Best Long Distance Bikes For Triathlon
Trek Madone 3.1
A firm favourite returns for 2013 but will the revised specification package mean it keeps its status as a respected ride?
While Trek’s range- topping OCLV Madone frame has had a successful aero-makeover, the 3 Series has kept the previous design. It’s the same as last year’s 3 Series round-tube carbon that’s constructed with the OCLV process, but with a few upgrades on the spec to potentially enhance an already great value package.
The Madone legend may well have been tarnished by recent revelations with the Armstrong scandal but in the midst of this it’s best not to forget that the Madone is one of the true greats.
FRAME AND FORKS
The 3.1 uses Trek’s H2 geometry. They offer three nominal geometries in their performance range, from the low-slung aggressive H1 to the tall, relaxed H3. The H2 sits in the middle ground and adds a few millimetres to the head tube height and subtracts a few from the top tube length. This gives the 3.1 a ride that’s just the right side of swift with the added bonus of being relaxed enough to relieve pressure when the odometer hits three figures. Our test rides on board the 3.1 coincided with some of the wettest weather of the year, making us wish we’d asked Trek to supply a set of Bontrager-approved fenders to match the frame’s hidden mudguard eyes.
For a bike as performance focused as the Madone to include these makes it a fine choice for our weather conditions. If you intended to use it for commuting duties too, then Bontrager even offer a rack, the Back Rack lightweight. As well as having mudguard eyelets, the 3.1’s fork features Trek’s neat built-in ANT+ compatible SpeedTrap sensor which can transmit to any compatible device.
Trek use a clever mix of Shimano 105 shifters and rear mech with a Tiagra front mech and 12-30 cassette. SRAM’s S350 50/34 chainset completes the drivetrain. Having a bottom gear of 34/30 gives the 3.1 mountain goat climbing abilities that will get you up and over significant climbs.
Bontrager, being Trek’s component arm, supply the rest of the kit. The Affinity saddle has a slim profile and is still comfortable and the micro-adjust seatpost with a 20mm offset is easy to adjust. Thankfully it’s a slim 27.2cm seatpost that helps add comfortable flex (a later upgrade to a carbon post would only enhance this).
The cockpit is all new with the VR-C compact drop bar offering a great comfortable shape; the shallow drop has a traditional curve so it’s still easy for those with bigger hands to get comfortable in the drops without feeling the least bit cramped. The stem has also upgraded to the Race Lite version which drops a few grams from the overall weight of the package.
The wheels are Bontrager ‘approved’ as opposed to designed. They are well put together and well tensioned but heavier than we’d like. Good tyres in the form of the Bontrager R1s make the best of the average hoops. They have also proven tough enough for winter weather and worn roads, with more than enough grip to keep up the pace even on the wettest days.
The wheel package is paired with Bontrager’s own Dual Pivot brakes. Although these are a cost-cutting measure to keep the 3.1’s price on track, they are good solid performers offering a usable amount of power and great feel, which is down to a combination of decent pads and the smooth, even brake track of the Bontrager-approved rims.
Though the H2 geometry is undoubtedly endurance biased, we are hugely impressed with the 3.1’s handling. Even in the wet, the R1 Plus tyres still give plenty of feedback, letting you feel out the limits of grip without getting caught out.
We found ourselves taking entry speeds into fast downhill corners that on similar priced, less cleverly specced bikes would have seen us backing off.
Combining the compact chainset and wide ranged cassette gives a low gear of 30/34; that’s low enough for even the most climb-averse rider to make it up the steepest ascents without resorting to walking.
The compact drop bar is very well shaped and the reduced distance from hood to bottom flat makes shifting between positions a breeze, plus not being overly stretched means we spent more time in the drops when pummelling on the pedals on the flat.
The wheels are outclassed by the frame and finishing kit and are a little heavier than we’d like but we didn’t find ourselves suffering much from the extra mass on steeper prolonged climbs. We slotted in a higher spec set and the 3.1 was transformed. The light chassis and sorted handling make it a bike perfect for alpine climbs and epic rides.
A full-on race bike like the new aero Madone certainly does have the edge in fast handling, but the 3.1 is significantly cheaper and it offers precisely what most of us want from a big distance bike, and that’s comfort and confidence on the road.
+ Superior comfort balanced with fine handling
+ Massive gear range is a boon to tired legs
- Wheels don’t do justice to the frame
- We’d also like a carbon seatpost
Great value endurance bike. We’d upgrade the wheels but it’s still one of the best equipped for the price.
Size tested 58cm
Sizes available (in cms) 50,52,54,56,58,60,62
Weight as tested 8.85 kg / 19.51 lbs
Frame weight 1,270g
Fork weight 537g
Frame 300 Series OCLV carbon
Fork E2 carbon with SpeedTrap port
Chainset Shimano Ultegra 50/34T
Bottom Bracket Shimano
Cassette 12-30 Tiagra cassette
Chain Shimano 10-speed
Derailleurs Shimano 105 R, Tiagra Fr
Shifters Shimano 105
Tyres Bontrager R1 tyres
Wheel weight 1,282g / 1,865g
Stem Bontrager Race Lite stem
Bars Bontarager Race VR-C bar
Saddle Bontrager Affinity 1 saddle
Seatpost Bontrager Race-Lite 20mm offset seat post
Brakes Bontrager dual pivot
on Monday, February 11th, 2013 at 5:30 am under Bikes & Cycling Gear, Gear, Triathlon Bike Reviews.
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