The new 2021 Trek Emonda goes disc-only, sees a shift towards a more all-round aero-focussed race bike, gets larger (unofficial) tyre clearances, sees a drop in weight on the top-end disc frameset and – joy of joys – adopts a threaded bottom bracket.
The original Emonda was focussed solely on achieving a low weight, and it was possible to build it up as a truly featherweight bike.
Though the bike saw gradual changes over successive generations – including the adoption of disc brakes and increased tyre clearances – the Emonda platform stayed true to its original goal.
Industry trends and public taste has moved on since then, though – while there will always be a time and a place (and public appetite) for truly lightweight road bikes, many riders now expect an all-round race bike to perform well in a broader range of scenarios. This new bike reflects that.
Trek has also launched a brand new integrated cockpit and four new wheelsets to accompany the new bike.
Trek has aimed to strike a balance between low- and mid-speed aero performance against an inevitable increase in weight.Felix Smith / Immediate Media
The aero development of the new Emonda was focussed on the terrain and average speeds encountered on Alp D’Huez – arguably the most iconic climb of the French alps and one that has featured in numerous Tours de France.
Yes, you read that right – climb-specific bikes are now a thing.
Jesting aside, with this approach, Trek analysed the average speed at which a rider would climb on Alp D’Huez – balancing mid- and low-speed aero performance against an inevitable increase in weight when aero frame shapes are used.
Hints of the Madone can be seen throughout the bike.Jack Luke / Immediate Media
The resulting shape is very different to the outgoing Emonda, moving away from fairly traditional tube shapes to adopt a more Domane-like silhouette, with hints of the Madone’s aero profiling around the headtube.
2018 Emonda Finish Time (min)
2021 Emonda Finish Time (min)
Time Delta (seconds)
Taiwan KOM Challenge
Trek quantifies these improvements in a fairly unconventional way, claiming that, for a 70kg rider, the new bike will save you 18 seconds per hour when climbing an 8% grade at a fairly spicy 350W, when compared to the old Emonda.
On the flat riding at the same power, you should expect to save a minute every hour.
According to Trek, the new Emonda is faster than the latest generation of the Domane in terms of aero performance, but only slightly. However, the weight is, obviously, much lower on the Emonda as it lacks all of the IsoSpeed gubbins and has no all-road leanings.
The new bike is said to sit midway between the old Emonda and Madone but, again, the Emonda is a considerably lighter bike.
This is a very simplistic overview of the aero development of the bike, but gives you a taste of what Trek was trying to achieve – creating a light-enough all-round race bike that brings some aero benefit at a broad range of speeds.
For what it’s worth, Trek has been (refreshingly) open about exactly how it tested the Emonda and, if such things tickle your pickle, I’m sure there will be plenty more to read on the subject on the Trek website.
Trek developed the new OCLV layup for the new Emonda.Russell Burton / Immediate Media
As the overall aero shapes of the new frameset are less structurally efficient than the old frame, Trek devised OCLV 800, a new layup that is claimed to be 30% stronger than OCLV 700, while being 8% lighter. This new layup is used in select areas to increase stiffness without adding weight. All of this adds up to a sub-700g SLR-level frame when unpainted, with the derailleur hanger and in an unspecified size. The unpainted fork is claimed to weigh 365g with an 220mm steerer.
The SL-level Emonda features the exact same frame shape and internal cable routing as the SLR frameset, but is constructed using Trek’s lower-level existing OCLV 500 layup. This frame weighs 1,142g, again, unpainted and in an unspecified size. The fork weighs 380g.
H1.5 for everyone
The new bike is only available in Trek’s H1.5 fit.Trek
Trek has significantly altered the geometry of the Emonda for 2021, and it is now only available in the brand’s middle-of-the-road H1.5 fit.
H1.5 sits pretty much in the middle of Trek’s formerly-available and wildly aggressive pretty-much-pro-only H1 geometry and its actually-accessible-to-mortals endurance-focussed H2 fit.
The resulting shape strikes a good balance between real-world usability and allowing riders to get a low and fast setup should they so wish.
Tyre clearance on the bike is very generous. Pictured is a 28mm wide (measured) tyre.Jack Luke / Immediate Media
Aero isn’t just everything with the new bike – tyre clearance on the new 2021 Trek Emonda is now officially rated to clear a 28mm tyre, but it’s obvious you could squeeze something considerably larger in there.
With a 28mm (measured) Panaracer Race D Evo tyre mounted to Bontrager Aeolus Elite 35 wheels (more on those in a moment) there is roughly 9mm of clearance on either side of the tyre and about 8mm above the tyre at the fork.
Out back, there is no seat stay bridge to contend with, but clearance drops down to roughly 7mm on either side of the tyre at the chainstay.
Wider tyres have consistently been shown to have lower rolling resistance and result in less rider fatigue in independent testing, so while a 28mm will suffice in most instances, it’s good to know you can (unofficially) squeeze something squashier in there.
Bye Bye BB90
The new Emonda ditches BB90 in favour of a T47 threaded bottom bracket shell.Trek
It was a simple and lightweight system, but as the bearings pressed straight into the frame, it relied on super tight tolerances to work well – and sometimes it didn’t. The system also limited riders to 24mm spindle cranksets.
RIP BB90 – you won’t be missed.James Huang / Immediate Media
Adopting T47 – as has been done on all of Trek’s new road and gravel bikes – gets around all of these problems with only a moderate increase in weight. Critically, it’s also a far easier system for home mechanics to maintain. This change will please the cycling commentariat, so happy smiles all round.
It now seems inevitable that whenever the Madone gets its next update, it will also move to a T47 bottom bracket shell.
An aero cockpit that isn’t a nightmare to live with
The top-end bikes in the Emonda range get the new Bontrager Aeolus RSL VR-C integrated cockpit/bar-stem.
This new cockpit is claimed to save 7 watts with a 65 kg rider averaging 28 mph with a 7 mph average wind speed on a flat surface compared to the outgoing Bontrager XXX cockpit.
The new Aeolus RSL VR-C cockpit is available in 14 different sizes and is claimed to weigh 272g in the smallest 38cm wide option with an 80mm ‘stem’.
The new cockpit houses the bike’s cables and hoses in a neat channel on the underside of the bar and routes them directly into the head tube.
This channel is covered with a removable faceplate that will greatly ease cable routing – there should be no hopeless poking about with frustrating internal routing here.
The new cable routing system is actually very easy to use.Jack Luke / Immediate Media
Cable routing through the frame has also been improved, adopting a system similar to that seen on the Domane, though the cables are routed through the front of the headtube here.
The cables first run through a set of split spacers and the non-splittable headset top cover before entering the headtube, neatening things up nicely. There are no internal cable stops and the bike uses full-length housing.
Carbon wheels for (almost) everyone
A new suite of four wheelsets has also been developed to accompany the new Emonda.
The new range starts at $898 for the Bontrager Aeolus Elite 35/50 wheels, rising to $2,399.98 for the top-end Aeolus RSL 37 wheelset.
Moving up through the range, you get lighter layups, posher spokes and faster profiles. All of the hubs are based on DT Swiss’ latest Ratchet EXP internals and the wheels are, of course, tubeless-compatible.
Bontrager Aeolus RSL 37
The Bontrager Aeolus RSL 37 wheelset.Trek
The top-end wheelset is a 37mm-deep carbon wheelset that, according to Trek, “have an all new rim shape that’s faster than deeper wheels and lighter than shallower wheels all while maintaining stability” – heady claims indeed.
Trek adds that, compared to their unspecified predecessor (presumably the Bontrager Aeolus XXX 2 TLR), the new wheels are 11 per cent faster with a claimed weight of 1,325g.
Notably, the wheels have no rider weight limit and, like all carbon wheelsets from Bontrager, they’re backed by a lifetime warranty.
Bontrager Aeolus Pro 37
The Bontrager Aeolus Pro 37 wheelset.Trek
The Aeolus Pro 37 features the exact same shape as the top-end wheelset, but uses a slightly heavier layup with a claimed weight of 1,685g.
Bontrager Aeolus Elite 50/35
The Bontrager Aeolus Elite 50 wheelset. It is also available in a 35mm depth.Trek
Rounding out the range is the Elite-level wheelsets.
That is a bit of a broad generalization, but Trek is reacting to market trends here and will be looking to reduce ‘redundant’ models in its lineup. You can hardly fault the brand for making the bikes people want to buy.
The last generation of the Emonda is one of the last truly lightweight mainstream rim brake road bikes.Oliver Woodman / Immediate Media
This makes the last generation of the Emonda one of those last truly classic ultra-lightweight carbon road bikes, so pick one up soon if you want your bit of history.
Jack has been riding and fettling bikes for his whole life. Always in search of the hippest new niche in cycling, Jack is a self-confessed gravel dork, fixie-botherer, tandem-evangelist, hill-climbing try hard, and thinks nothing of taking on a daft challenge for the BikeRadar YouTube channel. With a near encyclopaedic knowledge of cycling tech — from the most esoteric niche nonsense to the most cutting edge modern kit — Jack takes pride in his ability to seek out tech and stories that would otherwise go unreported. Jack has been at BikeRadar for three years now and is regularly testing an esoteric mix of weird and wonderful bikes.