Before I talk about my shiny new Domane SL6 Disc, I need to talk a bit about my cycling and a bit about my old bike. I love to ride, but I have a fragile back, particularly the upper back and lower neck. It’s likely due to years of distance running and crappy posture. In addition to an easily-angered upper back, my left shoulder gets sore easily due to some deterioration of the rotator cuff because of multiple separated shoulder incidents in years gone by.
Over my fifteen years or so of more-or-less steady cycling, I’ve upgraded my primary rides specifically to minimize stress on my back. I traded my aluminum-framed Giant for a carbon fiber Felt Z5, since carbon generally offers a more forgiving ride than aluminum. Then Trek delivered the original Domane, with its IsoSpeed decoupler sleeve bearing. IsoSpeed essentially isolates the seatpost from the rest of the frame, reducing the effect of road chatter. So I picked up the midrange Domane 5.2 and put a lot of miles on it over the past several years.
I loved riding the 5.2, but the Domane had one small, but disconcerting flaw: the front end. Isolating the seat mast from the frame resulted in a smoother-feeling ride under your butt, but the front fork still transmitted all the road vibration. The fork rake and carbon fiber mitigated this somewhat, but the overall effect was somewhat jarring. I eventually added Bontrager Isocore carbon fiber handlebars, which helped a bit more, but only a bit.
Enter the Domane SL6 Disc
Trek announced its second generation Domane in 2016. The second iteration of the company’s endurance frame now included an IsoSpeed decoupler built into the headset, which effectively isolates the handlebars from the frame.
As usual, the first bikes were more high-end than I could afford. As 2016 passed into 2017, Trek released numerous models, including a model that seemed perfect: the Domane SL6 Disc. Trek built the SL6 with the same 500 series OCLV carbon fiber used in my Domane 5.2. The SL6 Disc, as the name indicates, also included Shimano’s RS685 hydraulic disc brakes with matching shifters paired to an Ultegra 11-speed mechanical drivetrain. The disc brakes allow fatter tires to be installed; Trek ships its own Bontrager 30mm slicks with the SL6 Disc. A Vision carbon fiber wheelset rounded out the configuration.
However, the bike still cost a little beyond my budget, at $4,499.
Recently, though, Trek dropped the price to $3,499; a full grand discount put it just within reach of what I wanted to spend. Maybe they weren’t selling enough. Maybe the company just wanted to clear the old models for newer ones. I noticed, however, that the only size available was 54cm — coincidentally the size frame I ride. So I headed off to Bicycle Outfitter and plopped down a deposit.
My Domane SL6 Disc arrived on July 8th. Since this Domane version arrived with alloy handlebars, I had the shop swap in my IsoCore carbon fiber bars. I also installed 28mm Continental 4000S-II tires (which are really 31mm according to one source — they certainly look as fat as the 30mm Bontragers) and my trusted Brooks B17 titanium saddle. I’m running the tires at between 85 and 90 pounds inflation pressure, lower than the 100 pounds I’d been using with the 25mm Contis on the 5.2.
Speedplay Frog pedals rounded out my additions.
I’ve put in roughly 200 miles since July 8th, in rides ranging from 15 to 24 miles. I’m still ramping up after my surgery back on May 1st, so I’m still somewhat out of shape and ramping up. I really haven’t gotten the SL6 properly fitted yet, either; I’ve got full fitting scheduled in the next week. Even so, the SL6 has proven a comfortable and competent ride. Despite the fatter tires, it seems just as nimble as the older Domane 5.2. Once I get the SL6 fitted and a few 30-plus mile rides under my belt, I’ll be able to fully assess how well it really succeeds in minimizing recovery time.
I can say, though, that the Domane SL6 Disc handles well, climbs decently, and seems to have all the makings of a very sweet ride.