Test riding a torture machine

Last weekend I visited Strada Cycles in Bristol to look at their bikes. I already enjoy walking around hardware shops and checking out the tools and materials, smelling the freshly sawn timber and inspecting the new gadgets and gizmos. Bike shops have now entered this realm and I can spend good amounts of time looking at bikes, squishing saddles and generally poking around.

Last Saturday I had a mission – to find a new bike. A proper racing bike. The guys in the shop were really helpful and we inspected and talked about lots of their potentially suitable bikes until we arrived at the Merkx EMX-3. It was a bit over my budget (of course!) but this week they arranged for the Merkx Bikes rep to deliver a demo bike to the shop for me to test ride. And today was the day of my ride.

I swear that bike is following me around the shop

The bike is beautiful. And an animal. A beautiful animal. I took it out for over an hour and climbed 500 metres of local climbs at an average speed of 18.5mph. Which for me, and especially on such a hilly route, is very fast. Much faster than I’ve ever ridden before. I’d strapped my Garmin onto the demo bike to allow me to gauge my pace and I set personal bests on all my climbs. This was the beautiful part.

Today’s route saw all of my Personal Records take a beating

The animal part was that I was completely unable to take it easy on the bike. Halfway up one climb I was beginning to suffer quite badly. Before I knew what I was doing I was up and out of the saddle thrashing it even harder. I actually exclaimed “Oh f**k!” as if Eddy Merkx himself had been there shouting at me to man-up and climb harder, and I was left with no choice but to comply.

I am also slightly embarrassed to say that I actually threw up a little bit at the top of Belmont Hill. I had to stop and rinse my mouth out. The bike is an animal!

The bike looking all cocky after making its rider throw up. “Ha!”

Back at the shop I was presented with two options.

A) The bike I had ridden – white paint job, Campag Athena groupset, Fulcrum Racing 5 wheels, and various other blingy bits of seat post and stem plus “free” shoes and pedals.

B) The red bike – same frame but different paint job, Campag Centaur groupset (one below Athena), Fulcrum Racing 7 wheels (slightly inferior) and slightly less blingy bits of seat post and stem, and no freebies, but for £400 less.

I’m sleeping on it tonight. The red bike was already a little more than I’d wanted to spend so the white bike is obviously a little bit more than a little bit more than I’d wanted to spend! But the red bike but isn’t such a good deal with all the inferior equipment. Either way I think it’ll be a beautiful animal to enjoy for some years to come. Sweet dreams!

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16 thoughts on “Test riding a torture machine

  1. bgddyjim says:

    Allow me to help my friend. From someone who knows, a little bit more than a little bit more than I wanted to spend will eventually result in me being a happy cyclist who is enthralled with his wonderful steed, and is therefore exactly how much I will want to spend, just slightly in the future.

    • bikevcar says:

      Although up-chucking 17 times might not have been a pleasant day’s riding!

      It’s also worth considering that white bikes need more cleaning.

    • meglovell says:

      @hilarydavies cannot believe you did not pick up on ‘red bikes go faster’- as you know (re cars) this is PROVEN FACT! and worth considering. never was a truer word spoken, traumfahrrad. although hoping white and pink bikes go almost as fast, for reasons which shall be revealed soon…

  2. Michael Fioretti says:

    Definitely, DEFINITELY go with the bike with Athena. It’s a big step up from Centaur. The biggest difference (amongst other things) is that Athena is 11 speed whereas Centaur is 10. Being that it’s 11 speed, that means that you go gradually upgrade to 11s Chorus or Record in the future with no issues. In my opinion, Athena is an incredibly worthy groupset (this is coming from someone who owns a full Record group). The levers and shifting felt great when I had them on my Colnago, and I had absolutely no issues with it. I can’t say anything about Centaur as I haven’t tried it, but if I were in your position I would definitely be thinking Athena. All of Campy’s new stuff is going to be 11 speed, so why not make the leap and go for Athena? It’ll be a better long term purchase, as it will perform better and you’ll be prepared for whatever Campy comes out with next. Good luck and have fun! I’m looking forward to future posts.

    • bikevcar says:

      Thanks for the advice – I am definitely leaning that way. I think the red bike has a little more instant “Wow Factor” but the white bike is still an attractive frame. I asked in the shop whether I could have the groupset, wheels, stem, seat post, etc. on the red frame, and they said that because it wasn’t factory standard they could do it, but it would cost a little more and without the free shoes and pedals. Seeing as I was planning to get new shoes and pedals, and the ones on offer are decent, I think I’m going to go with the white bike and accept it will need to be cleaned very regularly. I think such a fine machine will deserve the TLC anyway. Cheers

  3. bgddyjim says:

    I asked Michael to check out your post and comment – He’s a huge Campy fan and I figured he’d be able to sort through the in’s and out’s of the choice. That certainly proved to be correct:

    The white bike, while a touch more expensive, will be the better option for the future – once Campy goes to 11 speed, all of the 10 speed components will become obsolete and they’ll eventually stop making them – just about the time you’ll be looking to replace a shifter and you’ll have to buy a beat up used one on eBay or something (I ran into this with my Cannondale about ten times because it’s a 7 speed)…or worse, you’ll have to buy an overly expensive poorly made knock off. Add to that, the fact that components wear out, you’ll have an easier time finding 11 speed components 10 years from now when things start going bad.

    Going with the white bike will be more expensive in the short run, but less expensive (and less headache) in the long run.

  4. bgddyjim says:

    Oh, I almost forgot! Unlike Shimano and SRAM shifters, you can rebuild Campy shifters! The chances that you’ll more easily find a rebuild kit for the 11 speed down the road is a lot better than the 10 speed…

  5. AndrewGills says:

    Tough choice … 🙂 Fun choice 🙂

    I always find white bikes so sexy! But maybe that’s because I’ve never owned one and the only red bike I ever owned was the wrong size for me … so it’s not a good comparison to your dilemma.

    My racing bike is still an 8-speed so I get what you mean about the components. I can only get cheap / low quality sprockets and chains for my race bike because they don’t make 8-speed anymore.

    • bikevcar says:

      Yes, there’s no denying the white bike looks good. But I think I might prefer the red one……. Future maintenance & upgrades does need careful consideration tho. Thanks

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