De Rosa Merak Evo Athena EPS - First ride review£4,299.99

Italian thoroughbred race bike

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De Rosa’s Merak is one of the Italian company’s longest standing models, which has morphed from its hydroformed, outlandishly shaped forefather via an aluminium/carbon hybrid into this new generation Evolution model. The one constant is that it has stayed a racer.

The 15mm tapered head tube and broad-shouldered, deeply bladed fork make for a rock-solid front end with precise, reactive steering. The De Rosa is absolutely at its best when you are – we pushed it to our limits, and in the handling stakes at least, we couldn’t find its. 

This front-end rigidity is mirrored throughout its frame. The massive down tube has two I-beam style ridges running its full length, gathering in an oversized BB30 bottom bracket shell. The aero-section seat tube meets a large, swooped top tube and broad, triangular profile seatstays; oversized asymmetric chainstays finish with big aluminium dropouts. 

The back end is short and stiff with a tight wheelbase that adds to the ride’s precision. While it’s not exactly ‘soft’, it pounds over broken surfaces without undue vibration or bumping. 

The Merak is one of the first production bikes to offer Campagnolo’s electronic Athena EPS. Performance is crisp, and it arguably has better ergonomics than its mechanical counterpart because the thumb lever has been dropped a few millimetres. It doesn’t affect shifting from the hoods but makes shifting in the drops markedly easier. 

Athena EPS can handle multi-shifts more easily than Shimano’s Di2 – enabling you to shift all 11 cogs in one sweep. Under load when climbing it’s best to shift one gear at a time, as under pressure the chain is prone to catch the tops of each sprocket’s teeth. But the ability to shift a whole block at the crest and into the descent never gets boring. 

Campagnolo’s electronic athena eps is a perfect fit for the classy frame:
Campagnolo’s electronic athena eps is a perfect fit for the classy frame:

Campagnolo’s electronic Athena EPS is a perfect fit for the classy frame

Our test bike came with a 50/34 carbon chainset and 12-25 cassette, a good all-round choice, but on a bike as rapid as this we’d have liked an 11-tooth sprocket. Quality Continental tyres are paired with Fulcrum’s new Racing Quattro wheels

These have a wide rim for a better tyre shape, great quality hubs and a shallow but aerodynamic profile, but they’re at the lower end of Fulcrum’s range and we’d expect something a little further up the food chain on a bike of this price. But the Merak frame is a real pleaser and Athena EPS a fitting partner.

This article was originally published in Cycling Plus magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.

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