When Trek launched the Emonda back in 2014, a lot of fanfare was made about “the lightest production road line ever”. It filled the void between the Madone, a bike built for out and out speed, and the Domane, a bike focussed on endurance. Most of the noise, rightly so, revolved around the £11k Emonda SLR10, which weighed in at a staggering 4.6kg, with a frame weight of 690g. For the majority of us the eye-watering 11k price-tag is out of budget, but thankfully within the 19 model range, there are plenty of other bikes which retain the same DNA, at more accessible price points.
Coming in at just under £2k (on sale now at £1,099.99!) is the SL5 model, which weighs in at 1,050g, but is no bloater by any means. We take a closer look to see how it weighs up against its 11k older-brother and see whether it loses anything in translation.
Trek Emonda frame, in this guise, is constructed from 500-series OCLV carbon, which doesn’t offer quite e same stiffness-to-weight and vertical compliance advantages as the top of the range 700-series, yet performs incredibly well against its like for like rivals. Up close, the quality is exactly what you’d expect from Trek, their attention to detail is second to none. The bright lime green design looks stunning, certainly if you are wanting a bike that gets noticed, this is absolutely the bike for you.
Trek have been equally bold with the frame detail and have avoided much of the current trend for designing everything about the frame to be aerodynamic. You’ll find rear brake calipers attached to seatstays rather than behind the bottom bracket, and rounded tubes rather than anything with a Kamm tail. What this means for the rider is a front end that’s easy to control and a rear end where comfort and efficient power output is found in abundance. However, you will find internal cabling on the Emonda SL5, which gives it a neat, sleek look and will of course help with the aerodynamic performance.
When it comes to groupsets, consistency is key. Yet, with such an incredible frame many brands compromise on the groupset to squeeze the bike under the £2k price bracket. With the SL5, Trek have kitted it out head to toe in Shimano 105. On the outset this seems like a compromise over Ultegra or Dura-Ace, but in reality the differences now between 105 and these other group-sets is pretty small.
The 11-speed Shimano 105 is the best value to performance groupset on the market. What you get from 105 is high performance shifting and responsiveness alongside long term durability. The gear selections are seamless and the 11-28 cassette ensures a spread of ratios ample for most applications, but of course leaning towards the climbing side of things. The brakes are also excellent and perform remarkably well on damp and slippy winter roads.
The frame is topped off with Bontrager in-house components, such as Bontrager race bars and stem and Bontrager Paradigm 3 saddle. With a bit of fine tuning these offer an excellent fit and reduce the vibrations to the road, to offer a comfortable ride that’s so smooth it often hides just how fast you are going.
Wheels make a huge difference to ride comfort and performance and often a wheel upgrade is necessary to give you the overall performance you are looking for from a 2k bike. Thanks to the tubeless-ready Bontrager race wheels which come with the SL5, you’ll not feel the need to upgrade these immediately. The Bontrager Race Tubeless Ready wheel combines dependability and performance and features offset spoke beds for improved stiffness and stability – its trickle-down technology from the SLR10 but worthy none-the-less.
Ride and Verdict
Because all the ingredients are so impressive, once you forget about supposed spec-sheet hierarchies and focus just on the ride, the Trek Emonda SL5 doesn’t feel as if it’s been constrained to a budget at all.
The overwhelming ride sensation is smoothness. Even fitted with stock 23c tyres the Emonda copes with small and medium bumps better than many comfort and endurance-focused carbon frames.
Don’t think of this bike as an out-and-out climber, consider it instead as an all-rounder of the highest order. It’s a bike you’ll want to keep on riding and you’ll look forward to every turn in the road and every climb to allow you to show off its brilliance.
It’s a bike that a huge number of riders would be better off on, from the sportive rider, looking for a lightweight, comfortable ride, to a competitive rider looking for dynamic performance.
At just under £2k it was a bike that knocks it rivals out of the park, so for £1,099.99 it is an absolute bargain. To truly know how much we rate the Emonda, it only takes a glance around the office to see who’s riding what and it’s fair to say over half the road bikes being ridden at the moment are Emonda’s!
“I have put on 5000 miles in 6 months on my SL 5. No issues. Changed to high performance tires,tubes and Carbon Fibre wheels. It is quick, rides very smooth. I would highly recommend this bike.”
“This bike is amazing for the price! It just wants to find something to climb, and when it does it makes it seem easy. I also noticed that long rides no longer resulted in lower back soreness (I switched from an aluminium frame) - honestly feel that I could keep going and going.”
“Everytime I get on this BIKE(machine)I can't get it to slow down. This bike doesn't know that word, it's fast and speed it knows.I was not the best at climbing hills (no problem now).”
“The bike is light, stiff, stable, and FAST. It's also very comfortable. Coming from an aluminium-framed MTB, I immediately noticed the vibration-damping characteristics of the carbon frame and fork. What really impresses, though, is when you stand up on the bike to climb a hill. The bike just puts the power down and shoots ahead—both the light weight and the frame design pay big dividends here. I'm happy and comfortable with the geometry, find the handling stable and responsive, and often find the bike getting away from me because it's just that quick.”
- Frame :Ultralight 500 OCLV carbon, H2 fit
- Fork : Carbon E2
- Weight : 8.1kg
- Groupset : Shimano 105
- Gear ratios : 11-28 cassette, 50/34 chainset
- Wheels : Bontrager Race Tubeless Ready
- Tyres : Bontrager R1 Hard-Case Lite 23c
- Bar : Bontrager Race VR-C
- Stem : Bontrager Race Lite
- Seatpost : Bontrager Ride Tuned carbon seatmast cap
- Saddle : Bontrager Paradigm 3
View the Trek Emonda SL5 - Now £1,099.99
Got a question?
Send it to us on Facebook or Twitter, using the hashtag #askRC.