15th January 2018 / Comments (0)

Trek Emonda SL Frameset

Trek Emonda fully built

A Trek Emonda (2018) – an adventure bike?

Putting your head above the parapet can be a tricky business. In a recent post, I questioned the whole concept of ‘adventure’ cycling as sold to us by the cycling press and industry. By questioning the definition of ‘adventure’ as a concept, the logical conclusion is to question what is needed to have, or experience an ‘adventure’.

Constrained by time and domestic responsibilities, the probability of my having one of those glamorous looking holidays in the sun, the mountains and lakes are vanishingly remote. My adventures are restricted to local rides and the occasional trip across the country to visit family and friends. My tool of choice for these trips is my trusty Mason Bokeh but there is also this other beast lurking in my shed.

Trek Emonda in the workshop

Trek Emonda SL frameset custom built into the sporty silhouette you see before you

Time to Fess up!

If I am brutally honest, I don’t know why I bought the Emonda. I have never been a fan of the big, corporate side of the bike industry, churning out soulless albeit competent bikes. I suppose part of me entertained the frankly ludicrous idea that it would turn me into a mountain goat but, and here’s the thing, I also had a hankering for a fast bike that would take me on longer rides (100 miles plus), at speed and in relative comfort. Could this be the adventurous niche just waiting for the Emonda to ride by?

The frame will take 400x28c tyres and if I could get a pair of tubeless carbon wheels (yes I’m a carbon wheel tart), I would be sufficiently well equipped to achieve the comfort part of my goal. Is it fast? I’ll give that an unequivocal yes. It is definitely a ‘day tripper’ because you aren’t likely to strap bags on it. But hey, I am warming to the task here… Could this be a runner?

There is however, a large, grey, object in the room so let’s address it immediately. The Emonda is never going to go off road. I will be stuck to the black stuff, twitching nervously every time I pass a muddy trail, wishing I was riding my Bokeh.

Adventure may be spiced up by off road riding but it isn’t predicated by it. There, I’ve said it.

Enough of the intro, let’s get down to business.

Basic Build Info

I took possession of the frame and forks in the summer of 2017. It actually arrived while still embargoed, but I just didn’t get round to building it up.

The build is a mixture of old and new, predominantly based around the 2017 Shimano Ultegra mechanical groupset. The wheels are carbon but not tubeless. (Tubeless wheels are on the shopping list for 2018) The rear wheel has recently been rebuilt by our favourite wheel guru PT Cycles on a Hope 11 speed hub. Tyres are a pair of Continental GPX4000s in 700x28c. The finishing kit includes a pair of Bontrager RL drop bars in my preferred 460mm.

Ride quality

If this thing is going to be fast, yet comfortable for long (hopefully hot) days in the saddle, it will need to be well mannered. I don’t want some twitchy racehorse desperate either to go flat out all the time or deposit me in a ditch at the earliest opportunity. On the other hand, I didn’t want something that is going to send me to sleep.

To start with, the Trek Emonda felt ‘spirited’ (possibly something to do with the all up weight of 7.5kg – 58cm frame and comparatively steep head angle) and I could see myself, still clipped in, wheels pointing skywards in a ditch somewhere. It didn’t take long for me to settle down though, and within a few miles I had the measure of the bike.

The first ride was a 40 odd mile, evening spin at a steady 19mph average. I didn’t ask much of the bike except occasionally to respond to a minor sprint. A couple of days later James and I rode out to Orford Ness in Suffolk (about 115 miles there and back). Despite a stiff headwind for the last 50 miles, we covered the distance at just over 18s. Since then, the Trek Emonda and I have been out for many rides of similar distances and average speeds.

Maybe the most complimentary thing I can say about the bike is that I hardly noticed it. No back ache, no bad manners (except for a bit of toe overlap) and an almost faultless performance. It was quick enough when I asked for more speed and more importantly, it just span along the roads with (seemingly) little effort.

Yes, but was it an adventure?

You aren’t going to take this on the Tour Divide. You probably won’t take it for prolonged rides on Italian Strade Bianche either. But if you have a hankering to do some serious (road) miles or even visit that out of the way cafe two counties away, then this could be the bike for you.

It is fast, it is comfortable and it is pretty invisible. Utilitarian with a bit of (admittedly corporate) style.

If you can accept the obvious limitations (tarmac only) and accept that adventure is a state of mind and not what you are riding or wearing, then yes, the Trek Emonda can hack it as a vehicle for adventure. One thought though, if this is the case, isn’t just riding your bike, any old bike, some sort of adventure?

Trek Emonda


Mile muncher



  • Fast
  • Comfortable
  • Quality finish


  • A bit too 'corporate dull'
  • Flexy rear end

Last modified: 28th March 2018

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