Emonda SLR 9 e-Tap (2022) and my own Hypocrisy
Updated: Sep 7, 2022
Back when I first started writing this, I was riding a 2016 model of the Trek Boone, designed for cyclocross. All I really knew about biking then was that I liked it. Well, I also knew that I had a disdain for huge aspects of cycling culture...the "biker broism" that's so prevalent...the ridiculous cycling kits that look like fucked up optical illusions, and this sense of road entitlement that's equal to many drivers of BWMs.
I couldn't relate at all to cyclists sitting around talking about "watts" and a couple grams of weight difference on their bikes from a new kind of water bottle or something else that made a negligible difference. Perhaps in my ignorance, I was a bit judgmental.
A lot has changed in my views since then. A lot has stayed the same. And in some cases, I'm more judgemental than ever, but that's for another post. That Boone I first got was ridden mostly as a road bike. I even rode it across the United States (read about that here). At the time I couldn't imagine anything better. I'd also really invested in it, adding carbon wheels and handlebars and riding it everywhere. Devastating, it got stolen pretty soon after that cross country ride. By the way, that thing they say about how a bike can get stolen in seconds...it was like that. I actually saw the guy riding away on it.
Anyway, the next bike I got was a 2019 Emonda SLR. I had the pleasure of riding that bike around Naxos in 2020, but on the way back to the US, KLM broke it and refused to cover any cost for it. I wrote about that miserable experience here . Now I'm not one of those people that thinks that everything happens for a reason, but if I was ever going to need a new bike, 2020 was a good year to need one because that was the year that Trek made some significant changes to their Emonda. The 2020 model was lighter and more aerodynamic in the frame via redesign and the technological advances in their carbon-fiber manufacturing. In fact, I ended up getting two Emondas because I didn't want to be flying them back and forth anymore after the whole experience with KLM. Even if the airline did cover the cost, with supply-chain issues still creating long wait times would mean I'd be without a proper road bike for much longer than I'd ever want to be.
So, about the Emonda: a lot of thought went into what bike I was going to get. I knew that at this point, my life was going to revolve around biking and I'd be getting something top-of-the-line. At the time, I was also working for Trek part-time, so the idea of having a discount available but getting a bike from any other company was something that didn't even come as a whim. That left me with three options: the Domane, the Madone, and the Emonda (shown from left to right below)
The Domane is an endurance race bike, with a geometry that has you sitting a bit more upright than the Madone or the Emonda, and it also uses the isospeed decoupler technology (exclusive to Trek) to cushion the bumps of the road or the trail when you're riding. It also allows a wider tire clearance, giving you the ability to even use it for gravel riding. But there were two issues for me with the Domane: the iso-speed certainly makes for a smoother ride...no question. In fact on that first Boone I had, there was an iso-speed decoupler on the seat tube and when going over bumpy terrain, I'd stay seated and still feel the vibrations more in the handlebars than on the saddle. But that comfort comes at the cost of weight. I'm 6'6. On my own, meaning without a nutritionist or a coach, I can probably bring my weight down to just under 200 pounds (90 kilos). That puts me at a disadvantage on climbs (consequently at an advantage on descents), so despite any disparaging comment I made about "weight weenies," it makes a huge difference. The other thing was that from what I could tell, the Domane was basically the same type of bike as the Boone I already had..just designed more for cyclocross than road riding, and so it came with road components (gears, etc..). I had a feeling it wouldn't be different enough.
The Madone is an aerodynamic race bike that in and of itself looks fast, but the number one complaint about it, even from the pros, was the weight. Now again, these bikes aren't "heavy" per se, but the Madone also had (at the time) the isospeed technology built into the seat and the bars. This changed with the 7th generation version that came out for the 2022/2023 season, which shed 300 grams and claimed to make it 60 seconds faster per hour with its isoflow technology.
Had this version of the Madone come out at the time I was purchasing, I would have considered it more, but at the time the best bike for me was clearly the Emonda. The Domane SLR 9 etap (in a 56 cm frame size) weighs about 8 kilos (a bit over 17.5 pounds). The Madone SLR 9 etap (6th generation version) weighs a tiny bit less...7.65 kilos (16.87 pounds). But the Emonda SLR 9 eTap comes in at a 14.89 pounds (6.75 kilos). Now mine is a little heavier because I ride a 62 cm frame size, but for perspective, the 2023 Boone weight 18.3 pounds ( in the 56 cm frame size). So my Emonda was just over three pounds lighter than what I had been riding. That difference was noticeable in every regard, but especially on the climbs. Recently I did a ride that I had done on the Boone in '18 with a pretty decent climb that, at the time...felt like it took me hours to do. In fact I distinctly remember stopping to call a woman I was seeing back then to tell her I'd never imagined biking uphill for so so long. This time around, it honestly felt easy. In fact when I reached the village at the top I couldn't believe I'd already gotten there. The highest point was about 2200 feet, but the total elevation gain by the time I got to that point was 5,337 feet (1,627 meters).
For perspective, think of it like this: imagine going for a run with six pound weights, and then doing the same run with three pounds weights. I bet if the boulder that Sisyphus had to push up the hill was just three pounds lighter, he would have been able to push it up and over the top.
While the Emonda is certainly Trek's "climbing" bike, I don't want to understate how effective it is on the descents as well. A lighter bike is going to be easier to manuever, so you can whip around turns with ease. The long wheelbase also gives it stability at those high speeds. And with the new aerodynamic design of the bike and the Aeolus RSL 37 wheels that are 30% lighter than the ones that came on the 2019 version of the Emonda (XXX 2's), it was the clearest choice for the steep hills and mountains that are all over Greece.