The holy grail of bike design is race hero stiffness with La-Z-Boy comfort, and everyone thinks they have the answer. However, only Museeuw Bikes use carbon mixed with flax – a plant whose ﬁbres are used to make bank notes.
The company, started three years ago by 1996 world champion Johan Museeuw, is founded on the premise that this new material blend can revolutionise ride comfort with its vibration absorbing characteristics.
The ﬂax-carbon frames are made in much the same way as conventional carbon units, except the raw material ﬁrst has to be harvested from a ﬁeld then threshed, retted, dressed, spun and woven before the 21st century tech joins in.
The new range, ﬁrst unveiled last summer, uses ﬂax-carbon in every model. The entry-level MC-6 has a carbon ﬁbre main triangle with ﬂax-carbon stays and fork for extra damping. ‘Entry-level’ is a relative term, though, and the £2,800 MC-6 is head-to-head with such established stars as Trek’s Madone 5.2 and Specialized’s Tarmac SL.
The MC-6 is a handsome bike, with neat internal cabling in the shapely structure. But after several trips over our favourite rough-surfaced test routes, we couldn’t hide our disappointment. The MC-6 simply isn’t that smooth.
It isn’t harsh by any means, just, well, average. On poor, but not broken or potholed, roads a signiﬁcant amount of buzz gets through to the bar and pedals. Thankfully the carbon seatpost isolates much of the vibration before it reaches your backside, saving the day but missing the point.
There’s obvious and visible ﬂex in the bottom bracket and fork didn’t feel especially stiff. It isn’t a light bike either, so climbing is far more of a chore than it should be on a bike costing nearly three grand. You can really feel the frame taking a fat handling fee from every pedal stroke, dulling the ride.
At least the 11-speed Campagnolo Athena, reﬁned and idiosyncratic like old money gentry, yields a 12-27T cassette to make the race double chainset manageable in the absence of a sparkling frame.
The multi-shift function is great at enabling a drop to the inner ring in anticipation of an impending gradient without a change in ﬁnal ratio – simply push both thumb levers down together to skate the chain across four sprockets and even out the simultaneous chainring switch.
The snappy action means it all happens in a blink. Our only criticism is that the force required to shift one sprocket is too similar to that needed for a multiple change, making for frequent over-shifts.
Campag’s Scirocco wheels are sturdy, smart and swift once wound up, but at nearly 1,800g they do little to put some needed ﬁre under the Museeuw’s toes. The quality Prologo saddle and FSA compact cockpit are a pleasure to use, which is more than can be said for the fancy yet feeble bottle cage – we swapped it after losing a bottle three miles into the ﬁrst ride.
If Museeuw’s graphs and claims are to be believed, then ﬂax-carbon does offer superior damping for equal rigidity. Certainly when we tested the £4,800 Museeuw MF-5 which uses more ﬂax than carbon – an 80/20 ratio in fact – back in 2008 we were really impressed with its comfort. With the MC-6, though, the blend doesn’t appear to have hit the mark in the same manner as its pricier sibling.