Since the invention of the traditional diamond-shaped bicycle frame over 100 years ago, a single fundamental challenge has remained: how to make a bicycle frame stiff enough to be efficient and handle predictably, yet compliant enough to reduce the jarring and fatiguing effects of a rough road.
Dozens—possibly hundreds—of ideas to solving the stiffness vs. compliance tradeoff have been tried and tested with various results, including numerous vibration damping materials and suspension systems. But for all the attempts, noble though they may have been, no options were both effective and efficient to the more discerning tastes of experienced riders. Until 2012. Until IsoSpeed. IsoSpeed challenges the traditional design of a bicycle frame. Devoid of the more favored approaches to the compliance quandary (such as suspension systems, elastomers, or a vibration damper), IsoSpeed maintains the diamond-shaped frameset geometry but “decouples" the seat tube from the top tube, allowing the seat tube to flex with the forces of the road. The result is a bike that moves with the road while maintaining the feel and efficiency of the traditional race bike design. This “decoupling” is achieved in two manners, depending on the bicycle model. Both methods are equally effective in delivering a significantly more compliant ride quality.
What does it do?
IsoSpeed diminishes the fatiguing impacts of the road, allowing the rider to remain fresher longer.
Is it proven?
The IsoSpeed development project began when we challenged ourselves to build a faster race bike for our professional racing teams competing on the notoriously rough courses of cycling’s notoriously difficult one-day spring Classics, such as Strade Bianche, Ronde van Vlaanderen, and Paris-Roubaix. Each of these races—all of which are among the world’s most renowned—heavily feature gravel, dirt, or cobblestone roads. Since the 2012 introduction of Domane, our first IsoSpeed-equipped road bike, each of these races has been won on a bike with IsoSpeed.
How was it developed?
IsoSpeed was developed through a partnership between Trek engineers and Fabian Cancellara, one of the world’s most successful Classics riders. Professional riders are a key element in our development process. They spend more time on bikes than anybody else, and they're equipped to scrutinize minute details and provide the valuable feedback that is paramount to creating the best bikes in the world. Who better to push us to innovate than those whose livelihood depends on the performance of our products?
What are the drawbacks?
Honestly, we haven’t found any. IsoSpeed rides with the power transfer and handling characteristics of a traditional carbon frame but with noticeably more compliance. There is no weight penalty, it requires little maintenance, and the frame is included in Trek’s industry-best limited lifetime warranty. If you can find a problem with IsoSpeed, we would love to hear it.
One of the consistent pieces of feedback from riders that have enjoyed rear IsoSpeed was that even though they could plow unfazed through rougher pavement than ever before, they could still feel the road shock through their arms from the front wheel. Our solution was to take everything that works from IsoSpeed and move it up the bike. The same technology that provides great compliance at the saddle now delivers compliance at the front end. Front IsoSpeed, located at the top of the headset, is captured in a rocker cup similar to rear IsoSpeed. This allows the flex of the steerer tube, providing additional compliance at the front of a bike. The rocker cup of the upper steerer has zero lateral movement, allowing the bike to steer and handle with precision.