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.
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!