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Eddy Merckx 525: The Cannibal’s Ride

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With the recent release of two new Merckx bicycles the time seemed appropriate to post our long term review of the Merckx EMX-525 from issue 30 of peloton. Named for the other worldly number of wins Merckx collected during his career and Eddie’s preferred ride today, the EMX-525 was the first bike to signal the return of Merckx Bicycles and has heavily influenced the new San Remo76 and Mourenx69.

Ben Edwards

The EMX-525 is the latest thoroughbred to come out of the Merckx stable, and in some ways serves to re-launch the name in the United States. For a few seasons there, ‘Merckx wasn’t Merckx’, so to speak. ‘The Cannibal’ was essentially uninvolved in the company. All that has changed with the EMX-525, the greatest cyclist of all time is again intimately involved with the bikes that bear his name. 525 isn’t the test tube or lab name that was given to this batch of carbon, or another marketing ploy aimed at getting the consumer to believe that interwoven between these threads of carbon are layers of magic beanstalk threads that will increase power output.  No, this one is named after the number of victories Merckx achieved during his tenure in the sport.  525 victories. I think it’s fair to say that there will never be another who comes close, especially when you look at the diversity and authority at which he won.  It’s an understatement to say Eddy Merckx might have some valuable insight into performance bicycles.

The Details
So if there are not threads of magic beanstalk woven into the carbon what is?  Merckx uses two technologies called OSR and CL+ when building its carbon bikes.  These days it seems the gap between race quality performance and a comfortable ride is being closed, and the rider can expect both without giving up much. Optimized Structure Reinforcement (OSR) and Carbon Laminate (CL+) are designed to offer riders just that – strategic layering of carbon that results in stiffness, power transfer, lightweight, and comfort.

At first glance there are some unique features at the soul of the EMX-525.  The arced top tube, the zigzag step down seat stays quickly falling into sync with asymmetric chain stays, the dramatically oversized down tube, and of course the Aero Fork II which claims to increase aerodynamics and stiffness. We won’t pretend the futuristic, angular tube shapes have much to do with the bike’s beautiful ride quality, but when they don’t take away from it, who are we to complain? The Merckx looks unlike anything else in the peloton, and to our eye, it is a stunner. Adding to this futuristic look is a dedicated electronic frame. Merckx has bet the future will be electronic, at least for the very high-end racer. The magic of Di2 or EPS is not lost on us, but then neither is the magic of SRAM Red or Campagnolo Super Record 11. Options are a good thing, and for 2014 we are happy to see Merckx has added mechanical options. A point of contention with the EMX-525 was the seat post and seat clamp engagement.  While this probably would not be a deal breaker for owners once they found their respective sweet spot, but it is a challenge to adjust the fore and aft of the saddle with the bolt locations.  This may be the one area where beautiful aesthetics got in the way of performance.

While the entire line of Merckx bikes fly under the mantra of “Power Under Control”, where four distinct aspects are put into focus – stiffness, stability, speed, safety – the EMX-525 is directly aimed at the cyclist who that pins a race number on their back.  The EMX-525 is the same frame offered to professional teams sponsored by Merckx. Although we never pinned a number on there was no shortage of demanding road challenges laid before the EMX-525 during our test period.

The Ride
When you first throw your leg over the top tube the arcing shape might seem a little unusual, initially it feels like you might be on a bike one size too big with the stand over clearance being less than we are used to. While the head tube is racer short, the stays and overall wheel base trend to the longer side of the race crowd. For Merckx, the brand and the man, this is all about stability. The bike relies on a super stiff front end and beautifully balanced rear to let you push your limits in the corners with aggressive lines, not a twitchy front end. These dimensions certainly pay off when the road is less than perfect too, allowing you to push hard on the pedals with enormous confidence the bike will go just where it is told. This is no surprise when the bike is inspired by and named for a Belgian with a penchant for cobbles. The bike’s crisp acceleration is due to high-end carbon, beautifully laid up, not a short rear end, which means the acceleration comes with stability. It is acceleration that feels snappy at any speed, quick jumps while climbing, big progressive efforts to make a gap, or bunch dashes to the line.

In addition to the responsive nature of the EMX-525, we were also pleasantly surprised that after four hour rides on varying terrain and road conditions we didn’t feel like our fillings had been jarred loose or lower back and neck were overly tight. It’s a ride quality that has a lot of similarities with a Pinarello Dogma 65.1 Think 2, the dampening qualities created by a lot carbon between you and the road with none of the muted feel typically associated with bikes like that.

The Build
The EMX-525 we tested was a size 56 cm, built with Campagnolo Record EPS, FFWD F4R wheels using the sublime Vittoria Open Corsa CX tires, and 3T stem and bar combination with a Prologo Scratch Nack saddle. The build complimented handsomely the black, white, and red accented carbon EMX-525 frame. $11,500 is a price point we would normally associate with Super Record EPS 11, but they do offer other electronic options, and many mechanical options with a $5500 Ultegra build at the entry level.

The Rider
Power under control, stiffness, stability, speed, and safety don’t appear to be just marketing jargon from the Cannibal’s team but results of experience and lots of road testing.  Take a good look at the EMX-525 if you have a flare for Belgian beers, cobbles, classics, and enjoy riding a bike that will allow you to push the limits of your ability with the control and stability to do it confidently.

Bottom Line
Price: $11,500
Weight: 16.5 lbs. (without pedals and cages)
Specifications: Campagnolo Record EPS 11, FFWD F4R wheels, 3T ARX LTD stem and Ergonova LTD bar, Prologo Scratch Nack saddle, Vittoria Open Corsa CX tires.