The Madone is the century’s most successful pro frameset, helping Lance Armstrong to most of his seven Tour wins. While this has made it a huge seller, the lower range Madones never got our pulses racing in the same way as Trek’s 6-Series OCLV frame. 

This year’s range changes all that, though. The 3.1 is brilliant, its new OCLV frame offering a beautifully smooth ride. It shares the same frame as the 3.5, a runner-up in our Bike of the Year test.

Madones come in three different geometry options: the H1 for pro riders, the H2 with lengthened head tube and shorter top tube, and the more relaxed H3. We opted for the H2.

  • Highs: The 3.1 is a joy to ride: handling, gearing and comfort are all perfectly pitched
  • Lows: The wheels are basic and will need upgrading to improve the 3.1
  • Buy if: You want a bike that can be ridden year round over many miles, with great handling

As well as having mudguard eyelets, the 3.1’s fork features Trek’s neat built-in ANT+ compatible Speedtrap sensor, which can transmit to any compatible device.  

For what is nominally an endurance model, the Madone 3.1 handles superbly. Get onto the drops on a descent and the 3.1 is exactly where you want it to be, even when the road gets seriously twisty. A full-on race bike might have the edge but the Madone 3.1 will be more comfortable for longer.

What the Trek gives you most, though, is pure confidence – extreme lean angles and fast direction changes are easy, helped by the Bontrager R1 Plus tyres.

Trek use Shimano 105 shifters and rear mech and a Tiagra front mech, with SRAM’s S350 chainset proving a great companion. The 50/34 rings and 12-30 cassette give the 3.1 a climbing ability nearly the equal of the Giant Defy.

Bontrager supply the rest of the kit. The Affinity saddle is well shaped, comfortable and reasonably svelte, its clamp offering ample adjustability. The Bontrager Race bar has a traditional round shape which is comfortable to hold, and its compact drop lets you get down low without overstretching.

The wheels are weightier than we’d like, but that’s par for the course at £1,500.

Overall, the 3.1 is ideal for challenge or sportive rides, its mudguard potential giving it year-round versatility too. Add handling that’s perfectly pitched and a smooth, comfortable ride and this is a hard bike to beat. Eventually we’d upgrade the wheels, but as it stands, it’s one of the best £1,500 bikes around.

This article was originally published in Cycling
magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.