The Eddy Merckx EMX-1 is a prime example of why you should never judge a bike by its spec sheet. Some parts may have been used to hit the two grand price but as a package the EMX-1 is a brilliant ride ripe for long term upgrades.
The EMX-1 is the entry into carbon fibre ownership in the Merckx line-up with a geometry tailored for longer distance and comfort by raising the front end slightly and shortening the top tube. It still absolutely flies though when you ask it to.
A lot of the budget of this bike has gone into the frame, you can feel it as soon as you put tyre to tarmac. It's rare to get a carbon frame which is both stiff and compact that manages to banish every trace of road buzz and vibration before it makes it through to the rider. It almost has the kind of smooth feel you expect from steel or titanium.
A typical ride here on the Wiltshire, Somerset and Dorset borders means lots of country lanes and twisty B roads with plenty of climbing and descending, all things the Merckx is intended for with its comfort inspired, sportive style geometry. Thankfully you won't be left wanting.
The short 982mm wheelbase on the EMX-1 makes the whole bike punchy and agile which is an absolute boon on twisty damp descents. You can really fling yourself about on it and the shorter top tube allows you to position your bodyweight exactly where you want it to bank it from one apex to the next.
My favourite test hill has it all with open sweeping curves, narrow sections, blind bends and tight, wall hugging corners all with a less than perfect road surface. The EMX-1 is the best bike I've taken down there so far and would probably would have been the quickest had it not been damp. Get in the drops, inside knee bent and a drop of the shoulder the Merckx tracks wherever you point it. No twitchiness or dramas. The tapered steerer and head tube makes sure stiffness is high where it needs to be.
The front end has a 72° head angle which keeps the steering controllable especially if a quick change of direction is needed, gravel or a pot hole for instance. The majority of the surefooted manners comes down to that frame though, it just deals with everything leaving you to just concentrate on pedalling and pointing the handlebars.
When things calm down a little bit though the EMX-1 is mild mannered and just cruises along for mile after mile. The 150mm tall head tube means you can sit up on the drops just tapping out a rhythm for hours on end while still having that sportiness feeling there should you require it.
One of the budget components are the Fulcrum 7 wheels, a decent set of hoops in their own right but a little below par for a £2000 bike. As it stands the EMX-1 has some pretty decent acceleration blunted slightly by spinning up the Fulcrums' near 2kg weight, the same goes for climbing to. Swap them out for something more lightweight though and the EMX-1 picks up speed quickly especially from a rolling start.
Shimano's Ultegra 11-speed 11-28 cassette gives a decent spread of gears with the 50/34 compact chainset so long steady climbs can be taken comfortably in the saddle. Coming down the other side you are going to be motoring before you're spinning out. If you're a hilly sportive rider the Merckx is ticking one hell of a lot of boxes.
The EMX-1 is built using Merckx's own carbon fibre layup, something they call CL+. Its basically laying the carbon sheets in a way that they'll work best depending where they are on the frame whether that be for stiffness or comfort. It's not the lightest out there but Merckx have gone for longevity and ride quality over weight, they must be confident to as they offer a lifetime warranty to the original owner.
The sizing and geometry might look a little odd at first glance especially as at 1.8m tall I'm riding a 45cm. The virtual top tube length is 535mm though for this size Small, with a reach of 373mm, it doesn't feel small to ride. There is a full geometry table on the Eddy Merckx website though should you want to work out what size is the best for you.
Areas like the head tube, down tube and bottom bracket all have large surface areas to cope with the loads put through the frame under hard efforts. As I mentioned above the head tube is tapered at the fork crown for stiffness plus it allows for a larger down tube to be attached. Once you put the power down especially honking out of the saddle you really feel how tight that front end is.
The fork is full carbon and flows in shape and thickness in the same way as the frame does being especially deep just below the crown.
Speed hasn't been forgotten though, with a few tweaks added for aerodynamics like the fin shaped seat stays and small fairing section where they meet the seat tube. Whether it makes any difference all the way back there is debateable but it does look cool.
The EMX-1 has been out a fair few years now so it doesn't offer things like internal cabling routes for use with electronic groupsets. The cable guides are riveted to the carbon frame and do allow for clean lines especially considering the shapes and curves of the main tubes.
You get a replaceable gear hanger and the seatpost uses a twin clamp setup, a twin diameter clamp with the lower matching the seat tube diameter and the upper clamping the post so spreading some of the clamping load between the two. Merckx have gone for a 31.6mm diameter seatpost. That's perhaps odd, considering the EMX-1's nod towards comfort: a smaller diameter post is often used to introduce a bit of bump-absorbing flex.
It's good to see a near full Ultegra 11-speed groupset here as it's a beautiful companion to the frameset. We've tested the full groupset here which is worth a look to see what we think of the performance but as an overview the shifting is much tighter and precise especially at the front mech due to longer swing arm.
The rear mech has had some geometry tweaks to resulting in the gear change feeling quicker even when under load. The reshaped compact levers help here to as they are more pleasant to hold plus if you have small hands they can be adjusted up to 10mm via a screw to get the fit just right.
Unfortunately one of the groupset's best components, the brakes have been sacrificed for some Merckx own brand versions and while the performance doesn't suffer too badly you do lose a lot of the feel and modulation of the Shimano units. It's one of those downgrades that have needed to be made due to quality of the frame.
The chainset is Rotor's 3D compact with matching BSA bottom bracket. It's a beautiful looking bit of kit and the wide, flat hollow alloy crank arms are super stiff.
The finshing kit is made up of Deda's lower end alloy components which always perform well especially if you like a stiff platform. You could pick the bar, stem and seatpost combo up yourself for about seventy quid on the internet but it looks and feels much more expensive than that. The RMH01 bar as a shallow drop with a shape somewhere between traditional and the newer anatomic style. It's comfortable to use whether on the tops or in the drops too.
One thing Merckx haven't scrimped on though is the contact points. The Prologo Kappa saddle is a firm perch thanks to some supportive padding and I got on well with the shape. The flat top with narrow nose allows you to change position easily which I like as I tend to slide backwards to climb.
Our EMX-1 came with Lizards Skins bar tape, although we're told that's not what you get as stock; it's a worthwile upgrade though. I started using this tape last year on my own bike and it's slowly being rolled out across the fleet as it's grippy and comfortable without being too thick. It's also reusable to as it has just enough tack to keep it stuck to the bars without needing to actually be glued to it.
As I mentioned earlier it is a bit odd to see such entry level wheels on a bike costing £1949 but again highlights that money has gone elsewhere like the frameset and groupset. The Fulcrum 7s are good wheels for their value though being bombproof with quiet running bearings. They'd be ideal to use for training and in poor weather with a change to lighter wheels for race day.
Same goes for the Vittoria Zaffiro tyres; again cheap and cheerful yet they perform well above their pay grade. They roll quickly and shrug off punctures and cuts well.
Overall the EMX-1 is a brilliant bike. That frameset is just sublime both in terms of comfort with the benefits of amazing handling and a super stiff frame. It's so easy to ride and goads you into pushing the pedals just a little bit harder and taking that bend just a little bit faster.
Okay some compromises have been made in terms of the wheels and brakes but that is easily rectified for not a lot of cost. The money going into bits like the chainset, saddle and bar tape show some clever thinking by the designers of how the components will work together with the frame.
Spend £400 on some wheels and another £100 on brakes and you've got a superbike beater for two and a half grand.
Great handling, fun bike to blast about on, race crits or cross mountains; upgrade the wheels for a superbike challenger
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Make and model: Merckx EMX-1
Size tested: 54
State the frame and fork material and method of construction. List the components used to build up the bike.
Full carbon frame and fork using Merckx's own propriety CL+ layup for controlling stiffness and comfort. 240GPa modulas carbon fibre is used throughout.
Shifters: Shimano Ultegra 11S
Front derailleur: Shimano Ultegra Braze on
Rear derailleur: Shimano Ultegra 11S
Crankset: Rotor 3D Steel 50-34
Bottom bracket: Rotor BSA
Cassette: Shimano Ultegra 11S 11-28T
Chain: Shimano Ultegra 11S
Wheelset: Fulcrum 7
Tyres: Vittoria Zaffiro Pro
Saddle: Prologo Kappa Evo
Seatpost: Deda RSX01
Handlebar: Deda RHM01
Stem: Deda Zero1
Headset: FSA 1-1/8"/1-1/4"
Tape: Lizard Skins
Brakeset: Eddy Merckx dual pivot
Tell us what the bike is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about the bike?
The EMX-1 is Merckx's entry to carbon fibre bikes as it sits one above the alloy AMX range. It's intended for use in sportive style events as it focuses on comfort thanks to the compact frame and tall front end. Nothing has been compromised though as the geometry and frame build results in an easy handling speed machine.
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
A frame that focuses on durability and ride quality over weight means that the EMX-1 has a really good finish to it and enough confidence in the product for Merckx to offer a limited lifetime warranty.
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
The frame is full carbon fibre that is laid up to Merckx'x own spec using their CL+ design. The layup is tweaked for stiffness and the entire thing is manufactured from 240Gpa modulus carbon fibre. The fork is full carbon to with a tapered steerer.
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
Compact would sum it up quite well though it doesn't feel small when its being ridden. Geometry here http://www.eddymerckx.be/EUR/en/bike/male/emx-1/shimano-ultegrarotor-201...
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
The top tube of 534mm on the small is right on the limit of how short I'd normally ride but once aboard it felt pretty natural. The medium jumps up to a 550mm top tube and an increase of just 5mm on reach. Full stack and reach figures are on the geometry page.
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
Yes, for such a stiff bike the EMX-1 is very comfortable. The carbon gives a smooth ride without the buzz you get on some cheaper carbon frames. An almost titanium like feel on rough roads.
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
The EMX-1 is stiff at the front end under cornering and acceleration plus the BB area shows no feeling of flex.
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
It responds well to changes in pace making it ideal for town centres or twisty lanes.
Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so, was it a problem?
Yes a small amount.
How would you describe the steering? Was it lively, neutral or unresponsive? Very positive and quick without being a handful, the bike went exactly where you pointed it.
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
Really fun, twisty tight descents are the EMX-1's playground as it changes direction so quickly and without fuzz. Cruise along on the flat though and its very mild mannered.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?
The saddle has plenty of padding but it's firm so spreads the load and keeps you comfortable over long rides. That Lizard Skins bar tape is brilliant as well.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's stiffness? would you recommend any changes?
Deda's alloy components are very stiff with a good balance of weight and cost
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's efficiency? would you recommend any changes?
The Fulcrum wheels take the edge of the bikes performance due to their weight but they make good training wheels.
Tell us some more about the drivetrain. Anything you particularly did or didn't like? Any components which didn't work well together?
Ultegra is a great groupset really making the most of the frameset. It's a shame the brakes were missing though. The Rotor 3D chainset is a nice addition.
Tell us some more about the wheels and tyres.Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the wheels or tyres? If so, what for?
An odd choice on a bike costing just under 2 grand but compromises have to be made. In their own right though the Fulcrum 7s perform well for their weight and cost. The tyres worked well too.
Tell us some more about the controls. Any particularly good or bad components? How would the controls work for larger or smaller riders?
Stiff performance from what are quite cheap Deda components but they look good and do the job. I wouldn't bother to upgrade them unless I wanted to shave a lot of weight. The shallow drop bars make them usuable for all sizes of riders.
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes.
Would you consider buying the bike? Yes.
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes.
Anything further to say about the bike in conclusion?
The EMX-1 is a brilliant bike with an amazing frameset at its heart. Okay the wheels are a low spec but they take very little away from the ride though an upgrade to something lighter pays huge dividends. The Merckx designers have concentrated on the important bits and invested there showing some knowledge about the type of ride they want the EMX-1 to give. On the whole it's an exceptional bike whose performance exceeds its spec sheet.
Age: 36 Height: 180cm Weight: 76kg
I usually ride: Kinesis T2 My best bike is: Kinesis Aithien
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, club rides, sportives, fixed/singlespeed,
With 20 years of road cycling and over 150,000 miles in his legs it's safe to say Stu is happiest when on the bike whatever the weather. Since writing his first review for road.cc back in 2009 he has also had a career in engineering including 3D-CAD design and product development, so has a real passion for all of the latest technology coming through in the industry but is also a sucker for a classic steel frame, skinny tyres, rim brakes and a damn good paintjob.
His fascination with gravel bikes is getting out of control too!