The new Trek Émonda ALR 6 is a lively aluminium road bike with a good ride quality and a high spec for the money.
The Émonda ALR proves that there's still plenty of life left in aluminium, if that was ever in doubt. Many people seem to think that carbon fibre bikes are inherently better than aluminium bikes, but that really isn't the case. Carbon fibre isn't an end in itself, it's a means to an end. It's a material that can be built into lightweight, stiff and sometimes aerodynamically efficient bikes. And aluminium can be made into great bikes too, as the Émonda ALR shows.
The ALR 6 rides really well, providing snappy acceleration through its taut frame. Weighing in at 7.89kg (17.4lb), our review bike is quick off the mark. It's actually Trek's lightest ever aluminium road bike, the 56cm model coming with a claimed frame weight of just 1,050g. Sure, there are plenty of lighter bikes out there, but this is a very good weight for a model of this price and, equally important, the frame is stiff enough to hold firm when you put the power down.
Trek has used its all-new premium 300 Series Alpha Aluminum for the two aluminium Émondas rather than the 200 Series it uses for the aluminium Madone and Domane models, and this higher grade material is hydroformed (high pressure fluid is used to shape the metal) into size-specific tubes. In other words, the tubes are made differently so that each size of frame performs the same.
Although it houses just a standard 24mm axle, the 86.5mm wide bottom bracket holds everything very firmly through the centre of the bike, providing a solid platform from which you can lay down your power.
The Émonda ALR 6 has very good climbing skills, transferring your effort efficiently into forward movement. The light weight helps here, as does the fact that it's equipped with a Shimano Ultegra groupset that includes a compact chainset (with 50-tooth and 34-tooth chainrings) and an 11-28-tooth cassette.
This provides you with lower gear ratios than you get with a standard chainset, so getting up steep hills becomes easier – and even the pros sometimes use compacts for the big mountains, as you can see here. That 28-tooth inner sprocket can really get you out of trouble when the gradient kicks up steeply.
The compact chainset does mean you have to do without the biggest gears you get with a standard chainset, so you'll spin out sooner on fast descents. That said, you're still likely to be able to pedal at over 35mph with the setup you get here (100rpm gets you 35.5mph, 120rpm gets you 42.6mph).
Speaking of descending, the Émonda ALR 6 provides you with plenty of assurance on the way down. The tapered head tube, with a 1 1/2in lower bearing, provides a high level of stiffness at the front end, and that becomes more noticeable the harder you slam the bike into the corners. Rather than wavering about, the bike takes you exactly where you want to go and that gives you the confidence to keep pushing the speed up.
When required, the Shimano Ultegra brakes bite the Émonda's alloy rims hard to provide strong and predictable power whether you just need to shave off a bit of speed or come to an unexpected stop. With all that muscle at my disposal, I felt I could rag it down sketchy descents without things getting hazardous.
The aluminium Émondas are built to what Trek calls its H2 geometry. Essentially, this is a performance-orientated geometry but it's a little more relaxed than a Trek H1 setup; the head tube is a little taller and the top tube is a little shorter, giving you a slightly more upright riding position. The idea, of course, is to provide more comfort.
We have the 58cm model here on test and it comes with a 19cm head tube. That's fairly lofty for a race bike but it's not up there with that of some endurance road bikes. With a stack height of 596mm and a reach of 391mm, the Émonda ALR 6 still has an eye on aero efficiency.
Trek has specced a compact handlebar so your riding position isn't too extreme when you rest your hands down on the drops. The Bontrager Race VR-C has a drop (the vertical distance from the centre of the bar at the stem clamp point to the centre of the bar at the ends) of 125mm so when you make the switch from the hoods you certainly feel like you're moving into an 'attack' position, but it's not crazy-deep. Don't feel like a compact bar is a cop-out option, by the way; the vast majority of pro riders are using them these days.
Aluminium bikes are often characterised as harsh but that's largely unfair, the Émonda ALR 6 providing at least an average amount of give. It's certainly a long, long way from jangling. The skinny seatstays doubtless contribute to that, as does the lengthy amount of carbon fibre seatpost that you're almost certain to have extending out of the frame thanks to the sloping top tube. That seatpost is a slim 27.2mm in diameter and it flexes enough to help polish over bumps and dents in the road surface.
Bontrager's Paradigm Race saddle has loads of flex in its shell along with quite deep cushioning, so it's doubtful that you'll want for more softness here. If you do feel the need for more comfort, swapping the 23mm-wide Bontrager R2 tyres for 25s would be the most logical step. That's what I'd be doing when they wore out.
Another change I'd make over time would be to upgrade the Bontrager Race Tubeless Ready wheels. Okay, if you intend to go tubeless they might make sense, but they're pretty basic and this is a bike that could certainly benefit from something better.
The rest of the spec is very impressive, particularly the Shimano Ultegra groupset – and that's a full groupset right down to the chain, rather than a mix of eye-catching components and downgrades.
You probably already know that Ultegra is Shimano's second tier road groupset, and we have only good things to say about it. If you want to know why, check out our review. The bottom line is that Ultegra provides great shifting and braking to keep you fully in control. Excellent stuff!
Overall, the Émonda ALR 6 is a very strong offering. Do yourself a favour and take aluminium seriously at this price point. This is a quick and taut bike that provides plenty of comfort, and the Shimano Ultegra components are superb.
Quick and lively aluminium road bike with a good ride quality and excellent Shimano Ultegra components
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Trek Émonda ALR 6
Size tested: 58cm
About the bike
State the frame and fork material and method of construction. List the components used to build up the bike.
Frame Ultralight 300 Series Alpha Aluminium, Invisible Weld Technology, DuoTrap S compatible, E2 tapered head tube, BB86.5
Fork Émonda full carbon, carbon E2 steerer
Wheels Bontrager Race Tubeless Ready
Tyres Bontrager R2 Hard-Case Lite, aramid bead, 700x23c
Shifters Shimano Ultegra, 11-speed
Front derailleur Shimano Ultegra, braze-on
Rear derailleur Shimano Ultegra
Chainset Shimano Ultegra, 50/34 (compact)
Cassette Shimano Ultegra, 11-28, 11-speed
Chain Shimano Ultegra
Saddle Bontrager Paradigm Race, hollow chromoly rails
Seatpost Bontrager carbon, 2-bolt head, 27.2mm, 8mm offset
Handlebar Bontrager Race, VR-C, 31.8mm
Stem Bontrager Elite, 31.8mm, 7-degree, w/Blendr computer & light mounts
Headset FSA Integrated, sealed cartridge bearings, 1-1/8in top, 1.5in bottom
Brakeset Shimano Ultegra
Handlebar tape Bontrager gel cork
Tell us what the bike is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about the bike?
Trek says, "Every detail of the Émonda line serves the same audacious goal: to create the lightest line of production road bikes ever offered."
It lists these attributes:
* Redefines what's possible for weight and ride performance
* The 300 Series Alpha Aluminium for ultimate light weight
* Perfectly balanced, ultra-responsive ride feel
* The world's lightest road line has the world's best warranty
Frame and fork
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
The build quality is very high.
The neat welds and very good finish mean that in most cases you can barely see the joints between the tubes.
Treks says it has used Invisible Weld Technology here. What's that?
"A revolutionary welding technology used on the frame allows for less material used in the welding process, while simultaneously increasing strength and the connection," says Trek. "The results are smooth and flawless seams, stronger bonds between the frame's tubes, premium aesthetics, and decreased frame weight."
You can see some of the welds, especially around the bottom bracket, but it's a very neat job.
Unlike on the carbon Émondas, the cabling is external.
The frame is compatible with a DuoTrap S sensor. This is a Bluetooth/ANT+ sensor that sits in a hollow on the non-driveside chainstay to measure speed, distance and cadence on a bike computer or smartphone.
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
Trek says that the 300 Series Alpha Aluminum is an upgrade over its 200 Series. It is hydroformed into size-specific tubes.
The fork is full carbon.
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
The Émonda ALR 6 is built to Trek's H2 fit, as is the ALR 5.
H2 is slightly more relaxed than Trek's H1 fit but it is still a race-orientated geometry.
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
We had the 58cm model with a 573mm effective top tube, a 553mm seat tube and a 190mm head tube. The stack height (vertical distance from the centre of the bottom bracket to the top of the top tube) is 596mm and the reach (the horizontal distance between those two points) is 391mm.
It puts you into a fairly aggressive riding position, but it's not as full-on as Trek's H1 fit.
Riding the bike
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
Yes, it is a comfortable bike. Tyres wider than the 23s fitted would improve things further.
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
Yes, it's stiff through the bottom bracket and the head tube. There was less steerer tube flex when I moved the stem right down.
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
Yes, it's stiff through the bottom bracket.
Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so, was it a problem?
A little but I don't find it a problem.
How would you describe the steering? Was it lively, neutral or unresponsive? Neutral
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?
I always have loads of seatpost extending out of the frame, and that certainly helps with comfort, especially if it's a slim 27.2mm diameter post like the one here.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's efficiency? would you recommend any changes?
The wheels are good but their performance lags behind that of the groupset.
Wheels and tyres
Tell us some more about the wheels and tyres.Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the wheels or tyres? If so, what for?
The wheels are good, but they're not as good as the groupset. I'd keep them until they started to wear out, then go for something lighter, if possible.
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes
Would you consider buying the bike? Yes, for a bike at this price it would be on the shortlist.
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your score
Some people will doubtless be put off by the fact that this bike is aluminium and they could get a carbon-framed bike for this kind of money. My argument would be that a carbon bike isn't always better than an aluminium bike. You get a bike that performs very well here, complete with an extremely good groupset. It's definitely one to consider if you're in the market for a performance-minded bike at this price.
About the tester
Age: 43 Height: 190cm Weight: 75kg
I usually ride: My best bike is:
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding
Mat has worked for loads of bike magazines over 20+ years, and been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. He's been road.cc technical editor for eight years, testing bikes, fettling the latest kit, and trying out the most up-to-the-minute clothing. We send him off around the world to get all the news from launches and shows too. He has won his category in Ironman UK 70.3 and finished on the podium in both marathons he has run. Mat is a Cambridge graduate who did a post-grad in magazine journalism, and he is a past winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer.