The way the cyclists and the whole of bicycle industry are obsessed about weight will put an anorexic supermodel to shame. But the progress of bicycling has been towards figuring out means to shed weight, skyrocketing the price of the two-wheeled human-powered vehicles, whose basic propulsion technology remains what it was when it was invented a couple of centuries back. You need legs and lungs, period!
But yeah, frame and bicycle gearing and components matter too. And so, American bicycle manufacturer Trek, known to push the boundaries in the industry, has come out with Émonda. The guys at Waterloo, Wisconsin, are claiming it would be the lightest production bike once it hits the market. That would mean the whole bike should weigh less than 5 kg.
The word Émonda is derived from French verb Émonder, which means to prune or cut away, and that’s probably what Trek has done with their full-carbon Émonda line. The frame has enhanced integration, size specific performance and the lightest production complete weight—the top-end Émonda, the SLR 10, weights just 4.65kg (10.25 pounds). But all that comes at a cost, no doubt. Wonder who will be buying the SLR 10, priced a little below $16,000. Pro cyclists probably won’t, as they can’t ride it in Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) competitions, as bikes need to be at least 6.8 kg according to the rules prescribed by the sport’s international governing body.
So, Trek is aiming to get an edge in the marketing race based on frame weight that started around 20 years ago when bike manufacturers started experimenting with materials other than steel—aluminum, titanium and carbon fiber—to make frames lighter, and hopefully faster. But it all comes at a cost. No, not just money, but ride comfort too. A comfortable ride, a hallmark of traditional steel-framed road bikes takes the back seat as carbon-fiber is weaved on composite and non-composite frames to make it twitchy, stiff and faster but not necessarily smooth on the bum.
But carbon is probably the future and Trek’s Émonda, no doubt, would help push the technology envelope into a lighter future. Let’s see how Trek has managed to cut weight and add cost.
Trek has always believed in their OCLV (Optimum Compaction Low Void) carbon fiber technology, but, till now, ride quality and strength, not weight, were the primary parameters for their designers. To address the weight issue, Trek concentrated on optimizing the frame tube using size specific carbon layups and a new ultralight Ride Tuned Seat mast on the top-end bike. They managed to bring the frame down to 690g.
Wow! Now that’s not as much as some custom, limited-edition frames like the 667g Cervelo RCA, but it’s pretty awesome for a production bike. Trek, however, claim that all that weight loss won’t affect the ride comfort, which has been the plus point of most production Trek bikes—carbon or aluminum.
But, it tears a big hole in the pocket of an average recreational or aspiring competition cyclist. The flagship SLR 10, the 10.25-pounder, will retail for $15,749.99. Yes, there is no mistake here. 16k. Apart from other frame and material related breakthroughs, the weight has been brought down on the SLR 10 by equipping the bike with Tune Skyline tubular wheels, a Tune Komm-Vorr Plus saddle, SRAM Red drivetrain and Bontrager parts, including Speed Stop brakes.
The Émonda line doesn’t begin at the SLR 10 though, thankfully. The complete bikes will be available in men’s and women’s WSD models and will start at $1649 for the entry model—the S4, which weighs 8.74 kg (19.29 pounds). The weight decreases with higher models while the cost rises.
Being a firm believer in cycling being an activity centered around the rider and his abilities, and, more importantly his weight and fitness, frame weight doesn’t pop my eyes as much as some of my fellow riders. Having said that, one has to commend Trek on the new beauty. Émonda looks bloody gorgeous; but so does the classic steel roadie I commute to work daily on. It weighs below 22 pounds and I have given some carbon bikes a run for their money on it too. That’s mostly the racing I will be doing on my bike and for that I would never be dishing out 16 Grand. Will you? Share your views below.