For all the time, money and expertise poured in to research and development, bicycle manufacturers are beholden to often simple truths. When it comes to riding fast uphill, less is more.

No matter what marketing campaigns will tell you, nothing will have greater impact on your times up the local berg than some consistent training and a few less post-ride croissants.

That said, with bikes like Trek Émonda SLR 8 rolling off production lines, it’s never been easier to find fat-free bikes perfect in the battle against gradients. And it’s fair to say that Trek have done as much as any brand worldwide to popularise carbon fibre as the material du jour for bicycle manufacture, particularly in terms of shedding grams.

Ubiquitous first as a frame material, and latterly in components and group sets, carbon has become the ultimate byword for high tech. Light, stiff, and when done right, comfortable, it’s the perfect material for a climber-friendly bike like the SLR 8.

As Trek’s flagship racing bike, the elevator pitch in planning the Émonda line is simple: “Build the lightest frame we can, and add as little to it as possible.” 

Wow factor

Lifting the box containing the Trek Émonda SLR 8 produced the first of many “wow” moments during the testing of this bike. The box was light. Really light.

Whilst the decidedly low-tech lift test boded well, it provoked two immediate reactions. The first was excitement. Reviewing high-end bikes brings you into contact with some incredible machines, and for a boxed bike to feel noticeably lighter than any before told me this was something special. The second was caution. It may be super light, but just how well could this bike ride?

The answer to that question was quickly apparent. With a claimed frame weight hovering around the 640g mark (the 58cm on test carrying a little extra), successfully combining stiffness with low weight and comfort is a challenge.

Trek’s approach is to focus material where it’s needed. Trek has well and truly adopted the semi-compact frame layout. The frame itself is made of the American company’s proprietary OCLV 700 carbon fibre, nowadays also described as Ultralight. 

With the exception of straight, thin seatstays - a feature typical of lightweight frames - no tube on the bike maintains a uniform shape. The most apparent example of this is the top tube, which flares into ridges at either junction to provide lateral support at either end of the top tube.