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Verdict: 
Very good all-rounder with a great balance of fun and stability – a quick bike for any ability
Weight: 
8,380g
Contact: 
www.merlincycles.com

The Merlin Cordite 105 R7000 Disc Carbon Road Bike is a new model in Merlin's lineup, bringing over many of the attributes of the rim-braked version but re-engineered to cope with the stresses of using rotors. It's a very nice bike to ride, offering plenty of performance – stopping and going – and at its now permanently discounted price of £1,279 it's quite the bargain.

  • Pros: Decent weight helps climbing and acceleration, good spec for the money
  • Cons: Not quite as forgiving as some endurance style framesets

Ride

I tested the rim-braked version of the Cordite in March last year and this disc model is very much the same. According to the details for both bikes on Merlin's website, they share identical geometry; a lot of disc brake bikes that develop from a rim-brake model have longer chainstays for heel clearance because of the wider hub, but at 413mm the rim brake Cordite's were obviously long enough.

Merlin Cordite Disc riding -1.jpg

The ride feel of the frameset is quite firm – I've found other endurance bikes a little more supple in their carbon fibre layup. That isn't to say that the Cordite is overly harsh, it just doesn't quite damp all of the road buzz.

Merlin Cordite Disc - seat stays.jpg

I did a couple of century rides on the Merlin and on the whole I was reasonably comfortable. The geometry works, with the top tube to head tube ratio giving a slightly more upright ride than on a race bike so you can sit in the same position for plenty of miles without feeling too stretched out.

If you are spending a lot of time on rough back lanes, there can be some vibration travelling through your contact points. This can take its toll over a challenging sportive or similar, but on the flipside this firmness results in performance: the Cordite is a quick bike. It doesn't feel fast like a race bike but a glance at your average speed on the computer shows a higher pace than the Merlin feels like it is delivering.

Merlin Cordite Disc riding -4.jpg

Our large model here weighs 8.38kg (18.47lb) – not massively lightweight but hardly a bloater either, and that means it's responsive to your input.

Merlin Cordite Disc - down tube 2.jpg

Standing starts away from the lights aren't lightning-quick but the Cordite doesn't feel sluggish. The frame does a good job of delivering the power, and once moving you can easily set a decent pace on the flat.

Climbing is the same, whether in or out of the saddle: the Cordite gets a move on, and the steeper the hill the more you can feel the stiffness of the frame doing its job.

Merlin Cordite Disc - bottom bracket.jpg

Coming down the other side, the Merlin has neutral, balanced handling which is exactly what I'd expect for this type of bike. There is no twitchiness or nervousness from the front end, which makes the Cordite a very good choice if you're new to road bikes or aren't the most confident of descenders.

For me, the steering is a little slow and not as exciting as I'd like, but I thrive on those peloton-ready machines that are happy to throw you in a ditch when you take liberties.

Merlin Cordite Disc riding -3.jpg

That said, I never found the Cordite boring. In fact it's quite fun to ride – a day off, if you like. I could go out for a few hours, smash out a decent pace and just enjoy the scenery with little concentration. Perfect for those long rides where fatigue can kick in.

Frame and fork

The Cordite's frameset is impressive. The overall quality looks and feels to be great, from the paint through to how it rides. Some cheaper carbon frames can feel 'plasticky' and resonate a huge amount, but while the Cordite does let some buzz through it is damping the majority. It feels like a really sorted aluminium alloy frame; if you've ridden some of the latest alloy offerings you'll know what I mean.

Merlin Cordite Disc - top tube decal.jpg

Both the frame and fork have internal cable/hose routing and it gives the whole bike a clean and refined look. I really like the white paintjob, too. White, red and black was done to death six or seven seasons ago, but I think the Merlin has the right balance to still look classy.

Merlin Cordite Disc - seat tube decal.jpg

Geometry-wise, as I've said up top, it's a blend of race and endurance.

This large is a 52cm, taken from its seat tube length, being a sloping compact design. The effective top tube length (if it ran horizontal) is 551mm, and it comes with quite a tall 175mm head tube.

Merlin Cordite Disc.jpg

I didn't ever feel as though I was sat upright on the Cordite, though. It's quite a racy position if you remove the spacers from under the stem, but you don't have to be super-flexible to make the most out of it.

Merlin Cordite Disc - stem.jpg

The 72-degree head angle plays a big part in keeping that steering stable, and when you pair that to a 998.8mm wheelbase you get a lot of stability which is what makes the Cordite so easy to ride.

Merlin Cordite Disc - front.jpg

Sizing is available from S-XXL, which translates to top tube lengths of 515mm to 587mm (figures for stack and reach for each model are available on Merlin's website).

The front brake copes with around 80 per cent of the overall braking power, and the Cordite's fork deals well with that. I'm a very late braker, scrubbing speed only when I have to, so a weak fork will easily show up with chatter or twisting when trying to stop the bike from 50mph plus on my favourite descents. I had no issues whatsoever, helped by the now pretty much standard 12mm thru-axles keeping the fork legs and wheel in perfect harmony.

Merlin Cordite Disc - front hub.jpg

The rear wheel gets the same treatment with a 12mm thru-axle.

Finishing kit

The highlight of the Cordite Disc is that it comes with a full Shimano 105 R7000 groupset, including the latest R7020 hydraulic brake levers.

Merlin Cordite Disc - lever.jpg

If you click on the link above and read Dave's review you'll see that for the money it is a really, really good groupset. Even at non-RRP it takes up quite a chunk of the Cordite's overall price.

Merlin Cordite Disc - front mech.jpg

The shifting is positive and has a lovely touch to it, and the braking can't really be faulted.

Merlin Cordite Disc - rear disc brake.jpg

It isn't a set build, so when you order the bike you can choose crank length, chainring size and which cassette ratios you like, giving you some customisation.

Merlin Cordite Disc - rear hub.jpg

Obviously, it depends on your fitness and other variants, but I'd say a 50/34 chainset paired with an 11-28 cassette is a good choice for the Cordite. That gives a good spread of gears for a quick bike without ostracising those who don't have racing aspirations. (Other options are 53/30 and 52/36 chainsets, and 11-30, 11-32 and 11-34 cassettes.)

Merlin Cordite Disc - drivetrain.jpg

The Merlin accepts 140mm rotors front and rear, and I'd say that is plenty for this type of bike. The power and modulation from the R7070 callipers and Ice Tech Freeza discs is brilliant; it's really hard to detect any difference from the more expensive Ultegra versions.

Merlin Cordite Disc - front disc brake.jpg

It's a massive step up from the previous 105 level models.

When it comes to the contact points, the Merlin comes with a full set of Deda Zero 1 components: the handlebar, stem and seatpost. It's great kit that looks good, and the shallow handlebar offers plenty of hand positions.

Merlin Cordite Disc - bar and shifter.jpg

There are other upgrade options from Fizik available for extra cost, if you fancy something a little different.

Merlin Cordite Disc - bars_.jpg

Our model had the PRO Griffon Ti Rail Saddle and I found it comfortable; it didn't stand out as the most comfortable saddle I've sat on, but it wasn't the worst either. Again, there are other options available without adding any money to the overall cost of the bike.

Merlin Cordite Disc - saddle and post.jpg

Wheels and tyres

The base model comes with a set of Fulcrum Racing 7 DB wheels and they aren't bad. They aren't the lightest at around 1,750g, but they don't detract loads from the ride of the Cordite. I swapped them out for a set of 1,500g carbon wheels and the change wasn't massive in terms of acceleration or when climbing. The Fulcrums are solid, too, and will take plenty of abuse.

Merlin Cordite Disc - rim.jpg

When it comes to the tyres, Merlin has specced Continental Ultra Sport tyres, which are typical on a bike of this price. They are a good compromise when it comes to grip vs longevity, puncture resistance vs rolling resistance and cost vs performance.

Merlin Cordite Disc - tyre.jpg

They aren't exceptional in any one particular way, but they do all things well without any compromises. If you ride your bike in all weathers they are a good safe bet.

Value for money

When the Cordite Disc was first launched it had an RRP of £1,850 and at that price I'd say it was decent value. The Trek Emonda SL 5 would set you back £1,800 for a similar build, albeit with a very good alloy frame.

While we don't often review bikes at their discounted prices, Merlin has confirmed that the £1,279 'discounted' price of the Cordite is here to stay, which changes things quite a bit. At this price it's a very good bike indeed when you add everything together.

> Buyer's Guide: 23 of the best sportive bikes

> Buyer's Guide: 13 of the best £1,000-£1,500 road bikes

A decent frame and excellent finishing kit for just a little over a grand compares well to the Boardman SLR 8.9 Carbon, which Mat thought was very good, with a Shimano Tiagra groupset and rim brakes for just £279 less. Add in the cost of hydraulic discs, especially those as good as 105, and you can see the value benefits.

Overall, the Cordite is the ideal bike for those who want a fast machine without the twitchy traits of a race bike. It's fun to ride, and as long as you are happy to accept a bit of road buzz, it's a very good deal.

Verdict

Very good all-rounder with a great balance of fun and stability – a quick bike for any ability

If you're thinking of buying this product using a cashback deal why not use the road.cc Top Cashback page and get some top cashback while helping to support your favourite independent cycling website

road.cc test report

Make and model: Merlin Cordite 105 R7000 Disc Carbon

Size tested: L

About the bike

List the components used to build up the bike.

Merlin Cordite Carbon Fibre Frameset

Merlin Cordite Carbon Fibre Fork

Shimano 105 R7000 Crankset, 50/34

Shimano 105 R7000 Cassette, 11-28

Shimano 105 R7000 Front Mech

Shimano 105 R7000 Rear Mech

Shimano Ultegra BBR60 Bottom Bracket

Shimano 105 R7020 Brake/Gear Shifters

Shimano 105 R7070 Hydraulic Calipers

Shimano Ultegra SM-RT800 Ice Tech Freeza 140mm Rotors

Deda Zero 1 Handlebar

Deda Zero 1 Stem

Deda Zero 1 Seatpost

Pro Griffon Ti Rail Saddle

Deda Mistral Bar Tape

Various builds available

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?

Merlin says, "Merlin Cordite 105 R7000 Disc Carbon Road Bike

Our popular Cordite carbon road bike is back and is now available with disc brakes! Introducing the new Merlin Cordite Disc carbon road bike; we've taken all of the popular elements from the original Cordite and have re-engineered the frameset to be disc-brake-specific with thru-axles and flat mounts for hydraulic disc brakes to provide consistent, predictable braking in all weather conditions making the Cordite the most user-friendly carbon road bike in our range.

 

The Cordite Disc is versatile too and has been designed to perform excellently in sportives, all-day epic rides and even your local weekly crit race. This new disc brake version continues the same approach we took with the previous caliper brake version, mixing rider-friendly geometry with clever carbon fibre engineering to put you in a neutral position on the bike while isolating you from road buzz and rough road surfaces thanks to its cleverly engineered seatstays which include a little extra compliancy; clearance for up to 28mm road tyres means there's even more scope to make your ride as comfortable as possible.

 

The Cordite Disc can be successfully raced too, with disc brake road bikes now approved at all levels of road racing this lightweight, responsive carbon road bike excels on hilly circuits when quick accelerations and predictable bike handling are called for. Controlling your bike on long, technical descents even in wet road conditions is easy on the Cordite Disc, leaving you to focus on race tactics and positioning in the bunch. With a large downtube and bottom bracket junction as well as super-stiff square chain stays the cordite Disc frame is not only comfortable to ride but is also very responsive to pedaling input allowing you to hold your speed during fast-paced training rides or races.

 

Front & rear thru-axles help to ensure that your wheels are always secure, brake rotors are perfectly aligned with the calipers every time and there is no annoying brake rub. The Cordite thru axles also add stiffness between wheel, hub and frame with a noticeable increase in steering precision from the fork. The Merlin Cordite Disc carbon frame and fork features internal cable routing throughout keeping the silhouette of the bike simple and clutter-free while protecting gear cables from getting fouled up with grit and grime and a threaded bottom bracket shell allows you to quickly and conveniently change the bearings without the need for expensive press-fit bearing tools and eliminates the potential for unwanted noise that can sometimes be associated with press-fit bottom brackets.

 

Featuring:

The Merlin Cordite disc features Shimano's excellent new 105 R7020 11-speed hydraulic disc brake groupset which features a new Shadow Technology rear derailleur that gives a lower, more aero profile and increased protection from crash damage as well as a great looking chainset evolved from the Ultegra R8000 version which is even stiffer and provides more power transfer than its predecessor. Each gear selection is precise and predictable; the addition of safe, easily-modulated Shimano BR-7070 flat-mount hydraulic disc brakes will have you descending with new-found confidence regardless of the terrain or weather conditions. A choice of finishing components lets you customise the finer details of this great handling carbon road bike before our Merlin workshop technicians custom build your bike to your own spec. Choose your preferred wheelset, stem-length, handlebar profile, gear ratios of and more to tailor your dream disc brake carbon road bike specifically for you."

The Cordite Disc sits nicely between the endurance and race bike balance.

Where does this model sit in the range? Tell us briefly about the cheaper options and the more expensive options

This is the only Disc model in the range, although you can tweak the build.

Frame and fork

Overall rating for frame and fork
 
8/10

Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?

A quality frame and nicely finished. The fork is impressively stiff under braking.

Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?

Frame:

70% 24 Tons Intermediate Modulus Carbon

25% 30 Tons High Modulus Carbon

5% High-Impact Strength Liquid Crystal Polymer Carbon

12mm x 142mm Thru Axle Rear

Fork:

High Modulus Full Carbon – 12mm Thru Axle

Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?

The geometry is endurance-based with a shorter reach and taller stack than a race bike. For the length of the top tube it has quite a tall head tube.

How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?

The Cordite is pretty much standard when it comes to reach vs stack for an endurance bike with a racy edge.

Riding the bike

Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.

The Cordite has quite a firm ride so you do feel some road buzz.

Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?

Yes, it's plenty stiff enough for the type of riding intended.

How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?

Yes, within reason. The wheels are a little weighty.

Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so was it a problem?

No.

How would you describe the steering? Was it lively neutral or unresponsive? Neutral.

Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?

The whole bike is nicely balanced and will suit those who are new to road riding or aren't the most confident at descending.

Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?

The saddle and finishing kit work well to provide a decent ride.

Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's stiffness? would you recommend any changes?

For the type of riding the Cordite is designed for, it's a good package. Plenty of stiffness through the groupset and finishing kit.

Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's efficiency? would you recommend any changes?

For the money all the components do a decent job and I wouldn't change a thing.

Rate the bike for efficiency of power transfer:
 
8/10
Rate the bike for acceleration:
 
7/10
Rate the bike for sprinting:
 
7/10
Rate the bike for high speed stability:
 
8/10
Rate the bike for cruising speed stability:
 
8/10
Rate the bike for low speed stability:
 
8/10
Rate the bike for flat cornering:
 
8/10
Rate the bike for cornering on descents:
 
8/10
Rate the bike for climbing:
 
7/10

The drivetrain

Rate the drivetrain for performance:
 
9/10
Rate the drivetrain for durability:
 
8/10
Rate the drivetrain for weight:
 
8/10
Rate the drivetrain for value:
 
9/10

Tell us some more about the drivetrain. Anything you particularly did or didn't like? Any components which didn't work well together?

This is what sets the Cordite Disc against the rim version I tested in 2018. The latest hydraulic Shimano 105 groupset is phenomenal for the money and gives the Cordite confident braking whatever the weather.

Wheels and tyres

Rate the wheels for performance:
 
7/10
Rate the wheels for durability:
 
8/10
Rate the wheels for weight:
 
6/10
Rate the wheels for comfort:
 
7/10
Rate the wheels for value:
 
7/10

Tell us some more about the wheels.Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the wheels? If so what for?

Decent enough wheels for the money, and they'll take plenty of abuse.

Rate the tyres for performance:
 
7/10
Rate the tyres for durability:
 
8/10
Rate the tyres for weight:
 
7/10
Rate the tyres for comfort:
 
7/10
Rate the tyres for value:
 
7/10

Tell us some more about the tyres. Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the tyres? If so what for?

The Continental Ultra Sports are great all-rounders.

Controls

Rate the controls for performance:
 
8/10
Rate the controls for durability:
 
8/10
Rate the controls for weight:
 
7/10
Rate the controls for comfort:
 
7/10
Rate the controls for value:
 
7/10

Tell us some more about the controls. Any particularly good or bad components? How would the controls work for larger or smaller riders?

The Deda kit is a nice addition to the bike.

Your summary

Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes

Would you consider buying the bike? Yes

Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes

How does the price compare to that of similar bikes in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?

For a carbon frameset and a full Shimano 105 R7000 hydraulic groupset, it offers really good value for money at its permanently discounted price.

Rate the bike overall for performance:
 
8/10
Rate the bike overall for value:
 
8/10

Use this box to explain your overall score

The Cordite Disc offers a great balance of fun and stability, which makes it the ideal bike for a lot of riders.

Overall rating: 8/10

About the tester

Age: 40  Height: 180cm  Weight: 76kg

I usually ride: This month's test bike  My best bike is: B'Twin Ultra CF draped in the latest bling test components

I've been riding for: Over 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!

8 comments

Avatar
njmoffat [83 posts] 9 months ago
0 likes

Looks like a great bike for the money and from a British company which is always preferred.

Unfortunately the smallest size is a Medium?!

I've just been on the phone and they have no plans on getting any small frames in?! 

C'mon Merlin sort it out please, you've lost a sale.

Avatar
Vegita8 [62 posts] 9 months ago
0 likes

Looking at this bike I wish manufacturers would have a 'no stickers' option where all the branding etc. would not be applied in the first place? It looks awaful as it is but it would look great in plane white. Surely it would not add to their costs if they kept a small amount of stock for people like me?

Avatar
gonedownhill [221 posts] 9 months ago
0 likes

Wow, this looks like absolutely fantastic value - hydro discs, full 105 level kit and full carbon for £1300. Not a fan of the amount of Merlin logos though. Would definitely consider it if I was after a new bike. Also really like that you can customise things like chainrings, cassette, derailler cage as well as the finishing kit.

Avatar
waldner71 [68 posts] 9 months ago
0 likes

Been looking for a new road bike and this ticks all the boxes. Ordered.

Avatar
trebz [1 post] 9 months ago
0 likes

In December and January this bike was discounted to £1079, I ordered a large and the next day price had risen to £1279 and remains there. Although only done around 150Km Im made up with it, the build quality and componets offer exceptional value for money.

I agree with the review, there is a higher level of road buzz than ideal. I changed the stock Conti Ultra Sport for Grand Prix GP4000S II, only reason is I had a pair spare, Ill probably experiment a bit with tyre pressure to reduce the road buzz, I had them at around 100psi.

 

 

 

Avatar
dreamlx10 [317 posts] 9 months ago
2 likes
Vegita8 wrote:

 it would look great in plane white

Is that the same as aircraft white ?

Avatar
njmoffat [83 posts] 9 months ago
1 like
Vegita8 wrote:

Looking at this bike I wish manufacturers would have a 'no stickers' option where all the branding etc. would not be applied in the first place? It looks awaful as it is but it would look great in plane white. Surely it would not add to their costs if they kept a small amount of stock for people like me?

 

I'm pretty certain no manufacturer would offer a non-branded frame as their name on there is free advertising.

I do wish that more companies would offer simple, one colour paint jobs. I have a Dolan track bike from years ago and its plain red with simple white graphics which hasn't aged a bit and still looks great today. I also have a Dolan Prefissio with a red/white/black paint job that isn’t all that well executed, I think it would be much better in one plain colour. 

Avatar
BehindTheBikesheds [3322 posts] 9 months ago
0 likes

Did the reviewer do the century rides etc on the carbon wheels they said they swapped out or the original Fulcrum wheels?

If so then the review is slanted, inaccurate and misleading.