TREK

Trek cut its bones as a road company. It was late to the game in MTB, and especially so to suspension mountain bikes. (Its first dual suspension bikes reeked.) But it caught on and eventually good business won out over late entry.

It hasn't been caught sleeping as the market has returned to road race. While much of the market became enamored with off-road over the past decade, Trek in a sense never left the road market. Its OCLVs rule the roost at the upper end. What's new is that as road race (and triathlon) pick up steam again (at least as a percentage of the market), Trek and others have gotten back to paying attention to road race as an entry-level phenomenon. The bikes below reflect Trek's interest in newbie roadies.

1000

This bike is going to sell in the neighborhood of $600 and is a worthy challenger to the other Shimano-equipped Sora bikes against which it competes. It comes in two colors and I like them both––especially the orange. It reminds me of my old (70s era) Colnago, painted in what is sometimes referred to as Molteni orange. My old Colnago Super. Eddie’s bike.

Funny, if you want Trek’s nostalgia version of this bike you’ve got to go over to the LeMond side of the company, where bikes like the Zurich ride like my old Colnago. There you get steel, here you get aluminum.

In this price point Trek doesn’t have a lot of competitors, and the chief among them is Giant. In Giant’s favor, it offers a slightly cheaper bike with pretty-much all Sora components and clipless pedals. Trek offers more than twice the available sizes as Giant––it comes in sizes 43cm to 63cm!––and while it subs out certain Sora components for lesser-named brands, Sora parts aren’t all that red-hot to start with, so an SR crank instead of a Sora is no big loss.

The 43cm version is actually a kid's bike, and I just frankly don't get what Trek is trying to do here. It makes a 43cm version of some of its other road bikes, and these are part of its WSD series––bikes for women. These bikes rock, and I'll get to them later.

For this bike, though, the 43cm is built in 700c (as opposed to the 650c in Trek's WSD line), and the top tubes are therefore waaaay long. The 43cm KDR 1000 (kid's version) has a 52cm top tube length versus the 48cm top tube in the WSD bike, which is much more in line with a person who'd ride a 43cm size. Why is the 1000's top tube so long? Because of the "toe clip overlap" you'd get with a shorter top tube on a 700c bike––the back of the front wheel would hit your pedalling foot when you're turning if the top tube was any shorter. So why not put a 650c wheelset on this bike, like Trek does with its WSD bikes? You'll have to ask them.

Pardon my long and clumsily worded explanation above, and realize that my gripe about long top tubes and wheel sizes is limited to the 1000's smallest sizes, especially its 43cm size. Once you get up over 50cm, I have no beef with Trek's geometry for this bike.

In my mind’s eye I can see Trek’s product manager for this bike sweating to find a way to get it to sell for under $600. It’s got a lot of parts I’d never expect to see on a road bike, like a Sunrace cassette. Though Trek is the king of branding, many of the parts have no name. The handlebar is “alloy road with ergo bend.” The seat post is “alloy microadjust.” While Trek has dug deep to come up with this bike at this price, it is a wise move. This is the bike for the first-timer, and Trek is welcoming new customers into its family with an aggressively priced entry-level bike. It may not have a lot of laser-etched logos on its components, but I’m sure the 1000 will ride just fine. (Actually, these no-name parts persist all the way up through Trek's 2000.)

Frankly speaking, the Sora-equipped Giant is probably a better value—if one of its three sizes fits you. But a certain number of people are more comfortable with "Trek" on the downtube, and certain other customers won't want the sloping top tube in Giant's compact geometry.

1200

To me, the 1200 demonstrates just how hard it was to come up with the 1000 at $599. The 1200 has as its groupset Tiagra, which doesn’t cost that much more than Sora (though it functions a lot better), yet the bike sells at a whopping $300 higher. What happened? The biggest thing is that the 1200 is built in Trek’s factory in Waterloo, Wisconsin, out of Trek’s own tubing, while the 1000 is an offshore project. Simply put, Trek is not capable of making a bike as inexpensive as the 1000. Somebody had to do it for them. This is certainly not a black mark. Specialized, for example, builds pretty much nothing in-house. For that matter, neither does Nike, or a hundred other quality brands. Trek just makes bikes of a certain quality in its own factory, and the 1200, at about $950, is the “least” bike it can make stateside.

The differences that add up to $300 are the groupset, the frame materials, the saddle, and the fact that the bike is not only built in the U.S. but assembled here—and assembly can be a big factor in both a bike's performance and its longevity. Is the 1200 worth the $900-$950 that Trek dealers will charge for it? It's not a screaming deal, but it's in the ballpark.

2000

The 2000 is the 1200 with a bit of polish. It has a carbon fork, upgraded wheels, and a liberal sprinking of 105 in place of Tiagra. You pay an extra $250 for all this. Is it worth the extra money? Nah. If you're not a sophisticated rider you won't notice the difference in the parts, and if you are you'll move up to the 2200.

The 2000 is also offered with a WSD option, though, and this is a very interesting bike. This is a bike built for women, and it's got 650c wheels (26") front and rear. This bike will fit a woman below 5'6" much more nicely than would a 700c-wheeled bike. For $1,150 a woman can ride a bike built specifically for her needs, and that's hard to find at this price point. Bravo Trek. The WSD version of the 2000 is going to fly out the door of the bike shops smart enough to carry it (and who understand it).

2200

The 2200 will cost from $1,425-$1,475, and it's a race bike. It's mostly Ultegra with a little 105 thrown in. It's got a nice Icon carbon fork, reasonably nice accessories throughout, and at this level we're finally getting into Trek's wheelhouse. Just like its sister company LeMond, you've got to get into the $1,500 price range––with Ultegra parts and carbon forks––before Trek really starts to become a dominant player.

The 2200 is also offered with a WSD option, and for the woman who can fork over the extra clams this bike offers a better bang v. buck than the 2000. While the 2200 for men comes with his choice of a double or triple chainring, the WSD comes with a triple only because Trek figures that––as Nicholson put it––You can't handle the double! (Don't email me, I didn't spec it.)

You go up $250 more and you're out of the price range of this overview, but the 2300, which is also offered in men's and women's versions, has Trek's new ZR alloy (downtube 40 grams lighter than on the 2200, for example) and this fabled Trek model is a real screamer.

Everything Trek makes at the 2300 model ($1,700-ish) and above rocks the house. Once you get to the 5200 you're talking OCLV, which is the carbon market they swiped from Kestel a decade ago and never looked back. If Trek struggles at all it is in trying to beat companies like Giant at the $1,500 road race price point and below. The one problem, looking forward, is that Giant is the brand getting a lot of those newbie roadies at that early-entry price point, and to the degree it is able to service those customers well it will gain customer loyalty. At some point Trek may have to look at the sub-$1,200 price point as a loss leader and take less margin in order to gather the newbies into its arms.

Trek's website is here.