Friday, May 06, 2016

Where They Are Getting It (Almost) Right

So, soooo close!!
Yesterday I mentioned how many so called "gravel road/Adventure road" bikes are really silly, off the shelf parts concoctions or out and out rebadged cyclo cross bikes. Some are truly ground up designs, but use features and design elements not truly suited to gravel road/rough road riding. Today, I wanted to point to a bike that was derived from ideas learned decades ago, pushed into modernized materials and engineering, with a dash of brilliant innovation. It is the "almost" best gravel bike you could ever buy, but for one small, very important detail- Tire clearances.

Yes, it is the Trek Domane, and even before they introduced the newest version, it was top of the heap from a design perspective and spot on in geometry. Why? How could a huge, corporate entity, (well, "huge" in the sense that it is one of the biggest bicycle companies), make a bike that is almost the perfect gravel going weapon? Well, you can thank the cobbles and Fabian Cancellara for all of that.

Trek signed the classics master and went straight to work on ideas Fabian had for the "perfect cobble killer". He brought ideas forged from his past experiences and a European's innate sense of "what works" in terms of geometry on rough, inhospitable terrain that is the antithesis of what most Pro Road racing is done on. The result was a geometry that has more to do with traditional, "Italian" frame design house thought than the typical American Criterium type road bike geometry almost all of us are used to. For a bit of background on the differences and what they impart to a rider and how a bike handles, read this article from "Red Kite Prayer"

The T-6 Standard Rando features geo similar to the Domane, only in steel.
What resulted in the Domane was a bike that had a low bottom bracket, (80-75mm), a slacker head angle, and longer chassis than a traditional American style racing bike. Add in the vibration damping attributes, the special fork designed to absorb vibrations, and the ISO decoupler, and you have the ingredients for what could be the best handling, most comfortable, lightest gravel road racer in existence. Nothing else would touch it. Too bad you cannot put bigger than 32mm tires on the disc model. 

I know many folks think, "Just ride a cyclo cross bike!", and I would say that gravel road riders are not riding on cyclo cross courses. We don't need, and are not best served by, such designs. I would also add that ol' Fabs knows a thing or three about how a road bike on rough tracks should handle, since he has won the Strade Bianchi a couple of times, (a gravel road event in Italy), and that Trek has infused the design with technology that works and would be a huge benefit to any gravel road cyclist.  You know "gravel roads" are.......wait for it......roads, right? Why wouldn't the design of a gravel road machine be best served by borrowing from a design for rough road cycling? One that has seen major success in road racing and with "normal cyclists". 

So,'s a Trek and all that, but if the bike would fit 40mm tires with clearance to spare, I would be all over this bike as my main gravel "go-fast" machine.  


Kelly&Ted said...

Hi again. Ill shut up soon, i promise.

First off, strada bianchi is about as smooooooooth as a gravel race as there is, guessing better than lots of the tarmac the pros are on, the pros generally run 25mm tires at strada if that tells you how smooth it is (they run 28-30mm tires at paris roubaix).

And I assume you are aware of this, but old Fabian's domane aint anything geometry wise to the domane you posted as potentially the ideal gravel bike as proven by fabian. I cant find anything listing the exact geometry specs of the domane koppenburg (the race version of the domane that fabian uses) but it seems the geometry of fabains domane bike is closer to the trek Emonda, which Im guessing you do not approve of as a gravel bike geometry wise.

I want fabians domane....with clearance for 38's :)

grannygear said...

I have ridden a Domane 600 series carbon frame on the road, and I can say that the front end would be way overbuilt for gravel use IMO. It was abrupt even on the road with 25s at 80psi. The back end and even the geo...very nice. Perhaps the new version is more balanced in that regard, at least that is the claim.

Even my alu Warbird is too stiff in the front end, but 40s at 35psi help a lot. My new handmade steel road bike is straight 1.25" in the HT and has a carbon Enve road fork. It is amazing how supple that is in comparison. I can only imagine what that would be like with 40s at lower pressures.

The OS trend in road bikes does not seem to translate over very well to the dirt. No surprise, really, but non-tapered forks and certainly steel ones are not sexy and likely do not pass stringent EU testing standards.