Review: Trek Emonda SL6 Roadbike

Today, I am reviewing the Trek…

EMONDA SL6…

 

BIKE SPECIFICATIONS

Frame:                  Ultralight 500 Series OCLV Carbon, DuoTrap S compatible

Fork:                      Emonda full carbon

Groupset:            Full Shimano Ultegra 6800

Crank:                   50/34 (compact)

Bottom Bracket: BB90

Cassette:             11-32, 11 speed

Seatpost:             Bontrager Ride Tuned carbon seatmast cap

Handlebar:         Bontrager Elite VR-C, 31.8mm

Stem:                   Bontrager Pro, 31.8mm, 7 degree, w/computer & light mounts

Saddle:                 Bontrager Montrose Comp

Wheels:               Bontrager Race Tubeless Ready

Tires:                    Bontrager R3 Hard-Case Lite, aramid bead, 700x25c

Weight:               7.4kg (with 2 bottle cages), 52cm size (excluding pedal); Trek website posted 56cm – 7.43 kg

About EMONDA

Every company has their own way of defining their carbon strength and technology. For Trek it is called OCLV or Optimum Compaction Low Void and it is patented. It is actually breaks down into 2 areas – Optimum Compaction and Low Void. In short, it is Trek processes of how they cut, mold, heat and compress the carbon. All Trek OCLV carbon frame is given a limited lifetime warranty. Emonda models comes with OCLV 300, 500 and 700. The SL6 is OCLV 500.

Emonda is not new anymore and it has been out since 2014. But, it was a newly added model into their lineup. The bike design is definitely meant for a purpose – climbing (and I would said endurance too). From the picture below, you can see the massive downtube that helps in climbing.

The tested bike was equipped with a full Shimano Ultegra groupset. There aren’t many bike companies would give out a complete groupset. Many times there are doing a mix match components to gain maximum profit. There is a slightly cheaper version that comes with Shimano 105 groupset. I am a bit of reserve of that… so, go for Ultegra and you won’t regret it.

 

Another thing worth to note here is the seat tube. It defied the conventional way of designing. Part of the seat post “extended” out from the frame. The purpose? To reduce the weight of the seat tube as it can designing it thinner.

All cables are all internal routed and nicely hidden. Whoever cleans the bike will definitely appreciate it.

Since cables are hidden away, can you do without cable tie also? With the DuoTrap S Compatible, you can now. So, no more messy cable tie for your speed and cadence sensor. The sensor is now nicely tuck into the frame.

A complete bike without pedals but with 2 bottle cages and stock wheels weights 7.4kg. It may not be an ideal weight as a climbing bike. Probably it was due to the heavy wheels. Published spec for the wheels are 1720g. Changing to carbon wheels probably can shed off 300-400g but that increases the price of the bike. If you are weight wheenie, get the Emonda SLR 10 that weighs 4.88kg only!!! And, it is a large frame with 56cm! Moreover, it is on sale now.

This is the weight of the bike without the wheels (of course, tires and tubes too).

This bike comes with 2 colors – Matte Dnister Black or Matte California Sky Blue. What I had tested was the Sky Blue. Ain’t she pretty with the high profile wheels?

THE RIDE

I believe everyone question now is can this bike climb as what it claimed. Personally, I find it average on climbing. It may be due to 2 reasons. 1) I picked the wrong time of the day to cycle as it was superhot (37C) to cycle and probably not my best performance. 2) It could be due to heavy wheels. Why? As the temperature cools down, I managed to gain speed and earned a Personal Record (PR) on one of the segment. It is a 3.6km path with small rolling hills. Secondly, each time when I was off the saddle and pedal, it did sprint. So, that tells me the bike is very stiff during the climb.

A bike is good if it can perform uphill, downhill and flat. Basically we wanted it all-rounded.  What about downhill and flat then? I definitely love the handling when coming down the hill and through each cornering. It has a superb handling and again, I have another PR. The steady frame and the 25mm tires helps a lot. On a flat road, I can feel that I need to put on a bit more effort but still manageable.

This bike is definitely set for endurance and comfort. The headtube length is 140mm for the tested bike vs 128mm for my Cervelo S3 and a chainstay length of 410mm. Also, the stack is 547mm. All these couple with 25mm tires, it was really a pleasure for me to ride that day. It was so comfortable that I can’t feel much of the road vibration even with a long stretch of road constructions during my ride. That earned the endurance title from me.

The wheels aren’t so bad as it didn’t flex so much when I was standing and pedal. Though it is heavy but a much better wheels than the 2 Mavic wheels I had tried on.

Beside the wheels, the only other thing I dislike about this bike is the handlebar. It is too wide for me. I find it not suitable for Asian size but this can easily settle by changing it.

Make sure you do fitting before deciding which size fits you well. Every single brand will have their own way of sizing. Trek personnel is happy to explain and get you fitted.

The price tag for this bike is RM12,499 before discount. The SL6 Pro comes with Vision Metron 40 carbon wheels. The 40 is indicating the 40mm depth and it weighs 1,490g without the quick release. The price tag of this bike? RM15,499. Is RM3k worth the upgrade? Hmm…. Probably, because you can’t get RM3k for carbon wheels. How it perform? You may have to test it out on your own as tested bike comes with standard wheels only.

Verdict

If you are looking for comfort and long ride that doesn’t taxing you. Also, most of your rides are rolling or climbing hills such as Cameron Highlands, Fraser Hill, Bukit Hantu or Peres. Then, this bike is definitely for you. Otherwise, you may want to consider Madone.

Trek Shop

There is a Trek concept store in Penang. It is called Treknology and you can actually borrow and test ride the bike. The criteria’s are simple. 1) You are genuine buyer that wanted to test out the bike before buying. 2) You are out in the group ride with them and you do not have a bike. They can lend you 1. You just need to bring your own pedal and spare tube during the ride.

There are 6 models that you can borrow and try it out. All you need is to fill up this form. And… Get a friend who knows Trek personnel very well to borrow the bike. Well, these are expensive bikes and they need to make sure you do take care of the bike and return in 1 piece. Oh… this program is also available in KL if you reside there.

Enjoy your ride… (I know I did :))

Review: Specialized Hotrock 24 XC

Finally, I have decided to get my daughter a 24” wheel size instead of 26”. After trying out some bikes and I feel that fitting is very important. I had a wrong fitting once on my road bike and I suffered throughout my entire ride. Also, I have read up a lot of review and articles online they recommended kids with height in between 4’5” to 4’9” (135cm to 145cm or 9 to 11 yrs old) to cycle on 24”. I guessed we can’t save on everything.

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There are a many aspects why is size important.

Reach

If it is too far, it will jeopardize their handling. I saw how my daughter wobbled thru the handlebar when pedaled from a stop position.

Frame Size and wheels

Bigger bikes (like 26”) have longer wheelbase and little kid like them will need extra strength to pedal thru an obstacle like tree brunches.

Weight

Bigger bike is heavier. Again, they will need an extra effort to cycle. I read an article stating that 1kg saved on kid’s bike is equivalent to 2.5kg saved on adult’s bike.

Cranks

Adult cranks are normally 170 – 175mm long. Kid’s bike is around 160mm.

Shopping for a 24” bike in Malaysia can be quite difficult. Not many shops here carry mid/high end kid’s bikes. Asian culture is more calculative when coming in spending this kind of $. Most parents will not spend more than MYR600 for a kid’s bike. In fact, one of the shop customer asked me how much was the priced for the bike and when I told him that time he got shock. He told me he wouldn’t spend that much for it.

This was supposed to be my daughter’s birthday present. She ordered a Trek Superfly 24” back in May but it never got it here. So, we have to ditch that brand and look elsewhere. Like I said, not many brands here unless we special ordered it and that also didn’t come through. We have looked at Specialized, BMC and XDS bikes and it took her 2 hours to decide getting the Specialized over BMC.

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Well, kid’s bike is definitely smaller and components used are also lower end comparing with the adult bike. But, the price does not scale down with size. I paid MYR1350 for my daughter’s bike and that bike cost as much as my 1st entry bike (XDS MX-896) I got for myself 2 years ago.

So, what are the features?

Frame:        Specialized A1 Premium Aluminum, double-butted and formed downtube/toptube, externally relieved headtube, forged dropouts w/ replaceable hanger, disc mount

Front Derailleur (FD):  SR Suntour, 8-speed

Rear Derailleur (RD):   SRAM X3, 7-speed, long cage

Shifter:        SRAM X4 Trigger Shifter, 8 Sp (we opt trigger shifter over grip shift)

Brakes:         Die-cast, alloy V-brake

Fork:            SR Suntour XCT-JR-24-MLO, 50mm travel

Crankset:    SR Suntour, 7-speed Junior, 160mm arms

Chainrings:   42/32/22 steel, replaceable outer ring, w/ chainguard

Cassette:     Shimano MegaRange, 7-speed freewheel, 14-34

Tires:             Specialized Fast Trak Sport, 24×1.8″

Pedal:             Composite platform

Weight:         12.60kg with 50g bottle cage

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The Built

The bike looks very solid and I will say the design is comparable with the adults design. It is double butted top and bottom tube for better stiffness and reduces weight. The frame has a disc brake mount hole ready for upgrade at any time.

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Unfortunately, the looks and ride said differently. On the 1st day we took the bike back, the front hub was whistling when my daughter was riding. Also, the back cassette was wobbling when the wheel was moving. So, I had to bring it back to the shop for repair. It turned out that the bike was in the box for too long as the rubber covering the hub is rubbing against the axle without any play. With little grease, the whistling is gone. There is nothing they can do about the wobble cassette as it is a nature of freewheel. 😦

The total weight of this bike is 12.60kg with 50g bottle cage and pedals. Not sure how will this compares with other brands. I just know the BMC weighs ~600g lesser than Specialized.

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The Components

For this price range of bikes or 24” MTB pretty much offering the same components as others. There are definitely 1-2 manufactures are giving better components. For Specialized bike, they used a better RD which is SRAM X3 whereas other using Shimano Tourney which is the lowest range for MTB component. By just comparing the component pricing, the SRAM X3 is something similar to Shimano Altus/Acera range.

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The original shifter comes with this bike has a very low quality and my daughter could hardly twist and turn the SRAM 3.0 grip shift. I am not sure how this compares with Shimano Tourney in terms of functionality but the price is about the same. So, I assume they are same range. My local bike shop upgraded the shifter to SRAM X4 for free. Just to ensure I do not go over to BMC. 🙂 SRAM X4 shifter is slightly more expensive than Shimano Acera and cheaper than Alivio. So, sometimes you have to demand for better parts. 🙂 The grips will have to change also and they changed to Specialized Bodygeometry grips  which I think is not suitable for kids at all.

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My personal preference is to have lightest gear available for daughter so that she can climb steeper hill easier until she gets stronger. So, the Shimano MegaRange suits my requirement. The smallest chainring is 22 and largest cog is 34. Normally this type of setting can only be found at a higher end bikes like Trek Superfly 24 or the Giant XTC 24. Most of bike manufactures give the smallest chainring is 24 and largest cog is 28. So, with the ratio of 1.54 vs 1.16 will definitely help especially going uphill. Anyway, cassette can always be replaced when she is stronger.

The brake lever for this bike was designed for little fingers like my daughter. She can reach the lever and press on it without difficulty.

The cheapest thing come with this bike is probably the FD. I tried to Google for the price and there is no result at all. It could be custom made part for bike manufacturer installation only.

The crankset comes with 160mm long which is suitable for kids at my daughter age. Lots of bike shops pushed me for a 26” bike which comes with at least 170 to 172.5mm length and that’s not suitable at all.

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Another uniqueness feature is the pedal. Though it is plastic pedal but they made it in a way that it has pins for nonslip when pedaling. Not sure if it hurts when it hits the shin like the adult pedals.

Both of the wheels come with quick release for easy access. I am currently asking them for a quick release for the seatpost also.

Finally, the fork is spring coil with preload adjustable and with mechanical lockout. It has 50mm travel. From the technical spec, this fork weights about 2035g and the lightest 24” XCT fork is just 50g lighter only. A lot manufactures use these forks but they didn’t mention which model.

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The Ride

The bike was tested in 2 conditions. 1 that was completely flat road and 1 with some climb. So far we have not tested on fire road or off road condition as I want her to familiarize with the gear shifting 1st.

An immediate improvement I see her on a flat road was that she can ride much faster with average of 5-6km/h more than her usual. Her max speed was 28.4km/h comparing with about 18km/h on her single speed bike. We did a 17km ride with just about an hour.

With the MegaRange cassette she climbed small hills like mountain goat. And, she is able to climb 7-10 degree gradient slope without coming down and pushed. She had to do some off saddle pedaling at steeper part.

With the SRAM X3 RD and the X4 shifter she is happily pressing the trigger. The way she changing gears looks so easy for her with just a click. Anyway, the shop did lube the cable during installation. That probably helps too.

Braking is another important area for kid’s biking. Without able to reach it or press it, it serves no purpose. The Hotrock brake lever is soft to press and based on my daughter’s feedback it is very powerful too.

My daughter just loves the 50mm fork as she is doing drops after drops. The highest drop she managed to do was ~15cm or 6”. I am just wondering what if I introduce her to air fork. She will probably do DH jump. 🙂

From both rides, I do notice she gets less tired than her usual rounds and drank lesser water (obviously) too. That also explains she can go longer distances with much faster time.

Conclusion

There are a few aspects I feel this bike can improve further. I believe kids do not need 3 chainrings. 1 or 2 should be sufficient for them. Probably a 22 and 32 is good enough or just 1 chainring – 24/26. Having too much chainrings also create an issue when she has to change from 1 to 2. I noticed the chain was very loose and with no tensions it just won’t engage to 2nd gear.

Change the Revo Twist for your children sake. It is so hard to engage.

In terms of price point and features, the only bike that can come close with Hotrock is BMC SE24. I do believe every brand have their own good bike like Trek Superfly, Cannondale Race or Giant XTC. It is all depends on the price point, availability and components they give. But, definitely try to get the highest range model else any China brands are good enough. The reason is because they do spend on their R&D to come out with a kid’s bike.

Update

Well, there are 2 things I would like to update about my daughter’s bike. 1 is the quick release for the seat post. I finally got it after months and months of chasing them and finally they have it. Actually it was a simple mistake/understanding. The clamp size is 27.2mm and they kept insisting it was 25.2mm seat post until I told them give me one 27.2mm 1st and I will try it out which it fits.

Secondly was the kick stand that they gave. I have to wait for months also before I got it. And, once I got it my daughter can use it for couple of months only and it broke. The bottom part of the stand was made of cheap plastic and it can’t hold the ~13kg bike with water. So, immediately the stand gave way and broke. I brought it back to the store for exchange or warranty claim and they told me this can’t be claim but he will try… So, let’s wait and see if they can do miracle for me.

Shopping for kid’s bike

I didn’t know it was so hard to shop for kid’s bike. My daughter and I were shopping for a new bike as her birthday present. She has outgrown her current 20” bike and she has been giving me a lot of hinting of wanting a MTB. Wait, wait, wait… Not any MTB, it must have front suspension, gear changing and XC kind of bike. Kids nowadays know how to request.

So, out we went to try out Trek, Specialized, Ghost and XDS. They are pretty much fall under the same category for that kind pricing. As usual, the China brand will give better specs such as more gear ratio, hydraulic disc brakes, more aggressive looks and color.

Xds

She doesn’t look excited with XDS

The Trek store has recommended us to get an adult 26” bike just because they don’t carry any kid’s bike. Come to think of it, it does fit her with the Trek Skye SL with 13” size. But, according to another shop, it is still best for my daughter height (132cm/4’4”) to get a 24” bike for better control. I will probably need to compare the geometry with the 24″ bike. What’s your take?

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Luckily there are a few shops in Penang we can try out the 24” bikes. We have tried the Specialized HotRock, XDS bike and Ghost. The Specialized 13.5” size is consider slightly larger for my daughter but she will soon outgrow it again. This will be her 4th bike and I thought of getting her a 26” will help me to save some upgrades in future. I am not sure now. I guess not all things can be saved.

And wow, I didn’t know kid’s bike can cost as much as an adult bike yet not giving out good components.

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I am still comparing and reading review now. I do hope that she will have something before her birthday.