With a name regularly prefaced with ‘The World’s Greatest Cyclist’, Eddy Merckx’s eponymous bike company has a lot to live up to. Over its 35-year existence, the company can chart many highs during the steel and aluminium eras, but fewer since the early days of carbon fibre. Recent years have seen a revival, and with Eddy again fully involved, the Belgian brand is on the up.
Merckx’s palmares lists a never-to-be-surpassed 525 victories, and offers fertile ground for naming bike models. Every current Merckx is named after a famous race or stage win, with the back story to each often relating to the bike’s attributes. The road season’s first Classic from Milan to San Remo was a happy hunting ground for Merckx, winning seven of his 10 participations, and this bike celebrates his final victory in 1976.
The longest Classic of all, Milan–San Remo is more about endurance and speed than climbing, earning it the title of the sprinter’s classic. Although the hills that litter the finale can end the ambitions of some sprinters, they favour power rather than pure climbers.
Picture duly painted, we felt we had a good idea of what to expect from the San Remo 76, but did it confound our preconceptions?
Aesthetically the frameset has a largely conventional outline, with a fairly level top-tube and dropped seatstays, but closer inspection highlights some aero tube shaping and often very angular profiles. From the large down-tube to the kinked top-tube and chunky asymmetric chainstays, the overriding impression is of solidity and uncompromising strength. If you like your bikes burly, you’re in luck.
The oversized theme continues to the Deda 35 bar, which matches superbly ergonomic shaping to a constant 35mm diameter top, removing the need for a central bulge and maximising stiffness. Leaning hard on the bar and specific stem gives immediate confidence that’s backed up by excellent lateral front end rigidity, giving a solid platform for power delivery.
Whether seated or standing, big efforts or subtle pedal caresses have equally proportionate effects on velocity, the frame’s solid lower section, centred on the BB86 bottom bracket shell, ensures your watts aren’t wasted.
A frameset aimed at uncompromising power delivery always runs the risk of producing an uncompromising ride, but although the Merckx is firm, and not something we’d choose to take across cobblestones, it’s no filling rattler either.
It’s no featherweight, but the San Remo’s claimed 1,000g frame and 380g monocoque fork, while heavier than some gravity-defying hardware, are reassuringly sturdy. Built with a complete Ultegra groupset, Fulcrum wheelset and classy finishing kit, including a Prologo Scratch saddle, our large example comes in at 7.72kg.
The most common place to shed overall mass is the wheelset, and the Racing Quattro LG, at around 1,725g is a good place to start. That said, their 35mm tall, 23.2mm-wide rims with 16 front and 21 rear spokes suit the Merckx well.
Acceleration is competitively brisk, and sustaining speed on flat and rolling terrain is the Merckx’s bread and butter. The whole package even acquits itself impressively well when climbing short sharp hills or longer, flatter drags, although the 36/25 lowest gear does have its limitations.
The frame’s lateral rigidity, along with nicely rounded 25mm Vittoria rubber give great directional stability, and help it descend like a bobsleigh, carving confident lines and braking with assurance.
There are more comfortable endurance bikes, but if you’re a rouleur who wants undiluted speed potential for races or rides that don’t involve mountains or cobbles, the San Remo 76 only has eyes for the finish line.