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The alloy Trek Émonda ALR disc review

Sleek looking and smart riding sparkling purple frame makes a strong case to build a dream machine with an aluminium frameset

For a long time, it seemed the most compelling argument in alloy’s favour as a frame material for a bicycle was at the bank account. It offered a cheaper entry point to road bikes than the lightweight carbon fibre or boutique titanium and was still comparatively lightweight when compared to other common frame materials such as steel. It, however, lacked some of the sexy lustre of its competition.

The Trek Émonda ALR makes a big effort to right that perception. With a lower price point, excellent ride quality and sharp aesthetics, it’s hard to make a definitive argument the Émonda ALR is sorely lacking in any one regard. It’s heavier than top end carbon but not punishingly so. It offers an excellent ride quality and can be the base for a very drool-worthy build.

Trek decked out the Trek Émonda ALR frame they sent in to the Canadian Cycling Magazine office. With a beautiful deep Bontrager Aeolus XXX 4 wheelset, smooth Shimano Ultegra mechanical shifting and powerful hydraulic disc brakes it gave me a fair shot of noticing all the lovely characteristics of this alloy frame.

A choice frame material

Recently, aluminum has made a come back as a compelling frame material for top-end bicycles. The sparkling purple paint job really looks great on the Émonda ALR frameset. Those I rode with were often surprised to hear it was alloy. You really get a great looking alloy bike with the Émonda ALR.

The frame shaping is also quite attractive with angular lines reminiscent of what you’d find on a carbon frame. Make no mistake, the hydroformed aluminum tubes are welded together but in a way that doesn’t make it obvious. Trek use what they call Invisible Weld Technology to join the tubes. The 300 series Alpha Aluminium, as Trek call it, is made by injecting fluid into cylindrical frame tubes and forming the exact shapes they want so ultimately the frame requires less material. The fork is still carbon.

The frame is pleasingly reactive bounding up punchy hills and with the help of the Aeolus XXX wheels rolling up to speed with immediacy with the force of a couple of solid pedal strokes. With no significant weight penalty often associated with alloy on the 1,150 g disc frameset (rim frameset tips the scales at 1,090 g), you get the best out of a pricey set of carbon hoops. The alloy feels real good under the strain of an all-out sprint as well as unleashing your power into road speed rather than having any sense of feeling it’s being deadened.

Shared characteristics with top-end carbon

The frame borrows its geometry from the high-end carbon Émonda race bikes with the H2 fit for every day riders. It’s not the most aggressive race bike out there but you can achieve a slammed position with the right stem no problem. It would be nice to have Trek’s race geared H1 geometry available on the Émonda ALR to achieve an even lower aggressive ride position.

The frame has internal cable routing through the front triangle only exciting the bike at the bottom bracket which is a press-fit BB86.5. Like it’s carbon brethren, the disc model has 12 mm thru axles front and rear, and flat-mount brake callipers.

Like many carbon road bikes, the Émonda ALR seeks to strike a balance between comfort and stability while still being fun and reactive. It achieves these aims feeling well connected to the pavement in turns and on rough surfaces when more twitchy bikes can feel a little nervous. That stability doesn’t detract from the fun of leaning into turns and having the bike go where you want when you point it in a direction to launch an attack or sweep around a bend.

A very compelling price point

Perhaps the best argument for the Émonda ALR is its price tag. With no compromise in terms of ride quality and only a slight weight penalty compared to top-end carbon, the $1,230 price tag for an alloy frameset is quite attractive. This is especially true when you consider the price tags of top-end carbon race bikes. While carbon wheels are still a significant investment and a Shimano Ultegra build will increase the overall cost of your bike, the Émonda ALR makes the argument that the smart move might be too put your money in those components rather than invest it all in a carbon frame only to outfit it in lower end components.

The capable frame is available as a complete build in both men and women’s models with hydraulic disc Shimano 105 and Bontrager Affinity wheels for $2,400. The Shimano Tiagra model is listed at $1,700 giving you a great frame with a solid entry level build.

The Émonda ALR has all the characteristics of a solid road bike with excellent performance and ride quality, especially in the test build I was fortunate enough to ride.