Field Tested: Trek Émonda SLR8

The Madone has been the staple of Trek’s elite road bike lineup since the Armstrong era, and while you’ll still find it in Trek retailers, a new model has surpassed it as the lightest production bike Trek has ever built. The new Émonda line shows what Trek’s decades of experience building with its OCLV carbon fiber can create.

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Weighing in at just 14 pounds as tested, the bike is in a category that simply needs to be experienced to be believed. As bikes get lighter, each additional pound of weight shaved off represents an even larger percentage of its mass. and while knocking five pounds off my mid-section might help me get to the top of the climb just as quickly, a bike this light has an instant tailwind.

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While the Madone is still the out-and-out aerodynamic race bike, the Émonda was designed to appeal to a broader range of riders. While not everyone is pushing a bike hard enough to enjoy the aero benefits of the Madone, everyone can immediately notice a lighter bike. To ensure everyone can enjoy one, the Émonda is available in a remarkable 16 sizes with two different fit profiles from 47 cm to 64 cm, not including the Trek WSD women’s specific sizes.

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The simple white-on-black paint with gold accents of the Émonda SLR8 recalls the John Player Special livery of the 1970s Lotus F1 cars. While most modern bikes have crazy aero shapes and bizarre curves, the Émonda has a handsome, traditional look to it. And just like Lotus race cars have done for decades, the Émonda gets its advantage from “adding lightness.” A bare Émonda frame weighs a ridiculous 690 grams. That’s less than a full water bottle.

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I was expecting a super rigid ride to go with the stiffness and weight, but when out on the Émonda I was often checking to see if I had a low tire. The ride is taut yet refined—it sends enough of a buzz through the frame to remind you that you are on one heck of a fast bike, but it remains remarkably poised over impacts like potholes. Last year I rode and reviewed Trek’s spring classics-inspired Domane model, with its unique isoSpeed decoupler system, and while the Émonda isn’t quite as supple on rough roads, it is darn close.

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Climbing is what the Émonda was born to do. Every meager watt I can generate goes straight to the road through the bike’s massive down tube and BB90 bottom bracket. The full-size 53/39 crankset is clearly meant for racing, but the 11-speed 11-28 cassette gave me plenty of range to tackle the local hills.

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What goes up must come down, and the Émonda responds to corners with a razor sharp response, but settles in once it spots the apex and sets an arc. It can’t quite match the glued-to- the-road feeling of the Domane, but it can change direction remarkably quickly. Controlling the descent is a pair of Shimano’s dura-ace direct-mount calipers, which require a specially designed frame and fork to mount. They’re likely the finest rim brakes to ever see the road before disc brakes inevitably take over. The rest of the Dura-Ace running gear works as flawlessly as a Swiss clock, though i do think the throw of the cable release levers is a bit long.

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The SLR8 model comes equipped with Bontrager’s RXl tubeless-ready wheels, with a generous helping of carbon fiber in the XXX OCLV handlebar and Paradigm RXL saddle, which certainly looks intimidatingly slim but is in fact remarkably comfortable.

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As the keystone model in Trek’s road bike lineup for the foreseeable future, the Émonda is likely to reset riders’ standards of just how good a modern bike can be.

Vital stats

  • Price: $7,880
  • Weight: 14 pounds
  • Sizes: 16 sizes, plus women’s specific models; size 62 H1 tested
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Kona adds some sweet road, cross and adventure bikes for 2016

Kona has been expanding away from its mountain bike background lately, and the sneak peak we got on the 2016 models takes things to the next level. Here are the four models that stood out the most to me.

 

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Private Jake – $2,000

An all new aluminum frame offers modern updates like front and rear thru-axles, and geometry that is on the slack and low side for a cross bike. Combine that with sliding modular dropouts and a single-chainring specific design, and this might be more of a “fun bike” than race bike, and that is OK with us. It even has clearance for 40 mm tires.

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Roadhouse – $2,400

Steel road frames and disc brakes aren’t common bedfellows. Which is a shame. The Roadhouse unashedly combines a Reynolds 853 steel frame, flat mount disc brakes and thru-axles for what is perhaps the most modern production steel road bike I’ve seen. But fear not, it isn’t all high-tech. Those looking closely will see rack and fender mounts. I am probably in the minority here, but about the only thing that would make this a better bike is a high-end steel fork.

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Sutra LTD – $2,000

Fear not touring cyclists, the standard Sutra model is still around, still has a triple crank, Brooks saddle, and a rear rack. The Sutra LTD leans more towards use on unpaved roads and dirt. Combine a frame with lots of braze-ons,  a 1×11 SRAM drive train with a wide-range 10-42 cassette, hydraulic disc brakes and 47 mm tires, and you should be ready for anything from long dirt-road tours to detours on the way home from work.

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Essatto Fast – $TBA

We have almost no info about this bike, but we do know there are a surprising number of riders that want the speed of a road bike without the drop bars. This looks like it should fit the bill nicely for those riders.

 

As of this posting, Kona’s website isn’t live with the new bikes yet, but it should be soon.

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