TREK'S EMONDA: HOW LIGHT IS TOO LIGHT?Forming an intimate relationship with one's bicycle is usually nurtured over the course of months, perhaps years, and through that same time period's flow of experienced emotions. With Trek's Emonda SLR, I got to form it in five days during Above Category's Escape From LA, 15,000 meters of vertical gain, and almost 1,000 kilometers. After those five days, we were best friends. We shared highs and lows, giggles and tears, and moments where I wished the ride would never end, then times when I wanted it to immediately cease.
The Trek Emonda is a born climber, with the frame-alone weighing somewhere in the neighborhood of 690g. Coming in at 6kg/13.2lbs with a SRAM Red eTap and Zipp 202 build, it's a complete featherweight - which is good, because I am certainly not. As a 175cm/5’9, 62kg/137lb female, any extra help I can get up the hills is beneficial. On my first ride, the immediacy of its climbing abilities were made apparent. Light, stiff, solid stage racing geometry, snappy wheels, and proper gearing for the climbing adventure I was about to embark on all gave me confidence. That said, I was initially apprehensive about its descending abilities. Most hyperlight climbing bikes I've ridden are usually mediocre to terrible when it comes to descending, so I was very hesitant during the first twisty-turny fast descent in the Santa Monica Mountains during Phil's Fondo. I was prepared to white knuckle and overcorrect to make up for the usual tendencies of a frighteningly light bike, like a wandering noodly headtube, or a bouncy ride that throws me off line. I was pleasantly surprised - this baby can descend, just as well as it can climb! It seems to do everything with a high level of proficiency - a well-rounded race bike that comes in an extremely light package.
While I love the Emonda on smooth tarmac, I do have one complaint: It's stiff. Like most quick race frames, it's designed around the glassy pavement of European stage racing, and the Emonda fits this bill flawlessly, rocketing out of corners with the slightest input on the pedals. Riding it made me want to race again, but on rough pavement and on gravel, I often questioned my sanity, and at the end of the longer days during the Escape, I often found myself sore in new and exciting ways. That said, I am a bit stubborn and stuck in my ways when it comes to tire pressure - if I'd let some air out of my 25mm Vittoria Corsas, or switched to a 28mm tire, I think I'd negate a lot of the harshness with pneumatic suspension.
I've had a lot of experience racing and riding quite a few bikes at a high level - most carbon, some amazing, some not-so-amazing, and my personal bike is a titanium Baum Corretto. I'll be the first to admit that I'm more than a little spoiled having had the opportunity to ride so many bikes, and I know what I like - and what I don't. Would I add this bike to my personal collection? Absolutely! Because once a racer, always a racer. And this spoiled racer would put the Emonda at the top of her list for a pure race bike.