Wednesday, August 5, 2009

New Bike - Madone 6.9

I have a new bike, sort of. I have been meaning to write a review of my old bike, which isn't that old, because it is a great bike. I don't know why I haven't, because it isn't as if Bike Polo is more compelling.

Two years ago, just as they were introduced, I got a very early Madone 6.9 frameset. I had recruited a new rider to the sport and promised to sell my frame at a reasonable price in order to lure them in. He was able to get an inexpensive grouppo and I had a handy excuse to get a new frame. Due to some luck, circumstances and a long-standing relationship with my local bike shop, Two Wheel Transit, who is a Trek dealer, I was able to get a Madone 6.9 when they were really cool. Here is my one sentence review - I loved it.

Trek did some new and some proprietary things on this bike. They changed the bottom bracket, they changed the head tube, and they added a no-cut seat mast. There are probably more things, but you will have to go elsewhere for the rest of the sales pitch. I will recount one conversation when I was considering this bike. I was talking to Rider 1 about the relative merits of the Trek vs. Cervelos and their engineering. Rider 1's comment was that Cervelo may have a really high percentage of engineers to sales people at their company, but the number of engineers at Trek is probably greater than the whole work force at Cervelo. In other words, don't sell short the ability of a big company to produce the goods. And in this case, they did.

This bike had the most solid bottom bracket I had ever ridden (my last bike was an aluminum Klein, which is maligned at times for being too harsh from stiffness) and it felt solid and comfortable. The bike was described as a great all-arounder, although some reviewers seem to say this as if it was a bad thing. Lacking the services of a full-time mechanic and a fleet of bikes and wheels, I have the crazy notion that it is a GOOD thing when your nice bike is a great all-arounder.

I read once that riders sense the flex in their wheels as a matter of confidence in descending. In other words, a rider may not "know" that they have a flexy wheel, but they will descend slower instinctively because that is what feels comfortable. I think the same thing is true with the whole bike set-up.

I was able to ride my 6.9 downhill faster than any bike I ever owned. I am not a daredevil descender, but I found that I was keeping up with even fast groups with confidence. I was not keeping up with the killer-racers-who-have-no-fear, but it felt great. I was also able to ride hands free as well on this bike as any I have owned. To me, this meant it was stable and had the right mix of characteristics to make a bike that handles well.

As for the stiffness and bottom bracket, up until this bike, I had measured how stiff a bike was by "how much flex" it had. I have had bikes with very little flex and one with a fair amount of flex. Keep in mind that I am a LARGE rider. I think Clydesdales are a bunch of underfed lightweights. I also, hopefully not to overstate things, produce a fair amount of power. I think I have to to move this carcass around, but in any case, I can put the wood to most frames. With the Madone, there was no flex, at all. It felt like the bottom bracket was attached to something solid. Frankly, I don't understand quite how they do this, but I was impressed.

The other side of stiff is usually uncomfortable. A bike that is just stiff is also considered harsh or uncomfortable. I am not the kind of rider who has really had bikes that are "comfortable" or "uncomfortable". I tend to get on with riding them and figure that getting tired or uncomfortable is just one of those things that happens when you frequently ride a bike 3-4 hours. Maybe I have been on the wrong bikes, but after having steel, aluminum and carbon, I haven't been able to detect a big difference between those that "soak up the road" versus those that are harsh. I thinks it relates to the same "sense" that I have previously described between Mr. Millimeter (Rider 1) and me. Rider 1 knows to the millimeter what is "right" on his bike. I ride mine in whatever condition until I detect a large problem. I have been trying out new seats and that process is obvious, but which will be described in a later post. My sense of these things is akin to getting the attention of a labrador retriever; as a dog trainer once said to my brother, "it'll take a 2x4 to get through to that dog". Anyway, I find the bike comfortable, but don't look to me to describe in exquisite detail the vertical compliance.

So anyway, my Madone 6.9 was a great bike, hands down. Until about a month ago, when an attentive mechanic at Two Wheel noticed I had a crack in the frame. Long story, short: Trek says there was too much resin in the paint mix so the cracks were cosmetic, but they would warranty the frame. Okay by me, except the same week this happened, they introduced a NEW 6.9, which meant that my new 6.9 would be the newly obsolete 6.9. It is hard to complain about getting a brand new bike, but I have to admit it take a bit of the high out of the experience.

So, that means two things: one, I have a new 2009 Madone 6.9 and it is a great, great bike, and two, most people won't really care to read about it because we are all bike whores and only want to salivate over the latest and greatest. So, if you are looking at one of the 6.9's that are left across the country in Trek shops and in particular if your dealer is discounting them, I would strongly urge you to jump in. You will not be unhappy with this bike unless you don't think a solid performer that does everything well is the right bike for you. As Rider 1 says, this bike won't be holding you back. It is a pro-tour team bike and my guess is that any reader here won't have greater needs than those guys.


  1. Nice bike with good feature which impressed me...


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  2. Thanks for the post! The downtube on my 2006 Madone 5.9SL started to come apart near the bottom bracket (a crack all the way around the downtube) and I just found out they will be replacing it under warranty with a 2009 Madone 6.9. I'll be very curious to see how the stiffness in the bottom bracket compares with my new Calfee Tetra Pro w/ titanium couplers. Calfee made the bottom bracket "extra stiff" for me. Bitter-sweet replacement because I set the Arizona East to West cross state record on that 5.9SL in 2006 -- it has a lot of sentimental value!