The 2015 EMX-1 is very much Eddy’s bike, its distinctive Merckx styling featuring a typically huge head tube area with a slight hourglass profile.
But you will have to take care with the sizing of this sloping top tube design – our 48cm centre-to-centre frame is the equivalent of a 56cm traditional frame.
Merckx’s least expensive carbon frame still uses the company’s Carbon Laminate+ (CL+) process, which optimises the orientation, position, type and size of every carbon sheet to maximise strength and reduce weight. Semi-compact frames often create lively, punchy rides, and although carbon layup allows almost any characteristics to be engineered in, this conforms to type, its monostay braced rear triangle firing us forwards as if power assisted. Very rapidly up to speed, our next impression was of smoothness.
The Deda bar and stem – not often fitted to off-the-peg machines – impressed us with their great finish and shape, with Lizard Skins’ tape providing a very satisfying wrap. Deda’s 31.6mm seatpost bucks the slim trend and is topped by a Prologo saddle, which is superb quality even if it’s not our ideal shape. They form a firm pairing that matches the no-nonsense frame, which feels exactly like you’d expect from a bike that’s designed in Belgium and bears the racing legend’s name.
Over beaten-up country roads, you won’t be. This is no floaty endurance bike, but while the 17cm head tube offers a hint of endurance geometry, the Merckx rides like a thoroughbred racer, with crisp, incisive cornering, cat-like reactions and great solidity. The Merckx- badged wheels perform better than expected, accelerating willingly and, along with the 25mm rubber, they add a little comfort to the ride too.
The spec includes Shimano’s new hollow ringed 105 chainset but omits the groupset’s excellent brake calipers. Unfortunately the cheaper Merckx-branded brakes perform more cheaply too, lacking the performance and feel of Shimano’s brakes.
Along with the basic wheelset these are obvious future upgrades, but there’s no urgency, as the EMX-1 already has that in spades.