The EMX-1 is part of Merckx’s Performance range rather than its Pro line-up, but with parallel 72.5-degree angles and a 997mm wheelbase, it’s far removed from what we would consider a sportive bike. It’s as racy as many pro-race bikes, which says something about what Merckx consider to be a road bike – and it’s Eddy himself who decides the geometry.
Highs: Frantically fast and efficient race bike
Lows: Needs upgrades to get the best from the frame
Buy if: You favour quality of frame and responsive handling over spec
The ride is one that Eddy would recognise too: an unabashed bruiser – responsive, rapid and tough as you like. On smooth roads it glides and flows with impeccable manners, the handling sharp with an immediate snap. You can feel the extra grams of the modest RS10 wheels and budget Zaffiro tyres, but the build quality is there, and the tyres are tough enough for winter and easy to upgrade.
The downside of the responsive and, above all, stiff ride is when the road surface is broken. The front offers good resilience, its full carbon fork taking the sting out of the road, but the rigid rear triangle and aluminium seatpost transfer road chatter straight to you. On short blasts the connection with the road is great, but on anything over 50 miles we wanted a bit more comfort. We switched to Syntace’s P6 HiFlex carbon seatpost and instantly the bike felt better.
The setup is mainly 105 with a Tiagra front mech and FSA compact chainset. If a bike has to have a downgrade then the front mech is a good choice – it’s the cheapest major part to upgrade, and Tiagra is only a few grams heavier than 105.
The chainset is also lower grade than 105, but shift performance is good and it’s cleanly finished. The frame isn’t compatible with internally routed electronic cabling, but exterior wiring is an option. We’ve been using Di2 like this all year without issue, so this is no big deal.
Tektro’s brakes have a hard, waxy compound – the non-cartridge pads are good but not great in the dry, and lack power and feel in the wet. We’d upgrade to cartridge pads when these are worn.
This sounds like we’re down on the EMX – but we’re not. The frame oozes quality and would fit easily in a package twice the price. The handling is among the best. If you get your kicks riding fast and zipping through the bunch, the Merckx is hard to beat.
This bike was tested as part of Cycling Plus magazine’s 2013 Bike Of The Year feature – read the full results in issue 273, on sale Friday 1 March and available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.