Trek Emonda SL 6 Pro Review
For most brands there is a bike in each model range that attempts to provide the most bang for your buck. More specifically, the buck of the serious rider that wants the performance you get at the top end of the market but is unable to shell out upwards of 10K on the latest and greatest.
Introducing the Trek Emonda SL 6 Pro
The SL 6 Pro is that bike in the Emonda range that offers a swag of mid to high end components on Trek’s 500 series OCLV carbon. Having ridden other OCLV carbon bikes I can attest to their comfort and performance and think they are among the finest carbon frames on the market. Further to that, I believe Trek have done a great job in maintaining their proprietary techniques of OCLV while offering the technology on more budget friendly options.
Before I go on any further, and in the pursuit of full disclosure, I think it would be wrong not to declare my usual ride. The road bike that I have been riding for around 3 years. Why is this important? Well it’s important because in the case of the Emonda SL 6 Pro it is the bike I was going to be comparing it to.
My usual ride… A Parlee Z2, decked out with Envy rims on Chris King hubs, full Envy cockpit and Sram Red. So as you can appreciate, this is not a normal bike and a standard that will be hard to emulate. But let’s see.
Some may hate me for saying this, but I think you should like the look of your bike. It should inspire you, fire you up, and cast your mind to your next great riding challenge. But for me, the styling on the Emonda just doesn’t do it for me. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a nice looking bike, but for some reason the red striping just feels a bit blah ! But hey, looks aren’t everything and certainly haven’t stopped other legends such as Mick Jagar and Marilyn Manson so let’s not dwell on it.
My first ride was one of my usual loops from my house along undulating country roads. No cars and nice scenery. Within minutes of being on the bike I was made very aware of its intentions. It was built for speed, without compromise. Wow I thought; this would be awesome at the St Kilda crits or some other high octane racing scene where the order of the day is fast and furious. But I will admit while having these thoughts some doubts cropped up also. Is this going to be OK on rough country roads?
40 kilometers into that first ride I could report that despite the no nonsense racing pedigree of the Emonda, it did in fact handle the rugged roads surprisingly well. Really well in fact. There is always a risk when shooting for performance that comfort is sacrificed, its just plain physics. But the Emonda SL 6 Pro manages to respond like an angry football hooligan when you stomp on the pedals, but still manages to provide good vertical compliance and soak up the bumps.
This is a great attribute in a performance orientated bike such as the SL 6 Pro as it will encourage you to ride hard. Up hill, down hill, and around corners. So when you’re on the rivet and without warning the road turns into something resembling an obstacle course, you can be confident to steer through it without fear of being bucked off like drunk cowboy at a cheap rodeo.
But enough with the analogies. The point I’m trying to make is that despite the serious racing intentions this bike is designed to have, the technology Trek use in their frames to provide vertical compliance works well to ensure you stay comfortable and planted to the road.
The OCLV patented carbon process gives the Trek engineers incredible control over every square millimetre of each carbon component. By controlling the thickness, shape, and fiber direction at every layer, Trek are able to dial in exact characteristics into each part of the frame. One such example is the oval thickness of the fork steerer tubes that mean vertically the fork will flex to absorb road bumps, but laterally very stiff due to wider internal diameter of the tube at the sides. This, like many other attributes of an OCLV frame are completely invisible but have an enormous effect on the ride quality.
Having ridden the Emonda now several times on varying terrain I find myself liking it more and more. I have come to the conclusion that there are two types of riders that will find themselves attracted to the Trek Emonda. Those riders that are dedicated to the race, whether that be local club races or regional criteriums, and those riders who love the vert. Mountain goats & racing fiends, that’s is who this bike is made for, and for those folks it does its job with surgical precision.
When you look at the spec for the SL 6 Pro you can see that Trek have made a huge effort to hit the important points. As many riders know, Shimano Ultegra is floorless and works as well as the much more expensive Dura Ace, with what many consider a marginal weight penalty. So a big tick in the groupset checkbox. Of course the other big ticket item is the wheels. This is where I believe this bike gets interesting.
Vision Metron 40 LTD wheels on a Trek Did I miss something? Not Bontrager !
This was a real surprise for me. Bontrager make great wheels and I must admit I was a little bummed that they hadn’t made it onto this model. But this is no doubt in order to keep the cost down while still providing a carbon wheel set at this price point. The vision wheels are light and well made. At around 1,500 grams a set they are on the money weight wise and I found them to roll very well. One thing I did notice however was a bit more flex that I would like in the hubs that caused some break rub when out of the saddle on steeper climbs. Nothing major, just a little.
Having said that; when you consider the price point, the frame, and the build that includes a set of carbon clinchers you can’t have unrealistic expectations. They are quite good for their cost and for most riders out there absolutely perfect.
The stock model comes equipped with Bontrager Race VR-C bars, however the bike I tested had been upgraded to a XXX Integrated bar. There is not doubt that the integrated bar made some notable difference to the steering responsiveness, but I would be surprised if many average riders would consider this a cost effective upgrade at $699 ! But for the record, if you can afford it, they are awesome. Light, stiff, sleek, and of course they look the biz!
Provides a great balance of Cost v Performance by providing quality where quality counts. Frame, fork and wheels. Then ad to this a complete Ultegra group. Above this price point in the range the cost per unit of performance starts to go exponentially up.
If I had to be critical I would say the wheels. Sure they are good, but even if the price went up a little, a set of carbon Bontrager wheels would make this bike a perfect 5 out of 5.
So would I buy the Trek Emonda SL 6 Pro for all day epic rides as a weekend social rider. Probably not. This machine is best suited for those who need the speed. Those who want to go flat out with no excuses. Whether you be a crit racer, road classics fiend, or that guy at the local club races that wants to destroy everyone. This bike is for you.
When you consider the jump in price from this level up to the higher end USA made models, the SL 6 Pro is going to hard for many to pass up and I believe this will be one of Trek’s best selling road bikes in 2017.
So I think it gets a 4 star rating.