Emonda SL8 Women’s long term review

After a season of riding the Trek Emonda SL8 Women’s, I’m ready to give her a proper review. I put this bike through the paces in 2015, riding it to train for mountain bike racing which included long days in the saddle and even some off-road adventuring.

The Emonda is considered Trek’s all-around performance bike, meaning it climbs well, descends well, has great power transfer, and is very lightweight. I initially chose this bike based on the geometry. The Emonda Women’s fits me better than my previous non-women’s road bike, and has the quick handling characteristics that I personally enjoy. It’s a bike designed for people who race, or who prefer a race-like feel.

Emonda SL8 Women's

Emonda SL8 Women’s, or “Shemonda”

I can honestly say the Emonda delivers. One of the first things I noticed was the acceleration. This bike picks up speed so easily. I can see from my power meter exactly how hard (or not hard) I am working, and it doesn’t take much to get the Emonda started. I can especially feel it climbing hills because any extra effort goes straight to propelling me forward. I won’t get into the technical aspects that makes this possible, but I will say it is noticeable and greatly increases my riding enjoyment. This bike was made for climbing.

The Emonda is also very predictable in its handling. It is zippy yet compliant. This was much appreciated when descending long sections of Bear Mountain and Harriman State Park, and when riding off road. Even on dirt with 25c tires, the Emonda handles well.

Adventures with the Emonda

Adventures in Vermont

One of my favorite parts about the Emonda is that every model (including the aluminum ALR models) comes with a complete Shimano groupset. A lot of bike companies will mix and match the drivetrain, substituting cheaper components in less noticeable places. Many times the rear derailleur is the highest level part, but it’s one of the least important in terms of drivetrain performance. The crankset, cassette, and shifters have far more impact, especially when shifting under load. Component manufacturers design their groups to work together, so Shimano 105 works best with 105, and Ultegra works best with Ultegra, etc. When shopping for a bike, take a look at the parts specification and see if any changes have been made. It’s a novelty to find complete groupsets these days. With the Emonda, drivetrain quality isn’t compromised at all, meaning cleaner shifts and better overall value for money.

Photo credit: Karen Yung

Photo credit: Karen Yung

While the Emonda SL8 Women’s comes with a great stock wheelset (Bontrager Race Tubeless Ready), an easy way to unlock this (or any) bike’s full potential is to upgrade the wheels. Then the quick handling and fast climbing features really come to life. I chose to invest in a carbon clincher wheelset with a power meter for this bike. The wheelset improves performance, and the power meter provides direct training feedback in real time on the bike, and over the long term.

Lastly, kudos to Trek for their commitment to women’s cycling, and for developing some of the best road bikes for women in the industry. In 2015 they also released the Silque, which is a fully redesigned women’s model from the ground up. The reviews have been nothing short of incredible. For me it feels good to ride a great product by a company that is willing to invest in the future of cycling.


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