In 2014, Trek introduced the 690-gram Emonda SLR to the world as the lightest production road frame at the time. Then, for 2018, Trek upped the ante by dropping weight even further while adding a full suite of disc brake options. The Emonda SLR Disc frameset tips the scales at a mere 665 grams and it turns out that it’s not only a lightweight climber, but a great all-day bike with responsive handling and instant acceleration.
2019 Trek Emonda SLR Disc H2 Features:
- 700 Series OCLV Carbon layup
- H2 fit puts the majority of riders in the perfect position
- Stated 28mm tire clearance (tested to 30mm actual widths)
- Flat mount disc brakes
- Internally-routed cables in frame, external at fork
- Full, lifetime warranty
- Weight: 15.5 – 16 lbs. (depended on spec)
- Frame weight: 665 grams (stated, vapor coat)
- MSRP: $3299 (SLR frame) or $5799 – $11,999 SLR complete bikes
Sometimes, our test builds are off-the-shelf affairs, but not this time. I started with the 2019 Emonda SLR Disc H2 frameset as the foundation with SRAM’s 11-speed Red eTap HRD, but swapped out just about everything else during the 10-month testing period. Emonda SLR Disc was outfitted with four different wheelsets (Zipp 454 NSW Disc, Zipp 303 Firecrest Disc, Bontrager Aeolus XXX 4 and Bontrager Aeolus Pro 3), a few saddles (Fabric Scoop Shallow, Ergon SR Comp Men and Bontrager Aeolus Elite) and a couple of different bars (ENVE Compact Road Bar and Schmolke Evo TLR). So, yeah, you could say it was put through the test mule process.
Should you choose to get a 700 Series OCLV SLR model, going with SRAM Red eTap AXS will set you back a mint, but the sweet spot would be the 600-series 2020 Emonda SL eTap build at $5299. You get 12-speed Force eTap AXS, a great set of carbon clinchers and a few hundred extra grams (plus a wad of cash in your pocket).
Another alternative would be to go with a standard or Project One frameset, if you want something truly unique or want the more aggressive H1 fit. Complete bikes are always going to be your best value, but it’s ultimately your choice depending on your preferred setup.
Oh yes, the Emonda climbs
Grand Tour bikes, like the Emonda, are always a blast to ride. Their snappiness out of the saddle puts them in rarified company as the vert ticks off and the mountains get steeper. While disc brakes do still have a weight penalty over rim brakes, the 665 gram Trek Emonda SLR Disc frame pretty much obliterates that argument. You’ll never know the wiser as you accelerate up any climb around.
My first ride was a classic mountain ascent from my home to Tibble Fork Reservoir. It’s not a demanding climb, but it’s a steady one that, at the right cadence, allows you to push yourself to the limit. Though I was working out some minor fit issues, I still remember how impressive the bike felt. It climbed with ease, and, it rode smoother than expected when outfitted with 28-30mm fast-rolling tires. With true 25mm tires, like the new Bontrager R3’s, the ride is firm, but not harsh. Trek’s max stated tire width is 28mm with an actual frame clearance of just over 38mm. In my experience, 30mm actual tires cleared sufficiently for me.
The Emonda never let me down on any climb. I was actually able to take a few longstanding PR’s, like the following “Narrows to Redwood” segment that had stood for 15 additional attempts since 2014. Was this entirely the Emonda SLR’s doing? Well, likely not, but it certainly had a part in it and never held me back on any other climbs, long or short.
You can sit and pound out the vert or stand and push yourself to the limit. Either method is rewarded with zippy power and cable routing is such that it doesn’t interfere with your pedal strokes. Power transfer is as good as it gets.
All climbs turn downhill at some point, so how does the Emonda handle Utah’s mountainous descents? It is certainly calm and collected with the extra stopping power of discs. I prefer 44cm bars for fit, comfort and control. That extra width provides additional leverage while cornering — something I always appreciate. With the ENVE Compact Road Bars, I felt as if the handling was a little sluggish, but a switch to the Schmolke Evo TLR’s turned the Emonda into a very different machine. The ride became noticeably more responsive and the bike’s handling came into its own. Even at the highest speeds, I felt calm and collected. When needed, the slightest movements translated into precise cornering without feeling one bit twitchy. This bike rails on descents.
That said, I’ll admit that it still doesn’t quite have the Italian, swan-like handling of the Pinarello Dogma F10, but it’s not too far off. As an all-day ride, the Emonda SLR Disc is a hard one to beat and great builds will set you back half as much as a Pinarello. Indeed, climbing and descending are where the Emonda shines. When it comes to flat or rolling terrain, it holds its own — particularly if you can catch a wheel or slap some deep-section wheels on it (case in point here). But. a Madone would be a much better choice for crushing your friends in the flats, or even something like the BMC Roadmachine 01. The Emonda’s killer instinct shines in the mountains.
Make it your Emonda
As mentioned, I’ve changed the Emonda’s wheels, bars, tires and saddles quite a bit throughout the test and every change has been noticeable, but natural. So, what can I take away from that? I’d say that this bike is adaptable and capable to suit your performance or fit needs. Take some time to make it your own and you’ll continue to be impressed by how it responds.
In a world of total integration, it may seem surprising that the front brake cable is externally-routed. But, there’s genius in that decision as both Trek’s race teams and home mechanics alike will rejoice in the easy access. I did wish for some cleaner frame plugs for use with SRAM’s wireless eTap drivetrains, but out of sight, out of mind, I guess. The integrated seatpost mast with topcap is all part of the bike’s performance story, but adjusting the saddle angle is a tedious affair. Getting it just right requires an exercise in patience. Additionally, the large diameter of the top cap made the velcro straps of the EVOC Saddle Bag touch my inner thigh.
- This Grand Tour racer has a journeyman H2 fit
- Beautiful aesthetics with clean lines
- Obliterates the disc brake weight penalty
- Externally-routed front brake cable (easy maintenance)
- A fun bike to rail
- Maintains stability on fast descents
- An excellent climber with excellent power transfer
- Saddle angle is difficult to adjust
- Seat mast diameter causes some saddle bags to touch my inner thigh
- Toss those aluminum bottle cage bolts (they strip just looking at them)
- Would love eTap-specific port covers
- Watch that toe overlap
The Bottom Line: 2019 Trek Emonda SLR Disc
The race to the bottom isn’t always a good thing. But, with the latest Emonda SLR Disc, the 665 gram frame is everything I expected. It’s light, responsive and still comfortable, thanks to the added tire clearance afforded by disc brakes. I also love that Trek employs their H2 fit that will allow most riders to achieve a great fit without gobs of spacers.
Pure, lightweight climbing bikes are still a bit of a rarity these days. Getting one that features the confidence of disc brakes is even more rare. The Trek Emonda SLR Disc is wicked-light and features instant power transfer on short, punchy climbs and long, drawn-out affairs. It's a confident descender that handles with grace. Just a couple of niggles, but this is a great all-day bike for those who listen for the call of the mountains to come and ride.