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Trek Emonda S4 review

22 May 2015

Following in the footsteps of its bigger brothers, the Emonda S4 is a superb climbers bike with an upgrade worthy frame.

Cyclist Rating: 
Fantastic frame that's upgrade worthy
Brakes leave a bit to be desired

Trek launched the Emonda range to a huge fanfare last year with the range-topping SLR 10 hyperbike – the lightest production bike in the world. The Emonda fills a neat gap in the Trek line-up: it has the all-rounder Madone, a cobbles specialist in the Domane and now the climber’s bike, the Emonda. Trek Factory Racing has been giving the full-blown SLR version a good workout, so we were interested to see how the entry-level Emonda S4 stacked up.


Trek Emonda S4 chainset

The frame is made from Trek’s own blend of OCLV carbon, which is the same technology as the top-of-the-range models, but not quite as light or as stiff. That said, the frame has some nice features picked up from its more expensive siblings. First off, the frame is DuoTrap ready – it has a cutout in the chainstay for a computer speed/cadence sensor (DuoTrap sensors are ANT+ so they’re compatible with Garmins), which is a well thought-out, quality touch. There’s also an integral chain catcher attached to the bottom bracket shell because, let’s face it, accidents happen. It’s oversized in the right places too, with a tapered head tube up front and a BB86.5 bottom bracket down below. Trek makes its frame in a range of geometries: H1 to H3. The Emonda S4 is the H2 geometry, which is meant to be a good mix of performance and comfort. At 155mm, the head tube on our 54cm test model isn’t tall, but not small either, while the top tube is right on for us, at a smidgen over 54cm. The geometry is classic road bike: a 73-degree head tube angle matched to a 45mm-rake fork, giving 56mm trail. This, paired with a 70mm bottom bracket drop and 410mm chainstays, gives the bike almost perfect handling: the wheelbase is short enough to make the bike fast and fun but without ever getting out of hand. It’s exactly the sort of bike we’d give to a friend who’s new to the sport and say, ‘This is what a bike should handle like.’


Trek Emonda S4 frame

The Émonda S4 comes with a full Tiagra groupset and we have some reservations about it: the STI levers aren’t a nice shape and the brakes leave quite a bit to be desired, their odd shape making it hard to brake hard unless you’re in the drops. It’s saved a little bit by the handlebars, which are among the nicest shaped bars we’ve used in a long time. The compact and rounded shape of the drops means the inevitable transition there to achieve a good level of braking power isn’t such a big deal. The remainder of the finishing kit is all from Trek’s in-house brand Bontrager and it’s some of the best kit we’ve seen bundled on an entry-level bike. It’s all well put together and would look at home on bikes much higher up the range, especially the seatpost, with it’s clever two-bolt design, which makes fine-tuning a cinch. Our only complaint – and we’re splitting hairs here – is that the saddle is perhaps a little over-padded and spongy.


Trek Emonda S4 duotrap sensor

The wheels and tyres are both Bontrager items again and once more they’re hard to fault. The hubs are pretty standard but the rims are tubeless-ready, so you can swap over to tubeless tyres if you want to. There are plenty of spokes keeping them together too, so they should last a good while. Despite that, they’re not especially heavy, so they get up to speed quite quickly. We’d also like to draw particular attention to the quick-release skewers: a component that’s often overlooked, but the ones on the S4 are great quality and just make the whole bike feel that bit more special. The Bontrager R1 tyres roll well but we’d like to see 25mm fitted instead of the 23mm tyres the bike came with, since the frame will take them easily.

The Ride

Climbers’ bikes should be light and stiff so that they’re quick to accelerate and the Emonda didn’t disappoint. A great lightweight climber’s bike gives you this strange sensation when you head uphill, almost like there’s someone giving you a little push and the Emonda S4 gave us that feeling instantly. Riding the Emonda is so effortless it makes tired legs feel instantly rejuvenated. The bike accelerates swiftly with every input and only the tiniest bit of lag. Despite its obvious stiffness, the bike remains comfortable and after a long ride we weren’t over-fatigued, as is often the case with these sorts of bikes. But after every climb must come a descent and soon as the road pitches back down, that classic road geometry comes into its own. The bike changes direction with ease but remains composed throughout. It’s fun without going wild; it’s predictable, and it’s that predictability that soon has you pushing your limits, all the while feeling completely in control.


Frame - Light and stiff with classic road bike geometry - great. 10/10

Components - Poor Tiagra brakes, good Bontrager finishing kit. 7/10

Wheels - Not too heavy, well built and tubeless ready too. 9/10

The ride - Climbs effortlessly, descends predictably. 9/10


Geometry chart
Claimed Measured
Top Tube (TT) 543mm 545mm
Seat Tube (ST) 506mm 500mm
Down Tube (DT) 595mm
Fork Length (FL) 373mm
Head Tube (HT) 155mm 155mm
Head Angle (HA) 73.0 72.9
Seat Angle (SA) 73.0 73.7
Wheelbase (WB) 981mm 987mm
BB drop (BB) 70mm 72mm


Trek Emonda S4
Frame Ultralight 300 Series OCLV carbon, E2 carbon fork
Groupset Shimano Tiagra, 10-speed
Brakes Shimano Tiagra
Chainset Shimano Tiagra, 50/34
Cassette Shimano Tiagra, 12-30
Bars Bontrager Race, VCR
Stem Bontrager Race Lite
Seatpost Bontrager Alloy, 2 bolt
Wheels Bontrager Tubeless Ready
Tyres Bontrager R1 Hardcase
Saddle Bontrager Paradigm 1

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