A Belgian bruiser, the Merckx EMX-525 will be raced by the Topsport Flanders/Mercator pro team in 2013, so it has its race credentials, but how will it fare on sportives and gran fondos?
Apparently designed during serious curve rationing, the 525 is more industrial than organic, with flats and straight lines all over; only the subtle curve of the head tube is out of line. Designed solely for electronic shifting, the Merckx is uncluttered by cabling, although there’s so much going on with the geometric stepped stays, angular tubes and burly fork that the Ultegra Di2 groupset is almost lost.
Warming up, we were instantly aware how rigid the 525 is, totally unnerved over our hole-spattered roads. If the kinked seatstays induce flex then it’s minimal, and overrun by the robust frame. But accelerating, the muscular asymmetric chainstays and down tube are more than a match for our legs, with fast-twitch reactions and surging drive.
The wheels are less immediate, and although Fulcrum’s Racing Quattros punch above their weight, a £300 wheelset clearly doesn’t do the 525 justice. On the positive side, with a relatively shallow profile they’re no problem in a swirling wind. They also keep the overall price realistic for a bike with a frameset that costs nearly three grand, specced with Ultegra Di2, and for winter riding they make good sense, especially as riders with a budget of over
£4K might well already own a more than decent wheelset. Even with wheels below the calibre of the bike, the 525 has a steamroller-like ability to hold its line and barrel across rough roads, while solid, predictable handling keeps it all together in a similar vein to the S5.
After repeated interval batterings we were convinced of the frame’s racing potential, and bigger test riders particularly appreciated its relentless character, but we were all wishing for better hoops.