The Émonda ALR Disc is alloy, and while numerically its “5” build slots in under the Émonda ALR 6, it’s actually the ultimate example of what Trek can do with alloy. Making a stiff alloy road bike won’t win any headlines, but making an alloy road bike stiff under power and polite in the saddle is the holy grail of alloy metallurgy. We won’t say it hasn’t been done before—check out the BMC ALR Disc reviewed in this issue; and there are a handful of others. But alloy is a budget material in this day and age, so that engineering wizardry is frequently blunted with cheap groups and lousy wheels at the price-point altar. Will the Émonda ALR 5 suffer the same fate? We don’t know.
Why don’t we know? Well, Trek pulled a fast one by sending us an Émonda ALR Disc built with some beautiful bits and pieces. The stock ALR 5 comes with Shimano 105; our test bike had Ultegra. The stock bike comes with Bontrager Affinity alloy wheels; our bike had the XXX 2 ultra-light carbon clinchers. The stock bike has an alloy seat post and bars; our test bike had a XXX carbon post and bars. In short, our Émonda ALR Disc came with every advantage—the alloy version of white privilege. You can’t buy the $2,000 Émonda ALR 5 Disc complete bike and expect the same performance as the one we tested, nor our 7.5-kilogram (16.5-pound) weight. We’re simply reviewing what is possible with the $1,070 frameset when married with the right build; and what is possible may change the way you look at carbon and alloy forever.
Like most high-end alloy these days, the Trek Émonda ALR is hydroformed, using high-pressure water to turn the round tubes into almost any shape. Some of these shapes have ride-quality influence, like the flattened down tube at the bottom bracket; but most, like the head-tube sculpting, are for styling, shapes that firmly announce the bike as a member of the Émonda family. With a smooth weld technique and the overall tube shapes, the Émonda ALR can easily be mistaken for a carbon bike, and with the pearlescent paint called Purple Flip it’s a head-turner. The frame is also available in a black-matte-and-gloss combination that mirrors carbon aesthetics even more.
We can’t say the alloy bikes in our test fleet are the first bikes we grab for the lunch ride, and they rarely make the longer weekend cut. With carbon super-bikes falling from the rafters, they get the majority of our miles. But the Émonda ALR is breaking that mold. From the first lunch spin, we knew it was special. It’s got a smooth, refined ride quality we rarely associate with alloy; but it was its acceleration, noticeable from the first moment we accelerated out of the driveway, that really got us excited. This bike is lively, way lively. It did not disappoint at the pedals as the pace increased, jumping quickly on steep pitches and throttling up with ease during big, all-out efforts at high speed. When descending or navigating corners across rough road, the Émonda ALR feels beautifully balanced. The carbon fork, stiff head tube, alloy stays and XXX carbon post create a bike that tracks wonderfully, leans happily into the corners and moves as a single entity, flowing across the pavement. No doubt, the bike’s premium build allows the frame to shine, showing just how much race performance can be eked out of alloy.
The bike’s smooth ride holds up in just about every situation, aided by the Bontrager XXX2 wheels, a wide contact patch and the 27.2mm XXX carbon seat post. Sure, it can rattle over truly nasty road, but so do the carbon Émondas. While the bike shares a lot of ride attributes with its carbon namesake, it does not share fit options. The bike is only available in H2 geometry, which for many riders looking for an aggressive fit to go along with its aggressive power transfer, will feel tall and short, putting too much weight in the saddle. An H1 fit would also make the bike even more scintillating downhill and give it a more aggressive, race-inspired profile at the coffee shop. The Émonda ALR is not part of Trek’s Project One, but we think it deserves to be. We know it’s not considered a high-end bike, but a high-end build truly unleashes the frame’s potential, so a case can be made that it’s actually the perfect Project One bike. It’s done for disc alloy what the Émonda SLR did for disc carbon: set a new bar.