Shootout: Trek Domane+ LT 7 vs. BMC Alpenchallenge AMP

POWER TO THE PEDALS

TREK DOMANE+ LT 7

When it comes to cycling, we all have our own unique version of what we want it to be. For some, it’s performance gains at all costs, while others just want to enjoy a longer day in the saddle. No matter what drives you to ride, the important thing is that you’re riding, and this is where the arrival of the e-bike has brought with it a new day of cycling for cyclists, both new and old. 

What the e-bike market has brought to the sport is not just recognition of, but a solution to, that vexing dilemma that’s long defined the cross-purposes of cycling—people love to ride, but they don’t all like to suffer. We love the wind in our face and the feeling of an elevated heart rate to make us feel alive. Well, maybe only so much of the latter! 

“The Domane+ LT 7 would make for a pretty good gravel bike, because the speeds are lower so the motor could provide more usable assistance, and there is plenty of tire clearance.”  

For the last few years Trek has pursued the e-road market with Bosch-powered bikes. New for this year is the line of Domane+ LT that relies on the equally German-designed Fazua powerplant. 

THE FRAME

The Domane+ LT range of bikes comes in three models, and they all share the same 500-series OCLV carbon frame. Like the non-assist Domane frames we have tested in the past, the Domane+ uses their proprietary front and rear Isospeed suspension. 

The endurance geometry helps bring long days in the saddle with confident handling. Our size 56 has an effective top tube of 55.4cm for a reach of 37.7cm. There is a 16cm-tall head tube and a stack of 59.1cm. These are 42cm long chain stay with a wheelbase of 102cm. Frame and fork clearance leave massive room for tires, and we tested up to a 40mm with room to spare.

 

The frame uses flat-mount disc brakes, and the fork has 100x12mm spacing, but the rear uses 148x12mm spacing (142x12mm is the road disc standard.) What makes the frame unique is the downtube fits the entire Fazua system inside. When the battery and motor are removed, it leaves a huge opening, exposing the internally routed brake hose and wires. The Fazua bottom bracket remains bolted to the frame, but the rest of the system is detachable. 

THE PARTS

Despite a handful of e-bike-specific parts, the bike uses many of the same components you’d expect to find on a regular road bike. Our middle-tier LT 7 runs on the always reliable Shimano Ultegra Di2 drivetrain with hydraulic disc brakes mated with 160mm rotors. Since the Fazua system requires a speed sensor, Trek as a custom-wired sensor near the rear axle, and the rear Shimano rotor has an integrated magnet. 

For changing gears, the Domane+ LT relies on a Shimano Ultegra Di2 drivetrain. The rear 11-34 cassette is mated to a 50/34 FSA chainring combo that are pushed by 172.5mm FSA carbon crankarms. The Di2 system has its own battery and doesn’t rely on the power from the Fazua system. 

The Bontrager Aeolus Pro 3V carbon wheels are paired with 32mm tubeless-ready Bontrager R3 Hard-Case Lite tires. 

THE MOTOR

The Fazua system consists of four parts. First is the removable drive pack that houses the 250-watt, 60 N/m motor and weighs 1917 grams (4.22 pounds). A 252-Wh battery that weighs 1393 grams (3 pounds) is removable and slides into the drive pack for direct connection to the motor. This all locks into the frame and connects to the proprietary bottom bracket that’s an angular gearbox and includes integrated electronics for a two-sided torque measurement and additional cadence measurement. Last is the Remote FX, which is integrated into the top tube. This allows the switch between different assistance levels using the touch interface while also indicating battery charge and system status with five multicolored LEDs. An intelligent light sensor also adapts the LED brightness to external conditions.

THE RIDE

First things first, we had to charge the battery, which takes about four hours. The drive pack has to be removed from the frame to do so, and the supplied Abus key is mandatory to unlock and remove the unit. It is also worth noting that you will always need the key to power on the system. 

On the road the bike feels like a normal Domane with a bit of added weight. You really only feel the weight when out of the saddle, and after about an hour on the bike, it didn’t bother us much, and we became accustomed to it. With the drive system off or at speeds over 20 mph, there is no added drag or resistance. The bike pedals just as any normal bike would, but there is a slightly wider Q-factor of 165mm (Ultegra R8000 cranks are 146mm.) 

The bike is laterally stiff, probably due to the sheer size of the downtube and the connection points for the Fazua system. The bike feels comfortable in the saddle, and this can be tuned to your liking with the adjustable rear Isospeed system. The front Isospeed is very stiff and doesn’t seem to be as compliant as previous versions on the standard Domane. This is probably because of the added weight of the Fazua system. 

Our test bike weighed in at 37.64 pounds. That’s fairly light for an e-bike, but 15–20 pounds heavier than our regular test bikes. You can remove the drive pack and battery to drop over 7 pounds, and Fazua offers an accessory downtube cover. 

Cornering is fun on the bike, and the handling is confident. The bike responds quickly to rider input, but thanks to its 102cm wheelbase, it’s not jumpy or hyper-responsive. Out of the saddle the bike feels cumbersome, but with the motor mass positioned low, it minimizes the impact. 

When you power on the system, the bike comes alive when speeds are below 20 mph. For us we would get a quick boost from a stop as we got up to speed, but most of our flat riding is between 22–28mph, so no assist was delivered. It’s when the roads tilt up and the climbing begins that the system kicks in and delivers three modes of assistance: Breeze (low with green LED), River (middle with blue LED) and Rocket (strong with pink LED), as well as no assist indicated by white LEDs. On sustained climbs that we would normally be doing between 10–12mph on the

Rocket setting, we could sustain closer to 17 and 18 mph with the same level of rider input. 

The power is not enough to propel you effortlessly up a steep climb, but more like the benefit of a tailwind or a friend pushing you. For us, we almost always ended our 40–60-mile rides with more than half the battery still remaining. We would leave the bike in the River mode for the most part and normally get about 2500–3500 feet of climbing. We didn’t change the way we pedaled or our effort, so unless we were going uphill, the motor was disengaged.

 

THE VERDICT

At the end of the day the Domane+ LT is a pretty sweet bike. It’s stiff, responsive and has a geometry that really suits everyone. There is room for road tires or gravel tires, and the weight of the Fazua system is minimal for an e-road bike. The 20-mph-assist cutoff level is a definite letdown for performance-level riding. If you have trouble staying in a bunch ride, this most likely will only make it harder, thanks to the added weight. Now, if things tilt uphill, then your friends better put their heads down and push, because you will be leading the group. 

For us, it really comes down to the user experience. To charge, power on, or power off, we had to keep track of a key. There is no way to leave it unlocked, so don’t misplace it. Eight hours is a long-enough time that it probably won’t time out on you and go into its deep-sleep mode, but there should be a way to power this system on from the remote any time. There is also no connectability to a normal cycling computer. The system has strain gauges, cadence sensor and speed sensor built in, but no way to link it to your head unit. Sure, you can use their app, but honestly, that app was less than impressive, too.

There are three price points of the Domane+ LT with a starting price of $6500 all the way up to $12,500. The builds are all pretty good, and on the Di2 versions, it’s nice that there is a Di2 battery so you can still shift with the Fazua battery turned off or taken off. Wheels might be a hard thing to replace since the rear hub is wider than the current standard for road bikes. 

Despite its “road” categorization, the Domane+ LT would make for a pretty good gravel bike, because the speeds are lower so the motor could provide more usable assistance, and there is plenty of tire clearance. The only thing is the 252-Wh battery probably won’t last for a full gravel adventure. The wheels and tires are tubeless-ready, and with a 25mm internal width, they would be a great match for a 38 or 40mm tire.

PUNCH LINES

• Resistance-free pedaling

• 20-mph is not for everyone

• Great finishes and Project One paint option

STATS

Price: $9,200

Weight: 37.64 pounds

Sizes: 50cm, 52cm, 54cm, 56cm (tested), 58cm, 60cm, 62cm

www.trekbikes.com

BMC ALPENCHALLENGE AMP

The BMC name is certainly nothing new to roadies around the world. The Swiss brand has been at the forefront of performance-oriented, race-winning bikes for decades. 

And just as every other forward-thinking bike brand has jumped on the e-bike wagon, so, too, has BMC, who have entered the market with a family of e-bikes that address every segment of the pedal world.

THE FRAME

The Alpenchallenge AMP frame and fork are molded from BMC’s premium carbon. The frame has BMC’s Micro-Travel Technology that provides 10mm of travel at the top of the seatstays for a bit of improved comfort. The frameset fits the current standard for road with 100x12mm front and 142x12mm rear thru-axles, both paired with flat-mount disc-caliper mounts. BMC has left plenty of room for tires, with a maximum of 40mm and a chainstay length of 43.5cm.

The AMP has an endurance geometry with a long 105.3cm wheelbase. The virtual top tube is also long at 58.3cm for a reach of 40.5cm. There is a 15.7cm head tube that delivers a 60cm stack. On paper that seems a bit long for us, but the 90mm stem and 70mm bar reach keep things fitted fairly well for most of our 5-foot-10 test riders. All the hoses and wires are run internally and are nearly hidden, other than a cluster of Di2 wires connecting to a bar-mounted display.

One immediate quibble we found was that owing to the seat tube-mounted battery, the BMC loses a water-bottle mount.

THE PARTS

Currently, there is only one build option for the AMP, and from drive unit to gear changers, Shimano does all the work. A set of Shimano Ultegra Di2 shifters control the 1x system, as well as cycle through the assist modes of the Shimano STEPS system. Up front is an FSA Megatooth 44t chainring paired to the 11-34 cassette. 

The bike rolls on a set of tubeless-ready alloy DT Swiss wheels that have an internal width of 20mm, external width of 24mm and are 32mm deep. A pair of 30mm Vittoria Corsa Control TLR G+ tires are mounted, as are the 180mm front /160mm rear rotors.

For the “e” in e-bike, the Shimano STEPS system pairs perfectly with the drivetrain. The Shimano E-8000 motor with 250 watts at 70 N/m output is bolted to the frame. An external Shimano STEPS BT-E8010 battery with 504-Wh capacity is mounted to the seat tube. The Shimano STEPS E8000 display allows for both ANT+ and Bluetooth connectivity. 

THE RIDE

Before our first ride we had to charge the Shimano battery, which took about five hours. The entire Shimano STEPS system, as well as Di2 system, is powered from this one battery, so it must be charged before you can tune the bike’s shifting. The power button for the system is on the battery with a row of five LEDs to indicate the charge level. The charger plugs directly into the battery, and there is no need to remove it from the bike unless you want to. This means once you use the supplied key to lock the battery to the seat tube, you can put it away for safe keeping.

With the system all powered up the STEPS system paired easily with our Garmin Edge 830 cycling computer and even displayed a special Shimano STEPS page with more detailed info than the small bar mounted display provides. This is not necessary but a great feature for those that want to track and record their rides. 

The built-in cadence and speed sensors transmit, as well as battery status, estimated range and current assist percent, as well as assist mode. There are three assist modes—Eco, Trail and Boost—as well as an off-mode, which lets the system remain on so the Di2 shifters work, but there is no assistance.

The motor has a very snappy and powerful feel. There is a distinct level of thrust and torque in Trail and Boost modes. Eco seems very supportive and definitely does more than override the added weight of the bike. The STEPS system has a max assist speed of 20 mph, but it doesn’t seem to want to help much after about 18.5 mph. As soon as we got to 18.5–19 mph, the power is pulled back significantly, leaving you to do the rest.

This isn’t a big deal on the flats, as we normally hold a faster pace anyway, but on the climbs it was noticeable. No matter which setting we were in, as soon as we exceeded 18.5 mph, there was a drastic cutoff of power making it feel unnatural. Then the speed would drop and it would kick in hard again. Boost was almost too jumpy, and we only used it on the steepest roads where our all-out power and the motor couldn’t get us up to 18. We stayed in Eco most of the time, because it felt the most natural and still gave a surprising amount of power when we went
really hard.

The geometry of this bike is very long but still pretty snappy. After a few rides, we checked the geo chart and were a bit surprised at the length of the bike, because it was responsive in the twisties. Climbing the bike was laterally stiff, and this seems to be common for e-bikes, as the frames are probably a bit overbuilt. The weight of the STEPS system sits very low, and the motor is almost level or below the crank spindle.

The 504-Wh battery is 2630 grams (5.8 pounds) and sits on the seat tube, where a second water bottle would normally go. The real downside is none of the STEPS components (battery or motor) can be removed, because they are what power the system, so no dropping weight for a regular non-assisted ride; you’re stuck with the almost 33-pound bike.

“The 20-mph assist cutoff level is a definite letdown for performance-level riding. If you have trouble staying in a bunch ride, this most likely will only make it harder, thanks to the added weight.” 

If you do choose to spin the bike with no assistance, there is very little drag in the motor. It feels pretty similar to a regular bike, but there is a wide 185mm Q-factor. In our opinion, there will be few times this system will be ridden without assistance because of its total integration and inability to drop weight. We enjoyed the 1×11 drivetrain, but even in Eco we never touched the easiest five gears. 

From a stop, the sixth gear (21t) was the go-to and the ninth gear (15t) was prime for the 18.5–20mph. We would opt for a bigger chainring for a wider use of the cassettes range. Even the 44×11 was too small, with it starting to spin out at 28 mph. Then the jump to the 13t tenth gear made it hard to find a natural rhythm when pushing hard on slight downhills. We did a few rides, and even after nearly 4000 feet of climbing and around 50–60 miles, we had over 45 percent of the battery remaining.

THE VERDICT

Aesthetically, the BMC was a letdown. Familiar as we are to their road bikes with their modern, slim profiles, the Alpenchallenge looks like a bloated e-bike from two years ago with its seat tube-mounted battery. Note to Shimano and BMC: we’d love to see a new model embrace a more integrated powerplant. 

Still, it was when we started pedaling the bike that the level of Swiss-inspired synergy we’ve come to expect from BMC got us excited. The whole system worked flawlessly, and the left Di2 shifter switched the assist modes while the right switched gears. The two extra Di2 buttons that are at the top of the hood cycled through the data fields on each display. The left one cycled through the Shimano bar-mounted display, while the right through the Garmin display. 

Charging the battery was simple, and the small bar-mounted display is minimal but informative, with no guessing which mode you are in or the amount of battery remaining. Standard wheel spacing means that upgrading wheels is easy, and we probably would get something a bit wider, since the frame could double as a pretty good gravel option.

PUNCH LINES

• A complete and connected system

• Can’t drop weight

• Needs a bigger chainring

STATS

Price: $7,000

Weight: 32.76 pounds

Sizes: S, M (tested), L

www.bmc-switzerland.com

THE COMPARO: TREK VERSUS BMC

Lined up side by side, the Trek easily takes the Good Looks Award. The Shimano STEPS system on the BMC works so well, and the system seems to be well-thought-out. It is apparent that a cyclist had some major say in the development. The Trek’s Fazua motor and battery system feel very natural on the road, while at times the Shimano STEPS offers too much torque and would be best suited for gravel or off-road use.

We like that the Fazua system is removable, and with its 2x drivetrain it delivers a great range of gears with or without assistance. The STEPS is much more convenient to use, as nothing has to be removed or unlocked each time we want to ride or charge it, but it is stuck on the bike, so you might prefer a regular bike for those days when you don’t want any assistance or added weight.

Both bikes lean towards the endurance side of things, but the Trek has a sportier ride. They both offer an integrated compliance feature, but the Trek’s Isospeed is adjustable. We also like that Trek’s wheels are ready for bigger tires with the 25mm internal width. 

For us, the STEPS system and its ability to connect to our cycling computer with total integration sets it a step above. The integration of the existing Di2 shifters means we didn’t have to take our hands off the bars to switch modes or check stats on our displays.

Either way you look at it, they both have a max speed of 20 mph, which can be limiting in real-world riding conditions. We look forward to the day when all e-road bikes qualify for the 28-mph Class 3 rating to truly make them a worthwhile option.

ShimanoBMCBontragerTrekmotore-bikee-bikesroad Bikes