Gen8 Trek Madone SLR Review

Gen 8 meets Late Boomer.

Posted by Philip Cavell

"Gen 8 trek Madone SLR is the acceptable face of fast"

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Gen-Z London Academy Team Principal, and ex Bianchi professional, Sarah enjoying Gen8 Madone in the Bloomsbury sunshine.

"With a new Gen 8 Madone, you really don’t need two race bikes anymore,”"

Jordan Roessingh - Trek’s Director of Road Bikes

The Generation Game

Everyone knew Trek had a secret but no one knew what it was.
We assumed, like the rest of the world that it was an overdue Emonda replacement. The fact that it wasn't, made the relatively recent Gen7 Madone the ultimate dead-cat misdirect.
So Emonda has gone (launched in 2014 as the world's lightest bike frame). AND, the Madone, as dedicated a aero alternative, has also gone. Forever. All change.

Madone Is Dead. Long Live Madone

June 26th at 15:00, Trek collided their two worlds of race bike philosophy into one bright young thing - The all new Gen8 Madone SLR. We are extremely proud that the London launch of Trek's newest race bike was at Cyclefit Store Street.

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Phil's acclamation for Gen8 could yet doom a great bike with Generation Race.

Bright, Shiny, New

The Gen 8 Madone SLR central thesis is to be as aerodynamic as the recently defunct Gen7 Madone and as light as the already forgotten Emonda SLR.
Any deviation from that reality sees the new Trek struggling for identity. It has to instantly dissipate any tension as to which bike is faster for which occasion. Whatever the question the answer has to be Gen8 Trek Madone.

What are the Gen8 Madone headlines?

  • The all new Gen8 fuselage co-opts Trek's newest and lightest 900 Series carbon laminate - the only way to get aero tubes as light as Emonda-esque ones.
  • Size-opimised tubing - not easy or cheap to do. Essentially means that small frames internal profiles are thinner and lighter, to reflect the shorter tune-spans. This also adds feel and nuance into the ride.
  • 900 Series carbon is 20% stronger than Trek's previous top-tier carbon, I think we can assume they are referring top 800 Series.
  • Revolution, not Iteration - Gen8 is a total re-think. Boxier tubes are lighter but less aero. So Chief Aerodynamicist, John Davis, found a way to boxify tubes that were hidden and would therefore not lead to excess drag.
  • Completely new sizing - XS, S, M, ML, L & XL.

"Phil's acclamation for Gen8 could yet doom a great bike with Generation Race"

Gen8madone16 Copy

Pushes air up over your legs

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Trek Project One is essential

Madone bars

Best bar-shape of all time?

"The Gen 8 Madone SLR central thesis - as aerodynamic as the recently defunct Gen7 Madone and as light as the already forgotten Emonda SLR"

Prima-Madone

Riding the outgoing Madone Gen7 always came with a sense of drama. Exaggerated aerofoils, IsoFlow void, pumped-up fork, all leaned comic-book velocity. The bike made no sense unless you intended to ride at 10/10ths everywhere and everywhere excluded mountains. Yes, Gen7 Madone was significantly lighter than Gen6, but at around 7.5kg, lighter bikes were patently available for skipping up Galibier etc.

The Acceptable Face of Fast

As the first person to officially ride the Gen8 Madone on UK roads, I have to say that the Prima-Madone drama has largely evaporated. Gone is the aero-thrum soundtrack from the fuselage + wheel orchestra. Gone is the optical overload and general sense of sensory over-the-topness. Apart from the Tellytubbies paint on the test-bike I rode (which I loved by the way), the Gen8 could almost be described as restrained in comparison to the Gen7 superhero visuals.

"This is a bike you could pick up in the morning and race in the afternoon"

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Upsizing to ML lost Phil the fabulous team livery. Comfort v's aesthetics

"Trek have sweated the innovation of this bike to the point ruthless invisibility"

Ruthless Invisibility

Trek claim that the Gen8 is 77 seconds an hour faster than outgoing Emonda (based on riding at 30kmh) and that feels reasonable.
Straight away the Gen8 feels entirely like a normal race-bike. And I mean that as the finest compliment. The RSL carbon bar/stem is probably the best shape I have ever come across and as long as you go Project One, available in 18 alternative bar/stem combinations. The short move from the hoods to the drops is addictively compelling and usable if speed is your thing.

This is a bike you could pick up in the morning and race in the afternoon. And that is sort of the point. We remember well our days working with Jordan Roessingh when he was our Team Liaison for Trek Segafredo (Jordan is head of road-bike design and responsible for Gen8 Madone). There was always a dilemma which rider would be riding which platform - Emonda, Madone or Domane for the cobbles. Now Trek Lidl riders will naturally default to Madone for everything, maybe even for Paris Roubaix as Gen8 accepts up to 32mm tyres.

Sweat The Innovation

Trek have sweated the innovation of this bike to the point ruthless invisibility when you ride it. We have been on the lunchtime rides in Wisconsin with the product innovation crew. As well as being frighteningly fast (Jordan and many of the crew are current or former pro/elite riders), they are also witheringly critical. The Wisconsin character is long renowned to have a strong Teutonic influence, which manifests itself in a no-nonsense pursuit of perfection. Trek's Waterloo engineers are most certainly not Californian dudes high-fiving at any largely imagined superiority. They are more typically slow to praise and quick to criticise with reductive dry humour.

No Happy Accident

Gen8's invisibility is not some happy accident, it is a symptom of Trek taking their time, doing the maths, knowing they will only get once chance to impress in a class crowded with highly acclaimed bicycles.
I rode the Gen 8 in wind and sun and rain looking for weakness or the merest whiff of feeling unsettled. I actively sought broken road surfaces and side-winds, but the Gen8 & Bontrager Aeolus RSL 51 wheels refused deviate a millimetre from feeling composed, controlled and frankly joyous. I have never ridden a bike that broadly falls into the 'aero' category that comes close to the heady cocktail of nuance and fun that the Gen8 instantaneously gives the rider.
Almost every other 'aero' race bike I have ever ridden has been accompanied by a grudging acceptance that being blown about on an intrusive and acoustically over-bearing superbike must be worth it for the extra speed dividend I am enjoying.

This just has to be bike of the year by a considerable margin. I welcome any cogent reasons why this is not the case.

Weight and See

It is easy to quantify that Gen8 Madone is as light as outgoing Emonda but less easy to substantiate speed claims. Weight comparisons will depend on paint-scheme and some are heavier than others - if weight is your goal I was advised by P1 folk to stick to the 'Smoke Carbon' schemes because they are the lightest.

Aero/Speed Tests

In terms of speed - we are doing A/B tests this week in Regent's Park inner-ring. We are going to fix power as a variable and let speed float. We will be running hoods/drops laps on Gen8 and Gen7 Madones - size ML and 56 respectively. We shall report back. We confidently expect Gen8 to be objectively quicker as the inner-ring includes a small climb.

New Geometry - Deconstructed

When it comes getting your Gen8 to fit - Trek have dropped from eight sizes to six. Trek's data shows overlap in the XS, M and XL sizes (table below), and a focus on preserving discreet sizing/fit around ML/56 and L/58 sizes. We have done our own Stack & Reach Table (below) that puts some numbers around the overlaps. I rode a size M first, that is 5mm higher than Gen7 and 2mm shorter - both changes are good for me. If it was my bike I was ordering I would have specified a longer seat-mast (0 set-back) and longer stem. Personally I think the only way to get your position completely dialled is to have a bike-fit and then specify bar/stem, crank and seat-mast through Project One.

At 5 ' 9" and a bit on a good day I am in the overlap between M and ML. The ML I rode felt better but I would still need to make changes to make it perfect. I would drop the crank to 165mm, come down one stem-length and switch to the inline seat-mast.
The dilemma between two sizes can be difficult for some clients. It needs a rational conversation about how you ride most of the time. As my colleague Jimmy Wilson says - "put your money where the miles are" - because that will make you happiest.

For me - I would need the front-end height of the ML (I don't race) and the reach I could personalise with a change of bar/stem.

Middle Of The Bell Curve

Trek's new six-line geometry platform seems to favour people in the middle of the height bell-curve. As far as we can deduce, anyone who normally rides 53cm through 59cm bikes is going to have a better time and more versatility with Gen8 set-up. The XL and XS sizes are doing the heaviest lifting by covering the widest bands of potential bike set-ups. Luckily Gen8 is commendably adaptive. But it will all come down to a consultative approach to bike-fit and new-bike project management. Trek know this, hence *Project One is loudly applied to the toptube.

Mistakes are very costly these days with top-end race bikes - here are three common ones I would have made with stock M or ML Gen8 SLR:

  • Wrong Dura-Ace crank-length- £550
  • Wrong Trek RSL bar/stem - £599
  • Wrong Gen8 seat-mast - £339
  • Total mistake potential - £1488

£1488 worth of potential error is just too much if you don't have up to date fit-data and it is not correctly applied.
If in doubt ask for a CAD that shows your position applied to Gen8 geometry. We see this result of these errors everyday in the Cyclefit studios and it is always frustrating. We give Trek a huge amount of kudos for Project One, we know it is hugely expensive and complex to run, it is massively to their credit that they have re-committed to it.
Little known fact - pre-Covid, Cyclefit was the biggest Project One dealer in the UK. We love customisation and choice.

Madone geometry
Madone geometry2

"That's £1488 worth of potential error if you don't have up to date fit-data and it is not correctly applied "

Trek's Gen8 Madone - One Bike

The price of the bike that I rode (pictured) was £8,000. Personally I would spend a few hundred pounds and get the Bontrager RSL 37 or 51 wheels - they are most certainly worth the extra - they add speed and take away weight, which is kind of the point. if it was Dura-Ace OR RSL wheels, I would take the wheels - the frame has earned them.

In terms of comfort, the cantilevered Iso-Flow is claimed to be 80% more compliant than outgoing Madone. Hard to quantify, but overall I would say the bike is acceptably upholstered for a race-bike that utilises the world's most extreme hi-modulus carbon to reach its creditable weight numbers.

I genuinely believe that Gen8 Madone is the acceptable face of fast. It is that good.

I think Jordan Roessingh (Global Director of Road Bikes and Project One) may well be right. This the greatest race bike that trek has ever built. It is that fabulous.

There are folk out there who will still prefer the sense of occasion bought by the Gen7 Madone. It makes a statement that Gen8 can't and doesn't want to. To those folk I say move fast.

Gen8 Madone SLR - What's Not To Like?

Anything not to like? The bottles are a question mark for me. They form an integral part of the aero proposition. But won't stand up on my kitchen table when I fill them up. That can make an old man a bit grumpy. But at the speed I ride I can always change to normal bottles with very little negative effect.

And, this is my first time on Pirelli tyres. My sense is that GP5000's are a little more suited to my riding style.

That's it. Everything else I love. But make sure you buy through *Project One after a bike-fit to get the best from your new bike. Anything else could be a logistically inconvenient, expensive and as it happens, unnecessary mistake (see below)

In summary - to re-purpose Keith Bontrager's famous homily -

Gen8 Madone is: Light, Aero, Beautiful. Pick all three.

Phil

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Lidl-Trek Team Bike.

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Jules Cyclefits Team EF

"The best riding race bike we’ve ever made"

Jordan Roessingh (Global Director - Road Bikes and Project One)

Phil & Jordan Correspondence on Gen8 Madone

For context -
Jordan was our Team Liaison at Trek/Trek-Segafredo from 2012 to 2015. As well as being a former elite rider himself, Jordan's academic background was in engineering and aerodynamics. Jordan was just the perfect conduit between us, the team, the riders and Trek.
Since leaving his Team Liasion role Jordan has progressed to a very senior role - Global Director of Road Bikes and Project One.

What follows is our dialogue about Trek's new Gen8 Madone SLR


Phil (Cyclefit)

Dear Jordan,

Congratulations to you and all your team – Gen8 Madone is a triumph
I have only done a couple of rides on the bike so far but right away is much more user friendly than outgoing Gen7.

Gen7 was incredibly fast in the right circumstances but didn’t give back like Gen8 in terms of warm vibes (in my experience and opinion)

30 seconds on Gen8 and its like I have ridden it all year. A huge achievement.

I know you ride a lot and ride fast and just wanted to get a personal quote from you as to how it has altered your own ride experience?"

Jordan Roessingh (Global Director - Road Bikes and Project One)

"Hey Phil,

Great to hear from you!

I have had the privilege of having spent quite a bit of time on the Gen 8 Madone.

I think the ride quality is probably the thing that I’m most excited about with the new bike. The compliance is something that you can really feel, delivering an exceptionally smooth ride. And at the same time, the bike has a responsiveness when you stand on the pedals that’s instantly discernable.

That combination makes for what I think is the best riding race bike we’ve ever made."

"I think the ride quality is probably the thing that I’m most excited about with the new bike."

Jordan Roessingh (Global Director - Road Bikes and Project One)

Project One Special Offer - Free Cyclefit

Until the September Equinox (24th) and the end of summer in the northern hemisphere - we are offering a free Project One Cyclefit at no charge (worth £295). The comprehensive session will be two hours long and will include:

  • Functional Movement Screen (FMS)
  • Set-up with Cyclefit Technician on our infinitely adjustable Fit Bike to collect key positional data-points to determine frame
    size and optimal bike set-up
  • 4-camera Dartfish Motion Analysis
  • Post fit Project One discussion and recommendations - frame-size, bar-width, stem-length, crank-length, seatmast length and set-back
  • CAD showing your position on Gen8 frame

This is the same process we used to use for Trek Segafredo team and currently use for Team EF Easypost. No other bike-fit company in the UK works at Cyclefit's level.

Please use the short form at the bottom of this page if you want a free Project One Cyclefit

*Trek Project One

Trek Project One is Trek's customised bike programme -

  1. Select model
  2. Select paint/finish
  3. Select your components
  4. Make sure you have had a complimentary Project One Cyclefit!

Trek Project One

About the author

Philip Cavell, Co-founder

Co-founder, bike fitter and bike designer, author. Phil rides a Seven Axiom XX custom titanium bike and an Airnimal Joey folding bike. He wrote The Midlife Cyclist and enjoys walking his dog, reading, politics and the outdoors. Phil's specialism is working with clients who have complex and frequently chronic issues. Phil is most at home working in a collegiate, multi-disciplinary team, to help clients resolve intricate issues.

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