BIKE TESTS: EDDY MERCKX EMX-1
January 28, 2011


As determined as we are to be neither elitist nor presumptuous about the depth of cycling history that RBA readers are familiar with, there’s no way around one simple fact: we have a hard time explaining who Eddy Merckx is. It’s like explaining who George Washington was or what air is. How do you explain something as historically obvious as George Washington or as ubiquitous as the air we breathe? Therefore, this will undoubtedly be one of the shortest intros of any RBA bike test. The bike is the Eddy Merckx EMX-1. It is named after Eddy Merckx—cycling’s own GOAT (Greatest Of All Time). Done.

THE FRAME
While we celebrate the continued evolution of carbon frame technology, we are also relieved that the number of plain-wrap carbon bikes is finally diminishing. Yes, paint adds weight, but it also adds style. Finally, the era when seemingly every bike company was keen to roll out a fleet of black bikes to prove their carbon credentials has come to an end. It’s now time to move on from silly cosmetic weaves and once again be able to differentiate bikes in the group ride.

With its nearly full coat of paint (which we welcome) covering the high modulus carbon monocoque frame, the EMX-1 sports a clear coat over the unidirectional carbon weave to enhance its design. While the frame is pretty standard fare at first glance, a closer inspection reveals subtle shaping throughout. The tapered headtube runs with internal headsets, and the fork and seatstays share a severe aero profile. What separates the EMX-1 frame from its higher-end (EMX-3 and EMX-5) siblings is not only the quality of carbon, but, more significantly, the sloping top tube. The EMX-1 is available in five sizes as well as a female-specific design (and more eye-catching blue finish).


The combination of Shimano brakes and aluminum rims makes for great stopping power.

THE PARTS
As we didn’t finish road testing the Merckx until late into the 2010 season, we made sure to find out what will be different on the 2011 version. Most notably, you can expect to find Shimano’s new 105 gruppo, complete with internally routed (under the bar tape) cables. The consistent, smooth and light action of the 105 drivetrain is perfectly suited for a bike in this price range.

The other piece of the Shimano pie that had us licking our chops was the RS20 wheelset. After months of enduring the inconsistent braking performance of so many carbon wheels, the straightforward aluminum hoops brought a big sigh of relief. The 24mmdeep wheels run bladed spokes (16f/20r) with red nipples for a dash of style. Like most aluminum wheels, they stopped on a dime. As for hard parts, you’ll find a run-ofthe- mill, house-brand aluminum stem and handlebar and a carbon-wrapped, aluminum seatpost. We liked the 350mm  seatpost; it guarantees plenty of adjustment to accommodate the sloping top tube, and we would prefer the nicely polished seatpost to the senseless carbon façade.


The monostay rear end helped deliver a comfortable ride.

THE RIDE
Not half an hour into one tester’s first ride aboard the Merckx (and after he completely blew his braking points on a fast, arcing turn), he was immediately made aware of two things. The first was that, as previously noted, the Shimano rim/brake combo just as well as any of its any high-end competition. The second was that the lower-line (84 tpi) Continental Ultra Sport tires (a “training” tire in Conti’s parlance) offered all of the grip he could ever hope for. After he was forced to lean the bike over hard to prevent running into a guard rail, he was so impressed that he actually rolled to a stop to see what brand of rubber just helped save his life. In other words, both the wheels and tires proved that great performance can still be found in a range of non-elite bike parts.

Equally enjoyable, albeit for only a few test riders, was the Compact drivetrain. Simply put, for 95 percent of all the riders on the road, Compact gears (especially on climbs) are a godsend, letting you stay in the (smaller) big ring for longer portions of your effort. The strong guys hate Compact gears because they run out of gear on downhill sections. Phooey! Better to have more capable speed going up than excess speed going down. We like that the derailleur cables have in-line adjusters, but with their positioning located on the underside of the downtube, actually using them at speed is a tad on the sketchy side. You have to try to watch where you’re going while simultaneously making sure your fingers stay clear of the rotating wheel.


Despite the EMX-1's racing heritage, it shined as an all-day rider.

THE VERDICT
Look, we’re bike geeks, not psychiatrists, so trying to guess how the brain responds to outside stimuli is a mystery to us. However, when you’re struggling up a steep hill aboard the EMX-1 and feeling weak, all it takes is a quick look at the name of the famous Belgian scrawled down the length of the top tube to give you an extra kick of effort. The EMX-1 is a great (higher end) entry level bike. Aggressive riders felt catered to by its performance-oriented handling, but it also provided “all day comfort” for those opting for slowerpaced treks.

PUNCH LINES
• Entry-level parts with high-end performance
• What’s in a name?
• Feel the need for (uphill) speed with
Compact gearing

STATS
Price: $2600
Weight: 18 lb.

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