The bike

Trek’s road line-up already has a frame to soak up the rough roads –the Domane — and an out-and-out race bike, designed to be fast, twitchy and cut through the air — the Madone. The one place Trek hadn’t ventured until now was an attempt to build an ultra lightweight racing machine.

The Émonda is the final piece in Trek’s now three-tiered frame range structure. With a new sales catchphrase of “choose your weapon”, Trek now has a bike that should appeal to any of the key racing markets.

For a bike brand to claim to have the lightest production bike on the market they really need to back this up with exact figures, and they made a point of sharing those figures. Previously the Cannondale Super Six Evo Black Label has been able to claim this sought-after honour as the lightest production bike, at 5.6kg for a 56cm frame. Trek, though, has managed to make a significant improvement on that with the Émonda SLR10 which weighs in at 4.65kg for a 56cm frame.

The build on this particular model is very well specced, using several parts from German lightweight component specialists Tune, including wheels, saddle and skewers, a SRAM Red drive set and Trek’s new direct-mount brakes that look very industrial. Steering is taken care of by Trek’s new one-piece bar and stem combo. The price is obviously at the high end too, at $15,999 for a full build on this model.

The SLR Frame alone tips the scales at 690g; 20g lighter than the Cannondale Super Six Evo and 187g lighter than the Specialized SL4 (the new Tarmac is heavier still). The SLR fork weighs 280g and it’s a new slender-looking fork compared to those seen on the Domane and Madone.

The Trek Emonda, as seen in action at the Dauphine recently.

The Trek Emonda, as seen in action at the Dauphine recently.

It’s reportedly taken Trek 30 months of research and development to get to the point where they are happy that the new bikes can perform to a standard that the company, its customers and the race teams are happy with.

The name Émonda derives from the French verb “émonde”, which means to prune or trim away. Of course it’s been butchered a little bit to use the same letters as the names “Domane” and “Madone”.

The bike may be light but Trek wanted it to pass all of the company’s and the industry’s stringent quality and durability tests — this was to be a light bike that not just the skinny racing snakes could use but a bike that any angry racing guy or weighty sportive rider could get benefit from.

From the ground up this Émonda bike range is all new — there is no carry over from either the Domane or Madone lines. Each of the three bikes in the Émonda range — the S (entry), SL (mid-level) and SLR (top) — were to be the lightest bikes in their respective categories. The bikes also come in women’s versions too, and with some absolutely stunning paint jobs.

Trek Factory Racing and the MTN-Qhubeka teams have helped with this development, though one can only feel sorry for these guys who will have to either use heavier components or weigh the bike down to use it in UCI-sanctioned races.

The development and refinement of the Emonda took years, and plenty of prototypes.

The development and refinement of the Emonda took years, and plenty of prototypes.

The geometry of the frame sits between the Domane and the Madone. When the Domane was introduced the difference between that bike and the Madone’s geometry wasn’t hugely different. Trek then reworked the Madone’s geometry in 2012 to make it an out-an-out race machine — more aggressive and faster in corners.

For the Émonda, Trek has revived a large proportion of the geometry of the old 2011 Madone. It’s not as twitchy as a Madone, but it’s not as relaxed as a Domane. It sits happily between the two.

Away from the SLR version, the SL frame comes in at 1,050g (56cm) and the fork at 358g (240mm steerer tube). This build uses 500 series OCLV carbon where the SLR uses 700 series. The direct-mount brakes are replaced with standard calliper brakes and the fork, unlike the SLR, isn’t of the asymmetric type. But that’s pretty much where the differences end — both have a BB90 bottom bracket, a new ride-tuned seatmast and the DuoTrap S speed sensor that has been updated to make it slimmer and more integrated.

A step further down the range is the S model which, with 300 series OCLV carbon, weighs 1,220g on a painted 56cm frame with a fork of 518g. There is no ride-tuned seat mast; instead a standard and now more common 27.2mm seat post is in its place. Cables are externally routed, the bottom bracket is BB86 press fit and the bike comes with the original DuoTrap sensor and an E2 tapered fork.

Starting at $1,899 the Émonda S4 comes with a Shimano Tiagra groupset. The SL range starts at $2,899 with Shimano 105 throughout, and the first rung of the SLR range — the SLR6 — lands at $6,999 with an Ultegra 6800 build up.

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The test-ride

I managed to get a solid ride on the new Émonda after I was lent the SLR8 version. This build features: a Dura Ace mechanical groupset; Bontragers latest XXX integrated bar and stem combo; the Bontrager Aeolus 3 carbon clincher wheels; and saddle, tyres and finishing kit from the in-house brand too. The brushed matt black frame looked clean and simple in the rare Yorkshire sunshine.

Though the four hours I had with the bike were nowhere near enough to fully judge it, I felt I got a solid understanding of how the bike rides and handles.

I rode a large proportion of stage 1 of this year’s Tour de France, from just outside the village of Hawes — where the climb of Cote du Buttertubs starts — through to the finish in Harrogate. I ride these roads regularly as I live close to the area, so I was able to get a good understanding of how it handled compared to my usual ride, a Swift U-Vox 2012 model.

The first noticeable thing for me was not so much the weight but how planted the bike felt on the road. Even at 6.15kg the bike didn’t seem to skip or jump when hitting potholes or rough surfaces. Even strong crosswinds didn’t throw the bike about — it sat nicely holding the road at all times.

Descending on it quickly gave me confidence and the learning curve of knowing how the bike will react to cornering came naturally and quickly. The wheels and brake setup were a slightly different matter though. Long descents had the brakes squeaking and on two occasions I managed to lock up the rear wheel in to a very sharp corner. The Dura Ace direct-mount brakes were without a doubt some of the most powerful I’ve used. This is where more time riding the bike would have me learning where that “biting point” is.

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Climbing the Cote du Buttertubs (or just Buttertubs as it’s usually called when the Tour’s not taking it in) was as close to a pleasure as a hard climb can be. Accelerations when climbing flung the bike from under me; when standing the front end felt light and lively underneath me. The one minor niggle I did find was that the cable routing seemed to rub against my knee when out of the saddle.

The fact that I found myself using a slightly smaller sprocket than usual just showed what comes in to play when you’re riding a lighter bike (the Émonda is 1.5kg lighter than my Swift).

I’m sure the wheelset had a part in the nature of this bike’s acceleration and climbing prowess. The wheels got up to speed quickly and stayed there with very little effort. It was just the braking that I felt let this item down.

Throughout the ride I surprised myself at how long I was able to stay in the big ring — the area doesn’t usually allow for the chance to romp away in the big dog for long periods of time. The short sharp climbs soon take their toll on the legs if you attack them in the 52- or 53-tooth chainring, even with a 25 on the back. With the Émonda I found myself defiantly using the big chainring a lot more than I would normally.

The whole package of this bike is what I’d class as solid. The geometry of the bike plants it feet firmly on the road, the lightweight build gives so much advantage over a bike frame that may be carrying 300-500g more and the power transfer was as direct and responsive as you’d expect from a race-ready build.

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The new XXX bar/stem combo at first didn’t sit well with me — I felt the shape of the bar at the top seemed to want to throw my hands forward and downwards, plus I was sure I could feel a fair amount of flex in the setup. Is this what happens when you try to reduce a product’s weight too much? At 240g for a 42mm by 120mm it’s a light setup for your steering option.

But after two hours of riding I’d changed my mind — the flex in the bars helped alleviate a large amount of road shock. That said, the slight flex I felt may be a slight put off for pure sprinters. The shape of the bars and where my hands sat on top grew on me quickly, though I feel I’d need more time to get used to it. I did find myself sitting comfortably in the drops for extended periods, which was a pleasant surprise.

Overall the bike rides exceptionally well, unless you ride on cobbles or real rough stuff regularly. The Émonda sits right between the Domane and the Madone and is well balanced for it.

Sure the bike is light and it shows this quality when the road heads upwards, but the way it sits on the road, the comfort and handling are all areas that I feel it excels in in equal measures. It may not be sold on these points but they are qualities that shouldn’t be overlooked.

I’d love the chance to try riding the Émonda again, maybe with a wheelset I’m already familiar with to see how hard I could push it and see where its limits are.