Eddy Merckx was the best bike racer ever – we know a certain Mr Armstrong has a decent palmares but the ‘Cannibal’ would have eaten him for breakfast – and he's had a successful post-riding career with an eponymous bike brand.
His first bikes were made in his home municipality of Meise, Belgium, but they’re now built in the Far East. And one thing you can’t accuse Monsieur Merckx of is being bashful. We know he’s got a name that will sell bikes but rarely have we seen so much branding.
For a grand it’s a little disappointing to find Shimano Tiagra on the AMX-1, with most machines at this price having the dearer 105. Tiagra has nine cassette sprockets, not 10, and exposed cabling rather than being routed neatly beneath the bar tape. But it does have the Eddy Merckx name.
More significantly for performance, it also has a pretty decent set of wheels. Shimano’s RS10s aren’t the lightest hoops out there but they’re a cut above a lot of the wheels seen on £1,000 bikes. Yes, we’d have liked 105 but having a cheaper groupset and upping the wheel spec is a good call, and will have more of an effect on performance.
The RS10’s 24mm rim aids aerodynamics, and the stainless steel bladed spoke count is suitably low. They’re well sealed too, with labyrinth and contact seals – easy to care for, smooth and with an air of quality.
At just over 9kg our 51cm AMX-1 is 200-300g heavier than some other £999 road bikes, but this is something you don’t notice in the saddle. What you do appreciate is a resolute and reassuring ride; there’s a solidity to it but no bum-numbing stiffness. The stable handling comes into its own on descents, where it’s steady.
In spite of those few extra grams it climbs well too, aided by the Shimano wheels. This might make it sound like it’s a steady-as-she-goes bike, but that’s not the case. The AMX-1's triple-butted aluminium frame is suitably stiff as well as pretty light, and there’s little discernible flex from the wheels. So if you do decide to put the hammer down your efforts will be rewarded.
Merckx’s sizing is unusual, taking dimensions from the seat tube length. In most companies 51cm would be small, but our 51cm model was more or less equal to most brands’ 57cm frames. So take care. Overall, the AMX-1 would make a great first serious road bike, a machine for speed, as befits a ride bearing the Merckx moniker.