The Merckx Sallanches 64, named after one of Eddy Merckx's most significant race victories, is a competent and finely balanced endurance road bike with enough agility to flatter cyclists who might want to emulate 'The Cannibal'. It's no race bike, the position and weight see to that, but it offers very good handling and, critically for an endurance bike, there is plenty of comfort for longer rides and dealing with rough roads. It's also currently heavily discounted.
The Eddy Merckx name has been appearing on bicycle frames since 1980, but in recent years the company has been naming its bike models after significant victories from Eddy Merckx's hugely impressive career, during which he amassed a staggering 525 victories. This particular model is named after his victory in the amateur world championships in 1964 in the French town of Sallanches. It's a nice touch and smart of the company to make his many race wins an integral element of each model.
In terms of handling and performance, the Merckx Sallanches 64 achieves a great balance between that of an outright race bike and a relaxed endurance bike. The position is a little less aggressive than a full-on racer, the handlebar sitting a bit higher because of the 184mm head tube on this 56cm size bike, but it's not so tall that you can't get down low and aero and assume a racy position if travelling fast over distance is your style of riding.
I've ridden a few Merckx bikes over the years and always been impressed with the handling, the balance, and the way they go through corners. The Sallanches 64 continues this good form. Cornering is one of its fortes – it just feels stable and settled through high-speed bends. It inspires confidence, making it easy to ride descents at speed even when tired towards the end of a long ride.
It's a sprightly bike, with agility in spades when you get feisty behind the handlebar and swing it quickly through the turns and bends. The steering feels direct and responsive. The slightly longer wheelbase than you'd get on a race bike contributes to a more planted feel at higher speeds and through the descents; it's just a bit more relaxing to ride than many race bikes, which is precisely what you want if you're shopping for an endurance bike.
Another area where the Sallanches 64 impresses is the smoothness of the ride. It's not the silkiest endurance bike I've ever ridden, but the combination of the carbon frame with its the skinny seatstays and the 25mm tyres does just enough to remove the harshness that can typically be felt on stiffer race bikes when riding along very poorly surfaced roads.
The 8.3kg weight, while not the lightest in this price range, does give you a fighting chance on the climbs, and the wide range gearing provided by the compact chainset and 11-28t cassette certainly help scale steeper climbs in relative comfort. The frame itself is light (990g according to Merckx) and the Shimano Ultegra groupset isn't exactly heavy, so the wheels are a prime future upgrade to look at to shed some weight.
One thing Merckx bikes tend to do is stand out from the crowd, and the Sallanches 64, with its angular and aggressive looking frame, is no different. It's all sharp and flat lines, with just the top tube gently curving from the tapered head tube to the neatly integrated seat clamp. This last detail provides more extension for the 27.2mm seatpost to do a bit of deflecting, helping the smoothness of the ride.
The frame and fork are made from carbon fibre and Merckx has worked to provide a competitive weight, coming in at a claimed 990g and 360g respectively. There's full internal routing for the gear and brake cables, the rear brake routing providing a particularly clean line to the brake calliper as it pops out of the top of the top tube. You get barrel adjusters before the gear cables enter the down tube, so you can fine-tune the gears on the move.
The bike on test is the Shimano Ultegra build and costs £2,200 – you can get the same frame with Shimano 105 parts for £1,800 if your budget doesn't quite extend to this model. But it's worth saving up (or buying quickly – it's currently discounted by 40% at Wiggle): the quality of shifting with Ultegra is as good as you'd expect of Shimano's second-tier groupset; the shift action at the lever is light and gear changes come swiftly and quietly. It's also a very ergonomic groupset, with nicely shaped hoods and easily reached brake levers.
The Ultegra brakes are similarly impressive: powerful and quiet, and with the aluminium braking surfaces of the RS010 wheels, it's as good as rim brakes get.
The wheels reveal Merckx's budgetary constraints when putting this bike together. They're competent but entry-level and, at 1,869g for the set, on the portly side. But they are reliable and strong.
The Continental Ultra Sport tyres are 25mm wide and offer decent traction in a range of conditions. They feel fast on the road, with the extra width allowing you to drop the pressure and maximise comfort. There looks to be space for slightly wider tyres in the frame and fork, but I found no reason to go wider when riding the Merckx.
Deda is an Italian bike parts company and supplies the aluminium stem, handlebar and seatpost. It's all smart looking kit, and the dark logos on the black aluminium surface suits the style of the bike well, which is one of an understated appearance.
The handlebar is an ergonomic shape with a short reach, suiting the riding style of the bike well. There are enough spacers above and below the stem to allow you to adjust the height of the handlebar to suit your fit preference.
The Sallanches 64 is one of a dwindling number of non-disc-braked endurance bikes; most manufacturers are moving these bikes over to discs. One popular example is the Cannondale Synapse Carbon Ultegra (£2,499), which offers a fast and smooth ride with all the advantages of hydraulic disc brakes, and weighs only 100g more than the Merckx.
If you don't want disc brakes, another option is the Canyon Endurace CF 9.0 (£1,949). Like the Sallanches 64, it combines a relaxed carbon fibre frame with a Shimano Ultegra groupset, but it gets lighter DT Swiss RR21 Dicut wheels weighing 1,415g.
Although it's more of a race bike, if you wanted a fast and light option then the Merida Scultura 6000 (£2,300) for another £100 manages to shed 400g and dip below 8kg thanks to a claimed 750g frame. But remember the position is going to be racier; it depends on how much you want the higher position of the Sallanches 64.
The Sallanches 64 is, as I've said, named after one of Eddy Merckx's most notable race victories, but you likely won't be trying to replicate his achievement on this bike. But if you want to ride longer distances in relative comfort, the geometry and smooth ride offered by this endurance focused bike make it an interesting alternative to the more common choices in this category and price point (even more so at its current discounted price).
The distinctive looking Merckx certainly stands out, but it's the way that it handles, with a predictable and stabile manner, that will suit anyone looking for a friendly companion for long days out.
Fast and comfortable endurance bike, though it could be lighter
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Eddy Merckx Sallanches 64
Size tested: 56cm
About the bike
State the frame and fork material and method of construction. List the components used to build up the bike.
Frame: Eddy Merckx Sallanches64 Carbon Monocoque, EPS molding
Fork: Eddy Merckx Carbon Monocoque
Wheels: Shimano WH-RS010
Tires: Continental Ultra Sport II, 700 X 25c
Shifters: Shimano Ultegra ST-6800, 11-speed
Brakes: Shimano Ultegra BR-6800
Chain: Shimano HG600, 11-speed
Cranks: Shimano Ultegra FC-6800, 50/34T
Front Derailleur: Shimano Ultegra FD-6800, Braze-on
Rear Derailleur: Shimano Ultegra RD-6800 SS, 11-speed
Cassette: Shimano 105 CS-5800, 11-28T, 11-speed
Handlebars: Deda RHM Zero
Tape: Eddy Merckx
Stem: Deda Zero2
Saddle: Prologo K3 STN
Seatpost: Deda Zero
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?
From the Eddy Merckx website: "In 1964, Eddy Merckx became the amateur world champion in Sallanches, France. This marked the start of his extraordinarily successful career as a cyclist.
The Sallanches 64 is a carbon racing bike that combines compliance with a high level of stiffness. This versatile racing machine is the ideal mix of high performance and endurance. And this frame has also been given a special internal treatment so that the inside looks just as clean as the outside, resulting in a weight of barely 900 grams."
Frame and fork
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
High quality frame construction and very good finish.
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
Full carbon fibre frame and fork.
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
More relaxed than a race bike. To put some numbers to that statement, the stack height – the vertical distance between the centre of the bottom bracket and the top of the head tube – is 583mm while the reach – the horizontal distance between those points – is 381mm.
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
Very good fit was possible.
Riding the bike
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
It provided a decently smooth and comfortable ride.
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
It displayed plenty of gusto when you needed it.
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
Very well indeed.
Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so, was it a problem?
How would you describe the steering? Was it lively, neutral or unresponsive? Direct and responsive.
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
The Sallanches 64 feels like a tame race bike...
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?
The wheels add quite a bit of weight to the overall package.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's stiffness? would you recommend any changes?
I was impressed with the Deda finishing parts, but found the Prologo saddle quite firm... to begin with anyway.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's efficiency? would you recommend any changes?
If I'm being really picky, upgrading to lighter wheels would improve the overall package.
Wheels and tyres
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes
Would you consider buying the bike? Maybe
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Possibly
Use this box to explain your score
The Sallanches 64 is a very competent and solid package and offers a comfortable and engaging ride, but it could be a bit lighter.
About the tester
I usually ride: My best bike is:
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: road racing, time trialling, cyclo-cross, commuting, touring, mountain biking
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.