Friday, November 18, 2011

2012 Trek 4.7 Madone Review

I’ll start by coming clean and letting you know this a real world road test for middle aged men! I am the wrong end of my 40’s age wise, love cycling, no expert on the subject, no athlete and certainly not the shape or weight of the Tour de France guys.
Probably twice the weight of those guys! I ride real roads here in Spain – the good and the bad, surface wise!

I was looking for a bike to complete a planned ride from the North of Spain on the Atlantic coast, some 1,000+ km south to Marbella on the Mediterranean south coast. More on that ride to come on this blog at a later date. With this in mind (age, weight and the planned big ride – well big for me!) I decided I should make this journey as easy as possible by investing in the latest technology! After much deliberation and research I was torn between a hybrid and a race bike. I wanted to enjoy the stunning Spanish scenery, yet complete a decent mileage each day, and be able to enjoy a walk around the charming Spanish towns on route each evening, without being bent double or walking like John Wayne after a day on his horse!

Speaking to the helpful staff at Trek, after listening to my needs they pointed out that I need not discount all racers in favour of a hybrid, as they have a range of bikes available with different handlebar heights – H1, H2 and H3 offering differing riding positions. This flipped me from my preference for their carbon Trek 7.9 FX hybrid to a yearning for a Madone race bike. My ‘will Carbon be strong enough’ concerns were soon put to bed, after researching the internet, and looking at the warranties on offer, so the Trek 4.7 Madone was chosen.

As I stated above this is a real world test for middle aged men – I don’t plan to go into any details about the techy stuff – it’s got 400 series OCLV, BB90, Direct Mount Front Derailleur, etc – The older you get the less you bother reading all these details – but if you want to read all this is stuff it’s on the Trek bike page here

For my needs the keys factors were ride quality, strength, weight and of course looks! Well one month on from the bikes’ delivery, and with about 400km of riding behind me I can report I’m delighted with the bike.

Ride Feel

The bike rides great, and on my very first ride out, over a regular mountainous 30km course, I was surprised to find myself braking hard in numerous places I had never felt the need to brake before! Such was the dramatic increase in my speed on certain, mainly level, areas of my ride.

The bike feels well planted, turns great and brakes superbly. On the very few flat parts around where I live it flies with minimum effort, and very quietly, bar the gently carbon hum.

In term of ride the ability to ride the bike ‘no handed’ was also high on my list of priorities! From my motorcycling experience I am aware the faster a bike turns in the less stable it tends to be on the straights. Well no problems here it can be ridden without hands on the bars. In my teens this was a real big thing, mainly for the ability to ride past groups of people showing off, and I’m pleased to say things have not changed, it’s still just as important a requirement, although now it’s a requirement to allow me to lean back, stretch, take a drink and a relax every now and then!


This being my first carbon bike, it’s weight is of course a revelation – it seems to weigh about the same at two fluffy pillows with a medium sized butterfly on each! It really is a joy to hold! I find myself carrying it about instead of wheeling it about – showing off again! As well as showing off it makes climbing all these huge Spanish mountains all that much easier. I live about sea level so most of my local rides (up to Mijas for example) involve a 10-20km climb at some stage.


It looks great – funny the need to read and
understand every technical detail seems to diminish a little as you move from your teens into your 40’s but the need for a good looking bike does not! The high quality red, black and white paint job looks superb. The sexy white seat and bar tape remind me a little of the Ferrari Crema leather interior. And the white graphics on the black Bontrager wheels and seat post look good too! The carbon frame looks especially racy, with great detailing around the rear subframe, headstock and bottom bracket. Overall a cracking looking bike!


This was a key issue for me, being a big guy – I’m 6´3” tall and around 90kg (about 200lbs when I’m in the USA and about 14 stone when I’m in the UK!). With my planned ride across Spain I did not want to be breaking anything on a daily or weekly basis.

I live, and I am hence privileged enough to enjoy cycling in Spain – a stunning country with a great climate in which to enjoy this great sport. Spanish roads however can be rather ‘variable in quality’. I think when they are maintained by EU grants (most major roads) they are brand new with a great surface comparable to a pool table top, but when not EU funded (the lovely little quiet roads) they can be very badly maintained and comparable to the cobbled streets the English have on Coronation Street, or the surface of the Irish Sea!

After only 400km nothing is yet proved by any means, but initial signs are very good – the bike seems very strong. With well-designed and robust Bontrager wheels (a problem I have experienced in the past with sexy low spoke count wheels!).

The frame looks unbreakable, you can see where the frame has great strength qualities from the details like the headstock, the wide bottom bracket (the widest on any road bike in the world apparently – OK I did read some of the techy stuff!) and on the gorgeous slim flat section across the rear sub frame, just below rear of the seat – beautiful engineering!


For me the 2012
Trek Madone 4.7 is highly recommended – I have really enjoyed my first 400km and look forward to riding the length of Spain on this bike next year. It meets my needs in terms of ride, strength, weight and the all important looks!

Live and Learn!

As stated above I’m a bit of a beginner to road biking – here’s some of the things I’ve learn about road cycling this month!

1) Pump up the tyres – don’t get all excited like a kid at Christmas and simply take delivery and go a ride with about 25psi of air in each tyre – you will get 2 impact punctures within a mile!

2) Just after 1 above - The tyres on the Bontrager wheels are easy to change – good wheel design means you can get the tyres on without the need for a lever!

3) Just after 1 above - My first set of road shoes – Road shoe cleats seem to be made from a material with the same durability as chocolate. I have previously used mountain bike SPD cleats on my road bike, so this was new to me. After dashing out like an excited kid at Xmas and getting the two impact punctures (totally my fault!) I then walked about half a mile to meet the wife with a spare tube and pump - and later discovered the cleats were about shot! Live and learn! These shoes aren’t made for walking!

4) The bin waggon in Entrerrios, a small village near me, blocks the whole road when it is emptying the bins (Garbage / Trash for those in the USA) just around the blind bend at the bottom of the steep hill!

5) In conjunction with 4 above - The Trek Madone 4.7 does not come as standard with ABS!

6) Giving up cycling for 4 months, while you play about on a sit down jet ski in the summer months, is not a great way of keeping up your fitness level! Ouch!

7) The Trek Madone 4.7 is a cracking bike! Length of Spain here I come.

Sizing and Ride Position Hints and Tips

I was looking for a sporty light weight bike with a reasonably high handlebar height. Especially important for us MAMILs - Middle Aged Med in Lycra!
Here in Europe the Madone is H2, which is middle height in the Trek H1, H2 and H3 handle bar height range. To maximise the height of the bars I went for the largest possible frame size so the seat would be lower in the frame (NB side comment the adjustment markers on the Bontrager seat post are a great idea!).

A local dealer measured me and recommended a 58cm. My previous road bike was a 60cm and the seat was some distance out of the frame, so I ignored the advice and gambled and went with a 62cm frame. After the concerns and lack of sleep over ‘will I be able to reach the pedals’ it has proved to be a great decision.

The bars are at a good height, so much so that I’m finding myself riding in the racing crouch quite a lot (on my previous bike, due to lack of comfort and the head down backside in the air position, this was used for fast downhills only).

The caveat bit! Please take great care if you decide to use this approach – get into a dealer and check it will work for you on a real bike of the size and make you want to order. The writer of this article accepts no responsibility if you cannot reach your pedals! The only downside I have here in Spain is that it severely limits my resale market, as there are very few very tall Spaniards. But this is no concern at the moment!


Rob1963 said...

Hi. I am just under 6'3 and also 90kg. I have just ordered a 4.7 but will have to wait till Feb for it to arrive. I read your size comment with interest the recommendation for a 58cm at your height sounds wrong to me. I was measured and the ideal frame for me was 64 which nobody makes so have ordered a 62. My current aluminium bike is a 60. I just wished we had Spanish weather in the UK.

Paul said...

Hi Rob,

Looking at your username you are the same age too! Interesting re the 64cm - I guess it depends on body / leg proportions but the 62 is superb for me. I've covered a lot more miles now (the great Spanish weather is being even kinder than usual this winter). One thing I did not mention on my report, which I have since discovered is the ground clearance which is superb - I'm doing lots of twisty mountain rides at the moment, and you can keep putting the power down while well cranked over. Ever more delighted with the bike - Paul

David said...

Rob, what a refreshingly clear and useful report. I am, lie you, in my late forties and have found a buzz from cycling around Switzerland where I currently live. I have fallen in love with the Madone and have to decide between a 2011 5.2 0r a 2012 4.7 which are pretty much at the same price. My concern with the 5.2 is that it is a 58 frame and I have been advised a 56 frame. Reading your report I am less concerned by frame size now (ps I am 6 foot 11). Did you choose compact front rings or 3 ring set up? Looking forwards to reading your blogs. Again, nice to read you report and style of writing. David

Paul said...

Hi David,

Thanks for the comments. Spain is suprisingly the 2nd most mountainous country in Europe, after (you got it!) Switzerland.

I thought long and hard about it and went with the compact 2 front rings as I was advised it rides much better.

Initially I found it tough but I have sort of 'trained through it'. For my tour of Spain I am thinking of changing the rear cassette to a 11-32T which needs the Shimano Ultegra RD 6700 Long Cage rear mechanism. This should offer the best of both worlds.

Let me know how you get on. I'm about at the 1000KM mark and still loving the bike.



Anonymous said...

Interesting thread. I've been cyling for about 18 months after piloting the couch + remote for 20+ years. Am 5'10" and avg build so Trek recommended a 56cm frame. Fast forward to today and I'm looking at a new Cervelo S3 in the garage - 54cm. I've ridden 13,000 miles and had been pushing my Trek 5.9 H2 lower to gain more speed and comfort on the long rides. When I got to no spacers with a -22 deg stem it was time for a new bike. My advice - expect to gain flexibility. You might start out as I that you can't ride down there but if you put in the miles you will regret the oversized bike.

Paul said...

Wow thats some mileage! Interesting point you make. I guess its validity depends a litle on how serious the rider is on covering high mileages. The more serious riders may be better with a smaller frame, and the occasional riders possibly with the larger size. Thanks for the valuable contribution.

juicedjax said...

I do enjoy reading your blog :D.
it boost my confidence in buying this babe (madone 4.7)
even though im planning on buying the frameset only.
i always thought the bontrager's wheel set is a letdown - but i didnt found any dissatisfaction in your writing.

anyway, thanks for the great review!really boost my mood up :D

Cant imagine how this babe works under Sram Grouppo and Mavic wheelset :D
just cant wait.

juicedjax said...

I do enjoy reading your blog :D.
it boost my confidence in buying this babe (madone 4.7)
even though im planning on buying the frameset only.
i always thought the bontrager's wheel set is a letdown - but i didnt found any dissatisfaction in your writing.

anyway, thanks for the great review!really boost my mood up :D

Cant imagine how this babe works under Sram Grouppo and Mavic wheelset :D
just cant wait.

Paul said...

Thanks - I now have about 1500 miles on the bike, and I'm still really enjoying it.

I have thrashed my previous daily, weekly and monthly milage records, and hope to ride the length of Spain on it this September.

Enjoy yours!

Anonymous said...

Hi guys,

Great article and you might be in a position to help me. I have just ordered a trek 2.1 in a H2 geometry 58cm frame. I am 6" tall and weigh too much (110kg) and after years of not doing enough exercise my flexiblity is crap.

Here is my problem ... I collect the bike this week, but I am feeling unsure of if I should of ordered a H2 or H3 frame. The one coming is a h2 frame, it seemed comfortable enough in the shop but this is not a real test of getting on the bike for an hour.

Am I going to regret going for a H2 instead of the H3?


Paul said...

Hi Aaron,

Thanks for the kind comments. The 2.1 is a nice looking bike - looks like the choice of H2 or H3 is dependent on your choice of front crankset (double or compact is H2 and the triple is H3).

I can't really comment or advise on which is best for you - it sounds like you have done the right thing, and been along and tried one out.

I ordered blind which was a bit silly (not many large frames here in Spain).

Good luck with it - let us know how you get on!

Hendrik Attema said...

Hi Rob,
Thanks for the interesting review as it helped me cross the line to decide between a BMC bike and the Trek 4.7. I ordered mine last Saturday and it is now being modified to meet my specs.

With my 6'2" (shorter legs, longer upper) it will be the 58cm anyway. The seat-pedal-length is perfect off the shelf, but the steerer needs to be a bit (1") longer. Another adjustment I have made is the change of original seat with a stiffer one. Even in the 2 mile testdrive I the original was considered terrible by me.

For now I will leave the original Bontrage Race wheels on. Depending on the experience in the firts real test I might change these as well with stiffer ones. On my current Alu-bike I have Shimano RS30 and these are perfect for me, so the Bontragers have some shoes to fill.

Cheers from the Netherlands

Paul Bell said...

April 2013 Update - I have now covered 7000km (approx. 4300 miles) on my trusty Trek Madone 4.7, including the epically enjoyable 12 day 1200km length of Spain ride (read more here and the bike has been 100% reliable and superb to ride.

The only changes made in these 7000km have been consumables - 1 chain and sprockets, 3 sets of tyres, and the odd spray of lube!

It has more than lived up to my expectations!

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