When Trek first introduced the Émonda back in 2014, it was sort of a surprising addition. Seeming to compete directly with the Madone, the biggest difference was that Trek’s new lightweight lacked the aerodynamic touches of its sibling. Now with the most modern iteration of the Madone, we know that Trek was already working on creating a modern superbike, but at the time it seemed like the two bikes were competing for similar buyers.
Launched with the lofty SLR 10 which at the time made claims to the lightest production bike available, the Émonda line was promising for anyone looking for a simple, light weight ride that did a lot of things well. After quite a bit of time on the bike (including almost equal time off due to injury), the Émonda seems to make good on that promise of simple, brutal speed…
When Trek launched the Émonda, it was with a heavy focus on weight. All the way through the line, component choices and builds were tuned to result in the lightest weights possible while keeping prices somewhat reasonable (the $15,749.99 SLR 10 a clear exception). This was in direct comparison to the Madone where weight wasn’t as important as the overall aerodynamics and ride package.
Offered with three different carbon layups, the entry level carbon Émondas used OCLV 300 for a 1200g frame, the SL versions jumped to OCLV 500 for a 1050g frame, and the top tier SLR bikes benefited from OCLV 700 carbon which resulted in a staggeringly light 690g painted frame (56cm) and a 13.67lb(6.2kg) complete bike as shown here. That same super light frame could be had for $7,500 with the SLR 8 build here (now on sale for $6,499), or all the way up to the now $11,999 SLR 10. Available in both H1 and H2 (3.5cm longer head tube) fits, our test bike was an H1.
It’s extremely difficult to consider a bike with full Dura Ace anything less than a high end build, but thanks to Di2, mechanical bikes are now sort of the ‘budget Dura Ace’. The SLR 8 is fitted with the more ‘affordable’ mechanical variant rather than Di2 – though you can get the SLR with Di2 and carbon wheels for another $2k.. Other component choices such as aluminum Bontrager RXL Tubeless Ready wheels and an RXL aluminum stem help keep the pricing down, but they are still extremely nice pieces of kit. There is even a further ‘budget’ SLR build with the Ultegra equipped SLR 6 if the Dura Ace version is a bit too spendy.
One of the few areas I could find fault the build kit is in the corrosion forming around one of the black steel bolts on the Bontrager RXL stem. Strange that it’s happening to just one faceplate bolt out of four, but it is a bit unsightly. Fortunately, almost every Bontrager part including the stock bar tape held up better than that one bolt. I need to re-wrap the tape up top to tighten it up, but other than one small nick it’s in surprisingly good shape considering.
As you might expect from a bike dripping with Dura Ace and a brand’s high end aluminum components, the build kit of the SLR 8 performed almost flawlessly. Particularly impressive were the Direct Mount rim brakes which may leave you reevaluating the need for disc brakes on the road. Short of stopping in bad weather or on sketchy carbon rims for long descents, the Direct Mount rim brakes were noticeably more powerful and easier to modulate than the center mount brakes which are still used on many bikes. The downside is that you need a frame that is set up to work with the two post brakes, but in this case or with any new bike sold with them, you’ll end up with better braking performance without going disc.
The mechanical Dura Ace group was equally impressive with some of the best shifting you can find on a bike, mechanical or otherwise. Once adjusted and broken in, shifting has been crisp and precise, and quiet as well.
Along with the various Bontrager cockpit pieces, the Émonda maintains the use of Trek’s Ride Tuned Seat Mast Cap. Set up to take the oversized 7x10mm carbon rails of the Bontrager Paradigm RXL saddle, the seatpost head was quiet and problem free the entire duration of testing. The same goes for the BB90 bottom bracket. Pressfit shells get a pretty bad rap, but from personal experience the Trek shells are an exception. With bearings placed directly into the carbon with their Net Molding process, there are no ‘cups’ to press into the shell for one less thing to creak.
If I were to build the bike from scratch, I would probably get rid of the Jagwire barrel adjuster or a least locate it somewhere else along the front derailleur cable so that it wouldn’t rub against the head tube. But even without barrel adjusters the cables rub quite a bit against the paint so it would be smart to add some cable rub protective stickers here.
Since the owners of these bikes are likely to want some data, the Émonda and other Trek bikes get credit for their integrated duotrap sensor capabilities. The slot in the chainstay allows for a sensor that is both ANT+ and Bluetooth compatible for speed and cadence which is a lot nicer than some zip ties and a block of rubber on your stays.
Leading up to the implosion of my shoulder last summer, I had been logging quite a few miles on the SLR 8. If there was one word to describe the ride of the Émonda, it would be stiff. This is not your father’s Madone (or 5800). Back in my shop days, I would have to listen to certain customers go on an on about how the Madone was a great bike, but it just wasn’t stiff like their Tarmac or [insert race bike here]. Well, it appears Trek was listening too.
Along with building a light weight machine, the Émonda is certainly stiff. Now that Trek has their even more compliant Domane, this shouldn’t be an issue – if you want a bike that will glide over every undulation in the pavement without notice, then definitely go with the Domane. If you’re willing to feel every small crack in the pavement through the frame in exchange for a rocket of a bike, the Émonda starts to shine. It really is one of those bikes that on beautiful pavement, the ride is sublime. Just silky smooth with a glide that seems to reward every pedal stroke. Once the pavement starts to get a bit rough though, get ready to ride light on your pedals.
The trade off is a bike that is insanely light and just wants to squirt forward with each crank. Riders wanting more ride damping could always look to tires, especially with the Émonda shipping with 23mm rubber. Tubeless 25mm tires should make a noticeable difference in the ride department but may also take away slightly from the razor sharp handling of the bike. Some riders may even find the handling of the Émonda to be “twitchy,” but if you’re the type to take chances and ride as fast as possible down the backside of each climb, the bike will reward you with a ride that begs to be pushed faster through each turn. The first few times riding it down some of my favorite descents, I was surprised to look down and see 50+ mph on the computer without really trying.
In the end, that’s really what it’s all about. The Émonda seems to be an unapologetic, pure light weight climber with fast handling – in which case it succeeds. Those looking for a more comfy ride should check out the Domane, or the Madone for an all-things-aero approach, but for a simple light weight frame with a brutally fast ride, look no further.
For actual weights and complete break down part by part, check out our initial coverage here.