I haven’t ridden it yet, it’s locked away awaiting the opportunity and the weather. Today could almost have been it, the first ride, the weather was (relatively) glorious, and it wasn’t a late meeting at work, but we had to go to bloody Milton Keynes to take yet another bloody clock back because it had a scratch on the case. So that was that.
It’s all about the comfort, this time. I loved my Trek 1.2, it was a great way of getting back into road biking, but it was never as comfortable to ride as my old (steel) Raleigh touring bike, the one I had in the 80s. So I’ve spent the last three years or so dealing with a series of niggles, many of them documented here. The pedal and shoe combinations, the minute adjustments to cleats and saddle, the gloves and helmets. For a man of my age, size, and weight, the 1.2 was a little too sporty.
Last year, the longest ride I managed was about 2 hours, and even then I had to get off about 90 minutes in to rest my feet from the screaming pain. And then I had to get off again five minutes later, and 10 minutes after that, limping home, eventually, a broken man. That prompted my most recent shoe purchase, the Bontrager Multisport, of which more below.
So I’ve been day dreaming about the Trek Domane 4 series since I saw the first reviews of it last year. I went into the Trek Store in Milton Keynes a couple of times, and also went down to Trek World at Silverstone, where I saw the 2014 colourways for the first time. I ran through a couple of Project One builds using the online tool, and chopped and changed components and tried different paint jobs.
All along, I was thinking of the Domane 4.3, which has Shimano 105 components and a 30-tooth bottom gear on the rear cassette (that’s around 30.5 gear inches, fact fans – and shorter is easier). This was very important to me, because I really struggled in the Vosges mountains last summer, trying to get up big climbs on my 1.2 with what I thought was a 28-tooth (32.7 inch) gear, but which turned out to be a 26 (35.3 inches!). No wonder I couldn’t get more than halfway up the Ballon d’Alsace.
But then I saw the 2014 colour of the Domane 4.5, and fell in love. The black/orange combination looks superb, better than anything I came up with on Project One, and it still came out cheaper. It has mostly Shimano Ultegra, but only comes with a 28-tooth (32.7 inch) bottom gear. What to do?
I did some reading, and realised that you can get an Ultegra 11-32 cassette, if you also change the rear derailleur for a longer cage version. It’s all very technical, but it essentially meant I could ask in the shop for the swap (at a little extra cost) and end up with a (drum roll) 28.7-inch bottom gear. This is a gear I’ll probably never have to use around Buckingham, but next time I attempt the Ballon d’Alsace, or the road up to Fresse and down into Plancher Bas, I will be equipped.
The Domane is supposedly built for comfort, with it’s bump-smoothing frame, and 25mm tyres, but I also took the precaution of upgrading the handlebar to the (basic) Isozone model, which features built-in padding to alleviate road buzz. And I’ve gone even further. They’re actually discontinued (about to be replaced with something else) but Bontrager make a heat-mouldable insole for their shoes, so you can have a footbed that conforms to the actual shape of your feet. Given that my oddly-shaped feet are such a problem, I’ve installed those in my Multisports (the Trek store had a few left).
There’s more. I’ve also ordered a Fizik Aliante Versus saddle (in limited edition black and orange, natch), which is designed for what Fizik call “Bulls” – the less flexible man. I’m actually more of a Chameleon, I think (I can bend further than the Bull diagram on the Fizik web site), but I’m not getting any younger, and it was quite a lot cheaper than the Chameleon version. So that’s another bit of extra comfort.
All of which is yet to be tested, adjusted, tweaked, and tested again. But watch this space.