Trek’s rivals in the big three bike brands both launched aero-road machines in the form of Giant's Propel and the Venge from Specialized. Trek followed suit in the last revision of the Madone with it morphing into an aero-tweaked race special. With the innovative Domane, with its ‘decoupler’ soft tail design, being a straight-up rival for Specialized’s Roubaix and Giant’s Defy, the Madone was always in direct competition with the big S’s Tarmac and Giant’s TCR. Its aero revisions left a big hole in Trek's arsenal, which the Emonda is here to fill.
Emonda may be an anagram, but it’s also derived from the French verb emonder, meaning to prune and trim away. So at the core of the design its lightweight with any extraneous material and features trimmed back. That’s certainly true of the flagship SLR 10 and its astonishing 690g frame weight and 4.65kg (56cm) complete weight (though its price tag certainly won't appear pared-down to anyone except the super-rich).
This SL6 uses the new 500 series OCLV carbon to create a frame weight of 1050g. That's impressive enough, especially for a bike at this price – the complete weight of our 58cm test ride is a very respectable 7.74kg – but it’s certainly not all about grams here.
The SL6 is well equipped, with a full Shimano Ultegra groupset
The SL6 is one of the best equipped Treks we’ve seen in a long time. In the past we’ve criticised them for their mix and match approach to component specs, which often saw a few lower grade items dropped into the drivetrain to save a few bucks. For 2015 though we are seriously impressed that Trek has gone the complete route with a full Shimano Ultegra groupset that adds an impressive value status to the overall equation.
Though the Emonda is an all-new bike, within minutes of hopping into the saddle we felt right at home. If for a moment we hark back to the glory days of the Madone, when it was one of the lightest in the peloton and winning everything (no matter how tainted those victories are now), the essence of that bike's excellence was its mix of lightness and handling prowess – and the SL6 has that and more.
The familiar H2 fit, slightly taller than the pro-level bikes, and slightly shorter in reach too (our 58cm bike has a 57.3cm top tube) gives a comfortable yet commanding riding position. We were still able to get down in the drops and push the pace without ever feeling cramped, yet rise up onto the hoods and you can push the pedals all day and cover epic distances free of aches and pains.
Climbing is where the Emonda excels – it may not be class-leadingly light, with its average weight wheels and middleweight finishing kit, yet it climbs with the vigour of a spider monkey escaping a hungry predator.
Crest the brow of a hill and point the SL6 back down and the chassis’ liveliness uphill transforms into a compliant ground hugging missile that floats over bumpy and broken surfaces with a limpet-like tenacity for holding its line. The amount of grip it exudes through hard cornering is mighty. The only negative is the alloy bar's narrow diameter, which doesn't offer the most comfortable of holds – and its overly stiff nature is at odds with the rest of this hugely impressive 2015 debut.
The Trek’s comfortable frame doesn’t need wider than 23c rubber
The Bontrager Race wheels are the most basic Trek offers, but even these are tubeless ready (admittedly, we're all still waiting to see if tubeless will ever take off on the road). They're decent enough – under hard sprint efforts we managed to induce a little brake rub, but nothing of any real concern and only apparent because the Emonda is so damn good at everything else it does. The slim 23c rubber they're shod with offers great all-weather grip and proved plenty tough enough in testing, and it's testament to just how smooth the bike is that Trek hasn’t resorted to anything wider for extra comfort.
In all the Emonda is the rightful heir to the classic Madone, blending ride quality, lightness and a whole shedload of riding fun. Its set to be one of the stars of 2015 and fully deserves the accolades that will undoubtedly come its way.