Emonda Domane Madone Trilemma
Is one enough?
A bit like video games I have long harboured a nagging suspicion that super-lightweight carbon frames should be age-restricted. In the sense that those of us over 50 have no business playing Grand Theft Auto or troubling the Di2's on anything hi-modulus. Nothing good can come of it. Give me a bottle of fine aged Burgundy over a night of Tequila shots.
And last time I tested such a bike a few weeks prior to the big crash in 2011 that ended my riding career, I actually came away politely underwhelmed. Some irony that it was the actually the Colnago M10 that I crashed on.
Trek Emonda SLR Seeks Broken Old Man with GSOH
So I have been putting off a liaison with Emonda because I sensed we were badly matched from the outset.
How wrong I was. I have simply never ridden anything like it. if you have never ridden the lightest bike in the world I suggest you give it a try, even for kicks. Pulling away gives you the sense of having a tail-wind and built in electric motor all in one. And I wasn't even riding the supersonic SLR10, which we weighed in at 4.6kg, I was aboard the SLR 8 cooking version complete with sensible Bontrager RXL Tubeless ready wheels and Dura Ace mechanical groupset and worrying the scales to the tune of a bulky 6kg (13.2 lbs)!
The SLR frame denotes that its provenance is still in Trek's carbon facility in Wisconsin rather than the Far East like the SL frames. The more expensive SLR also saves around 3-400 grams compared to the non-domestic bike (660 vs 1030 grams).
How They look Is How They ride
Where the Madone 7 is angular, truncated with Kam-Tail intention and pointy of front to slice the air, Emonda is altogether more harmonious and mellifluous, softer of edge and intention. I love the minimal topline of the Madone 7 with the clean seat-stays stripped of all braking clutter. The Madone is brutalist cycling architecture where everything plays second fiddle to straight-line speed over distance.
Out on the road I have always found that Madone is a bike with an agenda. You forgive its propensity to kick back off bumps and be over-sharp into turns because it is devastatingly efficient at speed. Bring the tempo back a few clicks and this kind of behaviour is less forgivable or at least it is to me as an older rider whose memories of racing are fading fast.
Enter Emonda which if you take away the tubes you can palpably squeeze with your finger and thumb and huge downtube, is actually less radical than the existing Madone. The back brake maybe dual-mounted but it is back on the seat-stays where you expect it to be.
The Emonda ride's bulls-eye is wider than the Madone. It is lighter by enough you can feel, especially on the climbs. The ride sensations themselves are also more finessed now that 'aero' has been shuffled down the pack. What Trek have done is produce the ultimate neutral race bike for both professionals and amateurs. The Emonda is just so well balanced and behaved everywhere. But 'neutral' is not great for marketing so we all talk about the objective criteria. Of which one stands out and even the SLR 8 test-bike I am riding is just under 6kg (13 pounds) in standard trim at under £6k. This is quite remarkable and stifles an awful lot of rhetoric, including my own. Because light bikes perform better than heavier ones provided the transmission is stiff enough. The Emonda has that covered with a 90mm BB and E2 head tube that tapers from a huge1.5" down to 1-1/8".
And to further censor any negativity Trek still make this bike in the USA and still offer a lifetime warranty. On a personal note we like dealing with Trek because their warranty is a totally no bull-shit affair. It has never let us or one of our customers down.
Anything for me to criticise? The list is short but here it is:
What about Domane?
I know this is meant to be a 3-way test but the more you ride Emonda next to a Domane the more you realise it is like comparing a chainsaw with a food blender. They are just designed for different jobs and should never be substituted for each other. The Domane was developed in close consulation with Trek factory Racing and in particular Fabian Cancellara, to ride flat out over Europe's worst roads with maximum control and comfort.
The Endurance geoemtry (at least in part influenced by Trek's fitting programme) just happens to work well for a almost everyone. With a low-slung BB and long chainstays with super-stable steering, just add a set of good wheels and 25c tyres the Domane is a literal go-anywhere, do-anything bike. It is astonishingly adept and stupidly compliant and comfortable. Everywhere.
I wrote a more in depth review against Seven's Axiom SL you can read here
Trek Trilemma So Which One Is Right!
Okay let's try and conclude this.
Domane has both created and then dominated a whole category of bikes. If in doubt ride a Domane it is that simple. It works for Fabian, it works for every client we have recommended one to and as a matter of fact it works for me too. It is iconic and one of the greatest bikes ever to come to market. But the Endurance road category is not the space that either Emonda or Madone live in.
The Mountain's V's The Wind Tunnel
Emonda and Madone are competing in overlapping arenas. The Emonda is designed to enhance and improve performance over a wider band-width of conditions than its pointy stable-mate. As the world's lightest frame it is obviously an over qualified climber but it is also superb over anything involves tarmac.
Madone is a twitchy but more slippery character. If you want a bike that blends uncompromising stiffness with highly evolved aerodynamics and is also sub 800 grams then Madone is on its own in a class of one.
What The Pro's use
Trek Factory Racing were involved in the development of all recent Trek bikes. All Fabian's classic squad run the Domane and he likes it that way. The rest have switched to Emonda and speak in glowing terms of its incredible road poise and manners. It is no coincidence that breakaway king Jens Voigt kept the faith right to the end with Madone. And there just maybe no greater recommendation out there than that.