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Trek Emonda SLR9 review

28 Sep 2020
Verdict:

It may be aimed firmly at the highest level of racing but for all that this Emonda has lost some of its old very likeable traits

Cyclist Rating: 
Price: 
£9,700
For 
Impressively light and fast • Excellent wheels
Against 
Slightly compromised handling and comfort versus its predecessor

The message from bike manufacturers has always been fairly clear. If you want to go super-fast, choose our aero bike. If you want a forgiving ride then over here, sir/madam, we have the endurance bike. If you want to go up hills like a startled squirrel up a tree then you need our lightweight bike.

But things are changing. The lines between models are becoming blurred as frame shapes converge on the same space, and this, the third generation of the Émonda, is a case in point.

When the Trek Émonda launched in 2014 the focus was entirely on weight, or the lack of it. The frame was a mere 690g and the top-of-the-line SLR 10 came in at a staggeringly low 4.6kg, meaning the Émonda could rightfully claim to be the lightest production bike in the world.

Buy the Trek Emonda SLR9 for £9,700 from Trek Bikes now

When the second generation – built around disc brakes – rolled into town a few years later, Trek had managed to shave even more weight from the frame, bringing it down to 665g.

I reviewed both those models and was impressed by both, not only by the low weight but also by the agreeable and balanced ride feel in terms of handling and stiffness, and even the comfort to a degree.

Despite the selling point being the lightness, the Émonda was an all-round bike, but Trek felt that it was still missing a certain something.

‘Basically this new Émonda was a request from the Trek-Segafredo team,’ says Hans Eckhom, Trek’s head of industrial design for road products. ‘The racers want the lightest, which of course the Émonda is, but they felt that it was well behind on aerodynamics.

‘So the big push for this new bike was to keep the weight low, maintain the ride characteristics that the Émonda is known for, but push towards the aero gains we have learned from the Madone.’

The result? The new aero-tailored Émonda SLR frame comes in at a very respectable 698g (size medium), so a mere 38g heavier than its predecessor, yet Trek claims it comes with 180g less aerodynamic drag.

In real-world terms, says Trek, that equates to an 18-watt power saving, or 60 seconds per hour faster on flat roads and 18 seconds per hour faster up Alpe d’Huez.

Bit of a drag

Any hills near my home in the New Forest are fairly short, sharp inclines and certainly don’t in any way resemble the Alps, yet when I took the new Émonda out for its first test ride I could tell immediately that it hadn’t lost its ability against gravity. It felt very rigid laterally as I heaved up a few 20-25% gradients.

The new Bontrager Aeolus wheels, at just 1,350g per set, are a great complement to the frame, combining to make a complete bike that weighs in at just 6.82kg. On the hills, I often felt on far better form than my power numbers were suggesting.

Buy the Trek Emonda SLR9 for £9,700 from Trek Bikes now

Is it faster on the flat? I couldn’t honestly say. That 180g less drag was certainly not evident from my rides.

The Émonda did help me post some decent times over my regular training loops, but I couldn’t verify the ‘60 seconds faster over an hour’ claim.

And this highlights an important point: many of the gains that brands boast about might not be all that noticeable unless you’re pinning a number on.

I like to ride fast but I’m not racing, so I have to ask the question: has the aero re-modelling of the Émonda been worth it for me? And the conclusion I have come to is: not really.

I must point out I really liked the previous Émonda, so this bike does have big shoes to fill, and overall I can’t help feeling that, for the type of riding I now predominantly do, I actually still prefer the older model.

Sadly, the aero traits this latest version now possesses seem to have ever so slightly impacted the handling. The old Émonda was simply sublime in this regard and I just didn’t feel as confident throwing this bike into turns.

I could probably get over that with time, but more significant is that it also seems to have given up a palpable amount of comfort too. The new version just doesn’t match its predecessor’s more agreeable nature over rougher roads.

If you’re out for every last microwatt of performance gain – like the WorldTour pros for whom this bike was developed – then those fractional advantages are very relevant.

But I’m not a WorldTour pro, I don’t race in Grand Tours and neither does 99.5% of the global market. So sure, give the racers their new race bike, but leave the old Émonda for the rest of us. It still remains one of my favourite bikes.

Pick of the kit


Endura Pro SL Lite S/S jersey, £79.99, endurasport.com

Thanks to its six-year sponsorship of WorldTour team Movistar, Endura’s top-tier road race kit now finds itself standing toe to toe with the biggest hitters in the cycle clothing market.

This Pro SL Lite S/S jersey is made from a super-fine, rapid-wicking mesh to maximise airflow and is designed for the hottest days in the mountains. It’s so light you’ll barely notice you’re wearing it, and it comes at a very reasonable price.

Alternatively…


Ride smoother

If comfort is more important to you than weight, the Trek Domané offers additional vertical compliance for long days in the saddle thanks to its innovative IsoSpeed decouplers front and rear.

Buy the Trek Domane from Trek now. 


Ride faster

The Madone is Trek’s most aerodynamic road model, although it offers a more agreeable ride feel than you’d expect of such an aero beast, again thanks to the inclusion of IsoSpeed technology.

Buy the Trek Madone from Trek now

Spec

Frame Trek Émonda SLR 9 eTap
Groupset Sram Red eTap AXS
Brakes Sram Red eTap AXS
Chainset Sram Red eTap AXS
Cassette Sram Red eTap AXS
Bars Bontrager Aeolus RSL carbon
Stem Bontrager Aeolus RSL carbon
Seatpost Bontrager Aeolus RSL carbon
Saddle Bontrager Aeolus Pro saddle
Wheels Bontrager Aeolus RSL 37, Bontrager R4 25mm tyres
Weight 6.82kg
Contact trekbikes.com

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