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Trek Emonda SL6 Pro review

30 Apr 2021
Verdict:

The Trek Emonda SL6 Pro is a rapid, Ultegra-equipped, aero climbing bike

Cyclist Rating: 
For 
Phenomenal stiffness • Versatility • Carbon wheelset as standard • Excellent saddle • Clean looks
Against 
That stiffness borders on harsh at times • Wider/tubeless tyres would be welcome • Heavier than you’d maybe expect

Riding the Trek Emonda SL6 Pro is a similar experience to bumping into your ex with their partner and child in tow, many years after you’ve parted company. A quick glance at both parents immediately shows you the genes that have given their offspring their distinctive features.

In 2015, my ex was a Trek Emonda SLR8, which I rode on one of the most punishing rides I’ve ever had the pleasure/displeasure to undertake, in the San Gabriel mountains near Los Angeles. It was all the bike you’d want for the harshest, longest climbs and fast descents that ride entailed.

Curiously, however, in the six years since I last saw that bike, it appears to have spent a dirty weekend away with a Trek Madone and produced the bike you see before you.

 

Best of both worlds?

While the Trek Emonda SL6 Pro certainly contains the DNA of both aforementioned bikes, it’s only once you set out for a big day on it that the melding of both worlds – the out-and-out climber and the aero weapon – starts to make sense.

Buy the Trek Emonda SL 6 Pro now

Yes, my Emonda SLR8 might have weighed only 6.25kg, but it only felt truly in its natural habitat when climbing. The size 54 Trek Emonda SL6 Pro tips my scales at 7.98kg, which still creeps into the ‘respectably light’ category.

However, it’s arguably a more rounded prospect on a variety of roads, especially the undulating lanes of Leicestershire and Lincolnshire where most of my riding takes place.

 

Rolling start

Before any serious hills are encountered, I’ve a good 16km of rolling roads and false flats from my front door, which highlight the acceleration and comfort of the Trek Emonda SL6 Pro from the off. Trek has used its OCLV500 carbon layup for the frame – a method of construction Trek says is optimised for maximum compaction of carbon-fibre layers and minimum air between them.

In my experience, it translates into a stiff setup that encourages hard acceleration and the pushing of big gears for longer.

An aero-optimised top tube and down tube are designed to provide minimum air resistance, while the 52/36 Shimano Ultegra chainset is the perfect setup for a bike built for speed as much as for gravity defiance.

 

Out-of-the-saddle spurts up moderate inclines can take a few mid-acceleration gear changes with no bother, such is the slickness of the drivetrain’s operation and the 12mm thru-axles’ contribution to all-round rigidity.

The 11-30 cassette allied to the mid-compact chainset gives ample scope for anything from chaingangs to Alpine ascents.

Buy the Trek Emonda SL 6 Pro now

Crucially, the comfort afforded by the carbon Ride Tuned seatmast, exceptionally comfortable Bontrager Aeolus Comp saddle, 420mm alloy bars and respectably supple, 25c Bontrager R2 Hard-Case Lite tyres just lets you get on with enjoying the ride.

 

But without these contact points taking some of the harshness out of what really is a very stiff frame, you’d be begging for mercy, so they’re well thought-out additions.

Further shock absorption could be added by fitting wider tyres; there’s frame clearance for tyres up to 30mm. Personally, I’d dial out what front end harshness remains with a set of 28s as a priority.

 

Carbon updating

Now here’s one of the biggest selling points of the Trek Emonda SL6 Pro: it’s virtually future-proof. Trek has fitted it with Bontrager Aeolus Elite 35 carbon wheels as standard, so there’s no immediate compulsion to upgrade them.

Buy the Trek Emonda SL 6 Pro now

What this means in practice is that some of the increase in overall weight is mitigated by a reduction in rotating mass over a weightier alloy option. The 35mm deep-section profile is designed to cut drag at the points of the tyre and rim’s leading edges, and if you damage them in the first two years they’re covered for repair or replacement by Trek.

Thread the thru-axles through their hubs, tighten accordingly, and they’re willing wheels on the UK’s climbs and descents.

 

Rapid progress

The speed with which the whole package tips into downhill turns is something the original, featherlight Emonda never fully filled me with the confidence to achieve. The Trek Emonda SL6 Pro utilises the company’s H1.5 geometry – the sweetspot between ‘endurance ride’ and ‘don’t bother unless you’re as flexible as a pro rider’.

 

While the top tube is a relatively rangy 543mm, the steep head angle of 73° encourages rapid cornering. While the number of spacers beneath the stem is perfect for my height and flexibility, I would imagine lowering the front end would make it feel even more planted on rapid descents.

Buy the Trek Emonda SL 6 Pro now

There’s plenty of reach available on the drops of those Bontrager Elite VR-C alloy handlebars, too. While the Bontrager R2 Hard-Case Lite tyres aren’t the most racy, they’re confidence-inspiring and have proved utterly puncture-resistant.

 

Frankenstein or Goldilocks?

With the birth of the Trek Emonda SL6 Pro, the American manufacturer arguably could have been called out for creating a mash-up of two bikes that detracted from the benefits of each. But it’s not an awkward pairing; the lovechild of the original Emonda and the aero Madone inherited strong genes from each.

What Trek has achieved, I’d argue, is almost a ‘greatest hits’ package that highlights the best of both bikes. It’s not the lightest, nor the quickest; it’s not the most forgiving, but neither is it (quite) butt-breakingly harsh to ride. But it’s a heap of fun on every road you ride, and it has the potential to fulfil the requirements of at least 80% of road cyclists – especially those of us who value the ‘one bike to rule them all’ approach.

With the fitment of wider tyres it will broaden your horizons as much as it blurs the lines between cycling genres.

Buy the Trek Emonda SL 6 Pro now

Spec

Frame Ultralight 500 Series OCLV Carbon frame and SL Carbon fork
Groupset Shimano Ultegra
Brakes Shimano Ultegra, hydraulic discs, 160mm rotors
Chainset Shimano Ultegra, 52-36
Cassette Shimano Ultegra, 11-30
Bars Bontrager Elite VR-C, alloy
Stem Bontrager Pro, alloy
Seatpost Bontrager Ride Tuned seat cap, carbon
Saddle Bontrager Aeolus Comp
Wheels Bontrager Aeolus Elite 35 Disc, tubeless-ready; Bontrager R1 Hard-Case Lite tyres, 700 x 25c 
Weight 7.98kg (size 54)
Contact trek-bikes.com

All reviews are fully independent and no payments have been made by companies featured in reviews

Price: 
£3,700

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