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Trek Emonda S5 review

Trek Emonda S5
9 Aug 2016

The 105 equipped Trek Emonda S5 packs a serious punch, and is worthy of its position in the Emonda range.

Cyclist Rating: 
Light and stiff frame
Position a little upright

When Trek launched its ultralight Émonda range to an awestruck public last year, all the attention was focussed on the top-end Émonda SLR10, which claimed to be the lightest production bike in the world. Sadly it came with a heavyweight pricetag of £11,000. The Émonda S5 we have here is the second rung on the company’s 19-model range – one above the S4 model we loved - built to hit a more accessible price point but retaining the DNA and the exact geometry, of the mountain goat-like Émonda SLR range-topper. But does it lose anything in translation?

The frame

Trek Emonda S5 frame

Trek’s Émonda frame, in this guise, is constructed from 300-series OCLV carbon, which doesn’t offer quite the same stiffness-to-weight and vertical compliance advantages of the top-of-the-range 700-series, yet holds its head high in this company. The overall weight of 7.89kg for the S5 makes it the lightest bike in this test, even using this heavier composite material. Higher-spec models in the range give you the option of choosing a more aggressive ‘H1’ fit, or more endurance-specific ‘H2’ geometry. The S5 comes only in an H2 version, with a tapered head tube 30mm higher than the H1, and a fractionally shorter seat tube. Retaining the same head tube angle as the H1 geometry, the overriding sensation is of a more upright position, but not at the expense of cornering agility, which this bike has in spades.

Trek’s use of 23mm tyres in this package might buck the ‘wider is better’ trend, but there’s easily clearance for 25mm if you feel the need to upgrade. External cabling may not be as pretty as internal, but it helps keep weight down and makes life easier when it comes to making adjustments or replacing cables later on. In all, it’s a far cry from the 690g all-singing Émonda SLR’s set-up, but for £1,300, and on a bike equipped with a full 105 groupset, it’s an easily digested compromise.

Buy the Trek Emonda S5 from Evans Cycles here


Trek Emonda S5 groupset

A full Shimano 105 groupset, with no compromises, means shifting is crisp and braking assured.

When it comes to groupsets, consistency is key. Often a manufacturer will mix and match parts to keep costs down, but Trek has gone the whole hog on the S5, with a complete Shimano 105 groupset, right down to the chain and cassette. As you might expect, it’s a sure-fire hit. Ultegra and Dura-Ace might be lighter and slicker, but the differences are pretty small. A compact chainset allied to an 11-speed 11-28 cassette ensures a spread of ratios ample for most applications, leaning toward climbing, but with a high enough top gear for blasting downhills. In-house brand Bontrager’s bars and stem offer a good fit and there is minimal flex in them, which is telling on rougher roads when vibrations make themselves known. A single, angled seat adjuster on the saddle helps to make fine-tuning position easy, too.


Trek Emonda S5 fork

Wheels are often the letdown in a build at this price point, but Bontrager's TLRs proved to be stiff and light.

The Émonda S5 rolls on tubeless-ready Bontrager TLR wheels – a £230 aluminium wheelset that should prove versatile in use. Offset spoke beads are claimed by Bontrager to improve stiffness and stability, and our impression was one of all-day comfort and reliability. They proved stiff and impressed greatly when performing hill sprints.

Overall, they’re a solid choice for this bike, offering not only a versatile platform wherever you’re riding, but also the option to upgrade to tubeless tyres at a later date for reduced rolling resistance. Braking pressure of the 105 rim brakes on the TLR’s alloy surface was sharp when required, and offers decent levels of control. The company’s R1 tyres also showed themselves to be light and fast rolling, and the puncture protection material ensured our test rides were flat-free.

The ride

Trek Emonda S5 review

Our test routes on rolling roads and the short, sharp climbs typical of the UK, proved revelatory. Don’t think of this bike as an out-and-out climber like its big brother; consider it an all-rounder of the highest order, equally at home sprinting out of a valley as it is rolling in comfort for hours on end. The pedalling efficiency provided by a fat BB86.5 bottom bracket and the feeling of assured front-end stiffness and accuracy of handling promoted by the bulky head tube and down tube give this bike a serious edge over most at this price. It combines biddable cornering ability with deceptively rapid progress, those 23mm tyres even absorbing the majority of road imperfections, too.

Buy the Trek Emonda S5 from Evans Cycles here

The S5 is the quietly-spoken new boy at school who turns out to be a black belt in karate. Gear changes are as silky as you’d expect from 105 equipment, and the spread of gears is more than adequate for most all-day rides. From Hardknott Pass to Crystal Palace crit circuit (yep, you could race this bike), the breadth of its talent truly surprised us. Niggles? There are some. A few millimetres of toe overlap from our hardly-clown-like size eight feet was troublesome on occasion, and as we’ve already mentioned, the bars don’t isolate vibrations from the road particularly well. But overall, this package gels very well indeed.

Frame - Light and stiff with a blend of comfort and raciness - 8/10

Components - Shimano 105 throughout is always a vote-winner - 8/10

Wheels - Strong performers with an option to go tubeless - 8/10

The ride - Fast uphill, stable downhill, and comfy over long miles - 9/10

Overall - 8.3/10


Geometry chart
Claimed Measured
Top Tube (TT) 534mm 533mm
Seat Tube (ST) 493mm 485mm
Down Tube (DT) 614mm
Fork Length (FL) 374mm
Head Tube (HT) 140mm 140mm
Head Angle (HA) 72.8 72.9
Seat Angle (SA) 74.2 73.1
Wheelbase (WB) 977mm 973mm
BB drop (BB) 72mm 75mm


Trek Emonda S5
Frame 300 series OCLV carbon frame, Emonda E2 fork
Groupset Shimano 105
Brakes Shimano 105
Chainset Shimano 105, 50/34
Cassette Shimano 105, 11-28
Bars Bontrager Race VR-C
Stem Bontrager Elite
Seatpost Bontrager alloy
Wheels Bontrager TLR Tubeless
Tyres Bontrager R1, 23c
Saddle Bontrager Paradigm R

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