Trek Speed Concept 9.8
By Scott Fliegelman
Now is a good time to be a triathlete in the market for a new bike, as dozens of bike makers are competing with each other to earn triathletes’ business, and the result is some great gear. No single item better demonstrates the evolution of triathlon equipment than the Trek Speed Concept 9 Series, a machine that combines premier aerodynamic performance with precision fit and meets triathlon’s logistical needs.
The aerobars are integrated into the frame so seamlessly it appears as if Trek forgot the stem. The spacers and stem that typically extend from the bike are replaced with a single piece that connects the frame and bars. This minimalistic design does not, however, compromise the bike’s adjustability. In fact, it can serve an even wider range of positions than a typical unit. The bars further extend the adjustment range. Trek includes numerous extra bolts and shims to refine bar position so you can find the optimum blend. Although a professional fit session before and after purchasing is still critical, the Speed Concept’s new level of front-end adjustability allows the position to be changed without sacrificing ride quality should the rider gain flexibility, strength or just wish to explore more or less aggressive positions.
Trek has shown consideration for triathletes’ unique training and racing needs by creating useful storage solutions without the need to spend additional dollars for less elegant solutions. Detachable Speed Storage units are offered in two locations to carry your flat-changing kit and fuel. Instead of cluttering the bike with Velcro flaps, these compartments are directly mounted to the frame like a water bottle cage and enhance the bike’s aerodynamic profile. The rear storage unit even makes an excellent spot for sticking your number on race day.
Trek adapted automotive technology to create a tube shape that is unique in the cycling world. While deeper tubes can reduce drag, they also tend to behave poorly in cross-winds. To merge the features of standard and ultra-deep tubes, Trek cut the tail off an airfoil shape eight times deeper than it is wide, leaving one with a 3:1 ratio that is aerodynamically similar to the original shape.
The concealed brakes are better than expected. They provide steadily increasing, predictable stopping power under standard riding conditions and a strong grip in emergency situations.
All of this performance and integration does come with a trade-off: The Speed Concept is mechanically complicated and a little tricky to work on. If you like to swap out wheels and brake pads for race day, adjusting the concealed brakes for wider or narrower rims can be a struggle. On the other hand, removal and reinstallation of the bars for air travel is simple.
Shave $1,260 off the price of the Speed Concept 9.8 by swapping SRAM Force components and the smooth-riding Bontrager Aura 5 aero wheels for a Shimano Ultegra kit and basic wheels. Under their paint, the frames are identical.