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First Ride: Trek’s featherweight Emonda

  • By Caley Fretz
  • Published Jul. 3, 2014

The weight wars are back, and we have a new titleholder. Trek’s Emonda SLR10 is the lightest complete production bike in the world.

The last four years have been all about aero, full of truncated airfoils, wind tunnels, and watts saved. But the Emonda doesn’t make any such claims. It has a sail of a down tube, no hourglass head tube, routes its cables predictably, and doesn’t even try to tuck away the rear wheel. It makes no concessions to the wind and doesn’t apologize for that single-mindedness. It’s a return to the design and engineering goals that dominated cycling for most of its history — stiffer and lighter is faster.

Weight loss program

The Emonda sits in Trek’s line among two specialists, the endurance-oriented Domane and the aero Madone. Neither of the current models will be replaced. (A new, more aerodynamic Madone is coming down the pipe, though.)

The refocus on weight — and Trek is not the only brand pivoting back to the old target — could indicate an upcoming shift within the sport’s governing body, the UCI, away from the current 6.8kg (14.99lb) weight limit. Eliminating or lowering that arbitrary figure has been under discussion within the UCI for two years. Even with the limit in place, “the team can run deeper wheels, run power meters, and stick whatever saddle they want on the bike,” and still keep the Emonda on the limit, said Trek’s road brand manager Michael Mayer.

The Emonda SLR frame weighs just 690 grams, including a seatmast worth about 50 grams, in a 56cm size. That puts it ahead of the Cannondale SuperSix EVO by about 20 grams and ahead of the Specialized Tarmac S-Works SL4 by just under 210 grams. The only frame we’ve weighed that’s lighter is Cervelo’s limited-run RCA.

The SLR 10, Trek’s top Emonda model, weighs 10.23 pounds when it’s pulled out of the box, confirmed on our own scale. It was carefully equipped by product manager Ben Coates with components from niche German brand Tune, including a carbon saddle with no padding and the same unbadged rims that Chris Froome and a few of his key Sky teammates used at the Tour de France last year.

Tune and Trek are an odd pairing; a market giant contracting a niche supplier for componentry is rare. Tune will be overwhelmed. “We’ve probably monopolized most or all of Tune’s production for the next year,” Coates said.

Those niche parts also send the price through the roof. The SLR 10 retails for a whopping $15,750. Thankfully, much cheaper options will be available.

Getting a frame down to 690 grams requires attention to detail throughout both the frame construction and the build.

A new seatmast topper saves precious grams by using a carbon clamp and titanium hardware. Team riders will continue to use the old seatmast topper to help bring bikes up to the 6.8kg weight limit.

The Emonda SLR and SL models use the relatively new direct-mount brakes first debuted on the Madone, where they were integrated neatly into the fork and chainstay to improve aerodynamics. But the design has other benefits as well. The new Bontrager-designed brakes are lighter than standard single-bolt Dura-Ace brakes, and the frame mounts are lighter as well. The threads can be molded straight into the fork and seatstays, reducing the number of parts and eliminating redundant material.

Direct-mount brakes also improve tire clearance. One Trek employee let slip that he has been able to fit 30mm tires on his Emonda with the Bontrager direct-mount brakes (the Dura-Ace version has slightly tighter clearances). We wouldn’t be surprised to see many high-end bikes utilizing the design in the next few years.

The new XXX integrated bar/stem saves another 70-100 grams, depending on size. It comes with a nifty integrated modular computer mount, dubbed Blendr, which can be used with a Garmin, iPhone or Node computer.

Trek’s DuoTrap gets an update as well, slimming down to save grams and adding Bluetooth compatibility. The new version is called DuoTrap S.

Of course, the 690-gram SLR isn’t the only Emonda model. The name will be applied to a full range, from the $15,750 SLR 10 to the $1700 S. The middle-range SL frame will weigh a respectable 1,050 grams and the cheaper S will weigh 1,200 grams. The S will not use the direct mount brakes and seatmast found on the SLR and SL models.

First ride on the Trek Emonda

Trek’s product presentation was followed by a ride over the final 100km (we rode 140km after getting a bit lost) of the first stage of the Tour de France, finishing in Harrogate. It’s a lumpy course, perhaps not the sort of high-alpine terrain this bike yearns for, but there was still more than 5,000 feet of elevation gain over 85 miles. The largest and steepest climb, a category 3, hilariously named Buttertubs Hill, will certainly make the first stage interesting.

As always, take these initial thoughts with a grain of salt. New roads, new wheels, and new tires all conspire to make it very difficult to extract the true character of a bike in a single ride.

We rode the slightly less exuberant SLR 9 model, which features a Shimano Dura-Ace mechanical drivetrain and Bontrager Aeolus 3 wheels. It weighed 13.51 pounds — a porker compared to the SLR 10, but not exactly heavy.

Geometry is not identical to the Madone, though a few key steering figures, like trail and head angle, remain the same. The Emonda gets slightly longer chainstays and a longer wheelbase overall, adding a bit of stability and predictability to the ride, Trek says. On the road it steers very similarly to the current Madone — and that’s a good thing.

Since we’re painting with broad strokes here, the ride is roughly comparable to that of Cannondale’s fantastic SuperSix EVO — my most frequent response to the much-asked “what’s your favorite bike” question. The Emonda is slightly lighter, but the difference is imperceptible.

The Emonda’s front end feels stiffer than that of the EVO, though it is possible that sensation is a result not of the frame, but of the new XXX integrated bar/stem.

The graphics on the Emonda’s seatmast say “Ride Tuned,” and the back end of the bike certainly felt that way. Test bikes were set up with 23mm tires — smaller than I’ve ridden in quite some time — and yet the bike was still exceptionally comfortable. Integration isn’t always a good thing, but in this case, Trek’s ability to fine-tune the compliance of the seatmast, rather than hope another manufacturer does a good job with its seatpost, is a bonus.

Is it better than the new Specialized Tarmac? Tough to say. It is about 200 grams lighter, and is available with two head tube lengths, which is good for fit. But overall stiffness and ride quality remain too close to call — at least for now. Getting both bikes through VeloLab, with the lab testing and extensive ride time that entails, should paint a clearer picture.

Editor’s Note: Trek covered lodging, dinner, and a few beers during the U.S. vs Belgium World Cup match for media attending its product launch in Harrogate, England.

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Caley Fretz

Caley Fretz

Tech Editor Caley Fretz can usually be found chasing races along the backroads of Europe or testing bikes and gear in the mountains outside Boulder, Colorado. If you can't find him there, check the coffee shop across from VN World Headquarters.

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