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Mekk Pinerolo AL SE 0.2 review

13 Sep 2016
Verdict:

Nine-speed alloy bike with a classic look

Price: 
£650

About the bike

Like Genesis, Mekk is another British brand, and its recent offerings have impressed us greatly. The Pinerolo AL SE 0.2 represents the second step on the ladder of the company’s four-bike range of aluminium-framed road bikes, and features a nine-speed Shimano Sora groupset. Mekk says, ‘We believe that just because a bike has a budget price tag it shouldn’t have a budget ride.’ We agree with the soundness of the principle, but the proof of that will be in the riding. Can the Pinerolo live up to its racy aspirations?

The spec

Frameset Rounded alloy tubing amplifies the sense of classic lines to go with the paint scheme. A near-horizontal top tube projects from a relatively squat 135mm head tube. An oversize down tube meets the substantial bottom bracket area, from which straight chainstays (so designed to eliminate losses along the drivetrain) jut towards the rear axle. Rack mounts are present and correct, giving this frame as much practicality as the Genesis. The big difference between the two bikes is in the frame geometry – the Mekk’s more aggressive 72.9° head angle and shorter head tube lend the bike a more agile feeling. A carbon fork graces the front end, with a bladed design that’s fabulously effective at damping vibrations. As with most bikes at this budget, the cabling is entirely external, and features barrel adjusters easily to hand for on-the-fly adjustments. 

Groupset It’s a bit of a mix and match affair, but it all gels well. Shimano’s nine-speed Sora set-up provides new riders with plenty of ratios and an 11-27 cassette ensures the jump between ratios is smaller than the Delta 10’s eight-speed 11-32 set-up. Mekk’s own-brand compact chainset performs the simple task of transferring power to the rear wheel with no fuss. Tektro’s workaday R315 brakes are good enough, while the action of the Sora shifters is that little bit more slick than Claris shifters. 

Finishing kit Mekk’s in-house finishing kit brand Saturae provides the ergonomically pleasing 420mm diameter compact drop handlebars. As with all budget bikes, simple alloy kit keeps the cost down – and providing it does its job, can really allow a good quality frame to shine. Perhaps the only area of the finishing kit that isn’t to our taste is the saddle, which is far too padded for us. 

Wheels Shimano’s RS501 wheels are actually better than the RS10s we’ve found on even £1,500 carbon bikes. They’re basic, alloy clinchers, used for nine-speed compatibility and low maintenance, and can take tyres up to 28c, for added comfort. Upgrading from the cheap Schwalbe tyres would improve not only rolling resistance but also confidence.

 

The ride

First impression On the face of it – or at least the first few miles of our test – the Pinerolo appears to have it all. For starters, it’s the looker of the bunch – high-gloss, classic red and white paint is classy. Next, its riding position is on the more committed side, meaning we’re able to attack and swoop downhill, and get low and aggressive on the drops. 

On the road Some beginner-focussed road bikes just do a good job of letting their riders get on with the simple pleasure of riding. Others, like this Pinerolo, provide a definite sense of excitement. There’s a lot to recommend the AL SE 0.2, not only for new riders but also for those of us who might be looking for a second bike for commuting or training duties. The way in which the alloy frame transmits power from pedal to rear wheel is surprising at this price mark – we found ourselves knocking out some full-on sprints on false flats just to revel in the performance. This build is also proof that, in the real world, most of the time, all you need are 18 gears, as long as the cassette is fairly close-ratio, as the Mekk’s 11-27 cogs are. It’s not featherlight enough to really attack long Alpine ascents, but it’s agile and willing enough to have a dig at some local KOMs. Vibrations are kept to a minimum, but they are there, although the front end is particularly well damped, no doubt assisted by the bladed carbon fork. 

Handling Change the saddle for something firmer and we’d gladly sit on the Mekk all day. But where this bike really takes us by the short and curlies is in its willingness to positively attack corners. Its steering geometry is on the sportier side, and coupled with a 997mm wheelbase, this does lend it some urgency in the turns. One of life’s great joys is braking hard for a downhill hairpin, hitting the apex and standing up out of the saddle to power down the descent in a big gear. The Pinerolo gives us this feeling, even if you need to apply the Tektro brakes a little earlier than some. But this isn’t simply a bike for those looking to go racing. Yes, it might make a decent criterium starter bike, but it’s also a good introduction to long-distance riding. Let’s be honest, most of us use our road bikes for just this purpose – however much the idea of racing appeals in our minds, it jars with the reality of our bank accounts and demands of our significant others. There’s no reason that four hours spent in the company of the Mekk on a sunny day couldn’t be your best – or first – ride of the summer. 

Geometry

Claimed Measured
Top Tube (TT) 545mm 545mm
Seat Tube (ST) 520mm 520mm
Down Tube (DT) n/a 642mm
Fork Length (FL) n/a 375mm
Head Tube (HT) 135mm 135mm
Head Angle (HA) 73 72.9
Seat Angle (SA) 74 73.9
Wheelbase (WB) 996mm 997mm
BB drop (BB) 70mm 70mm

Spec

Frame Aluminium semi-smooth welding frame, carbon fork
Groupset Shimano Sora
Brakes Tektro R315
Chainset Saturae Hollow, 50/34
Cassette Shimano HG50, 11-27
Bars Saturae HB-3038TB, alloy
Stem Saturae DA-274, alloy
Seatpost Saturae SP-2003, alloy
Wheels Shimano R501
Saddle Saturae
Weight 9.72kg
Contact mekkbicycles.com

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