Sporting icon, cycling legend and famous Belgian, Edouard Louis Joseph Merckx notched up more wins in numerous racing disciplines than any rider before or since, and it’s incredibly unlikely his palmares will ever be matched.
The Merckx brand pursue excellence with the same dogged determination that drove the all-conquering ‘Cannibal’ to so many victories. Merckx have always positioned themselves as a premium marque, throwing themselves into the ring against the likes of De Rosa, Colnago and Pinarello.
Part of their sportive range designed for a more sedate riding style, the EMX-3 is a high-performance machine but with a nod to comfort: a longer head tube that raises your stance enough to delay tight shoulders and neck muscles after a long day in the saddle, and some curvy seatstays dubbed Comfort Seatstay Design, designed to bring some plushness to the party. Don’t expect a comfortable lazy cruiser though – Merckx’s DNA takes its influences from Italian bike design rather than relaxed rides on US shores.
Benefiting from the efforts of its own in-house CAD guru, the carbon lay-up is carefully optimised to balance comfort, weight, performance and intended use. Impressively – and unusually in these days of feather-fragile carbon constrained by rider weight limits – the frame and fork are covered by a lifetime warranty, and the frameset is available for £1,999.
The frame is both light yet robust – it’s seriously rigid, and great for those of us who love a quick response to pedal power inputs. While a lively ride, the rear of the bike does transmit some feedback from poorer road surfaces, and big pothole hits can give you a kick in the butt – a little drop in tyre pressure will cure it on particularly bad roads, but on a recent weekend in the Dolomites the EMX-3 was in its element.
Complex tube shapes flow with aesthetic flair and keep high-speed buffeting to a minimum, although the clean look offered by internal cable routing does come at the expense of the occasional rattle.
The tapered head tube enhances the rigidity of the frame upfront
Ergonomically, the EMX-3 offers a good setup, with a roomy FSA Wing Pro bar providing comfortable hand positions, helped in no small way by the excellent shape of the Campagnolo hoods. At the back, a Prologo saddle is perched on top of a rigid 31.6mm diameter FSA seatpost. While some of us would prefer a saddle with a little more play, we’d happily live with the Prologo after an upgrade to a carbon seatpost with a bit of give.
The rest of the component choice is excellent, with crisp, accurate shifting provided by Campagnolo’s Athena groupset, while Fulcrum Racing 5 wheels are always a sure bet, with their low-friction sealed cartridges, machined rims for progressive braking and cheese cutter-thin bladed stainless spokes.
Shod with 23mm Vittoria Rubino Pro tyres, the bike was happiest when treated with rough disregard, thrown into corners hard and fast. Our test bike’s close ratio 11-speed cassette made high-speed forays with the local chain gang just that little bit easier, yet a 34-tooth inner ring kept steep summits within reach.
The EMX-3 is a dream to ride: fast, nimble and ideal for strong, heavy riders. How about a loop in its spiritual homeland, from Meise to Waterloo? In Brussels, stop for a glass of Maes Pils on la Grande Place – just avoid the cobbles!