If you’re looking to dip your toes into the world of road riding for the first time, and especially if your employer is registered with a Cycle to Work scheme in the UK, the Merlin PR7 Sora, which Merlin describes as a “simple, reliable road bike”, looks like it could be a great place to start.
The PR7 features a triple-butted 6061 aluminium frame and a carbon-bladed fork with an alloy steerer. The triple butting reduces tube thickness in the middle while keeping strength at the ends where it’s needed.
The glossy black paint with bold Merlin logo belies its modest price and the Mavic CXP 22 rims are a rare sight on a bike of this price – especially as it can often be found even cheaper with discounts.
Elsewhere, there’s the usual cost-cutting on a couple of the PR7’s components, notably the non-cartridge brake blocks and the Kenda tyres, but even these are in a 25mm width and both are very easily upgradable.
You might also choose to go for the maximum 28mm tyre width when the tyres are worn.
Mavic CXP 22 rims are a rare sight on a £650 bike.
I also reckon a wider cassette than the very aggressive 11-25 fitted would probably have greater appeal to new or returning riders. After all, you can never have a low gear that’s too low, not in my part of the country anyway.
And while there are fittings for mudguards at the rear, the front fork has none and there are no rack mounts, which would boost the PR7’s commuting credentials. Thankfully, these days, there’s no shortage of aftermarket blade-style mudguards and seatpost-mounted baggage options.
But, if you’re looking for a racy introduction to the world of road riding, Merlin has put its century-plus experience to good use.
Merlin PR7 Sora ride impressions
The 10kg weight is perceptible when sprinting or climbing, but once you’re up to speed this romps along and it handles well, cornering and descending surefootedly, although better brake blocks would help with the latter. The current ones stop you safely enough but without the modulation of the best rim brakes.
The 11-25 cassette fitted is aggressive for newbie riders.
Throw the PR7 around, aim at the apex and lean into the corner, and it’ll repay your efforts in spades, a result of its pretty racy geometry.
My medium size model has a 540mm top tube and a head tube at a moderate 145mm tall, although 2cm of spacers allows you to set it to your own level. The 74-degree seat angle and 72.5 head tube are also at the racy end of things.
I thought that the larger diameter 31.6mm seatpost and the Merlin’s budget 25mm tyres (rather than 28mm rubber) would make the PR7 overly firm on poorly surfaced roads, but it surprised me. While still not an ultra smooth ride, the days of rough-riding, backside-beating budget aluminium are thankfully a long way behind us.
I even got on with the Merlin Black saddle, although that’s subjective and easily swapped if it doesn’t suit you.
Merlin’s PR7 is a fast-riding entry-level two-wheeled treat.
Shifting from the 9-speed Shimano Sora groupset was slick and efficient, although my preference would always be for a lower bottom gear and a wider range overall. It did make for very small jumps between gears, better for the strong, competitive riders rather than the weekend dawdler.
Merlin may not be the most glamorous name, but its PR7 is a fast-riding, entry-level two-wheeled treat. It will be overgeared for some, and lacks a few of the fixtures and fittings I’d have liked, but there’s little to fault about the performance and the Shimano Sora groupset is great at the price, even if the Tektro brakes don’t quite match it.
Merlin PR7 Sora overall
If you are looking for a fast sportive bike or budget trainer you can ride with bladed ’guards, this Merlin’s a wizard.
Merlin PR7 Sora geometry
Seat angle: 73.5 degrees
Head angle: 71.5 degrees
Seat tube: 48.2cm
Top tube: 54cm
Head tube: 14.5cm
Fork offset: 4.5cm
Bottom bracket height: 26.7cm