Trek has raised the game in my eyes when it comes to aluminium and offers something truly amazing for £1,750. Aluminium has never looked so good and a disc-brake bike weighing in under 8kg is just what you need.
Handling not as sharp as rivals
By Symon Lewis
An entrant for the second year in a row is the Trek Emonda ALR. It still performs incredibly well for the price and looks totally badass, especially for an aluminium bike. Trek has done an amazing job with its welds, the ride and the price and that is why it is in Editor’s Choice again.
Has Trek helped make aluminium sexy again? Well, I'm my eyes it has – just look at how good this bike looks! It has turned many heads, even in this black colour way. I'm just upset I didn't get the shiny purple colour in the Trek Emonda ALR range.
Trek call its new bike "lightweight aluminium perfection" and it is hard to disagree with that statement, especially as the disc brake-ready frameset weighs a claimed 1,131g for a 56cm, and the 52cm build you see here only weights 7.8kg – possibly even claiming the title for the lightest aluminium bike on the market currently.
This is very good for a sub £1,800 bike, great for an aluminium bikes, let alone one with disc brakes.
Part of this weight saving is down to what Trek claims is its most optimised structure ever which, via hydroforming, has allowed the Trek engineers to manipulate, stretch and design complex shapes from the 300 series Alpha aluminium.
This itself is said to offer great ride quality as well as a strong structure and a carbon-like aesthetic. It also means that each tube can fit to its neighbour perfectly, resulting in less material being required around the welds – thus saving weight without losing strength at the joins. This is where its slender 7.8kg comes in.
What makes the bikes look like carbon is what Trek call its “Invisible Weld Technology” and it ultimately increases the surface area of the frame which adds to strength and cuts down weight.
I rode the purple piece of perfection (called purple flip) in Waterloo, Trek's base at home. Get up close and you can really see that Trek has done a stellar job at making the Trek Emonda ALR as close as an aluminium can be to looking like carbon. It really does look that good.
I have the black version here, which comes in Trek's Emonda ALR 4 guise, but it's been built up with Shimano 105 hydraulic disc which means it is really the Emonda ALR 5 – the frameset stays the same. It still looks great though and on our industry ride from the Cycling Weekly office the other day, it turned a lot of riders' heads, followed by a "no way!" when I told them the price.
Trek Emonda ALR: the ride
My lasting memory of the Trek Emonda ALR was a good one. I got to ride the Emonda ALR 5 disc for 60 or so kilometres around Trek’s home in Waterloo, Wisconsin. On relatively well paved roads on a very warm summer’s evening the bike performed amazingly well and did one thing that I like for an aluminium bike: that is to not to ride like an aluminium bike. But did the Emonda ALR live up to it at home on UK roads?
I think so!
What I like the most here is that you are getting the best from the brakes and the best from the tyres thanks to the clearance, without the weight penalty that a sub-£1,800 bike would normally give.
Right now the lanes are in pretty poor condition and it was no issues on the ALR: those chunky 28c tyres cushioned the road well enough and the frame did a fantastic job at reducing the buzz. Look at those slender and long rear stays with no brake arch to help compliance!
The geometry is based on Trek’s H2 formula, which gives a more relaxed fit. It basically means the front of the bike is slightly higher in a more endurance style. H1 is more aggressive and racier and can be found on the Emonda SLR, the top-end carbon version of the bike raced by the pros.
This slowed the bikes handling down a little and is where I'd say the Cannondale CAAD12 performs better. If the endurance market is where Trek wants the bike to be aimed, then it has got it right, but compared to the Cannondale it doesn't feel as fun.
It does, however, ride better than its rival and for the price, weight and spec (yes, you can get Shimano Ultegra mechanical around this price point) it's pretty unrivalled thanks to the performance of the new Shimano 105 disc brake groupset.
Braking is effortless, shifting is quick and precise, more so than the previous version of 105, and you don't get much of a weight penalty for it.
Ultimately the Trek Emonda ALR is a great bike for those looking to get a ride on the well equipped machine that rides more like carbon than aluminium. For an aluminium bike it feels assured and comfortable which is one thing that this material in particular can struggle with and it looks great!
Trek seems to have got this right with the Emonda ALR: is this aluminium making a strong comeback once again? It seems so.
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