From cruising back roads to enjoying all-day epics to getting your feet wet in the racing circuit, Trek's Madone 4.5 does it all. This full-carbon beauty boasts a stiff, light frame that floats up the climbs, along with Bontrager's Race Lite oversize carbon fork that provides maximum steering precision. Plus, Bontrager's Race wheelset cheats the wind, while the Shimano components include a slick-shifting drivetrain with the perfect gears to spin up the climbs and powerful dual-pivot brakes for complete control on the way back down. This able roadster sports a sweet spread of Bontrager's carbon and aluminum components, and a plush Bontrager seat, too.
Strengths: Solid frame, comfortable ride, good gearing
Weaknesses: Too many Trek name on bike graphics, not full 105 group, rims heavy
Bought on year end close out for $1,700 at LBS and great deal compared to 2013 model pricing abet different component group. Tested Specialized Roubaix, Jamis Comp, Cannondale Synapse and the Trek felt the most comfortable to ride - I think even better than my steel Jamis Aurora Elite with 631 tubing. The wider BB certainly seems to help with the power transfer and light weight (@18-19lbs) helps to propel this easily. Love the color scheme (Metallic black and silver) but hate all the Trek name everywhere you look. May swap out the rims later but otherwise plan to keep everything stock for now (except tires) and see how the Tiagra gearing works out.
Strengths: Trek's OCLV frame is just amazing, and the heart of this bike. Stiff, it absorbs shock well and the H2 fit is great for racing and enthusiasts like myself. Crank is just as stiff as a Shimano 105
Weaknesses: R1 tires are very poor as they are too heavy and have a very low thread count.
I purchased a 2012 Trek 4.5 after comparing it to Cannondale, and Specialized bikes. I preferred the geometry of the H2 that Trek offers. I have to say that the frame on the 4.5 is just wonderful. It is very stiff, and it absorbs bumps very well. The crank is also stiff, and when climbing up hills, and there was no flex felt when pushing on my Shimano 105 pedals. The derailleur’s shift very smoothly and quickly. I see no reason to upgrade the crank or derailleurs on this bike. The brakes feel responsive and well controlled. Though the pads are ok, I found the Shimano pads to improve stopping distance overall. No need to upgrade the brake set to 105 as the Tektro breaks with Shimano pads are just as good. Everyone is talking about the seat on the Trek bikes. The Affinity saddle on Trek road bikes are usually 128mm size. If you’re a young slim person who races it’s a good fit. The 146mm was a better fit for me, and when A/B the Bontrager RL saddle to the Affinity, I agree it’s a lot more comfortable than the stock saddle. It’s not soft, but firm with some give. I have ridden for hours on this saddle with no complaints at all. Though I was very happy with the rims, I upgraded the tires from the Bontrager R1 to the R3’s. As another reviewer pointed out, the R1’s are heavy tires and the thread count too low. I am disappointed that Trek even considers putting the R1’s on any road bike they sell. The R3’s are a huge improvement with higher thread count, being much lighter, and they appear to help the bike be more responsive when climbing or sprinting. The R3 upgrade made a huge difference on the bike. I highly recommend this upgrade as you will notice more of a difference than changing any other component on the bike. I was told the R4 tires are lighter but wear faster. The R3’s are great for regular riding and racing. The saddle is a personal preference and you need a saddle that fits your frame. I would try the RL saddle and see if it works better for you. I am giving the bike 5 starts after changing the tires to the R3’s. There is really nothing I don’t love about this bike. No need to really upgrade anything besides the tires and brake pads. The only reason to buy a more expensive Trek is for an even lighter bike than the 4.5. I love this bike and have no desire to ride any other road bike. It is very comfortable holding on to the hoods when cruising and it looks great.
Strengths: The OCLV carbon frame is light, and stiff. It absorbs road vibrations just wonderfully. The crank is very stiff and the paint job looks great.
Weaknesses: The saddle comes with a 128 mm size which was too small for me. I also found the seat to be very hard. I changed to a Bontrager RL seat and went with a 146 mm size saddle. I found it to be a lot more comfortable.
Being in my 40's, I wanted to upgrade from my Puch bike that has a Reynolds 531 frame, fork, and Shimano 600 parts as well.. I decided to buy a 2012 Trek 4.5 bike. I found the Shimano 105 derail's to shift just fine, but not as quick and instant as I thought it should. With the 2013 version having some Ultegra, I decided to upgrade the front and back derail's to Ultegra. I found they shifted a little bit snappier than 105. The brakes stopped just find though they are a generic brand. I went down a hill over 35 mph and it stopped confidently. Once I upgraded the Bontrager Affinity 1 saddle to a larger size and to their RL model I was quite happy. The bike climbs really well and the handle bars are light and steady. The tape feels like likes styrofoam. I will upgrade the tape with white cork later on. I am very happy with the bike and found the rims to be good as well. I don't race so perhaps they are not the lightest but they are still good rims. The tires stick to the road nicely. The bike is great for someone who is a racer as well as a serious rider.
Strengths: Good frame - absorbs road buzz, and all day comfort (if you have the right saddle). Frame is still in all the right places, but not so stiff that it leaves you sore. Handles well, and a good bike for climbing & long rides
Weaknesses: A little heavy with the stock wheels, equipped with quite possibly the worst saddle in the world, and terrible brakes
(Based on the 2011 Madone, 54cm)
I've now covered over 2,000 miles on this since I bought it. Overall, it's a great bike to ride. Good on the climbs, relatively fast on the flats, and handles well. Not the fastest into a turn, but not the kind of bike where you're constantly wondering where the edge is - it tells you quite gradually that you're getting close to the limit.
First thing to note - the Tektro brakes are awful. Descending with the Tektro's was a bit of a lottery - on one downhill, I was in a full-on squeeze, and couldn't get the bike completely stopped. And that was from 20mph, in the dry. So, the Tektro's got swapped out for a pair of Ultegra's in the first 500 miles - stopping power infinitely better!
Frame: Not the lightest frame out there, but it gets the job done. Stiff at the BB, but the thinned seat stays offer decent compliance over rougher roads. The H2 fit is very comfortable, and easy to set up. Matt black colour looks great, although as others have said, Trek went a bit sticker happy.
Wheels: the stock wheels are heavy, and generally terrible. Whilst they roll reasonably well, they flex a fair bit, especially the front wheel on the climbs. The bearings are reasonable, but needed to be serviced after 1,200 miles in mostly dry weather. Also, front & back wheels both got out of true 800 miles in, and I'm fairly light (155lbs) and spend a lot of time avoiding potholes where I can. I'm now running some very light clinchers (Stan's 340 rims laced to Chris King R45 Hubs) - and the difference is enormous. The only downside is that the high weight down low makes the bike very stable - when you switch to the lighter wheels, the bike becomes much twitchier as your Centre of Gravity heads up
Saddle: It's worth switching this out early on too. The stock saddle is well padded, but incredibly uncomfortable. Mine went in favour of a Specialized Romin, which is way more comfortable, and 100g lighter to boot.
Groupset: the 105 set does a fine job otherwise. Mine came well set-up, so I've not had a dropped chain or missed shift so far, and it's very easy to service. Integrated barrel adjusters on the shifter cables make it easy to tune on the road if you need to.
Guadalupe River Bum
a Recreational Rider
Date Reviewed: October 24, 2011
Strengths: Great frame for a first road bike. Very responsive yet absorbs the bumps in the road very well. Feels "racy" without being uncomfortable.
Not that I particularly care what it looks like, but the black matte finish is pretty darn cool and is a nice change of pace from all of the high gloss finishes out there.
Weaknesses: Seat is narrow and would likely only be comfortable for people with fairly narrow sit bones. If your sit bones are wider apart, go with a wider saddle and you won't be disappointed.
Wheelset is OK, but upgrading to a lighter, more aero and stiffer wheelset takes this bike to a whole new level.
The designers were apparently very "sticker happy" when they designed it. I don't think they could squeeze another "Trek" sticker on it if they tried. But whatever - I ride it and love it just the way it is.
I am a long-time mountain biker who has gained a few pounds over the years and jumped into road cycling this summer to get back into shape. I live in the hill country of central Texas and the Madone 4.5 (with Shimano 105) is great for climbing and descending, even on rough roads. I feel like the effort I put into cranking or spinning is greatly rewarded. On flats, it feels very responsive when I push on the gas to sprint and it almost wants to jump out from under me. (Love that feeling!) I often find myself smiling unintentionally like a kid - especially on the downhills. The downhills feel seure and solid at 35+ mph. I don't give a second thought to leaning into the corners. I've heard that the brakes are not as great as the rest of the components, but they stop securely and work well enough for me. I read somewhere that you can replace the brake pads with Shimano Dura-Ace pads pretty inexpensively but I have not felt the need to do this yet.
Like others, I quickly upgraded the seat to a Specialized Phenom and it is now nearly as comfortable as a favorite chair. Can ride all day without issues.
The DuoTrap (ANT+) sensor embedded in the frame is nice and slick and even though it's not the least expensive option, I highly recommend it. I paired it with a Node 1 computer and have been pleased.
The Bontrager SSR wheels were great to get started with, felt solid and handled well and were fairly responsive to sprinting and climbimg. But an upgrade to a set of ROL Race SL's (1520 grams) made this great bike even better. Sprinting and climbing improved to a whole new level. I also have to mention that the customer service at ROL is awesome by any measure.
I would highly recommend the Madone 4.5 to anyone looking for a racy, yet budget-conscious, entry level carbon bike. Use the money you save to upgrade to a set of ROL wheels and you won't be disappointed.
Similar Products Used: 2011 Cannondale Synapse (aluminum with carbon fork) - more comfy and less racy than the Madone, but still a really great bike in its own right and a fun bike that you can enjoy all day.
Bike Setup: Frame - Trek TCT Carbon
Fork - Bontrager Race Lite Carbon w/E2 aluminum steerer
Rims/Wheels ROL RACE SL wheelset (1520 gm)
Tires Bontrager R1, 700 x 23c
Crankset Shimano R-600
Front Derailleur Shimano 105
Rear Derailleur Shimano 105
Rear Cogs Shimano 105, 10-speed: 11-28
Shifters Shimano 105 STI
Handlebars Bontrager Race VR-C
Tape/Grips Bontrager Gel
Stem Bontrager Race Lite
Brake Levers Shimano 105
Brakes Tektro R540 dual-pivot
Saddle Specialized Phenom
Seat Post Bontrager carbon