Lance Armstrong's return to the pro peloton has caused a resurgence in popularity of Trek's carbon fiber racing bikes, which are marketed under the model name Madone. With 16 different Madone versions, there's a good chance there's one that will meet the needs of any performance cyclist. Included in this line-up are the Women Specific Design (WSD) bikes.
More than just small frames with pastel colors, the WSD Madones represent Trek's laudable commitment to performance bicycles designed specifically for women. These bikes feature the same carbon technology as the men's frames, combined with female-specific saddles, narrower handlebars and modified frame geometries that most women will appreciate.
Of the four models designed for women, the top-of-the-line is the 6.5 WSD Madone. I had the good fortune of test riding the this bike on a long weekend in Santa Barbara, California organized by Trek and its brand manager for women's products, Krista Rettig.
After my first conversation with Rettig, I realized Trek's commitment to female cyclists is not just about the bikes; it includes a larger vision of breaking barriers for women entering the sport. With any WSD bike purchase comes membership in Trek's Women Who Ride community. Here women can stay connected through blogs, newsletters, local Fit for Women demos, a Trek women's triathlon series and women-only cycling tours.
In advance of my trip, I was directed to Trek's Project One website where I built my dream bike that would be waiting for me at the test ride. The online shopping experience is simple and fun. The Project One interface continuously modifies a large image of the exact bike you are designing, changing that image in real-time as you experiment with different combinations of components and accessories.
There's an impressive range of components including Shimano, Campy and SRAM, a choice between compact, double or triple cranksets, and carbon or traditional wheels. You can even choose the colors of cables and brake hoods. To sober your enthusiasm, the price changes in real-time too, so every time you upgrade a part you can further outdistance your budget.
Being limited to Trek's house-brand Bontrager for wheels, handlebars and saddles is slightly frustrating. While they are certainly adequate--and in some cases, excellent--at this level of price and customization most consumers would appreciate more flexibility, especially with the wheels.
The machine that was waiting for me in Santa Barbara was not exotic or flashy. It was a classic beauty with a design that would not soon be dated. More critically, it rode like a dream.
Admittedly, I was skeptical about a bike designed specifically for women. I'm nearly 5'10" with a not so slight frame. But, as I rode up the stout Foxen Canyon climb, it responded with a snappiness that was surprising given my higher than usual gearing and wine-tasting at lunch. The stiffness of its unconventionally fat bottom bracket engaged effortlessly shifting my power to the rear wheel. Similarly, on the descents the Madone was firmly obedient, with equal amounts of stability and aggressiveness even over the sometimes rutty corners.
The Trek Madone 6.5 WSD is a bike with an optimum combination of features and a plush ride under standard conditions with world class performance when needed. Stable, fast and responsive, there was nothing the bike couldn't do and nothing it didn't do well.
If you're looking for an upgrade, want to hang with the boys on club rides or simply stay in the saddle all day, then the Trek Madone 6.5 WSD deserves a serious look.