There will be very few cycling fans who haven’t heard of Eddy Merckx. Arguably the greatest cyclist of all time, Merckx dominated the sport in the late Sixties and early Seventies, racking up 525 victories, including ﬁve Tours de France.
A few years after retiring from racing, the Belgian set up his company to manufacture bicycles. Nearly 30 years on and his name is back in the pro peloton as the bike sponsor for the Belgian Quick Step team. As part of their ever-expanding range, Eddy Merckx have introduced a new series of women's bikes.
There are four complete bikes in the range, and two available as framesets only. They’re made from a variety of materials – aluminium, scandium-aluminium and carbon ﬁbre – with prices from £999 to £2,999. The carbon ﬁbre EFX-1 we’ve tested sits in the middle of the range.
Ride & handling: Relaxed riding position stifles racy frame's ambitions
With Merckx having such a rich racing heritage, we were secretly hoping for a pure speed machine, something sadly rare in the female-speciﬁc bike market. Looking at the nicely contoured frameset the initial signs were good: a sculpted bladed fork, solid seatstays and chainstays, and a beefy bottom bracket area.
The stiff frame responded well when we stomped on the pedals, but not at the expense of vibration damping – the ride was still smooth. It handled conﬁdently through corners, but the riding position – in particular the high front end and slack head-tube angle – meant we felt as if we were constantly ﬁghting the bike to get the most out of the frame.
This isn’t helped by the width of the Eddy Merckx-branded handlebar (42cm c-c), and we’d have preferred the narrower 40cm bar that the smallest sized EFX-1 comes with. With our forearms angled outwards it was harder to pull on the bar when climbing and sprinting, plus it was difﬁcult to curl small hands around the levers. When on the drops, the wide bar isn’t only detrimental to comfort, it’s also an aerodynamic disadvantage.
So here’s the conundrum: a racier position but the same beefed up frame would allow you to get low for blasting along the ﬂat, whereas a lighter (at the expense of stiffness) frame with the more upright position would be perfect for long relaxed days in the saddle. However, as it stands, the Merckx EFX-1 suits neither application brilliantly.
Frame & equipment: Female-specific geometry and decent kit, but we'd prefer lighter wheels
It’s not just the pink decals (the bike’s also available in black) that set the EFX-1 apart from the men’s EMX-1 – the frame’s geometry has also been changed to better suit the needs of women. In line with many producers of female-speciﬁc road bikes, Eddy Merckx have increased the slope of the top tube, shortened the reach and decreased the angle of the head tube.
Combined with a signiﬁcant increase in head tube length (15.5cm for the size 43cm tested), the EFX-1 has a more upright riding position. The angle of the seat tube has also been increased, putting the rider further forward – for a given saddle position – over the pedals. This increases the power efﬁciency of the pedal stroke, and our long-legged/short-torsoed female tester certainly found it comfy.
Our test bike came with a Shimano 105 triple groupset, Shimano RS20 wheelset, Prologo saddle and Eddy Merckx ﬁnishing kit. The triple chainset, like the geometry, points away from a racing setup. Slightly heavier than a standard double or compact setup, there were plenty of gears to choose from but we were using the front derailleur much more frequently.
The Shimano wheels felt solid, but we’d have preferred something lighter for climbing. If Shimano isn’t for you, the EFX-1 is also available with Campagnolo’s Veloce groupset and Khamsin wheels, or SRAM’s compact Rival kit paired with a Fulcrum Racing 7 wheelset. But whichever you go for, it would be worth making sure the handlebar suits your shoulder width when you’re buying the bike.