Thursday, January 29, 2015

Day 29 - Trek Emonda SLR Review

I’ve owned a couple great bikes. Each time I get a new one, I hesitate to think that there couple possibly be anything nicer out there. When I went from an S-Works to a Stork, I was instantly faster…which I realized later was directly because the drive side bearing in my campy crankset was completely seized. Even with vice-grips, I couldn’t budge it. Going from the $$$ Storck to the $ CAAD10, I didn’t notice any difference. The CAAD10 is the king of value. You get all of the performance of a bike 3 or 4 times its value. I wasn’t very excited about getting the Supersix Evo because I didn’t think it would feel any different than the CAAD10. I was wrong. The Evo (I had the non hi-mod) had a beautiful ride on chip and seal compared to other bikes I owned. It’s like you’re running your tires at 10 or 15 psi lower, but you aren’t. It’s a great bike for long rides on Oklahoma roads. 

I was a little nervous about buying the Emonda, but now I’m glad I did. It’s the best bike I’ve owned. Honestly, it’s not about the bike. Aside from an uphill TT, this bike may never get me different results than I would have had on the CAAD10; but I can still say this is a better bike. It’s crazy light. I only know of one frame (The Cervelo RCA) that weighs less. The cable routing isn’t quite as tidy as an aero-focused road bike, but it’s way more clean than the evo. It’s really the little things that much this bike a step above the rest.

The dual mount brakes are amazing. I had SRAM Red brakes on the evo. These Bontrager Speed Stop direct mount brakes are so strong. I can’t imagine wanting anything stronger. Plus, they are very light and should be quite aero. They don’t have arms sticking out in the wind like typical SRAM and Shimano brakes. 

The fork, chain stays, and brakes give you plenty of room for wide tires. On my evo, I had issues with 25s rubbing (my back wheel wasn’t very stiff. With a stiffer wheel this may not have been an issue). I have tons of clearance with 25s on this bike, and I think 28s would fit too. 

The bottom bracket on this bike looks enormous. I’m guessing Trek designed it this way to keep the bike as light as possible without having flex where it matters. I’m not one that can feel BB flex in frames anyway, but it seems like this one is pretty stiff. It doesn’t have the creak-prone BB30 BB standard. 

The ride characteristics are good. They have a seat mast that is supposed to tune out some road vibration. It doesn’t seem as effective as Cannondales SAVE system, but I wouldn’t call this bike harsh at all. On chip and seal, I can feel a little more vibration than the Evo, but not enough to complain about. The wheelbase is short on this bike. I haven’t gotten to race a crit on it yet, but it seems to have a great crit racing geometry that you’d really be able to throw into a turn. I’m beyond excited to take it through some of the twisty roads in the Arbuckle Mountains this weekend. 

Trek gives you two geometries to choose from. One (H2) seems a bit more “standard” and the other (H1) has a longer top tube and short head tube, resulting in a shorter stack and longer reach. Since I have a long torso and like to ride steep, the H1 is very good for me. It’s nice to be able to have a choice, especially for a team bike. Not everyone is built the same, so having two different geometries allows the bike to fit nearly everyone. 

I built mine with SRAM Force. Red is a little lighter, but I couldn’t justify the expense. The Force 22 shifts clean and crisp. In a blind test, I’m 100% sure I couldn’t differentiate Force and Red. Ultegra DI2 would have been a nice splurge, but I’m really happy with Force 22 so far. No regrets. 

I also switched up my pedals a bit…Well kind of. I bought Shimano 105 pedals, which is what I’ve been using for years. I like Shimano pedals, but I LOVE Shimano cleats. Shimano pedals have always been heavier than the Look pedals at the same cost, but shimano changed up their 105 pedals quite a bit this year. Now they are carbon (composite) instead of all metal. I didn’t do a direct weight comparison to Look, but I know that the weight is a lot closer now. The shape and feel is as good as it ever has been, but now you get some weight reduction too…and still a great price. 

I also tried a new saddle: Bontrager Serrano. I like it a lot so far. It’s as comfortable as my Fizik Antares, but less slippery. It's a saddle that has many comfortable positions. Its just as nice riding it on the nose as it is with your butt scooted way back.  Saddles are super individual, so this may not work for you; but I think it’s going to work really well for me. I did back-to-back centuries last weekend on this saddle with no complaints. 

My very first impression of the bike was “this is the best bike I’ve ever owned, but is it worth the money?” That’s a really tough question. I guess it depends on how much money you have and how much you like beautiful bikes. This is a very beautiful bike. I could stare at it for an hour. I was a little stuck feeling that the CAAD10 or Evo were better bang for the buck, but then Daniel Mesa reminded me that Trek also makes an Emonda SL. It’s just as beautiful as the SLR. It costs thousands less than the SLR, but you are still getting a 15.0 pound bike (with SRAM Red). Even the 105 Emonda SL5 is a heck of a bike, and its $2730 retail. The Emonda is a great bike, and there’s so many options to choose from, based on your budget. If you have a lot of money to spend, the Emonda SLR is amazing. There’s a reason VeloNews called it their bike of the year for 2015. On a budget, The Emonda SL will give you nearly the same performance with only slightly more weight at a much more reasonable cost. It’s a close call between the Evo and the Emonda SL, but for my money the Emonda SL would be a better purchase (if they made it in the H1 geometry, which they don’t). If you want a great bike for the money, the Emonda SL is it. If you want the best bike, the SLR is the way to go. 

I finally found one negative about the SLR. It’s not a good bike for the skate park. Too much toe overlap. :)


  1. I just built up a Emonda SLR frame with Sram red 22 and Easton EC90 wheels.The weight is 13.1 pounds.
    Riding it now for 1 month and my Italian bike is for sale. The SLR is by far one of the best bikes you can buy!
    Handling is great, ride quality is amazing for a bike this light, and it climbs faster than your previous strava times.
    Having said all that , if u don't have the legs to push hard.... your better off with the SL.

  2. I have a 2016 trek slr and the best bike that I have ever had. I love the ride and speed this bike has. A bit better than my 6.9 series.

  3. Good review, what size is your bike? Just wondering if toe overlap is a problem with the Emonda. I'm currently riding Domane size 54