Trek Emonda SLR9 Review
Trek itself claims the 56cm SLR9, built-up with all components except the pedals, weighs 6.1kg, which seems about right. Adding my Garmin Vector pedals and a couple of carbon bottle cages bumped the weight up to a still very respectable 6.45kg.
The Emonda might be light, but it has the typical chunky look of a Trek. The downtube is broad and the top tube has the characteristic wide and flat profile familiar from various iterations of the Madone.
The seat tube transitions from a very broad junction with the downtube to accommodate the BB90 bottom bracket to an elongated oval above the seatstay junction. The seatstays themselves are not as pencil thin as some, while the solid-looking chainstays look the business.
Trek sticks with its familiar seat post system – the seat tube extends above the toptube-chainstay junction, and is topped by a carbon cap, to which the seat is mounted.
Internal cable routing, and an internally-mounted battery for the Di2 system, means the bike carries a clean, uncluttered look.
In a welcome response to the practicalities of bike riding for most of the population, Trek has eschewed the recent fashion to bolt the rear brakes behind the bottom bracket and has returned them to the seat stays.
Dura-Ace’s genuine dual-pivot calipers are bolted directly to the frame – and to the fork for the front brakes – making them much easier to adjust and look after than having them hidden in nooks and crannies in the frame, as well as eliminating the dreaded brake rub that is all-too common with bottom bracket-mounted brakes.
The full specs of the bike can be found at the end of this article, or you can visit the Trek’s Emonda SLR9 web page.
How’s it ride?
The expectation in the not-so-distant past was that what bikes saved in weight, they lost in strength and handling. But that is no longer necessarily the case.
Trek has joined bike makers like Cannondale and Cervelo in serving up lightweight bikes that appear to give up little to their beefier cousins in terms of power transfer and, what might be called, good road manners.
One of the great attributes of light bikes, at least in my opinion, is how quickly they can accelerate. I still remember riding my old Cannondale CAAD 4 into the bike shop in town, where I swapped it for a test ride on a 2013 Scott Addict. The contrast in acceleration when I took off from a set of traffic lights left an impression that has stayed with me more than a year later.
The Emonda is certainly sprightly in its response to a little power, though it might be even sharper with an even lighter set of wheels.
The Emonda seemed to lack nothing in powering up short inclines in the big chain ring. There was no sense of back-end flex or other dissipation of effort, and the forks and handlebars held firm.
The one gripe was that accelerating uphill in the small chainring, the chain rubbed against the front derailleur cage. I couldn’t determine if this was caused by flex in the chainring itself, or through the chainstays, or just a bit of misalignment in the gears.
Whether a bike is heavy or light, hills can hurt just as hard as you want to push it; the only difference is in what sort of reward you get for your effort.
The Emonda didn’t necessarily make hills feel flatter; one of my regular climbs has a steep pinch of about 500m where the gradient fluctuates between 10 and 14 per cent, and it still hurt taking the Emonda up it, though I arrived at the top noticeably earlier than usual.
This sort of performance is completely subjective and it can be almost impossible to separate out the influence of the bike from all the other factors at play – weather, fitness, fatigue, time of day, etc.
Intuitively, a lighter bike should be faster or easier to push up the hill. I can’t claim that Emonda made me a better climber but, riding it, I certainly felt like I should be a better climber – the ol’ placebo effect?
The Emonda inspires the same level of confidence descending as heftier bikes, like my Madone 6.9. It is pretty straight forward; you point it where you want to go and it goes there. Tight corners, curves with significant corrugations, damp surfaces, cross-winds, nothing seemed to faze it.
The Emonda feels more solid than it is (in a good way). It is light; any bike sub-6.5kg can justifiably claim to be a lightweight. But its performance belies this weight. It accelerates and climbs well, it is nimble around corners, it descends like a rock.
It would not be the first choice for a crit racer or a time triallist but if, like most of us, having more than a couple of bikes in the stable is a luxury you cannot afford, then it would be hard to go wrong with the Emonda SLR as a good, nay inspiring, all-rounder bike.
Frame: Ultralight 700 Series OCLV Carbon, BB90, internal cable routing, 3S chain keeper, DuoTrap S
Fork: full carbon, E2 asymmetric steerer, carbon dropouts
Groupset: Shimano Dura-Ace 9070 Di2
Wheels: Bontrager Aeolus 3
Tyres: Bontrager R4
Saddle: Bontrager Paradigm XXX, 51g
Handlebars: Bontrager XXX
Stem: Bontrager XXX
Headset: Cane Creek AER
Weight: 56cm frame (incl Garmin Vector pedals, carbon bottle cages x 2) – 6.45kg
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