With the Émonda SLR 9 eTap, Trek send a climbing specialist into our group test. The current model has been given some aerodynamic upgrades for which the Madone aero bike served as inspiration. Is this enough to take on the four fastest race bikes of the 2021 season?
Get an overview of the grouptest here: The best race bike of 2021 – 5 high-end models on test
The Trek Émonda SLR 9 proved that it is a capable racing machine not only with a stage win at this year’s Tour de France. The Émonda has always been lightweight, so the focus for the current model was on improving aerodynamics in order to increase performance across its whole spectrum of uses. In addition to adapted tube profiles, the Bontrager Aeolus RSL 37 wheels, which were specially developed for the Émonda, and the one-piece Bontrager Aeolus RSL cockpit should also contribute to this. On our size 56 test bike the stem is 100 mm and the handlebar is 420 mm wide. The 700 x 25C Bontrager R4 320 tires mounted on the 37 mm deep, 21 mm internal width rims, measure 26 mm wide.
This bike needs speed – then the concept works. However, it can do little at half throttle. Are you looking for a race bike? Here it is!
Trek Émonda SLR 9 eTap 2022
Seatpost Bontrager Carbon Seat Mast Cap, long 20 mm
Brakes SRAM RED eTap AXS HRD 160/160 mm
Drivetrain SRAM RED eTap AXS GS-RED-E-B1 2 x 12
Stem Bontrager Aeolus RSL 100 mm
Handlebar Bontrager Aeolus RSL 420 mm
Wheelset Bontrager Aelous RSL 37
Tires Bontrager R4 320 26 mm
Size 47 50 52 54 56 58 60 62
Weight 6.86 kg
one-piece Bontrager Aeolus RSL cockpit
dual-sided power meter
integrated seat mast
Bontrager DuoTrap sensor compatible
On our test bike, Trek spec a SRAM RED eTap AXS groupset with 48/35 t chainrings and a 10–33 t cassette. Together with the Specialized S-Works Tarmac SL7, this bike has the widest gear range in the group test, offering sufficient reserves for very demanding climbs and less ambitious riders. However, the gaps between gears are somewhat larger than the BMC Teammachine SLR01 ONE with its 10–28 t cassette. With the factory-fitted dual-sided power meter, you can keep an eye on your performance at all times and keep things under control. Thanks to the powerful and easy to modulate SRAM AXS HRD brakes with 160 mm discs at the front and rear, the Émonda is extremely well equipped for the descents that usually follow demanding climbs. Here too, the rattling brake levers are a nuisance, especially on rough, poorly surfaced roads. The Trek Émonda SLR 9 eTap costs € 12,999 in the standard version. The € 800 Project One paint job on our test bike brings that to €13,799. In size 56, the bike weighs 6.86 kg.
|Seat tube||424 mm||453 mm||483 mm||496 mm||525 mm||553 mm||573 mm||593 mm|
|Top tube||512 mm||521 mm||534 mm||543 mm||559 mm||574 mm||586 mm||598 mm|
|Head tube||100 mm||111 mm||121 mm||131 mm||151 mm||171 mm||191 mm||211 mm|
|Chainstays||410 mm||410 mm||410 mm||410 mm||410 mm||411 mm||411 mm||412 mm|
|BB Drop||72 mm||72 mm||72 mm||70 mm||70 mm||68 mm||68 mm||68 mm|
|Wheelbase||972 mm||974 mm||977 mm||981 mm||983 mm||992 mm||1,001 mm||1,010 mm|
|Reach||373 mm||378 mm||383 mm||386 mm||391 mm||396 mm||399 mm||403 mm|
|Stack||507 mm||521 mm||533 mm||541 mm||563 mm||581 mm||601 mm||620 mm|
If you win a Tour de France stage, you no longer have anything to prove – this applies to both the riders and their bikes. The Trek Émonda has already fulfilled its duty, yet it has to deign to show what it’s capable of, and that it does! Thanks to its low weight and high stiffness, it accelerates willingly in any situation. However, on the flats and undulating terrain, it doesn’t hold its speed quite as efficiently as the Specialized or BMC.
On climbs, it always offers enough reserves and happily hangs with the other bikes in the pack. However, it falls somewhat short of our expectations of a dedicated climbing bike. On the downhills, it is also in the middle of the pack over our timed section – faster times are prevented by a lack of confidence in the Bontrager R4 320 tires, which tend to lock up too easily at the rear when braking. In terms of speed, the Trek doesn’t show any particular weaknesses on any terrain. However, its problem is that it doesn’t outperform its competitors either. Thus, it takes the longest time for our calculated 150 km test route with almost 2,000 metres of ascending, covering it with an average speed of 25.7 km/h and taking 5 h 49m 56 s to complete it.
The bike’s handling is purpose-built for racing and very agile. For experienced riders, this is a real pleasure and makes for great manoeuvrability, especially in technical sections. However, for newcomers, it can seem nervous, especially when riding slowly. Comfort is also subordinated to its racing bent: vibrations are sufficiently damped but overall, the Émonda is very stiff. Those who race with it will celebrate the direct feedback from the road, all others will perceive it as too firm. However, it is noticeable that the bike’s comfort increases the harder you push it – a real race bike! In terms of safety, we have to mention the Bontrager R4 320 tires, which struggle to offer optimal grip when braking at the rear. Especially in the wet, we recommend changing the tires for something that generates more confidence and a greater sense of safety. Otherwise, there are no complaints thanks to great brakes and high precision. By the way, this very bike will be at the start of the Ötztaler Radmarathon at the end of August!
Tuning tips: very coherent race concept, which is successfully conceived for the intended area of use | tires with a little more grip for wet days
The Trek Émonda SLR 9 eTap is a race bike for all those who ride mainly on winding, technical routes. It wants to be ridden quickly and rewards this with sufficient comfort and razor-sharp handling. All those who ride race bikes for prestige and want to be able to take it easy too should choose an alternative with better compliance at lower speeds and with more forgiving handling.
- light-footed acceleration in every situation
- a scalpel with razor-sharp precision when ridden by an experienced hand
- gearing offers sufficient reserves even for demanding climbs
- made for racing, where it blossoms fully
- braking traction of the Bontrager R4 320 tires
- somewhat nervous steering when riding slowly
- lacking efficiency on the flats
- rattling SRAM shift levers
You can find out more about at trekbikes.com
The test field
Get an overview of the grouptest here: The best race bike of 2021 – 5 high-end models on test
All bikes in test: BMC Teammachine SLR01 ONE (Click for review) | SCOTT Addict RC Pro (Click for review) | Specialized S-Works Tarmac SL7 (Click for review) | Trek Émonda SLR 9 eTap | Wilier Filante SLR Astana-Premier Tech Team Edition (Click for review)
This is where you eat up the miles, setting a quick pace for a long time. Anything that is pan flat or includes short punchy climbs or slightly longer ones, albeit with limited elevation gain, falls into this category. If you want to be fast here, you need a bike that offers excellent aerodynamics and maximum efficiency – from 15 km/h on level ground, air resistance is the greatest force a cyclist needs to overcome. On the other hand, weight is comparatively insignificant, with no need to constantly change speed or fight earth’s gravity. However, the most aerodynamic package is no use if the rider ruins everything – after all, they are responsible for 75 % of the total drag on a bike. To blossom fully in this terrain, a bike needs to do well when it comes to ergonomics and comfort so that the rider can maintain a low and aerodynamic riding position for a long time. On top of aerodynamics, rolling resistance, comfort and smoothness play a key role. Thus, tire dimensions and pressure should be adjusted to suit the surface for maximum speed. A nervous bike will tire you out faster, because it requires constant work to hold your line.↩
The steeper the hill, the more significant weight becomes. That’s because as your speed drops on ever steeper climbs, air resistance decreases too, meaning that gravity becomes an ever-larger proportion of the force acting against your progress. Stiffness in the right places, together with a sensibly chosen gear ratio, ensure maximum climbing efficiency. A good climbing bike delivers low weight and gearing that lets you maintain a smooth and comfortable cadence. However, it also takes aerodynamics into account, given that there’s usually a descent after every mountain – what good is the best time on the mountain if your whole advantage is wiped out by poor aerodynamics on the downhill?↩
Descending a mountain quickly is possibly the most demanding task for both rider and bike. The steeper and more winding the descent, the greater the handling skills of the rider need to be and the larger the demands on the bike itself. A good downhill bike combines aerodynamics with balanced handling. It should be agile and yet offer sufficient security to master fast changes of direction and stay safely on track at high speeds. It needs to deliver the highest precision to hit your chosen line exactly and steer quickly without excessive input required. If you ride fast, you need good anchors too: powerful brakes that are easy to modulate are fundamental on every good downhill bike. To put that braking power on the ground, tires with good grip are needed and they’re just as indispensable for fast cornering. In addition to the tires, the frame itself helps generate grip through corners. If it’s stiff as a board, it can’t build up much grip before being shaken up by the smallest bumps. An appropriate amount of flex ensures optimum grip in bends, but it’s a narrow margin before the bike simply becomes spongy and imprecise.↩
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Words: Photos: Valentin Rühl