Trek made the headlines with the launch of its new Émonda. In its top-flight SLR guise the OCLV (Optimum Compaction Low Void) carbon frame weighs an astonishingly light 640g, while the disc version weighs an equally impressive 665g. Unfortunately for most of us, that superlight frame only starts on bikes that retail at £4,000 / $4,400 / AU$7,000 and above.
- The Trek Émonda SL6 Pro is one of our Bike of the Year bikes for 2018. To read reviews of the other contenders and the categories tested across road, mountain and women's bikes, visit our Bike of the Year hub.
Anything below that and it’s the SL version of the frame made with 500 Series carbon, so my SL frame is closer to 1,019g. On the face of it, that doesn’t seem quite so impressive, but when you consider that the Émonda’s design incorporates most of the seatpost — the Émonda uses a carbon topper instead of a full-length post — that accounts for around 150g-plus on a ‘normal’ frame design.
The SL6 rides beautifully. Trek seems to have hit the sweet spot across its whole range — the Domane is as plush as you’ll ever need and the Madone sets new standards for comfort on an aero road bike.
The Émonda was always the firmest in Trek’s lineup, and that still rings true, but the firm feel and super-stiff lower half of the bike makes power transfer impressive. Where the new Émonda scores over the previous generation is that the firmness never encroaches into harshness. The chassis feels wonderfully balanced, subtly smoothing out road noise, without having to resort to a high-end carbon bar or big volume tyres.
The SL6 conforms to Trek’s more endurance-biased H2 fit. It’s still pretty racy compared to out and out sportive bikes, but I love the way it fits. Trek has done a lot of research into biometrics, and bike fits are an ever-growing part of its business. It’s paying dividends, rarely have I felt so at home immediately after getting on board a bike.
The Émonda feels perfectly poised when barrelling along on rolling terrain, and when you get into the climbs the rigidity of the chassis and the 1,500g wheelset combine to make the SL6 a wonderful companion. It’s a bike that wills you to get out of the saddle and attack.
The handling is very much like Cannondale’s Evo and Cervélo’s R3D, but slightly less rapid to turn. That’s no bad thing as both the Evo and R3D need your full-on attention at all times, but with the Émonda you can have those moments to cruise, relying on the stability it exudes.
Brake performance from the Bontrager Speed Stops felt much better than the previous instances I'd tried them, a lot of that is down to Bontrager’s switch to (Bontrager-branded) Swiss Stop Black Prince pads. Also Trek sent over a more detailed instruction document on the correct way to set up the skeletal Speed Stops.
With the direct-mount brakes properly set and centred, they hold some serious power. I had no issues scrubbing speed in wet or dry conditions. I’d still give Shimano’s direct-mount brakes the edge, like those found on the Specialized Tarmac, as they match the Speed Stops for power but have an extra level of feel at the lever. The Speed Stops do look suitably trick and at 95g they’re also lighter.
The SL6 is a damn fine road bike. If you’re not sold on discs just yet and want to stay with standard rim brakes, you’d be hard pushed to find a bike that combines a classy ride with such a fine level of equipment. Not even the likes of direct-sale brand Canyon can put together a bike with carbon wheels this good for under £3,000.
I know how ridiculous it would to describe a £2,850 / $3,500 / $4,499 bike as great value, but when you are spending so much, you want to spend smart, and with the SL6 Pro it would be very difficult to buy smarter.
If you thought 2018 was the beginning of the end for the humble rim brake, you’re mistaken, with a bike like this, the Specialized Tarmac and Cannondale Evo, there seems to be a renaissance afoot for the humble caliper brake.