Trek Emonda SL6 Long Term Review

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After putting nearly 1500km in the saddle on the Trek Emonda SL6 I’m finally getting around to writing a review of it.  Part of the reason its taken so long to write this review is because frankly, I’ve been too busy riding the SL6.  It’s an amazing bike and over the next few paragraphs, I’ll tell you why.

For those of you who aren’t familiar, Trek has segmented its road bike platforms into three model line ups, with the “Choose Your Weapon” tag to market the breadth of their product offering.  In short, the Madone is an aerodynamic race bred halo bike, the Domane is the endurance road bike born on the cobbles of Paris-Roubaix, and the Emonda is the featherweight climber at home on steep mountain pitches.

Spending a lot of time around bikes with the Ridleys crew in Calgary, I’ve actually got to say that I think that Trek has their marketing a little wrong here.   While they’ve touted Emonda as a climber, it really performs exceptionally as a traditional all round road bike.  Early reviews drew comparisons between the Emonda and the Cannondale SuperSix Evo, while other riders have compared it to the Trek Madone circa 2010 before it moved to the squared off kammtail aero frame design.  Drawing similarities with either of those two bikes places the Emonda in good company.

Asset_237363The Ride

So what makes the Emonda so special?  First and foremost, when Trek set out to design the Emonda, they had the goal of building the lightest bikes available in every price category.  With the Emonda SL6, that means that at the sub $3700 CAD ($3100 USD) price point, they’ve manufactured a 16lb race bike kitted with Shimano Ultegra components through and through.  To make that possible, the SL6 uses the new 500 series OCLV carbon to create a frame weight of 1050g.

The biggest weight penalty on the bike comes from the Bontrager Race TLR wheels that tip the scales at just over 1700 grams, which is both a blessing and a curse. For around a grand there are a few sub 1500 gram wheelsets that will get your bike nearly down to the 15lb UCI weight limit.

The other feature that sets the Emonda apart from other bikes in the price category is the responsiveness of the frame.  From the first pedal stroke that you put into the frame you can just feel the bike drive forward.  The Emonda is an exceedingly efficient frame that transmits power effectively through the thick top tube and bottom bracket.  While the ride isn’t nearly as plush and compliant as the Domane which creates up to 20mm of travel through the isoSpeed decoupler, its still much smoother than any of the other bikes that I’ve spent time on in the past year (including the Cervelo S3 and S5, and Giant Propel and Avail).  Uphill accelerations and climbs are smooth and encourage the rider to power upwards.

I’ve subjected my Emonda to the perils of just one crit race this season and thought the bike performed exceptionally well.  Leaning deep into the corners the bike felt well planted and I felt confident counter steering the bike to whip around the turns.  Likewise, out of the saddle sprints felt direct and even with the stock Bontrager Race wheels the bike felt snappier than what I crit raced last season on, a Cervelo S5 with Zipp 404’s.

Gil_RafComponents

The Emonda SL6 is equipped with Shimano Ultegra 6800 components and a compact 50-34 crank. As I have mentioned in previous posts, I much prefer Shimano road sets to SRAM or even Campy (though my time on Campognolo bikes is fairly limited).   Shifting on the bike feels precise and mechanical, and in 1500km I’ve yet to have any dropped chains or missed shifts. On components, both Shimano and Trek deserve top marks.

Trek has done well lately to fully equip a lot of the bikes in their model line ups with full groupsets of each line. Rather than save some money by doing things like putting a 105 front derailleur and calipers on with an Ultegra bike, what you get with most of the lineup is the same grouppo through and through.

I switched to the Emonda from an Ultegra Di2 equipped Cervelo S5. Understandably, I was slightly hesitant to go back to mechanical Ultegra components but having ridden the Ultegra 6800 groupset earlier this year on an S3 in Nevada I knew that it wasn’t necessarily a downgrade.

So how do I like being back on mechanical rather than electronic shifting? I honestly don’t miss Di2 at all. That’s certainly not to say one is better than the other but from 105 through to Dura-Ace, Shimano’s latest work is clean and crisp. Going to Di2 on either Dura-Ace or Ultegra doesn’t necessarily mean an improvement in performance, you just get a very different feel. What I don’t love about Di2 is that it provides very little tactile feedback and as a rider you’ll be acutely aware that you’re pushing a button that tells a computer to makes the shift happen. You don’t actually feel like you’re the one shifting the gears.

Today, both the Ultegra and Dura-Ace mechanical groups provide trim adjustment on the front derailleur allowing you to minimize chain rub on cross-chained gear selections, a feature carried over from Di2. Its very useful, especially if you’re one who would rather keep the chain on the big ring on climbs rather than dropping to the 34.

Touchpoints

I don’t usually talk about a bike’s contact points when I write reviews but I thought it would be worth noting here.

The Emonda is equipped with a thin, traditional road bar that some riders have said is a little too narrow. I don’t really share that sentiment and actually think that the road bars are perfectly sized to the frame sizes. At least in my case, I found the bars felt compact but not uncomfortably so.

The Trek Domane is equipped with a much beefier road bar with a thicker top section to increase the surface area where the rider’s palms rest. This may have worked well on the Emonda for climbers who prefer to ride in a very upright position, but realistically, most of the ride isn’t really spent with your hands on either side of the stem so I don’t see this as something that Trek got wrong. That being said, different riders have different preferences.

I wasn’t particularly enamored with the saddle that comes equipped on the Emonda, the Bontrager Paradigm RL. After about an hour and a half into each ride I found that it felt a bit too firm and my sit bones would start to get pretty sore. The Paradigm has a cutout down the middle which is a popular design these days that is meant to reduce pressure on soft tissue “down there”. But the benefits of the cutout simply didn’t make up for how uncomfortable the saddle inevitably felt.

I switched the saddle out for the Bontrager Serrano which is a much more traditional/classic looking saddle and haven’t looked back.

1546152_10100307258055397_8159982627540810172_nGet this bike if…

If you’re looking for a traditional looking road bike that can do it all, definitely consider the Emonda. I can’t help but think that this bike will be a classic in a few years and the guys I spend time with at Ridleys seem to agree. We all vote for our bikes with our own dollars and five of us have made the switch to the Emonda coming from Cervelo’s, BMC’s, and Giants.

The Emonda certainly isn’t an aero bike like the Madone, and the thick round downtube really owns the bike’s contempt for anything aero. But that the bike is so unapologetic in its traditional design is part of what makes it such a great performer.

Trek’s Domane was easily its best selling road bike last year. And compared to the Domane, the ride is definitely less supple, but not so much that you’d experience any fatigue at all after a few hours in the saddle. The gains from going to the lighter and slightly stiffer frame are definitely worth test riding first hand against the Domane.

Summary

Short of upgrading to the Trek Madone (and coming up with the requisite $7400 to do so), I don’t see any reason to get rid of this bike. It provides great ride quality and is punchy and responsive on climbs and in corners.

Of note, I considered the Emonda SL8 when I purchased this bike, but the $1300 price different to shave off a pound and graduate up to Dura-Ace just didn’t make sense for me. If you really want to upgrade this bike, sell the wheels for a couple hundred bucks put it towards some lightweight Eastons or custom built hoops from your local bike shop and you’ll have a 15lb thoroughbred race bike.

Pros

  • The Emonda is a future classic with a lightweight, responsive frame that begs to be ridden
  • Smooth supple ride and endurance frame dimensions that make for great long rides
  • The SL6 arguably has the two best colour options available in the entire Emonda lineup with a matte black on black, or Trek Factory Racing red with black lettering

Cons

  • At $3700CAD, the bike isn’t cheap, but considering that it’s a 16lb Ultegra equipped bike, it provides good value against competing models
  • The wheels are just so-so, though they are tubeless ready, so you can give that a shot

Post Script Mar 21, 2016.– I had the opportunity to spend about 7 hours on a Cannondale SuperSix Evo that I got my hands on in Maui for a climb up Mount Haleakala.  Comparisons between the Cannondale SuperSix Evo and the Trek Emonda are pretty fair.  Personally I’d give the edge to the Emonda as a bit of a snappier bike, and because it fits me better.  But my thoughts about the responsiveness of the Emonda over the SuperSix could easily have to do with the fact that the SuperSix I was riding was geared up with a saddle bag, frame mount pump, and a wider handlebar set than I’m used to on my Emonda (I don’t even ride with a saddle bag on my bike, I keep a tube and CO2 in my jersey pocket).  I know there are people out there cross shopping these bikes and I’d say between the Cannondale SuperSix Evo and Trek Emonda SL6, go with the bike that fits you better and you’re more stoked about the look of.  Its a coin toss between these two awesome machines so fit and style should be the decision maker.  Don’t go by what the interweb forums say, don’t even split hairs over weight, just go take these two bikes for a test ride at your local shop(s) and get the one that you’re more into. Period.

Raf
Raf
Rafael Lopez is an entrepreneur, blogger, and athlete living in Calgary, Canada. When he's not running between coffee meetings in downtown Calgary, you'll find him on one of his four bikes (Trek Madone 9.2, Trek Fuel Ex 8, Trek Project One Speed Concept 9, Specialized Langster Las Vegas), or out for a run on the Bow River, or shredding the pow in the Canadian Rockies.
Showing 53 comments
  • Jon McLaughlin

    Did you ever run out of gears running a compact? I’m coming from a 53/39 on my VanDessel. The SL6 is on my list to look at, but worried about the gearing. Thanks in advance!

    • Raf

      Hey Jon, thanks for the question! Honestly, not really. I have a standard crankset on my TT bike (Trek Speed Concept) and whenever I head out on hilly rides with it, I’m pretty thankful that my road bike has a compact. A compact 50/34 crankset with an 11-25 cassette offers you a bigger gear than a standard 53/39 crank with a 12-25 cassette, so with the right cassette choice you can push some pretty big watts. The only instance where you may run out of gears is on a big descent or with a crazy tailwind and a 1-2% false flat decline, and in those cases you’re probably already flying, so you might appreciate having the right gears for the climbs a bit more.

      To give you a sense for my riding style, I live in the foothills of the rockies, so everything is either going up, or going down, and its always windy. And on a good day I push about 280 watts for my threshold power. With that, the only times I spin out on the compact crank is when I’m humming along fast enough that my wife would be less than stoked about how fast I was going (over about 60-70 kph-ish).

      • Jon McLaughlin

        Thanks for the reply! I appreciate that, and am still trying to truly figure out these ratios. But if I can still cruise along and maybe even climb a little better, I’d be ok with that any day!

        • H

          You can get the SL6 in a H1 fit which will come stock with 52/36 chainrings. The H2 version is slightly more upright and comes with 50/34.

  • Shane

    Nice review. Always a pleasure riding your the techs of your experience.

  • John

    Thank you for the review. I know they are different bikes but would you choose the emonda over and Cervelo s3 for all round riding – fast group rides, hills, flats descents, handling, comfort etc??? I own a madone 2012 and can’t fault Trek but was looking for a new steed and was considering an Aero Road bike until i saw this review as you have ridden both bikes and the S3 i was considering,

    • Raf

      Hey John, sorry for the slow reply here. Was out of the country when you first replied. The new Trek is going to feel similar to the 2012 Madone, which I think is a good thing. Having ridden both the Emonda and the S3, I’d *personally* give the slightest edge to the Emonda because of how snappy and fun it is. But if you’ve never had an aero road bike, definitely give the S3 a go. You’ll feel how quick it is on the descents and during group rides. Honestly, the other big consideration is how each of those two bikes fit you and whether you can get a smoking deal on either. Have you test ridden them yet?

      • John

        Thanks for getting back to me. I haven’t test rode either just yet but plan to in the new year.For an ultegra spec they are around £1000 difference betwen the Sl6 emonda and the S3. The Madone was my first carbon road bike so i had little to compare to, i have spent a brief amount of time on a super six eve standard model and around 50 miles or so on a Canyon Ultimate CF slx which was stiff but also not as comfortable as the madone. Ive always felt the madone had done everything for me and ive never felt like it lacks in any area. I have considered the aero of the S3 but also heard cervelos can have bb issues? Also i know Treks warranty is solid but heard mixed reviews on Cervelos? If i went for the emonda it would be in black as i always wanted that colour scheme but could not get it at the time – I would then retire my Madone to winter and bad weather duty which it has taken in it’s stride since ive owned it! 🙂 I suppose im asking IF aero makes that much difference? I can top 50mph down hill on the madone and don’t need to be quicker downhill but it may help on the flats? When you say more fun, is this stiffness in the emonda that contributes to this? Also which bike handles best? Oh and do aero frames suffer a lot in cross winds? Sorry for alll the questions but you rarely find someone who has ridden both the bikes you are looking at?

        • Raf

          Hey John. No problem on all the questions. I’ll try and answer all of them in the order that you presented them. From what I’ve heard, there have been a lot of comparisons made between the SuperSix Evo and the Emonda, which as I think I said in the review, is a good thing. My Emonda fits me perfectly (5’8 and I ride a 52cm), so obviously I find it very comfortable. Can’t comment on the Canyon though as we don’t get too many of them over here in Canada.

          So with regards to the Cervelo, I’ve had three, a Cervelo P2 TT Bike, a Cervelo S1, and the Cervelo S5. I’ve also ridden the S3 over about 100 miles now. From my experience, they’re a little creeky and they do have BB issues. If the BB isn’t set up perfectly from the get go, a lot of annoying issues arise around the bearing cups and bottom bracket. Cervelos also tend to have paint that chips easily if thats something that matters to you.

          Trek on the other hand has a great warranty program and I’ve had great experiences for them (in fairness, the shop I’m with is a large Trek dealer, and I have three Treks. So that may be bias, or maybe they’re just that good). The Emonda I have is the Matte Black SL6 and its gorgeous.

          So, with regards to aero. It makes a difference. You’ll notice it more on the descents, but it doesn’t make THAT big of a difference. We’re talking less than a minute between the two bikes given the same power output on the same course. Also, if you live someplace thats really windy, the Cervelo is going to give you a bit of grief in the crosswinds, particularly if you put aero wheels like Zipp 404’s on it. Thats one issue that no aero bike is going to get around. What contributes to the “fun-ness” of the Emonda in my opinion is the light weight, and the stiffness on the front end thanks to the very thick head tube, and the wide downtube and bottom bracket area that makes the bike very responsive overall. That responsiveness is forgone with the S3 as the frame is made much narrower and tapered to make it more aero.

          If you’re looking at a £1000 difference between the two, this is what I would do (and some people may disagree and its all personal preference!). I’d go with the Emonda, save some quid, and invest in a powermeter like an SRM, Powertap, or Garmin Vector 2 and maybe a lightweight set of wheels!

  • Chip

    I really like the Emonda and plan on racing 2016, (35+ yea I’m an old dude) I would love an SLR version maybe an SLR6 but any of the SLRs are a lot of $$$. Would you consider the SL8 a good compromise. Is the SL8 a true racer or just a light weight Grand Fondo bike?

    • Raf

      I just had a chat with a friend of mine who rides an SLR6 and has ridden the SL5 and SL6. He/I would say that the SL is a perfectly fine race bike. If you’re budget conscious, the SL6 gives you almost identical performance to the SL8 and is just a pound heavier (16lbs), but saves you about $1500 to spend on a nice, light, fast wheelset (such as the Dura Ace C24’s or Easton EA90 SLX’s). The other option would be to get the SL6 and get a good powermeter on there as well if you don’t already have one.

      I totally get the debate you’re having, I went back and forth between the SL6 and the SL8, but at the end of it, I couldn’t justify the extra grand for the Dura Ace and 1lb weight savings. And I really like the Matte Black on the SL6…

  • Smudger

    Hi there, great review. Having owned a 2014 Domane 5.2 for 2 years I’m looking for something a little more “racy” but still comfortable over a long distance. When I bought the Domane I tested it back to back againt the 2014 Madone and realy liked the Madone. I plumped for the Domane as I thought it would be the most comfortable. However, I’ve never forgotten how responsive that Madone was and how easy it made climbing. I’m considering something like an Emonda Sl6 or a Cervelo R2/3. I was wondering if you have compared the Emonda back-to-back with a Domane and if so what the main differences are you noted?

    • Raf

      Definitely, I’ve ridden both the Emonda and the Domane. Biggest difference IMHO, is that the Domane geometry is a little bit more endurance oriented while the Emonda is a little “racier”. That being said, the Emonda SL series (as opposed to the SLR’s) are still Trek’s H2 fit, rather than H1. So the Emonda’s are still endurance over race. The other obvious difference is that the Domane soaks up more road feedback than the Emonda, but I wouldn’t by any stretch say that the Emonda is an overly stiff ride. Lastly, like you inferred, the Emonda is going to feel a little more like the Madone in its heyday, which is a good thing, very responsive, very direct.

      At the shop I work with there have definitely been guests that I would have pegged for people to pick up Domane’s, who tested both the Emonda and Domane back to back, and they went with the Emonda, and vice versa. So I think it comes back to what fits you best and gets you most stoked about riding. They’re both phenomenal bikes! Can’t go wrong either way.

  • KATHRYN CORDERO

    I currently have a Madone 2.3 aluminum bike. I do group rides and also ride hills once a week. I am looking at the Emonda 2015 sl 6. There doesn’t seem to be any big changes to the 2016 other than the color and I happen to like the white 2015. My question is, will the Emonda sl 6 be a faster bike in group or solo rides than the Madone 2.3. I’ve read that it’s not as aerodynamic, so I wanted to clear that up. What is your opinion. I’m looking for a fast ride with good climbing ability. Thank you.

    • Raf

      Hi Katheryn, thanks for the comment/question! You’re absolutely right in that there haven’t been any changes between the 2015 and 2016 Emonda SL 6 besides color. With regards to how the Emonda compares against the Madone 2.3, I don’t think that you’re going to see a huge material difference in aerodynamics between the aluminum Madone 2.3 and Emonda. Certainly if you compared the 2015/2016 Madone against the Emonda you’d see a pretty significant aero advantage with the Madone, as the present day Madone was designed as a thoroughbred racer (with the price tag to show it). But neither the Madone 2.3 or the Emonda were specifically developed with aerodynamics in mind.

      Thats not to say that you won’t see a big difference going from the Madone 2.3 to an Emonda SL 6 though. If you can get a 2015 Emonda on a previous year deal in your size, I’d jump on it as you’ll notice a big difference in the bike in terms of responsiveness and overall comfort. The Emonda will be a few pounds lighter helping you on those climbs, laterally stiffer allowing better power transfer to the road and snappier handling, and will be far more comfortable with the superior vibration dampening qualities of carbon over aluminum. If you haven’t taken one for a test ride I’d definitely urge you to! I think you’ll be pretty stoked on it, and a bike that you’re excited to ride is a bike that you’ll ride more, and in turn thats whats going to make you faster!

      • KATHRYN Vandero

        Thank you very much for the great information. I did purchase the bike and am looking forward to riding it.

  • Ihor

    I rode this bike all last year, logged about 7000 kms. You review is dead on, I couldn’t agree with you more. The only upgrade was to Mavic Ksyrium SLR’s. I went with the Trek ‘s SL series with the idea of have slightly less stiffness than found in the SLR carbon build, all for having a more comfortable ride. But when I needed to hammer down on the pedals the response was amazing, you felt the bike surge forward. I’m assuming the Trek design team put the stiffness in the right places, despite the fact whether it’s OCLV 500 or 700. As many articles have already stated, the Ultegra 6800 is basically the Dura Ace with, I beleve, 250 grams savings with Dura Ace, which I cannot justify to spend the additional $1500-1600 for 250 grams. Like you mentioned an upgrade to a higher end wheelset would provide better ride results.

    • Raf

      Thanks for the comments Ihor! Glad to hear you agree with my points. Its pretty remarkable how laterally stiff they managed to make the Emonda while keeping it reasonably plush vertically. I know a lot of people who have test ridden the Emonda and Domane back to back and opted to go with the responsiveness of the Emonda.

      I agree with you and that think with the Emonda SL the Dura Ace is just too much more money and it would make more sense to just go to an SLR. I think they would have been better off specing it out Ultegra Di2, I feel like more people would have been drawn to that for the money the Dura Ace (but I still would have gone with the SL 6 Ultegra build).

  • Glenn

    Hello. Great review and I really the title for your blog … very clever and fitting! Hello to Calgary for me. My wife and I visited for the first time two years ago and loved it!

    I had very similar thoughts regarding the Trek SL6. I was amazed with it’s response, ride, and light weight. I do like the 50/34 crank. I wasn’t a fan of Trek bikes and was offered a trial ride at a local store. Glad I was opened minded that day. Very nice bike but leads me to a question for you and anyone else on this blog….

    My current ride is a 2008 Fuji Team Le with all Shimano ultega components, well maintained and in good working order. I replaced the stock crank with the ultegra compact after having the bike for 6 months. Great choice for climbing hills was a bit easier with the gear configuration. I ride every day at least 20 miles and at a pace of 18-23 mpg for an average. When time permits I’ll ride 40-70 mile rides at nearly the same pace. I really like my Fuji and have always enjoyed how easy it is to suddenly jump up in speed when needed and it’s a smooth and solid ride. This Fuji is great for me but seems to be getting a little long in the tooth. At local coffee stopsI often get funny looks and “snickers” because of riding a Fuji instead a locally trendy bike (Specialized, Giant) … until they see me more than keeping up with them.

    I’m considering a new bike but not sure it’s really worth it. I almost purchased the Trek SL6 but thought the components are nearly the same as my bike and would be paying 2,000.00 dollars for a new frame essentially. Some of the new bikes are extremely expensive and with shimano 105 components which seems a bit silly to me.

    I would welcome any thoughts on when you would suggest changing your primary riding bike. When your frame cracks, no longer repairable, or just out of “wanting a newer bike”? Any thoughts on the “Specialized” brand or suggestions otherwise. I’m willing to save up and spend some serious coin

    Many thanks for your articles and ride on!!

    • Raf

      Hey Glenn! Thanks for the comment. Have you had the opportunity to take the SL 6 for a test ride? I feel like that may help in the decision process…

      There’s no hard and fast rule as to when you should upgrade your bike. If you ask someone who works at a shop, or someone who races, once every year or two is pretty much the norm. If you ask someone who just loves to ride, that number could be a new bike every five to eight years. Honestly, if you’re still in love with your Fuji, then definitely no reason to change it. That being said, if you spend a lot of time in the saddle and feel an inkling towards purchasing a new bike, definitely explore the options. Bike technology in both frames and components have come a long way over the past 5 or 6 years and even the 11 speed 105 components that you’d find on an Emonda SL 5 make that model a great option as well. Personally, I have my bikes that I replace, and my bikes that are keepers. My keepers are my Emonda SL 6 and my Specialized Langster Las Vegas, my mountain bikes and TT bikes I’ll almost always trade up if the opportunity is right.

      I like that you let your riding do the talking and Fuji is a great brand with a long history. Just because they aren’t the snazziest new bikes, doesn’t take anything away from them. But as I said, have some fun with the bike purchase process and take this interest in a new rig as a great opportunity to build up some relationships with your local bike shops. Ask to test ride some bikes, and see what shop you like the vibe of. Test out the shop as much as you’re testing out the bikes.

      As far as Specialized vs Trek vs Giant goes… I’d say Trek has a slight edge over Specialized in terms of engineering and design, and in turn ride quality. With the new Domane SLR and the Madone, Trek is really showing the breadth of what their research and development teams have to offer in terms of bike development. But between Specialized and Trek, what bike suits you best really comes down to your specific needs and what fits you best. As for Giant, I would say that Giant manufactures awesome bikes, but they’re first and foremost a bike manufacturer rather than an innovator. Giant actually manufactures bikes for a lot of other brands (but to those brands specs), and they can take advantage of those economies of scale to sell some bikes that simply cannot be beat in terms of value to the consumer. But the tradeoff with Giant however is in ride quality.

      Let me know if you have any questions though Glenn!

  • Glenn

    Thank you for your response. Sorry .. thought it was clear I have taken the SL6 out on a test ride … twice actually. Both of which has full ultegra components. Great ride but not certain it’s “racy” enough for my riding. Wish I didn’t miss the $700.00 off sale recently. I would’ve purchased it as my “distance rides” bike and purchased a “sprinting” bike next year.

    Yes, it is fun blowing the doors of the snobs in this area .. I never do so to be mean or dangerous .. just want to keep moving.

    I’ve been visiting all of our local stores and having so much fun trying out so many different bikes and meeting other riders. Scheduled a ride on a Cervelo today.

    They recently closed my favorite local store and the next location of the same company is 30 miles away. Not that far but the traffic and inconvenience of it is discouraging. main reason I’m looking at other local privately owned stores.

    Thanks again

  • Brian Hall

    Hi Raf,
    For a budget aluminum bike, did you notice that the 2015 Specialized Allez Comp Race had its high-end Roval Rapide CX 40 carbon wheels, at $2,900? It only had the 11-speed Shimano 105 drivetrain, but at that price with those wheels, I would think it had some climbing ability. In 2016, they dropped those wheels for that price point, which is too bad in my opinion.

    • Brian Hall

      Of course the aluminum line of Emonda, with the ALR 6 with an Ultegra groupset, wouldn’t make a bad climbing bike for alloy.

      • Raf

        Absolutely right Brian. The Emonda ALR 6 is a phenomenal bike. For a couple guys at my shop who ride mostly mountain bikes but also want a solid road bike for training purposes ride the ALR 6. You absolutely can’t go wrong on that bike, and I’d be stoked to have one in the quiver.

    • Raf

      Yeah thats too bad. I noticed that as well. Wheels are always a funny thing with bikes and I wonder what the dynamic is like between manufacturers and accessories providers. I noticed some of the higher end Trek’s are being spec’d with Vision wheels into 2017.

  • Robert

    Hi Raf,
    Enjoyed reading your detailed and thoughtful review. I’d been considering a Domane off and on the past two years after riding a 4.5 and really liking it, but a few months ago heard about the Emonda and nearly bought an ALR 5 during the recent closeout (however, my size was gone once I was able to finally pull the trigger). My mileage has increased this year, so I’ve gone from focusing primarily on comfort to more of an endurance/performance blend. Ride mostly on a rail trail which doesn’t have any horrible patches but does have some long stretches of rough rain-grooved concrete. For that reason I’ve zeroed in on the SL5; the ALR is still tempting but am wondering if the SL is worth the extra money for the superior vibration dampening and possibly better power transfer and climbing potential. My local shop has a couple of 2016 SL5’s left for $2000 US (albeit in the regional warehouse, so am currently unable to test ride). Anyway, thanks again for the all the info!

  • Marilou

    Hi Raf,
    I’m looking between Trek Emonda SLR 6 H2 or Giant Defy SL 1. I’m actually leaning more towards Trek because of it’s lightweight and I don’t really care about the disc breaks of Giant. Do you think Emonda would be comfortable enough for really long rides? Like 750 miles with 36,000 feet elevation gain? Thank you.

    • Raf

      Hey Marilou! 100% I’d go with the Emonda SLR 6. The Defy is a really really good bike and I can’t think of anything negative to say about it other than that I don’t think it needs the disc breaks either. But the Emonda SLR 6 is an absolutely phenomenal bike. Its surprisingly comfortable and compliant and you’ll have no problem at all with it even on rough roads, and weight wise its right at the 15lb UCI weight limit, so you can’t ask for much more than that! The Emonda would be a brilliant choice, I took my SL6 on a lot of 4-5 hour rides and was always comfortable.

      Also, kudos on the Everesting!

  • Jeff

    Hi Raf, nice review. I am currently looking at the Cervelo S3. I am also interested in Di2, but I am thinking of passing on it at this time. After reading this article, I am really keen to give the SL6 a go. Superficially, I love the black colour scheme. My question is, how “future-proof” is the frame for potentially adding Di2 down the road with a neat and clean install?

    • Raf

      Thanks for the kind comments Jeff. You shouldn’t have any problems with adding Di2 to an SL6, it uses the same frame as the SL7 which is the Di2 variation of it. So you’d be good to go if you want to upgrade in the future, it’ll use the seatpost Di2 battery so it’ll be pretty slick!

      • Jean

        You’ll have NO problem to install di2 on an Emonda SL6.. I done this job on mine & it was a very easy job 😉
        Really like this bike. Mine is a SL6 with Ultegra di2, saddle swapped for a San Marco Concor Carbon FX & Fulcrum Racing Zero C17 wheelset.
        I ride in Provence, south of France.

  • Mark

    Raf, Glad I ran across your review! I have similar views on what you have said… I have test ridden the Emonda S against a Domane and prefer the Emonda. I test rode an Emonda SL-8 to try the SL frame and am about to test ride the SL-6, which I am leaning toward. I am currently riding an old 5500 with a DuraAce gruppo which sits at about 17 lbs. I have heard about two issues with these bikes, the head tube elongation at the bearing and rim cracking with the Bontrager Race wheels, at 3,000 miles or so. What do you know about these issues? Thanks.

    • Raf

      Hey Mark. Thanks very much for the question. So I asked around to a few mechanics at the shop and some of the other guys who ride the Emonda. With regards to the head tube elongation, none of the mechanics who work on the Emonda’s here have seen any issues around that at all, so I wouldn’t go so far as to say it doesn’t happen, but it sounds pretty rare. We’ve probably moved hundreds of Emonda’s through our shop over the past few years and haven’t seen any come back with that problem.

      With regards to the Bontrager Race Wheels, they’re basically no nonsense, high mileage wheels, so again, we haven’t seen many issues. Personally I put around 5000km (3000miles) on mine on smooth pavement, chipseal, and gravel, with no problems or cracking at all. One of our other riders, a former NHL player (so a pretty big guy, +200lbs), has put about 12000km on his set with no problems. I definitely bent a rim on a Bontrager Race wheel when my rear tire exploded in a corner in a crit, but we can chalk that one up to user error.

      In either case, I think that those issues would be covered under Trek’s warranty in the first year of course. And in my experience I’ve seen them be pretty responsive to most client issues.

  • Aaron

    Hi Raf! Great to see your review above!
    I got Emonda SL5(105groupset). Is there any reason that i have to upgrade groupset such as Ultegra or higher one?
    (of course i know the training is the best way to improve my performance;) )

    • Raf

      Hey Aaron! Sorry for the slow reply here! Honestly, going from 105 to Ultegra will save you a bit of money, and you can definitely find some good deals on 105 groupsets these days online. Honestly though, if it were me, I’d spend the money on something like a powermeter (powertap or stages would be about the same price as a groupset). 105 is 11 speed, and shifts pretty crisp already. So while you might get an improvement in terms of tactile feedback and a bit of weight, I *personally* don’t think that any upgrade is necessary! A friend of mine has the 2016 SL 5 and loves it, I’d be 98% as stoked to ride the SL 5 as the SL 6 🙂

      • Aaron

        thank you for your kind reply!! 🙂

  • Pulak

    Hi. Thanks for the lovely review. I am in India where S6 not SL6 is available. I am 46 and interested in brevets specifically. Is this the bike for me? Or should I go for a domane? TIA

    • Raf

      Hi Pulak. Absolutely. I think that the S6 is still a fantastic choice. If you have the opportunity to test ride them both back to back, I’d say go for the one that you feel more comfortable on, but you can’t go wrong with either. The Emonda is going to feel a little more responsive and nimble, while the Domane will feel a little more upright and comfortable. If you’ll be putting in long miles, (3+ hours per ride at least once or twice a week), then the Domane may be the slightly better choice. If you’re doing lots of climbing or just want a more lively bike, choose the Emonda!

  • Joshua

    Hi, and thanks for your review. I stumbled across it while researching the 2016 Emonda SL6. I currently have a 2013 4.7 Madone 10 speed (full Ultegra). I’m drawn to the Emonda but I’m not really sure if it would really take the place of the Madone I have. I’ve test ridden the Emonda and it’s very nice – may seem nicer than the Madone (but that could be me liking the matte black bike). Just looking for some one else’s opinion on the ’13 Madone 4.7 vs the ’16 Emonda SL6 (both full Ultegra but the 11 speed vs 10 speed difference). Thanks in advance.

    • Raf

      Great question Joshua. They’re two bikes that are reasonably close to one another, obviously the Emonda descends from the Madone so I don’t think that you’re going to see a night and day change from one bike to the other. A friend of mine who raced ITU triathlon on the 2012 Madone recently moved over to the Emonda SL frame and he’s had feedback that its a stiffer/more efficient bike, but I still don’t think that you’re going to notice a huge change.

      With that in mind… Trek did a full refresh on the Madone in 2015, and a refresh on the Domane this year. I’d be surprised if we didn’t see some sort of a revamp on the Emonda in the next year or two. Its an already amazing bike, but so is your Madone so if you can wait, then thats food for thought.

      • Joshua

        Thank you for your quick response. I appreciate it. The big difference I notice is the weight. My Madone is just over 17lbs (how I ride it), the Emonda is just over 16lbs (equipped the same as my Madone). It’s definitely something to consider, but I’m not really sure there’d be much difference when riding (except possibly on the hills). Thanks again, and I enjoy your blog.

  • Mac peterson

    Rafael, Thanks for the great write up. I recently bought an SL6 (64 cm Frame). I am 6’8″ and 120kg (264 lbs), so not your ususal road cyclist. I have found this bike to be excellent. Especially for climbing, as being a huge freak, I need every bit of assistance that I can get. I have put about 600km on the bike so far and am loving it. Maybe after another 400-800km I will look at upgrading the wheels, but will see.
    Overall the value for money, the fact that they make a 64cm frame (as most manufacturers dont) this has been a great purchase and I am extremely happy!

  • jef

    Hello Raf, thanks for the informative review. I am currently riding a 2008 madone 5.2 – 52-h2 that fits me perfect. I had it custom built with ultegra 6600 and durace ace c24. The wheels are worn now. Now I ride fulcrum racing zero. (I prefer the DA). Did around 70.000km’s on the bike. The Madone had two problems. Poor varnish and water in the bottom bracket. The bottom bracket is repaired by Trek and is finally OK now. I am considering a new bike and the new Emonda is on my shortlist. Is the Emonda slr worth the extra cash for the extra grams…? Does it feel the same as Emonda sl or is it different (harsh etc. )?

    • Raf

      Hi Jef, definitely sounds like you put a lot of miles on that Madone. Thats awesome, so many people put just two or three thousand km’s in the saddle a year and bikes like that don’t end up with the miles they deserve.

      So I talked to one of the guys at the shop who’s spent a fair amount of time on the saddle in the SL and the SLR. He said there’s a noticeable difference between the two where the SLR feels a little snappier/responsive with more of the “carbon” characteristics that people are often after. He said that its not the same jump that you get from going from a Trek 300 series carbon to 500 series carbon, but its noticeably more “refined” and that “nothing else rides like Trek 700 series carbon”.

      Now whether its worth the cash. In his words, not mine, the Emonda SLR is one of the absolute best bikes available right now. Period. Whereas the Emonda SL is one of the best value bang for the buck road bikes available right now. Its a tough call though, a few of us have definitely struggled with the SL vs the SLR.

      Food for thought though, maybe consider the SL7 or the SL6 Pro? Or an SL6 with an upgrade to wheels or some Garmin Vectors or a Stages Powermeter. Hope that helps!

  • Kris Brosnihan

    Looking into going from an Emonda S4 to the SL6 (Matte Black… omg drool). Carbon: 300 to 500, Groupo: Tiagra to Ultrega. Worth it? I’m leaning toward yes due to your statement: “Whereas the Emonda SL is one of the best value bang for the buck road bikes available right now.” Friends of mine have the S6 with Ultegra groupo…

    • Raf

      Oh yeah, SL6, 100%. The Emonda S6 is a really good bike, for sure. But having ridden the Emonda S bikes and the Emonda ALR (aluminium) bikes, I’d say that there’s a pretty significant step up from the S from the SL, whereas the ALR to the S I actually found to be relatively close to one another in terms of feel. And Tiagra to Ultegra is another BIG step in performance, weight, and feel.

      Just as a bit of background, going from 300 carbon to 500 carbon generally means that you get more carbon and less resin (glue) in the frame, which gives you more of those vertically plush, and horizontally stiff qualities. Carbon is also lighter than resin, which is why the bikes lighten up when you use more of it. The obvious tradeoff is in price, but in this case I’d say its worth it.

      Kris, go with the SL6 and you’ll have it for years to come. The Emonda SL6 is a dream to ride and you’ll be stoked on it!

  • Tyson

    Hi Raf. Great review! Im looking to buy a hardly-used Emonda sl6 from a friend who ‘upgraded’ to a BMC Team Machine this year. It has about 2000KM on it, the stock aluminum clinchers are brand new (he rode his old Eastons on it), and he wants $2000CAD for it. Not a bad deal, I don’t think. However, Im wondering if the sizing will be right. He doesn’t live anywhere near me, and before I commit to having the bike shipped here for a fitting, Im wondering if you could give me some insight into sizing. How tall are you? what size Emonda do you ride? Do you find Treks size chart for the Emonda to be accurate? Im 185cm, and currently ride a 58 which I always feel is a little big (my seat is pushed forward, and I ride a 90mm stem). The Emonda is a 56, and Im wondering if you think that’ll be too small? Any insight would help, Thanks!

    • Raf

      So, I’m 5’8 (173cm) and ride a 52cm, so way off base from you. But one of the guys at the shop standing right beside me right now is 185cm as well and he *should* ride a 58cm according to Trek. Generally we have pretty good luck with Trek’s sizing when going by their size charts. That being said, my 185cm friend did ride a 56cm Emonda for a couple seasons. He’s got a bit of a shorter torso/longer limbs as far as proportions are concerned but it was a good fit for him with a 110mm stem.
      You can check out Trek’s geometry charts for the Emonda and see how the measurements stack up against your set up right now and see how that works. (http://www.trekbikes.com/us/en_US/bikes/road-bikes/performance-road/%C3%A9monda/%C3%A9monda-sl-6/p/1441900-2017/).

  • Niall Murphy

    Hi Raf,after much deliberation between a KTM revelator and a giant propel,I took your advice after your great review and bought the emonda sl6,getting delivered next week,can’t wait,thanks for making my mind up!!

  • Andrew

    Hi Raf,

    Great review and feedback on the comments.

    Just reading through, and your review is great as it seems not so biased due to your various testing on the range of bikes. Furthermore, it has justified the purchase (and bought my 1st brand new bike) of my 2017 Emonda SL6 Pro. 🙂

    Always like the Specialized Tarmac or Roubaix and considered testing a Giant for a moment but I was “sucked” into getting the Emonda SL6 Pro that was on sale. Alas I never bothered testing any of the others! Firstly, because the sale price made it worthwhile to get a Trek and secondly it was splitting hairs deciding between the Domane and Emonda!

    I tested the Domane, that thing rides as if you are on glass and thought about purchasing an 2016 Emonda SL8 with Bontrager aura 5 wheels- which was $500 cheaper). But went on a hunch and decided that wheels on this model would make the bike over the Domane SL6 and 2016 Emonda SL8. (FYI disc brakes and Dureace and thr DI2 on the SL7 are not a must have when I was researching a brand new bike).

    I’m no A grader but the combination of the frame and the wheels makes the bike purr up he hills, even on the 10%. You can definitely feel the power being generated right through the down tube and the bottom bracket as you go up the hill. That is as long as you can power down for.

    Looking forward to more riding on this machine over the coming months and hopefully can make the limit on the Peaks Challenge Falls Creek in Australia next year! That’s the goal!

    If your fellow readers have the budget between SL6 to an SL6 Pro go the Pro model, the wheels justify the gap in the price. That’s as long as there not also thinking of the SL7 with the Di2, then it comes down to priority.

    Bottom line is, it’s a joy to ride. Keep up the great work!

  • el Presidente

    Excellent review, well balanced, thanks very much. I have a super deal on a Emonda SL6 at 2.099€, which I ordered in size 60 (as Trek seems to tailor a tad small). The 58 top tube seemed short when crouched in the aerodynamic position. A good racing bike is all about a good fit. That is the bottom line.

  • Danl

    Hi Raf,
    I tested the Emonda SL6 but on one that was 1 size bigger, size 50. Perhaps the test ride was too short or the size doesnt fit but I can’t discern anything different or unique to it. Perhaps also it is due to my inexperienced of riding many types of bike. (I do not ride many carbon bikes before). Currently I m riding a Dedacciai Super Scuro RS.

    As for now I am interested between the Emonda and a Specialized Tarmac and also a BMC teammachine. Especially between the Emonda and Tarmac.

    My question is..
    1) What are the key difference between this 3 bikes if you have ridden them before?
    2) how about if compared to the SWorks of the Tarmac and SLR01 of the BMC Teammachinr
    3) I have longer torso and shorter legs, I am flexible. Will the Emonda’s geometry be suitable for riders like me who has shorter legs n long torso.

    Thanks

    Danl

    • Raf

      Hey Danl, sorry for the slow reply. To answer your questions…
      1. I actually haven’t ridden the BMC teammachine before, but I’ve spent time on the Tarmac and thought it was an awesome bike. Very similar to the Emonda in a lot of ways. It’s a little bit heavier if I recall correctly but still very snappy and great in sprints/acceleration.
      2. The SWorks Tarmac would be a lot closer to the Emonda SLR both in weight and spec, awesome bike. Again no experience with the BMC.
      3. I’m similar to you actually. I’m 5’8 with a 30′ inseam so longer torso, shorter legs, decent flexibility thanks to lots of yoga. I’d say that the Emonda’s geometry would be perfect for you. When I got mine, doing the fitting we just changed the seat height. In both the Emonda and the Madone I ride a 52cm and I didn’t even need to do stem/bar swaps to get a dialled fit.

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