Is 2013 the year of the aluminium road bike? We tested a few last year, culminating in one winning our Bike of the Year award, and judging by the latest crop of bikes arriving in the office, this year looks no different. The very latest is this Mekk AL Pinerolo 1.0, a £700 entry-level aluminium racer with a 9-speed Shimano groupset and a bright red paint job.
The story behind Mekk is a simple one, it being a relative newcomer to the road bicycle market. Two men with years of experience between them in the bike trade, Mark Edwards and Ken Knight, put their heads together and created a complete range of bikes, from aluminium to carbon fibre. We tested one such carbon model, the 3G Potenza SL5.5, last summer and came away highly impressed with such a capable and very well-specced bike for the money.
The £699.99 AL Pinerolo 1.0 is an interesting bike. It’s where the Mekk range starts, and is the first of four aluminium models which top out at £1,199. Beyond that carbon fibre takes over and Mekk split their offering into three separate ranges, priced from £1,199 right up to £4,999.99, so there really is something for everyone.
£700 is still a reasonable chunk of cash, but it’s a very good point to get onto the road bike carousel, and the Mekk offering has a lot going for it with a very good build kit and smart finish making it one for your shortlist, if you’re in the market for a £700 bike.
What exactly do you get for your money? Well, the frame is triple-butted aluminium which means it’s a bit lighter and should hopefully ride better than a plain gauge (non butted) tubeset. The welds are smooth and it’s all very neatly finished. It has a chunky down tube that is ovalised at either end to present a larger weld area with the head tube and bottom bracket shell. The top tube has the merest hint of a slope, giving it a traditional look that just seems right to my eyes.
A 1 1/8in head tube carries a carbon fibre fork with an aluminium steerer tube. The rear brake cable is routed internally through the top tube. It’s not often you see internal cable routing at this price. The gear cables are routed externally along the underside of the down tube.
Mekk opt for Shimano on most of their bikes and this model gets a mostly Sora 9-speed groupset with a non-series Octalink compact 50/34 chainset. It’s the older style Sora with the thumb shifter paddle, rather than the newer Dual Control lever shifters, which is a shame. A KMC Silver 9-speed completes the drivetrain.
Wheels are a combination of ICE hubs with sealed bearings and Mavic's CXP 22 rims, shod with Kenda Black Sport 23mm tyres. The handlebars, stem, seatpost, saddle and brake callipers are all branded with the ICE logo too. On first impressions it all appears to be good, sturdy equipment, but it will be interesting to see how the brakes perform during the test period, as they’re an obvious downgrade from Shimano branded brakes. They’re fitted with non-cartridge brake pads. Weight for the bike pictured (a 54cm) is 9.22kg (20.32lbs).
Now we’ve cast our eye over the build kit, let’s take a look at the geometry. The 54cm bike we have comes with an effective top tube of 55.5cm while the seat tube is 54cm. The head and seat tube angles are both 73.5°. The head tube length is on the short side at 15cm, which places it at the racier end of the scale. Even going up a size to the 56cm gets you only a 15.6cm head tube. That’s interesting because the more expensive Mekk 3G had a whopping 20cm head tube for a size 56cm.
It would have been reasonable to assume Mekk might have opted for a similar sportive-friendly geometry across their range of bikes, so the fact the entry-level aluminium bikes are far more racy than their more upright carbon models higher up the price slider has us rubbing our chins. Do newer cyclists, that we expect might be interested in this Al Pinerolo, not also want a higher, more comfortable front end like on the expensive carbon models? Personally, I’m not a fan of the really tall head tubes, so it will be interesting to see our our tester for this bike, Stu, gets on with it.
There’s some hot competition at this price point. To pick a few similarly priced contenders, there’s the Verenti Belief from wiggle.co.uk at £750 which manages a Shimano Tiagra 10-speed groupset. Another British brand, Genesis, offers the Volant 10 at £799 which combines a double-butted alloy frame and Sora 3500 9-speed groupset. And there’s Pinnacle Dolomite 4 for £750, an alloy frame wearing a Shimano Tiagra groupset from Evans Cycles.
Oh, and the name Pinerolo - it’s a town in Italy southwest of Turin. Any similarity to to the name of any high-profile brand is, we're sure, completely coincidental!
David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds.