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Trek Domane 5.9 Carbon Fiber Endurance Race Bike

For the past six years my main road bike has been a Trek Madone carbon fiber racing bike—I bought it in 2007 on the same day that Alberto Contador won the Tour de France while riding for the Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team. However, since I am a distance cyclist instead of a racer I’ve finally decided that I needed to switch to an endurance bike instead of a racing bike. I tried out a Felt Z2 and while it is an excellent endurance bike, I finally decided to buy a 2013 Trek Domane 5.9 with a Shimano Ultegra Di2 groupset.

Trek Domane 5.9 Carbon Fiber Endurance Race Bike

Trek Domane 5.9 Carbon Fiber Endurance Race Bike

Like the Specialized Roubaix and Felt Z2, the Trek Domane is an endurance bike designed for very long rides on rough roads. These are all high-quality carbon fiber machines and engineered to absorb some of the bumps that can wear you down on Century rides. All of these bikes are in the same price range, but after careful consideration I decided the Trek Domane was the best value and suited my needs the best. After all, if it’s good enough for World Champion Fabian Cancellara, it’s good enough for me.

Expert Mechanic Alex Calder Assembling My New Trek Domane

Expert Mechanic Alex Calder Assembling My New Trek Domane 5.9

Like the last eight bikes I’ve bought, I got this one from the local bike shop (Zion Cyclery in Zion, Illinois). It’s not just that they have great prices, but they also have the best mechanics you will find anywhere. As I mentioned in a previous article, they have six full-time mechanics who work all-year long (that is very rare in our part of the country). Most bike shops in the Upper Midwest lay their mechanics off in the fall and usually start with a new crew the following spring. I really don’t want the kid who was putting bikes together at Toys “R” Us last Christmas working on my bikes!

Note the red IsoZone handlebar pads that reduce vibration

Note the red IsoZone handlebar pads that reduce vibration (the bar tape has been removed)

In addition the OCLV Carbon frame which does a great job of reducing road vibration, the Trek Domane has a few other features to give you a comfortable ride without negatively impacting your speed. If you peel back the bar tape from the handlebars you will see a pair of red IsoZone handlebar pads that reduce vibration displacement by 20% (according to Trek).

Trek Domane's IsoSpeed Decoupler

Trek Domane’s “IsoSpeed Decoupler”

One of the most unusual (and innovative) design features of this bike is the “IsoSpeed decoupler” that isolates the movement of the seat tube from the rest of the frame. The bottom line is that you can maintain a smooth cadence even over very rough roads!

Shimano Ulltregra Di2 Front Derailleur

Shimano Ulltregra Di2 Front Derailleur

The Trek Domane 5.2 comes with a standard Shimano Ultegra groupset (front and rear derailleur, shifters, crank, but for some unknown reason a Shimano 105 cassette). However, for around $1,200 more the Trek Domane 5.9 comes with a Shimano Ultregra Di2 groupset—a battery operated groupset! This means you are going to have the smoothest shifting you’ve ever experienced on a bike (even while climbing). In addition to smooth shifting, this unit also provides automatic trimming on the front derailleur.

Shimano Ultregra Di2 shifters

Shimano Ultregra Di2 Shifters

The Shimano Ultregra Di2 shifters look a lot like standard Shimano STI levers, but they offer digital push button shifting and an ergonomically designed hood (it is very comfortable). With no more effort than clicking the button on a computer mouse you can shift gears! Is it worth the extra cost? Give me a few weeks to decide.

Shimano Ultegra Di2 Lithium Ion Battery

Shimano Ultegra Di2 Lithium Ion Battery

This Shimano Ultregra Di2 groupset runs on a high-performance lithium-ion battery (7.4 V). This battery should run for about 1,200 miles between charges and it can be recharged in only 90 minutes (with the included charger). The battery weighs 71 grams and is mounted under the bottom bracket. This groupset comes with a compact chainring set (50T–34T) and a high-performance Ultegra chain.

While the Trek Domane is nearly perfect as is, but I did make a few changes for my comfort. First, I had the Bontrager handlebar tape swapped out for Lizard Skins DSP Bar Tape—this tape is made with DuraSoft Polymer (DSP) and provides a comfortable surface for your hands even on Century rides or longer. Next, because I live in an area where there is a lot of broken glass on the road I had a pair of Continental Gatorskin tires installed before I left the shop. The Trek Domane has a cut-out in the frame so you can add a Bontrager DuoTrap speed and cadence sensor with no added aerodynamic drag, so I had one installed and hooked it up with a Bontrager Node 2.1 (this display includes a heart monitor). I also took off the stock Bontrager Affinity 3 saddle and put on the Planet Bike ARS Standard Anatomic Relief Saddle.

The 2013 Trek Domane 5.9 retails for $5,150 and is only available from an authorized Trek dealer (a WSD model is also available). Yeah, that is a lot of money for a bicycle—but I don’t gamble, drink, smoke or chase women (except my wife). I could have just put the money in the bank and saved it for retirement, but the truth is that I will probably never retire. I enjoy my vocation and as long as I have my health I want to continue working—it seems to me that the quickest way to die is to retire! By the way, if you are in the market for a gently used Trek Madone (54cm) drop me a note—I am putting it on Craig’s List next week.

 

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Bontrager SSR Short Sleeve Jersey

I can read the calendar and I realize that mid-November is not the time most cyclists are looking to buy another short sleeve jersey. However, you know that you are going to by a jersey or two next year, so why not shop for them now when most bikes shops have them on sale? Bontrager cycling clothing, found at your local Trek dealer, is moderately priced and decent quality (but not on the same level as Pearl Izumi). The Bontrager SSR Short Sleeve Jersey is a comfortable cycling jersey that should be more than adequate for most cyclists.

Bontrager SSR Short Sleeve Jersey

Bontrager SSR Short Sleeve Jersey

The Bontrager SSR Short Sleeve Jersey is a semi-fitted jersey made with %100 polyester, a moisture-wicking, fast-drying fabric. This jersey has a 1/4 length zipper and the elastic band around the hem is covered so the hem stays in place.

Bontrager SSR Short Sleeve Jersey

Three Back Pockets With Reflective Piping And Logo

On the back of this jersey you will find three standard storage pockets. One very nice touch on this jersey is the reflective piping—there is a vertical stripe on each end of the pockets, along with a reflective logo on both front and back. I wish every jersey came with at least this much reflective piping!

This jersey is available in three colors (Black, White, Red). Why would anyone buy a black cycling jersey? I would never wear a black jersey on the road—I bought this jersey for off-road trail use only. Do you know why? I live in an area where one of the local bike clubs likes to ride on the same off-road trails I use. In my experience most of the guys in this particular club are simply obnoxious (just like their loud jerseys)—they are rude to walkers, joggers and other cyclists on the trail. I wanted a black jersey so no one who confuse me with one of these jerks. The good news is that during the winter these guys are all riding their bikes on a trainer down in their basement so those of us with Fat Bikes can have a good time playing in the snow.

The Bontrager SSR Short Sleeve Jersey retails for $35, but it is no longer listed on the Bontrager Website. However, you have a very good chance of finding it at your local Trek dealer. Any local bike shop will probably have this jersey on closeout with at least 20% off. It is also still listed at numerous online retailers (sometimes for as low as $20). This jersey is made in China.

 
 

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Bontrager Solstice Cycling Helmet

This past spring one of my sons decided to take up cycling and in the process of getting him ready for hitting the road I gave him my favorite cycling helmet (a beautiful Giro road helmet). He liked the Giro helmet because it was so lightweight (certainly lighter than the Kevlar helmet he wore in Iraq). Since I have several other helmets for special uses (night, rain, MTB) I decided to replace the Giro with an inexpensive Bontrager Solstice Cycling Helmet.

Bontrager Solstice Cycling Helmet

Bontrager Solstice Cycling Helmet

The Bontrager Solsctice is a durable, lightweight helmet that provides excellent airflow due to the large air vents. This helmet is a “one size fits most” and unless you are either very petite or have a large head it should fit you well. Bontrager’s propriety “Micro-Manager Fit System” make this helmet very easy to adjust.

Since I planned on using this helmet for riding on the road I took off the “removable snap-on visor” that comes pre-installed on the helmet. Unfortunately, the plastic pins that hold the visor on place broke while I was taking it off the first time—which means I will never be able to put it back on the helmet. Several “wicking pads” on the inside of the helmet not only make the helmet comfortable, but dry as well. These wicking pads are held in place with Velcro and are both removable and washable.

The Bontrager Solstice cycling helmet comes in four different color combinations and retails for $45. You should be available to find this helmet at any bike shop that carries Trek or Bontrager products. If you can’t find a dealer in your area, you can always buy it online from the Trek Store. If you are looking for a helmet that will make it easier for motorists to see you, please see the review I wrote for the Hardnutz Hi-Vis Yellow Bicycle Helmet.

 
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Posted by on October 24, 2012 in Bicycle Safety, Product Reviews

 

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Trek Beacon Bar End Lights

I enjoy riding my bike at night and as a result I have a lot of cool lights, reflectors and assorted gizmos to keep me from getting hit (I don’t use them all at the same time). This past winter I bought a pair of Trek Beacon Bar End Lights for the road bike I usually use at night and while the product looked great at the bike shop it failed to live up to its potential.

Trek Beacon Bar End Lights

Trek Beacon Bar End Lights

As the name suggests, Trek Beacon Bar End Lights are lights that slip into the ends of your handlebar, and Trek offers models for both dropbars and flatbars. The flatbar model for mountain bikes has two rear facing LEDs, while the dropbar model for road bikes only has one LED. These lights operate in either a steady or a flashing mode. These lights run on a single AAA battery (per light) and Trek claims you should be able to get 30 hours of run time per battery (I only got about 25 hours, but cold weather hurts battery life). To install these bar end lights you just have to remove the caps on both ends of your handlebars and slide the Beacon Bar End Lights into the ends of the handlebar.

Trek Beacon Bar End Lights

Trek Beacon Bar End Lights

In my opinion, there are three main problems with these lights. First, they are not very bright—they might be good for 1,000 feet or so, but not much more. Second, on most road bikes the rider is going to be in the way and make it impossible for cars coming up behind them to see the lights (unless you are a really skinny cyclist). And third, these lights self-destruct the first time you take them out of your bar ends.

When I get new products that include batteries I usually toss the batteries out and never use them because more often than not they are old, off-brand batteries. I am not sure why, but I decided the install the batteries that Trek included with the Beacon Bar End Lights—and as expected they only lasted about ten hours. When I tried to remove the lights from my bar ends to replace the batteries the rubber seal around the lights simply shredded. The folks at the local bike shop kindly replaced the lights, but the second pair also ripped the first time I tried to replace the batteries. While these lights were a great idea, they are poorly designed. Therefore, I can’t recommend these lights unless you buy them with the understanding that they are disposable after the first use.

Trek Beacon Bar End Lights retail for $20 a pair and should be available at your local bike shop. However, you would be a lot better off buying a good taillight like the Plant Bike Superflash Turbo or the Portland Design Works RADBOT 1000. Another great option is the Fire Eye 2.0 Helmet Light from Illuminated Cycling.

 

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Rebuilding An Old Mountain Bike (Trek 4300)

Ten years ago when I started cycling the first bike I bought was a Trek 4300, an entry-level mountain bike. That bike served me well for a few years, but as my cycling skills improved I bought more expensive bikes and the Trek 4300 became my winter bike—since it was an inexpensive bike I didn’t care that road salt would eventually destroy all the components. This past winter the local bike shop custom-built one bike for me and entirely rebuilt two of my other bikes. After spending so much time in the bike shop I finally decided I would try to rebuild the Trek 4300 myself.

Trek 4300 Mountain Bike Before the Rebuild

My Trek 4300 Mountain Bike After The Parts Were Stripped

With the help of the guys at the bike shop I bought all new parts for the rebuild. The only items that did not need replacing were the wheels. I have two sets of wheels for this bike anyway—one with snow tires and the other with aggressive knobby tires. Since the Trek 4300 was an entry-level bike it came with fairly inexpensive parts, but the aluminum frame has a lifetime warranty. When I did the rebuild I decided to move a few levels up the Shimano product line for most of the parts so I would end up with a better bike than I had to begin with.

Before you can start rebuilding a bike you have to remove all the old parts first. Since this bike had suffered through ten Chicago winters it is not surprising that all the parts were highly corroded. When I took the old parts off the bike I kept the cable housings so I could cut new housings to the same size. The hardest thing to get off the bike was the city sticker—the town I live in requires all bikes to have a sticker to help the police find the owner in case of theft. I am not sure what the sticker was made of, but it took me over an hour to get it off the bike! Once all the old parts were off I used Turtle Wax Premium Grade Rubbing Compound on the frame to remove scratches in the paint and Brasso metal polish to clean the chrome. After everything was clean I applied a good coat of Turtle Wax Super Hard Shell Paste Wax and the frame looked like new!

One item that I was not able to get off the bike was the bottom bracket—ten years of road salt made it very difficult to remove, so I had the guys at the bike shop replace it for me. The bike shop has a bottom bracket tool that can apply a lot more leverage than I was able to apply. They put on a maintenance free Shimano BB-UN55 Bottom Bracket with sealed bearings and a high quality spindle that should last for many years.

The first thing I put on the bike was a new Shimano 9 Speed Alivio Mountain Bicycle Crankset (175mm 44/32/22T). This crankset came with a chain guard and is much lighter than the set I had on before. The next items installed were a pair of Shimano Acera V-Brakes—the mud guard on these brakes was another nice improvement from the original brake set. The drivetrain was upgraded with a Shimano FD-M412 Alivio Dual Front Derailleur and a Shimano Alivio M410-SGS Rear Derailleur. I hooked the derailleurs up to a pair of Shimano Alivio 3×8 Brake/Shift Levers and put on a new SRAM PC-850 P-Link Bicycle Chain. The total cost for all the parts to this point was a little under $300.

There were three other items I added that were not absolutely necessary, but I thought were nice finishing touches. Even though the shifters came with a new set of cables, I decided to swap out the Shimano derailleur cables for a pair of Gore Ride-On Sealed Low Friction Derailleur Cables—these cables were the most expensive part of the rebuild, but since this bike is used for bad weather I think it is a good investment. Since this bike is used a lot in the winter I replaced to stem cap with a StemCAPtain Stem Cap Thermometer. The last item was a Lizard Skins Jumbo Chainstay Guard—a neoprene cover that fits over the chainstay to keep the paint from chipping and stop the noise caused by chain slaps. These last three items added around $100 to the cost of the rebuild.

Trek 4300 Alpha after the rebuild

Trek 4300 after the rebuild (on the shores of Lake Michigan)

Like most cyclists I enjoy riding and believe that bike repair is best done by trained professionals. One of the reasons I wanted to do this rebuild myself was for my education. Rebuilding a bike will teach you a lot about basic bicycle mechanics and once you do it you will feel a lot more confident about making a roadside repair when your bike breaks down 40 miles away from home.

I purchased all the parts for this rebuild from the local bike shop. I could have saved a few dollars by buying the parts online, but the local bike shop was very helpful in making sure I had the right parts. If you are one of those people who finds the parts you want at a local store and then buys them online to save money, well, I think you are lower than pond scum. The bike shop was even kind enough to give my rebuilt bike “the once over” to ensure that everything was installed properly (it was).

 
 

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Planet Bike Grunge Board (Down Tube Grunge Guard)

I won’t say that I actually enjoy riding in the rain, but I seem to spend of lot of time doing it. The worst part of riding in the rain is the cleanup—whether you ride for 30 minutes or three hours you are going to have to spend some time cleaning and oiling your bike afterwards. Most of my rainy-day rides are on an off-road bike trail (I am not a commuter), and off-road trails kick up an unbelievable amount of grit, grime and sand. The Planet Bike Grunge Board will not entirely eliminate the mess created by riding in the rain or snow, but it certainly does cut it down to manageable levels.

Planet Bike Gunge Board

Planet Bike Grunge Board

The Planet Bike Grunge Board attaches to the down tube of your bike with two rubber straps. I always hate to use the phrase “easy to install,” but a trained monkey could put this on your bike in under thirty seconds. My oldest bike is a Trek 4300 mountain bike with aggressive knobby tires and I keep the Grunge Board on it all the time. In the winter I take the knobby tires off and install steel studded snow tires (I do enjoy riding in the snow). Since I only ride the Trek 4300 in inclement weather I also have fenders installed on it and the Grunge Board picks up where the fenders leave off.

The Grunge Board is made of an all-weather polymer material and comes with a limited lifetime warranty. However, I don’t see how anything could ever go wrong with the Grunge Board unless you get run over by a Humvee.

The Planet Bike Grunge Board retails for $12, but you can buy it online for around $9 from several retailers. I purchased mine from a local REI store and if your ride in the rain or snow you ought to give it a try.

 

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Trek Circuit Helmet

A few weeks ago I was in the mood to buy a new bike helmet before the start of summer. I had planned on buying the super-lightweight Giro Ionos Road Bike Helmet because its massive air vents were very appealing to me. When I tried the Giro Ionos on in the store it was very comfortable. However, when I got down into the position like I would normally be in when riding in the drops I could easily see the bottom edge of the helmet above my sun glasses. As a result, I started looking for another brand of helmet and settled on the Trek Circuit Helmet.

Trek Circuit Helment

Trek Circuit Helment

The Trek Circuit Helmet is only slightly heavier than the Giro Ionos, but about $130 less (the Giro Ionos retails for $230, while the Trek Circuit retails for $100). While at the bike shop I held the Giro Ionos in one hand and the Trek Circuit in the other and the difference in weight was very insignificant.

The Trek Circuit Helmet has 21 well-placed vents that provide excellent air flow. Trek’s ZipTite 2 fit system is excellent and the helmet is so light and fits so well that it is easy to forget you are even wearing it. I rode over 500 miles with this helmet in the past few weeks and would highly recommend it to any cyclist.

 

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