High End Bicycles: Trek Madone 9.0 H2 – a challenger for the best in class

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On this next feature is the Trek Madone 9.0 H2, which is Trek’s answer to the fast and comfortable aero bike targetted at the high end of the market.

This bike is also by courtesy of my friend James Martin Lim, whom Ihad done an earlier feature – where I talked about his S-Works Shiv Disc. The Shiv is a triathlon styled bike which does not comply with UCI racing regulations. So for road use, James also have a road racing bike – this Trek Madone 9.0 H2.

James Martin Lim and his Trek Madone 9.0 H2 in full Breitling kit. The kit is made by cycle clothing specialist Q36.5.

Trek Madone 9.0 H2

Trek is one of the largest bicycle manufacturers in the world with multiple in-house brands. It is an American company, but most Trek bicycles are manufactured outside the US – like most other carbon bikes, which are made mainly in Taiwan and China. This is not a bad thing, as mass producing carbon bikes is labour intensive, and skill levels in these countries are very high. The brand is the key sponsor of the Trek-Segafredo World Tour team, providing them with bikes and accessories for racing.

The Madone is their current top of the line offering and was overhauled in 2015 as an ultra-aero machine. All cables are routed internally and the brakes are hidden from the wind. The bike received good reviews from the cycling press for its aero performance and its comfort, primarily due to the IsoSpeed flex design, which allows the seat tube and seat mast to flex as one. James’ bike is from the model year 2016-2019. The 9 Series is replaced with the SLR and SL Series from 2020.

Madone 9.0 H2 Frame set

The H2 designation is a reference to the geometry of the bike, and is the less aggressive of two versions offered by Trek – the more racy H1 being only available as an option in the customisable top of the line Project One editions. The H2 specification directly translates to a slightly taller stack height than the H1. Stack is the vertical difference between the top of the head tube and the center of the bottom bracket.

The frameset is made in 600 Series OCLV Carbon, including the carbon fork. Trek is an early adopter of the Kammtail tube profile, and the Madone 9.0’s tubes show this. The tubes are deep sectioned, and prove to be very stiff, allowing good transfer of power to the wheels, with minimal torsional flex. Flex is applied where desired by the IsoSpeed decoupler, which sits at the junction between the seat tube and seat stays. The aero-profile integrated seat mast is paired with a much smaller (and flexier) seat tube that inserts into it. An aluminum pivot axle and dual cartridge bearings allows the seat tube to flex and move on bumpy terrain. The IsoSpeed device also uses elastomers for damping, and which can be dialed in by the rider for the optimum comfort.

The brakes on this bike is proprietary by Trek, and made in partnership with brake specialists TRP. Both front and rear brakes are neatly integrated, The front brakes are worth a mention as it is tucked within the front fork/head tube, in an effort to present as small a frontal area as possible to the wind. Trek claims the brakes to be very powerful with good modulation. Most reviewers have put its performance slightly below that of Shimano’s Dura-Ace. I did not ride the bike, and am unable to verify this claim. However, I have ridden rim brakes from Dura-Ace as well as from eeBrakes which I consider to be best of breed, and they are certainly quite excellent. So the proprietary Trek brakes are, if the reviews are to be believed and by extension, no slouches.

As the brakes are aero in design, Trek has shrouded the cables from the wind by the use of two flaps which are able to open allowing the brake housing within to move as the fork is turned. This is a unique feature of the Trek.

The bike comes with a proprietary cockpit which is a single piece carbon aerodynamic handlebar package. All cables are neatly hidden within the bar. Trek claims a 4W advantage of the aerobars over traditional round bars with cables routed externally.

The bottom bracket is huge to be very stiff, and houses the Trek standard BB90 press fit unit. James has upgraded the bearings to CeramicSpeed, a rather expensive upgrade featuring ceramic bearings for a smoother ride, and to save more watts.

Interestingly, though the rest of the groupset is Ultegra, the cranks are Dura-Ace.

The wheelset: Zipp 303 NSW

The wheelset chosen is the Zipp 303 NSW. These feature a dimple design on the rim, which is claimed to be more aerodymanic than a smooth finish as it modifies the airflow across the wheels, allowing it to cut through the air with less resistance. The rims are 45mm in profile, and carry 25mm Continental GP5000 clinchers.

As a rim brake bike, the Zipps feature the Showstopper brake track. The design is a rather aggressive pattern on the track, which is roughened up, and Zipp claims to improve wet-weather braking performance and stopping power. Dry stopping is stellar and wet stopping seems to be an improvement over standard brake tracks, though a longer stopping is still needed compared to performance in the dry.

The drive train: Shimano Ultregra Di2 with Stages Power Meter

The drive train is the time and tested Shimanano Ultegra, installed here in Di2 guise – meaning that shifting duties are performed electronically. The Ultegra range sits just below the top of the line Dura-Ace, and is generally considered an the workhorse Shimano. It is an excellent group set. Moving up to the top of the line Dura-Ace will reward with some weight savings but at the expense of a large price premium.

Shifting is fast and smooth, even under power, thanks to the Di2 motors doing the duties. Trim to the front mech is automatically applied by the Di2 system. And shifting performance is very precise. Front mech is 53/39 configuration, which is rather standard for a race bike. The crankset is unusual, as on the drive side, it is Ultegra, but on the non-drive side, where the Stages power meter is installed, the crank arm is Dura-Ace.

The rear mech is full Di2 Ultegra, but the cassette is 11-28 Dura-Ace. The Dura-Ace cassette is lighter, and considerably more expensive. But also as it is designed for race use, the materials selected are to be as light as possible, and somewhat sacrificing durability. On my Pinarello Dogma F10, I have a full Dura-Ace group set, but when the cassette wore out after about 20,000km, I had it replaced with an Ultegra unit.

The power meter installed is the single sided Stages power meter. The strain gauges are only installed on the non-drive crank arm, and measures the torque. This is transmitted to the Garmin Edge 1030 Head Unit via ANT+. The power is then doubled to be presented as the total power generated at the pedals. James’ installation is interesting in that the crankset on the drive side is Ultegra, but the crank arm on the non-drive side is Dura-Ace. This may lead to the possibility of slightly inaccurate readings, as the Dura-Ace arm is stiffer than the Ultegra.


Installed on the bike are Cycliq front and rear lights which are equipped with video cameras. On the rear is the Fly6 system, which is installed in addition to a standard Bontrager rear light. On the front is the Fly12. The Cycliq lights not only ensure that the cyclist is visible to traffic from both the front and the back, but also has cameras to record the entire ride from a perspective of looking ahead and looking behind.

Concluding thoughts

The Trek Madone 9.0 H2 is a beautiful bike, which rides well. It is well designed with strong aerodynamic features, and is what is called a fast bike. The ride is smooth, and comfortable by account of James, who have ridden the bike for quite a lot of miles. And most importantly, it is good enough to get James out of the house to ride his bike.

Photo Notes

Photographs were taken in-situ at East Coast Park mid-ride with the Leica C. The strong backlit situation caused flaring and fringing in the lens, which cannot be properly corrected, and shows up in the photographs. However, it is worth noting that the lighting was particularly harsh, in very bright sunlight outside of the dark shade of the trees we were photographing in. As a result, the bright background is blown out, and with it details and colours on the darker areas are also washed out. This is a characteristic of the lens design and the inability of the sensor to cope.


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