I’m now several months into my Madone…and while the weather of the past several weeks has conspired to force me into riding it on the trainer of late, I have still formed some opinions over these past several months (the vast majority of which was spent riding it on the road). Those opinions have been crystallized by my time on a Madone 6 in Solvang.
I am still perpetually amazed by the ride quality balancing of the 7. It is every bit as efficient as the Ridley Noah it replaced. Every ounce of power into the pedals translates into a leap forward. For that matter, since it is so much LIGHTER, it feels even livelier when you stomp on it. But the Ridley was harsh. In retrospect, it was punishing on long rides. The massive integrated seatmast and aero shaping made for a rough ride. If you look at the seatstays on the Ridley, they’re essentially twice as much carbon as a standard stay, because of the split design.
Contrast that with the wispy Madone stays.
The ride quality is magical for a bike this light, and this fast. It truly does an amazing job of dampening chatter and taking the edge off of hard hits. Now certainly, it is not as comfortable of a ride as the Domane, but it’s an incredible example of a manufacturer picking the right mix of stiff and supple. If I were comparing the old Noah with a Domane for my riding, the Domane would win hands down. It is only because the new Madone is sooooooo good that I find the Domane to be not quite as compelling for my needs.
The handling is race-fast, but it isn’t nervous. Again–the blend of quick handling and stability is very wisely selected. Note that mine is H2 geometry, with its slightly taller head tube and related changes. If I was focusing purely on shorter rides, I’d drop my stem further…but for a compromise between solo-training, group rides, and long efforts, I’m very happy with the current setup.
The SRAM Red Yaw drivetrain has been pretty flawless. It’s required 1 adjustment, once the cables stretched in a bit. Otherwise, nothing I’d change about it. (Except that with an 11-28 cassette, I can see the allure of having one more gear in the cassette, just to reduce the spread between gears. Running a narrower cassette would solve that issue as well, albeit at the expense of my 39/28 climbing ratio).
Really, this is an all-positive update, from a performance perspective. I cannot criticize any aspect of the bike’s performance. I have read others who have criticized the Bontrager integrated brakes, to which I have 2 responses: 1) if you hate them, slap on a set of the Dura Ace brakes that fit this application; and, 2) I’ve had no problems with the Bontrager brakes. Illinois is not a challenge to brakes, but Solvang was. The stock brakes gave me the confidence to descend Mt. Fig at up to 50mph…and that’s for a flatlander who isn’t used to descending. They provided perfect, easy to modulate stopping power repeatedly, without fade or fail. They performed perfectly, with a great linear feel, and again, they did the very best thing that brakes can do: they inspired confidence.
I will say that the stock brakes are a bit ugly…particularly the hardware on the rear brake. It’s hidden, but it’s still ugly. I wouldn’t object if Bontrager would drop a trick carbon brake with prettier hardware, that performed as well as this brake, albeit at a slightly lighter weight…but the stock brakes perform well enough that I don’t see any point to upgrading to Dura Ace brakes–either in Illinois, or if I lived in Solvang. Oh man…if I lived in Solvang.
It tugs at my heartstrings to see the Madone sitting in the garage, waiting for warmer weather. This bike has personality–and wants to be ridden. It’s a willing companion, always urging one more mile, one more hill repeat, one more sprint. It tells me to go to the next corner, and ride that road that I’ve been meaning to explore. It spurs me to drop a couple of gears and sprint up the little roller that’s coming up. It’s an amazing bike. Amazing.
As I look at a bike, it’s not often that I see something in my garage that I can’t imagine at least some upgrade for. There’s not a bike on the market right now that would replace the Madone, or a part that would replace any part of the Madone. I love it, just the way it is. Cue the Billy Joel.