If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. There wasn’t much to complain about with Trek’s Emonda before the company launched its new Emonda SLR Disc. Fortunately, the new bike’s ride quality is very familiar. But Trek still found ways to improve the already-stellar ride with a redesign of its flagship climbing bike.
You’ll need more than a quick glance to spot those changes. Sure, the disc brakes are a giveaway, but the real thrill of this bike lies in the almost imperceptible design differences. Once you throw a leg over it and point it uphill, those details become immediately clear.
For starters, this bike is crazy light. It is, in fact, the lightest production frame on the market at 640 grams (rim brake version; the disc brake version comes in at an advertised 665 grams. Neither weight includes the fork). Our first ride reactions confirmed that Trek’s super-light redesign was a success. Now that we’ve had a few months to really get to know the Emonda, it’s time to reaffirm its status as one of the best in the lightweight climber class.
On rolling terrain, the Emonda SLR Disc is good. On climbs, it’s superb. It feels like this bike was designed for a rider standing up over the handlebars, crushing cols bar to bar with the pros. Perhaps that’s because it was.
The geometry is tight. The wheelbase is super-short at 983mm (size 56cm, H1 fit). Couple that with 410mm chain stays, 58mm of trail, along with a 73.5-degree head tube angle, and you’ve got a bike that is extremely responsive. This is, to put it simply, a super-aggressive race bike.
Of course, those tight geometry numbers can also lead to some significant toe overlap, which caused some problems at low speeds. Be careful at stoplights.
Pedaling response seemed slightly better than previous Emonda models — perhaps due to the wide BB90 bottom bracket — though you’ll never mistake this for a sprinter’s bike. Handling feels a bit too reactive for that; save the explosive sprints for the aero Madone, with its more-stable feel.
Bontrager components throughout the build make the Emonda shine, starting with the Aeolus 3 D3 TLR wheels. The 35-millimeter rim depth offers enough aero advantage while keeping weight as low as possible. Plus, they can be easily set up tubeless. The 19.5mm inner rim width also jives with 28-millimeter tires for occasional jaunts on gravel.
Compliance features are minimal. Out back, most of the bump absorption comes from the seatmast system, which seems to work well enough to keep high-frequency vibrations from transmitting to your spine. Bontrager’s XXX OCLV carbon VR-C handlebar takes care of vibration up front. Don’t expect a comfort bike here, but the Emonda certainly has enough compliance features to keep you fresh.
If you’re after a climbing-specific tool, it’s hard to find one that’s better than the Emonda SLR 8 Disc. Its ultra-responsive handling only improves when you’re out of the saddle, and the tight geometry makes it a lithe navigator up the hill and even more so down the other side.