Review: Trek Emonda ALR 5

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Emonda ALR 5
Taking my Emonda out on its first ride

I’ve never really been inclined to own a Trek (sorry Trek lovers!), however, a cracked frame and an insurance payout meant that I rather unexpectedly became the proud new owner of an Emonda ALR 5.

With my Tarmac getting repaired and a cycling holiday rapidly approaching, the Emonda looked like a safe bet. I wanted something I could go on to race on without too much stress, and that would leave me enough money left over to repair my other frame.

My specifications were pretty simple: a decent price and a nice paint job.

Little did I know that for just £1,350 I would be buying a bike that not only fulfilled these specifications, but ended up going above and beyond them too.

Lightweight and gorgeously made aluminium

A self-confessed bike snob, I haven’t owned a bike that isn’t carbon in almost three years. When I used to think of aluminium bikes I would think of messy welds, heavy frames and a less comfortable ride.

The welds are almost impossible to spot.

While the Emonda is obviously slightly heavier than a carbon alternative, it takes nothing away from how much of a joy it is to ride. It feels responsive, with noticeably less flex than a carbon frame. It’s arguably even more fun to race on than my previous carbon race bike.

The welds are also near-on invisible, meaning it looks almost exactly like a carbon frame. The colour is gorgeous too, making it look much more like a luxury bike. Chrome paint jobs are no longer reserved purely for the super-bikes.

Emonda ALR 5
Taking my Emonda out on its first ride

After climbing for more than two weeks on the Emonda in the Swiss Alps, it has safely passed the “are alloy bikes heavy?” test. I’m not the greatest climber on the best of days, but the Emonda was comfy and still felt extremely lightweight.

However, where it came into its real element was on the descents. I had read a review claiming it was ‘lively‘ to descend on, and I can confirm that it is an absolute delight. It flowed around corners, felt firm beneath my body, and most importantly, felt fast.

The Emonda has pretty relaxed geometry, which was perfect for the long Swiss climbs. However, I am 171cm and ride a 52cm frame, and with a 100mm long stem, the bike still feels reasonably aggressive.

For me, it’s a brilliant mid-point between pure and potentially uncomfortable aggression and relaxed upright riding.

The Groupset

As well as not owning an alloy bike for many years, I have also not owned anything less than Ultegra (yes, I hate myself too). A little concerned about how a 105 groupset would compare to my Ultegra Di2, my expectations were pretty low.

Yet, the improvements made to 105 since I last rode it three years ago is astonishing. It feels as good, if not better, than my mechanical Ultegra, with the dual mounted rim brakes really demonstrating that 105 is no longer awkwardly hiding in the shadow of its more expensive siblings.

The gears shift well even between the front chain-rings, and the brakes feel sharp. They were exceptionally strong when paired with the stock alloy rimmed wheels, but swapping them for carbon pads and rims left them feeling a little more ‘spongey’. Still, they feel no different to my Ultegra brakes, and the hoods are just as comfortable.

The faults

So, the frame feels fantastic, the groupset is great, and the colour is amazing. Is there anything wrong with this bike?

Well, yes, but the faults are minimal.

First off, the wheels that came stock with the bike went straight in the garage. I understand they’re just meant to be cheap stock wheels, but my god were they heavy!

Secondly, the cable routing around the front of the bike is a bit of a mess, to say the least. As well as being a jungle of cables, they rub directly against the head tube, meaning I’ve had to cover parts of the frame in electrical tape until I can find a see-through alternative.

Why are the cables so messy?? Credit: Cycling Tips

Luckily, these small and fixable issues are where the faults end. This bike has been a surprising delight to ride, proving itself up both 25km long mountain climbs and hour-long criteriums. The Emonda ALR is fast, it feels light, it’s responsive, and it’s fun. 

Plus, for the price of under £1,400, who needs carbon anyway?

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