Interestingly enough, the original Madone was one of those do-it-all road bikes to begin with, perhaps not by design but by virtue of their only ever being one kind of road bike until the last decade or so. We all remember our sport's pariah no matter how hard we try to forget him, and he happened to ride one of the early Madones... Wild conspiracies anyone?
Trek will give all sorts of techno-babble about their carbon as is any company's obligation to business, but whatever sorcery goes into making a Madone frame, it pays off. One of the most notable aspects of the Madone for me was its ride quality - not only does it feel fast and slippery through the wind, but through any ride it's very forgiving. I took this bike through some pretty rough stuff after taking a wrong turn, but it softens every blow with predictability and grace, like how a good jar of Nutella makes even the roughest of patches seem not so bad in its smooth, hazlenut-buttery goodness.
This is what has always set Trek apart in this category, and I noticed it when trying a Specialized Venge in a brief side-by-side comparison. The Venge has a more substantial aerodynamic advantage yes, but ride quality (both in smoothness and stable predictability) on the Madone more than makes up for its comparatively blunt tube-shapes.
As it happens, they do.
Looking closely at the Madone, you'll see that the downtube has a shallow rounded front and a flat back facing up and back towards the rider. The theory here is that by using what is effectively half of an air-foil, the aerodynamic benefits are still seen but the weight penalties are significantly reduced. This is a real thing called a Kammtail-Virtual-Foil. Trek didn't make this term up, but I'm yet to be convinced that it actually works until I do some wind tunnel testing myself. What I do know is that the cut-off also reduces surface-area, which means that cross-winds are a lot less dangerous than they would be on a tri-bike. While I'm still not positive if the benefits warrant it, Trek also made the nice touch of building the entire frame out of KVF shapes, including the fork legs, seat stays, and head tube, which is pretty impressive and really, pretty neat looking.
Firstly, the Madone is given the full Ultegra kit, brakes and all, which means a very reliable drivetrain and braking. Just as an indication of how reliably the bike functions as a whole, my first fault occurred at about 1000 miles, and it was a flat tyre caused by a shard of glass.
I do have an issue with the drivetrain though, and that's the compact chainring. The 50-34t setup is very useful for mountain climbing, but it seems a little out of place on what's supposedly a sprinter's aero bike. I understand the desire to make the bike a good all-arounder, but I would have been happier to have a 52-36, since on anything other than a mountain the 34 simply doesn't get used.
Cockpit and wheels are provided by Bontrager, all solidly built. The Bontrager Race wheels performed admirably for an entry level performance set, and despite any punishment they rolled smooth and true.
The only unfortunate aspect to the Bontrager kit is the weight, especially in the wheels, which really take some of the oompf out of the carbon-frame's light weight. The complete bike weighed in at about 18lbs, at least 2 of which could probably be shaved off with upgrades to the alloy cockpit and wheelset.