As far as I’m aware, this is the first time I’ve ever been sent a bike for review that was originally purpose built for a pro race team. Right down to the frame sizing, the Trek Domane Classics edition is the same frame that was under the mighty Cancellara as he tackled the cobbles.
As it turns out, not that I needed any reminding, but I am not a pro. That was made clear during my time on the Domane but maybe not in the ways you would expect. Increasing my love of the Domane platform and at the same time making me think I should be on a different bike, the Classics edition is an amazing bike – if you have the legs….
It’s nearly impossible to talk about any Domane, without talking about the IsoSpeed Decoupler. It’s more than just clever marketing, it really works. Any attempt to seek out the worst pavement I could find was rewarded with an impressively smooth ride. Even trying to ride like a rookie directly into the edge of rim swallowing potholes resulted in little more than chatter at the bars and seat. This is a pretty important aspect of the review – while we’re talking about the Classics Edition specifically, this excellent ride quality applies to all Domanes.
Not being able to ride a standard version back to back, I can’t speak to how much stiffer if any the Classics Edition is from a standard bike, but it certainly felt like a race bike in many regards.
As for the components, there isn’t much to fault. Exquisitely appointed as you would expect on a pro bike, the full Shimano Dura Ace Di2 drivetrain did not disappoint once updated. Yes, this was the first situation I’ve been in where a firmware update was needed to fix a shifting glitch instead of a wrench. Initially struggling to stay in the lowest gear, the derailleur would shift on its own after 2-3 pedal strokes back down to the second to last gear (even with the low limit out completely). After uploading the latest firmware through Shimano’s E-Tube software, the shifting gremlin went away. Both Shimano and Trek say they haven’t had similar issues, but whatever the cause it was an easy fix.
The only weak link in the equipment would be the wet weather braking performance of the Bontrager Aeolus D3 carbon wheels and cork brake pads. Most carbon wheels with rim brakes aren’t exactly known for their wet braking prowess, so the only surprise came when a car cut me off. A little poo may have come out, but after the initial scare the bike did slow down and I avoided a collision. Dry braking performance however, was excellent.
Aside from the fancy Trek Factory Racing paint job, the biggest thing that sets the Classics edition apart from the standard Domane is the geometry. Built with a much shorter head tube, a slightly steeper head tube angle, and a few other tweaks to make it more racy, the Classics Edition certainly feels like a different animal. Truthfully, I could easily get away with the standard length head tube since my fit left 10mm of spacers under the stem.
Even if I wanted to drop the stem further, it would have required a change of stem or a different location for the Di2 junction box. As it was, the box was sitting just above the headset topcap. Pros are likely not riding 90mm stems though, so a true pro road fit wouldn’t see the same issue.
Chalk it up to my lack of Cancellara-esque power, or the IsoSpeed’s buzz absorbing ride, but every time I took the Classics Edition out of a spin my mind was shouting faster, faster! According to Strava, my rides on the Domane weren’t any slower; in fact some were much faster through rougher sections of road. Yet, for some reason I always felt the need to go faster. Even as my legs were crying uncle, the bike just didn’t respond with that feeling you get from pushing a bike as fast as it will go. I just couldn’t help but feel underpowered for what this bike was really capable of while riding it.
This left me with two different conclusions. First, the Classics Edition Domane isn’t for me. Second, the standard Domane is an amazing bike. Now available with disc brakes, and a geometry that would suit my build and my riding style better, riding the Classics edition just made me want the standard Domane Disc even more.
So, who is the Classics Edition for? Taller riders capable of putting out big watts who are looking for race bike geo with the pave crushing performance of the Domane, that’s who. But as Trek’s Race Shop Limited program would suggest, the Classics Edition Domanes were pretty limited. While you may still find a few hanging around in shops, the current Race Shop Limited Domane features the Koppenberg Edition which uses Trek’s H1 fit and the geometry found on the Emonda. According to Cancellara it’s his new favorite bike. The downside? The Koppenberg is even more limited in sizing, with the smallest frame available a 56cm…