stick to the road ever better.  Don't be fooled by the marketing hype of road bike design though.  So much is down to the right tyre pressure for weight of rider and bike.  Thanks Mavic for your excellent app.  Just for that i may be purchasing some wheels from you one day.

Groupset precision: With any cable actuated bike, cable stretch and precise indexing is always a thing.  New cables need time to settle down, wheels must be carefully trued to perfection and you will need to adjust and play with indexing on any rapid-shifting system to give you an experience when you are in the pain cave completely free of missed gears or skipped gears.  My advise is learn to do this to a fine art yourself, or have your skilled mechanic just down the road after a couple of early rides it will need adjusting.  The R9000 is a wonderfully light groupset which you don't really even feel, and would i go for electronic shifting.  Sure once i can justify it according to my fitness and prowess.  If i ever buy a dedicated climbing bike for alipine conditions, perhaps then, with some "tops" shifters for my thumbs.

Emotion in Motion summary:

Set objectives!
Find some very steep hills, or very long hills and make them your target.  Think about them, go to sleep pondering them, put pictures of them on your wall.  Well it worked for Muhammed Ali, so it'll work for you.

Virgin trails

Use technology to your advantage.  You can't just finish the lap mr mountainbiker if you are blown and head back to the cafe on a long road ride.  There's no calling a taxi to take you home.  If you are riding fasted, take some food just in case.  And if you aren't riding fasted, remember drinking energy drink from the bottle holder is the easiest way of getting something inside you when you need it.  So use real food, but also use high tech sports food when (and if) you need them.

The impossible - achieved

It's damn light, and so long you don't hamper the aerodynamics too much you'll feel it downhill as much as up.

One bike for every ride?

It's not.  You can't run 35mm tyres on it, as the aeroidynamics and close proximity to the stays and downtube prevent this from taking place.  28s are probably possible but for this fast machine you'll be better off sticking to deep section super light wheels for your local crit.

Embrace the lack of maintenance

Relish the thought that with a quick check and tuning of tyre pressures this bike is good to go every time. You'll be advised to remove the wheels and pay close attention to braking surfaces as well as any "near-miss" punctures before the next ride.  With the complete degreasing of your chain and gears, i would highly recommend a wax-based lube in which you'll hardly ever need to re-apply it.  Just wipe off the road-grease with a good non linting microfibre or rag and the chain will look and feel as good as new every ride.

Thanks To:

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