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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The rear wheel gets the same treatment with a 12mm thru-axle.
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.
The shifting is positive and has a lovely touch to it, and the braking can't really be faulted.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
There are other upgrade options from Fizik available for extra cost, if you fancy something a little different.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Very good all-rounder with a great balance of fun and stability – a quick bike for any ability
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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.
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
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?
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
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?
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
About the tester
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!