The name’s new, but the men behind Mekk – Mark Edwards and Ken Knight – have decades of experience in cycling. They were the team behind distributor Caratti, which brought GT bikes to the masses back in the day. They’ve put their experience to good use – and put their money where their mouths are – creating the Mekk brand, offering bargain priced bikes across the road bike spectrum.
The glossy red, entry level Al 1.0 ‘Pinerolo’ (we hope a certain Italian company’s lawyers are happy with its cheeky name) comes with a compact Shimano 9-speed Sora groupset.
Where a lot of companies proudly proclaim their British design heritage, Mekk’s down tube has an Italian tricolore declaring its Latin design roots. Manufacturing is typically Taiwanese, though the semi-smooth welds of the triple-butted frame are a lot neater than on most bikes at this price – and many much dearer bikes. The overall weight – just 9.16kg (20.19lb) – is exceptional at this price, and lighter than a lot of £1,000 bikes.
The chunky down tube changes profile from a rounded triangle to a flattened oval but keeps its considerable diameter where it meets the bottom bracket. The top tube and seat tube are narrower, and the standard 27.2mm seatpost prevents the ride getting too hard. The twin-bolt seatpost keeps the saddle secure too.
Geometry is racy, not sportive-orientated. Our 52cm (equivalent to most brands’ 54-55cm) has a short 14.5cm head tube, and even the biggest model’s is only 16cm. Shortish chainstays make for a lively and easily flickable sub-metre wheelbase too. There’s little mudguard clearance and no mounts for them either.
The Sora drivetrain is smooth, the handling sharp, but in spite of this it stays pretty comfortable. You won’t have carbon’s plushness in any £700 aluminium bike, but the Mekk doesn’t leave you numb-bummed or saddle sore, thanks to a well-shaped seat from Velo and comparatively slim seatstays.
It is the old style Sora, though, with the less user-friendly thumbshifters rather than the newest model’s paddle shifters. That said, the same frame is also available with 10-speed Tiagra for £799 – compatible with all Shimano’s 10-speed groupsets – with 105 and Ultegra bikes topping the A1 range. These also come in under 9kg.
At this price the usual compromises are brakes, tyres and wheels. But while the non-cartridge brakes and Kenda tyres are par for the course, the wheels are a very definite plus. Whereas you’d expect so-so own-brand wheels, Mekk have gone for Shimano’s R500s.
In case of emergency… use your ice brakes: www.robertsmithphotography.co.uk/Future Publishing
In case of emergency… Use your ICE brakes
Though no lightweights, these Tiagra-level wheels are lighter than most of those on some £1,000 bikes – 1.28kg (2.82lb) front, 1.76kg (3.88lb) rear. They have a 24mm rim, which should stand up to a lot of abuse, and their low mass helps hugely on the hills. The stainless steel spokes are easy to replace, and the hubs straightforward to service.
When the tyres are worn, upgrading to something like Schwalbe’s Ultremos will reduce weight and help you make even more of the frame and wheels. Depending on your fitness and local terrain you might consider a different cassette than the aggressive 11-25T fitted, but that’s easily changed.
And finally, this model comes with a free waterproof jacket worth £70, completing a high quality, hard-to-fault road bike package offering a grand ride quality for much less than a grand.
This article was originally published in Cycling Plus magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.