The class-leading Domane has always been the wild child in Trek’s triumvirate of road bikes whose names are all anagrams of each other. Shortlisted for our 2022 Budget Bike of the Year award, the AL 2 offers impressive handling and spec at an entry-level price.

Forever searching for alternate lines, not phased by rough surfaces, and with the ability to conquer almost anything, the Domane was one of the first really effective endurance bikes.

Far from the World Tour’s Paris-Roubaix winning rigs, this Domane AL 2 promises elements of those bikes’ performance at a very realistic price. Is it just marketing, or does it really work?

Trek Domane AL 2 specifications

Shimano’s 8-speed Claris groupset is deployed to keep the cost down.
Dave Caudery / Our Media

The Domane AL 2’s frame is built from Trek’s 100 Series aluminium tubes, which include some hydroformed profiles. It’s Trek’s lowest grade of aluminium tube, as you’d expect on an entry-level road bike, but shows obvious design care, and is welded neatly throughout.

The IsoSpeed carbon fork is designed to absorb a lot of road vibration up front, with a 27.2mm alloy seatpost and well-padded saddle at the rear.

To keep costs low, Trek fitted Shimano’s 8-speed Claris groupset, although the double chainset is substituted with a non-series RS200 item, and the brakes with some unbranded Lee Chi alloy dual-pivot calipers. The alloy handlebar and stem are from Bontrager, as are the TLR wheels and tyres.

Trek Domane AL 2 geometry

The 27.2mm Bontrager post is coupled with a nicely padded Bontrager P3 Verse Comp saddle.
Dave Caudery / Our Media

The Domane follows the evolved geometry trend for endurance bikes, which is that of slightly relaxed race machines.

The head angle on my 54cm example is 71.3 degrees, with a 73.7-degree seat angle. Head tube length is kept to a sporty 16cm, while the effective top tube length is 54.2cm.

The chainstays are 42cm, the wheelbase 101cm, and bottom-bracket drop is a stability-inducing 8cm, which all suggests that the Domane AL 2 has the essential qualities to calm stormy tarmac.

Trek Domane AL 2 ride impressions

The handlebar is Bontrager’s compact alloy Comp VR-C.
Dave Caudery / Our Media

An endurance bike is intended for all road types, although predominantly tarmac. With countless miles of roads and lanes to hand, where smooth surfaces were definitely the exception, I aimed the Domane at many of my tried-and-tested training routes.

I inflated the 25mm tyres to 75-80psi, which usually works well for my 78kg, and took in every sort of climb, slog and drag I could, as well as plenty of technical corners.

Trek has designed the Domane to fit most riders, whether they prefer to get long and low, or ride in a more commanding position. Since testing the very first Domane to arrive in the UK, I’ve always found them to be an ideal fit, straight out of the box. So it proved here, with all positional options easily achievable.

Unlike its loftier brethren, and particularly the carbon Domane range, the Domane AL 2 can only count on an IsoSpeed fork to help quell roughness.

The aluminium frame, although nicely constructed, has no elements that are designed to offer any IsoSpeed-like benefits. Instead, the rear of the bike relies on the classic 27.2mm alloy seatpost and a very plush saddle. The air volume of the 25mm tyres, which measure 27.5mm wide, helps further.

Up front, Bontrager’s alloy Comp VR-C handlebar and Elite stem are fairly standard fare, with a tough black finish and rounded drops.

The head tube mimics the shaping of the carbon Domane, and is satisfyingly, organically chunky.

All of the cables are routed externally, running beneath the down tube, and the rear brake cable angles pleasingly across beneath the flattened top tube from right to left, which gives it an ideal route from the left brake lever.

All cables are routed externally.
Dave Caudery / Our Media

Casting an eye over the AL 2 exposes the groupset shortcuts, which help keep costs down.

The non-series RS200 chainset is pretty basic, and spins on a UN300 cartridge bottom bracket, with square tapered axle ends.

These are simple fit-and-forget items that can provide decent service, but their bearings are well inside the bottom bracket shell, and this narrow arrangement makes them prone to lateral play sooner than bottom brackets with more widely spaced bearings positioned on each side of the shell.

The Domane’s plain black dual-pivot rim brake calipers aren’t named on Trek’s component spec, but a check of the spare parts list shows them to be Lee Chi items.

From the lever, their action feels quite lively, but whatever Trek has used for the brake pads seems to be allergic to alloy rims, as they have no bite, just a very wooden feel with no pad compression or the ability to increase pressure and stop faster.

I didn’t get the chance to ride them in the wet, but I doubt that would improve their performance. Swapping the brakes would have been very easy and inexpensive, and it’s a shame Trek didn’t do exactly that.

In the very comfortable saddle, the Domane AL 2 showcases its bump-smoothing ability. Like oil calming a rough sea, it glides along, seemingly rolling across the surface.

The dual-pivot rim brakes did not impress during testing.
Dave Caudery / Our Media

If I was riding on 32mm or larger tyres at lower pressures, it would be easier to understand, but these are 25mm at normal road pressure. The higher-specced carbon Domanes amplify this effect much further, but finding this ride quality on an entry-level machine is impressive.

Anyone expecting a choppy ride on a budget aluminium frame will be blown away by the Domane AL 2.

Where the tarmac’s top surface coating has worn away, leaving uneven patches, or when it looks more washboard than A-road, the Domane rounds off the sharpness of the expected impact, keeping everything well under control.

The Shimano Claris levers have a very familiar feel, and are about as comfortable as most Shimano levers. Their shifting, across an eight-speed cassette, has less finesse than Shimano’s 10, 11 and 12-speed groupsets, but is still quite swift.

One downside of only having eight sprockets is larger jumps between some gears, which is inevitable with their 11-32 range. The front shifting performance is acceptable – it mainly does the job reliably, but occasionally needs a little coaxing not to get stuck mid-shift.

The gearing range is ideal for the Domane’s expected use, with a 50/34 compact chainset mated to that 11-32 cassette. Almost 1:1 low gearing on a reasonably swift road bike is quite generous, and 50×11 is big enough for most scenarios.

That relaxing ride quality translates to handling fun. It gives great confidence when cornering, descending and changing line to avoid obstructions. The Domane feels utterly stable, encouraging you to push a little harder, and the Bontrager tyres grip very well.

With a helpful breeze and friendly gradient, the Trek can really fly, but when the tables are turned, the Bontrager TLR wheelset shows its limitations.

On short drags, where I’m usually able to carry speed, until needing to stand up and power over the top, I found my approach speed was slower, and I’d have to change at least one gear before slogging over the crest.

They’re solid wheels that can be converted to tubeless for some puncture protection, but trying to muster a town sign sprint requires far more power than it should, and the resultant speed is underwhelming.

With mounts for full mudguards and a rear rack, this Domane could make an ideal winter bike  or quick commuter, and there’s enough room for at least a 28mm tyre without mudguards.

Trek Domane AL 2 bottom line

The AL 2 is a good bike at a sensible price. A few choice upgrades would make it even better.
Dave Caudery / Our Media

Trek’s Domane AL2 has a lot to offer, especially at this price.

Its tidy frame and vibe-eating fork are a sound basis for a good bike, which overall the Trek is.

The groupset does its job well, but the non-series chainset and narrow cartridge bottom bracket let the side down, with some iffy shifts and axle deflection. And the less said about those rim brakes, the better.

The ride quality from 25mm tyres is impressive, and increasing volume would add comfort and a little grip. Adding speed would require a wheel upgrade, which is quite straightforward, but not essential.

Budget Bike of the Year 2022 | How we tested

Our 2022 Budget Bike of the Year testing was handled by regular BikeRadar contributors Simon Withers and Robin Wilmott – two highly-experienced testers who have reviewed dozens of road and gravel bikes at the budget end of the market over the years.

Testing involved long rides on favourite routes around Bath, as well as laps of rolling hills in Somerset. Unlike our more performance-focused categories, the best road bikes around £1,000 are also more likely to be used for commuting by bike and other errands.

With this in mind, we’ve paid close attention to how easy the bikes are to live with for day-to-day use and how they fare on urban jaunts.

Our 2022 Budget Bike of the Year contenders are:

Thanks to…

Thanks to our sponsors HUUB, Lazer, 100% and Garmin for their support in making Bike of the Year happen.