Trek Emonda SL 6 ridden and rated
Tested by: Rupert Radley | Miles ridden: 248 | Size tested: 56cm | Weight: 7.66kg
Think of top Tour de France bikes, and there are only a handful of names that pop into your head faster than the Trek Emonda.
While Alberto Contador famously rode the SLR in his farewell season, we’ve got our hands on the more reasonably priced Emonda SL 6, coming in at £2,250.
Despite its position in the lower echelons of the Emonda line, the SL 6 has a frame that looks built to race yet still manages to maintain an air of elegance.
Sweeping lines blur one area of the frame into the next, and the slender seatstays make the bike look responsive and nimble. Pair the sweeping design with the matt silver paintjob, and the bike has a seriously classy look.
But its beauty is more than skin deep: the 500 series OCLV carbon makes the frame light for the price: not surprisingly it isn’t on the same level as the 640g Emonda SLR but 1,091g for the SL frame is pretty good.
Down below, an overbuilt, beefy bottom bracket makes for efficient power transfer, especially helpful when things start heading uphill.
Without a doubt, the most exciting equipment on the bike is the Shimano Ultegra R8000 groupset. Newly updated, it marks an enormous overhaul of Shimano’s everyman groupset, narrowing the gap with its top-flight mechanical offering, Dura-ace R9100. The former is now very similar to the latter, albeit with a bit of added weight due to a few material changes.
In terms of shifting feel and action, it’s every bit as good as its more expensive Dura-ace sibling. The redesigned front mech and more ergonomic levers offer a light action to front shifts, and rear shifts are crisp, accurate and powerful.
Of the new Ultegra groupset itself, the standout features are the excellent rim brakes — again, they’re every bit the equal of the Dura-ace models, so it was a bitter disappointment to find them missing on the Emonda. Instead, Trek has specced its overbuilt Bontrager Speed Stop Pro brakes. Rather than the next-level power and detailed feel of the Shimano BR-8000 brakes, you’re left with a distinct lack of stopping power and a dull feeling, making it hard to know how close to locking the rear wheel you are.
Elsewhere, there’s also the slightly uneven pairing of the Bontrager Paradigm Comp aluminium wheelset with the lightweight carbon frame.
As you’d expect from a frame with racing pedigree, there’s a sense of urgency to the carbon frame that wants to let rip when out on the road.
But there’s a gentler side to it, too, and there’s a good level of comfort designed into the ride. Unlike so many stiff carbon frames, the Trek Emonda SL 6 feels dampened and absorbent without ever feeling sluggish.
The skip in its step no doubt comes from its weight, or lack of. Even with heavy aluminium wheels and enormously overbuilt brakes, the Emonda SL 6 weighs a tiny 7.66kg. Spec the bike with some killer wheels and you’ll shave that down even further. On the hills it climbs as you’d expect from a frame built for Alberto Contador, but it really shines on the downs, too. The ride was well balanced and agile thanks to the short wheelbase, and the handling was sharp in the corners. In certain areas the Emonda is not as aggressive as other GC bikes: its bottom bracket isn’t as low as that of the Cervélo R5 or the Specialized Tarmac, and its head tube is longer too. Between the three, the Emonda loses out marginally when it comes to descending but in absolute terms it still handles brilliantly.
The Trek Emonda frame is excellent, no doubt about it, but is weighed down by the aluminium Bontrager wheels. However, at £2,250 that’s not unexpected. It is a real shame to pay for an Ultegra groupset however, but not get the best part — the brakes!
If you’ve a bit more cash to splash, the Trek offers the carbon wheelset-equipped Trek Emonda SL 6 Pro for £600 more.
Trek Emonda SL 6 put through its paces, p36
Own-brand brakes lack modulation Carbon frame is overbuilt in all the right places