The cycling industry has forever been locked in a technological race. It's a battle between brands of who can make the lightest, strongest and fastest bike using innovative ideas, cutting edge materials and of course, having the very best athletes for testing and development.
Then there's the widely debated topic of women's specific bikes, and whether there really is a need for women to have their own frames and builds. While many bike brands choose to build unisex frames and tweak the contact points, other brands boldly go the extra distance to build a bike for women from the ground up, while boasting exceptional weight and performance capabilities.
Trek bikes are one of the largest bike manufacturers in the world, and over the past few years, they've really ramped up their game in the women's market. In mountain biking, this began with sponsorship of some serious gnarly women, including the World Record breaking World Champion, Rachel Atherton. While in road cycling, Trek have been huge supporters of the Drops Cycling team, and Matrix Fitness. You can be sure that their bikes are rigorously tested.
Earlier this year we headed to Trek World to see the new 2017 range of bikes. We finally managed to our hands on their greatly anticipated women's road bike, the Silque, and here's what we think so far...
Trek Silque SLR 7
The Silque is the only bike in Trek's entire fleet which is totally women's specific, everything from the frame geometry to the finished bike build has the female cyclist in mind.
The Silque's biggest update for this year is the improved IsoSpeed decoupler which doubles vertical compliance to help reduce the buzz from the road. There's a finely tuned decoupler on the front and the rear of the bike, with the rear decoupler being adjustable. Essentially, it’s a soft suspension feature to create a more comfortable ride by reducing the effects of road buzz felt by the rider.
With the soft suspension system fitted to an ultra light carbon frame and fork, the SLR 7 also benefits from a Bontrager Paradigm Comp wheelset and a full Shimano Ultegra Di2 group-set with a 2x11 drive-train. Suffice to say the SLR 7 has some rather lovely high-end pieces of kit.
When I first received the bike, I pawed at the box, gingerly lifted the bike from it's cardboard coffin and nestled it oh-so-carefully into the bike stand. I ride a 52cm size frame which weighs in at just under 7.5kg/ 16.5lbs, so it's very light.
The brilliant purple and cyan bike colour-way has a wonderful metallic finish which really makes the bike sparkle in the sunlight. It's stunning to look at, it's incredibly light, but how does it ride?
While it isn't really the most ideal time of year for a sassy road bike such as this, I just couldn't help myself getting out to give it a whirl. So far, I've just been out for a couple 20 miler rides around my local country roads, to get an initial feel for the bike.
So far so very very good. I was immediately grateful for having my Trek bike fit earlier in the year, and having the Silque built to that spec. Without sounding like a cliché, the Silque felt totally natural to me. My body and bike fitted together perfectly, and she (because I've already named her Matilda) responded to my every command.
The shifting of the Shimano Ultegra group-set is effortless and smooth, with a wide enough range of gears between the 11-28 cassette, and the compact 50/34 crankset to get up even the most stubborn of climbs.
After a few miles of riding on the pitted country roads around my house, I began to feel the true benefit of the front and rear IsoSpeed decouplers. The usual road buzz you feel on a ride, was minimal, if even noticeable, which is a feature I really think will be most useful for those who ride endurance, sportives and multi-day events.
If you're purchasing any of Trek's top-end bikes, you have the options of ordering it through their customization tool: Project One.
This allows you to finesse your bike with upgraded components, different sized saddles and bar widths, and of course, colours. There are a number of colours you can choose from, at no extra cost. Then by paying a little more - £400 to £800 more - you can choose from a wider palette, you can even get custom flames - how cool is that?
I quite like bright colours, after all it's safer to be seen on the roads, so I opted for their base model colour, Purple Lotus and added cyan blue grip tape to match the decals. After my Trek bike fit, I was able to ensure that my Silque came with the correct size bars and saddle width so that I was comfortable with the bike set-up for testing.
Project One does come at an additional cost which varies depending on how much you want to personalise your bike. When you're already purchasing the top-end model, that total figure can come to a bank-bursting amount. However, if you're investing into a bike that will quite likely last your many miles, races, sportives and years to come, then pushing the boat out a little does make sense. You can even get your name printed on the frame - so tempting.
Bontrager Vella Thermal "Badass" Long Sleeve Jersey
As a sidenote, and one that I feel just cannot be ignored... Trek and Bontrager are besties, so when my Silque arrived, so did Bontrager's Vella thermal jersey.
Admittedly, I wasn't blown away at first. Muted greys and an asymmetric zip didn't hold much of an appeal, until I popped it on and went for a ride. Wow. It's warm and toasty with it's thermal lining, and the silicone hem kept it in place again my bibtights. The higher collar length was great help fighting off the cold chill as well, something I was most grateful for. The jerseys also resembles the uniform from the sci-fi cult film, Equilibrium, which happens to be a favourite of mine.
Sizes: X.Small - X.Large
As far as first impressions go, the Trek Silque SLR 7 - a.k.a Matilda - has really resonated with me. After each ride, I'm itching to get back out there and ride some more. It's incredibly comfortable, super smooth on the roads and it handles exactly how I would want my road bike to handle.
The SLR 7 comes in at £4,400 in sizes 47 - 50 - 52 - 54 - 56, and it has the option of being purchased through the Project One personalization program also. If this is a little over budget for you, then the Silque SLR 6 is available at £3,600 which features the same IsoSpeed decouplar system, but doesn't come with di2.
Of course only further miles and hours put into this bike will show a fuller picture of what the Silque is really capable of. A full Silque SLR 7 review will be coming in the not to distance future, so keep an eye out.
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