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Winter bike first ride review: Trek 1.5

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After a long drawn out journey, I bought a winter bike around the beginning of December. With work, Christmas, a chest cold and more work getting in the way. I’ve finally managed to get a couple of rides in to give a first ride verdict. So far I’ve managed to do about 120km on it, which I feel is enough to give some first impressions and share some photos.

As those of you who’ve read a bit of the blog will know I’m a big believer in winter bikes that take full mudguards/fenders like the excellent SKS Chromoplastics (http://www.bikeradar.com/gear/category/accessories/road/product/chromoplastic-p35-30861) and I made room to fit these a mandatory part of my bike search.

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I looked at a range of bikes from Kinesis, Enigma, Genesis and to be frank – chose the Trek as it was the most affordable (ie. Had the lowest retail price for the full bike). I’d also had some great feedback and could see some really appealing traits (repeated again from this post: https://girodilento.com/the-trek-1-5-a-bargain-winter-bike/)

  • Excellent value – a full bike with a carbon fork, 10 speed Tiagra at £800 retail.
  • Full mudguard clearance – in fact there is bags of clearance there as I’ve tried to show in the next photo
  • The same geometry as the high end Trek Madone 6.9SSL (in H2 geometry), so it’s well proven and I was keen to try another big brand out
  • It has rack mounts for commuting or other duties
  • The 10 speed Tiagra drivetrain means I can swap wheels easily with my other 10 speed bikes It’s as tough as old boots as they say
  • The security you get from choosing a bike from one of the worlds biggest bike brands

The negatives of the Trek 1.5 from a couple of rides are:

  • It’s heavy. It was 10kgs out of the box with pedals and the original wheels (well it’s heavy compared to my 6.8kg NeilPryde). I swapped out the standard wheels for my trusty old Easton EA90 SLX and dropped nearly a kg off the weight. With a saddle swap too, we’re down to 9kgs, which is fine.
  • The down side of the very solid build quality is in the road feel. The frame feels so solid and strong (to my skinny legs) that it almost feels a touch out of balance with the fork, which has a lighter feel on the front end. It’s a subtle thing though and not a major point.

Overall, my first impressions are that it’s a fine bike for the money. The Tiagra shifts are extremely light and work well. It is a comfortable bike to ride – perhaps a touch lifeless in the way my Specialized Allez was too compared to a high end carbon bike – but it’s a strong, trustworthy and dependable ride partner. You really feel you could ride it anywhere over any surface with no hesitation whatsoever.

The thing I like best – is the enormous clearance for guards. I am loving the full SKS Chromoplastics on the bike, they really are great and keep you and your bike much, much cleaner on mucky winter roads. I have tried to put a photo to show the amount of clearance – it really is substantial and I think this is a stroke of genius by Trek. Living in the UK and having ridden over 10,000km on a Specialized Allez and given my moan about the weight and feel of the bike – I’d still have absolutely no hesitation in recommending it as a winter bike or as a beginners road or commuter bike because of the excellent clearance for ‘guards alone. If my Allez Elite had this, I’d probably still be riding it. If you look at the picture below you’ll see just how much room there still is in between the brake caliper after the guards have been fitted with ample clearance. Nice.

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It really is a very solid choice and with the full guards it would be a great commuter bike too. In fact, I’ve been commuting on mine (not far mind you). If you do buy one for either a beginner or commuting, when you eventually trade up to a faster & lighter bike you could happily keep your 1.5 as something for the winter or bad weather.

It rides well as speed too – I enjoyed it more over 30kmh an hour and it climbs well. It doesn’t really do anything badly and is a well thought out design.

I saw a negative comment in a recent review about the long head tube and sit up riding style – but frankly I think this is nonsense. On a 56cm size it has a 170mm headtube which is actually the same length as the Specialized Tarmac S-Works SL3 was in a size 56cm frame and I never saw this comment about the SL3.  To be fair it’s also not pitched as a race bike even with Treks H2 geometry that you can buy a 6.9SSL Madone with. The 1.5 rightly fits in Trek’s sport range. It’s purpose is for fitness rather racing so I thought it was an odd and incorrect comment and wanted to challenge it. The geometry is sensible and works well. So far I haven’t got myself 100% comfortable and will tweak it a bit, but it’s fine for the winter riding I’m planning.

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One thing I learned in my search for a winter bike is that a few bikes out there have mudguard mounts (like say a Cannondale CAAD8) but no room at all under the fork/brakes to fit them, so do watch out for this. It’s definitely not a problem you’ll have on the Trek though.

In fairness if you spend two or three times as much on your winter bike you’ll definitely get one that rides considerably better (see my Kinesis GF_Ti post for example) but I think the Trek 1.5 is a very good bike for the money.

I’ll be out on the Trek again this weekend as I start to try to get fit again for 2012. I’ll write more thoughts as they occur over the next few months.

By the way, the last four pictures below are after 100km of riding on mucky winter roads. Mudguards are great trust me 🙂

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Thanks for reading.