In the United States, one bike stands above all as the winningest bicycle frame in the history of bicycle racing history*; the Trek 5000. First introduced in 1992, the Trek 5000 frame was one of the first production full carbon fiber bicycle frames. In the US, they caught on like a wildfire and hung on until the 5000 was dropped for the Madone after the 2007 run (only the 5000 was available that year). Of course, if you look at that 2007 Madone 5.2, you should see some many characteristics inherited from the 5200. That said, fifteen years is a long time for a frame to hang on.
On one hand, by today’s standards, the frame is not all that impressive. There’s barely any “aero” to it (the front fork is kinda aero), and it’s a little on the squishy side when laying down the serious wattage. On the other hand, with 25 mm tires on a 23 mm carbon fiber rims**, the bike feels like riding a cross between a Corvette and a limousine. With alloy wheels and 24 mm tires, at the right pressure, the ride is almost as good.
There is a trick to this frame, however. In the last few years, it’s become popular to use a wider tire than was used in the good old days. Back in ’99, people were riding 20 and 23 mm tires exclusively. Nowadays, 25, 26 and even 28 mm tires are the new norm. If you’re using 19.5 mm wide alloy wheels, there’s a limit to the tire width you can use in a Trek 5000 frame. Anything more than a 24 mm tire will likely rub the inside of the chainstays when climbing out of the saddle or when leaning the bike into a corner, thus pooching the paint’s polish (or worse). Other than that minor shortcoming, though, the frame is pretty fantastic.
I’ve put upwards of 45,000 miles on my 5200 frame and I bought it January of 2012 and it’s still going strong and beautiful. I can only imagine how many miles it had on it before I got my hands on it, but it was a lot. I’ve got a friend who has the same frame, 2003, who has more than 130,000 miles on his. The word “durable” doesn’t do the Trek 5000 family of frames justice.
*The history of bicycle racing history… the redundancy was for comedic affect. I’m sorry you missed it.
** 25 mm tires on 23 mm rims vs. 25 mm tires on 19.5 mm rims: If the two paragraphs dealing with tire and rim widths were confusing, please allow me to explain. When a 25 mm tire is placed on a 19.5 mm rim, the tire resembles a light bulb – it’ll go wide at the sides before rounding out. That same tire on a 23 mm wide rim, will just be round. It’s that light bulb-ing effect that will cause the tire to hit the inside of the chainstays when sideways force is applied to the wheel. Therefore, with a wider rim (23 mm) the same 25 mm tire will work where it wouldn’t with a narrow (standard) 19.5 mm rim. The only trick left for that will be the brakes. My 1999 Ultegra brakes wouldn’t open up wide enough to accept the wider 23 mm hoops. I ended up opting for Shimano 105 (7000 series) brake calipers so I could use my older alloy wheels or my carbon fiber wheels (as long as I swapped out the brake pads).