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Merlin ROC 105 review

23 Mar 2017
Verdict:

A direct-to-consumer aluminium racer from Merlin that makes the material work to its utmost

Cyclist Rating: 
Price: 
£899

Merlin have been pulling together bikes under their house banner since 2000 and reckon the ROC is their best-ever aluminium road machine. They claim it has a split personality, being a sportive bike with a racy streak.

The Spec

Frame

Despite being hydroformed, the tubes that make up the frame are relatively restrained in their profiles. The round down tube is notably oversized and changes profile slightly from one end to the other.

It spans the entirety of the bottom-bracket shell, creating a broad junction for increased stiffness. Extending backward from this point are simple but stocky chainstays.

Up top the V-shaped top tube is designed to resist torsional forces, while towards the back of the bike the very skinny stiletto-style seatstays aim to allow some movement, while also keeping weight down.

About a centimetre in diameter, they meet the oversized seat tube at a seat cluster that, due to the differences in size and clear space between the two stays, is really rather pretty.

The gear cables are very well groomed, with the neatly trimmed cables going straight into the head tube.

Exiting via a large aperture at the bott om bracket servicing them is easy, while the rear brake wire is routed along the underside of the top tube.

The carbon fork has a tapered aluminium steerer and the matching head tube houses an integrated FSA headset.

Groupset

Being direct to market you’d expect a higher level of groupset, which is what you get in the form of Shimano’s excellent 5800-series 105 groupset.

Its levers are slim and fi t the hand nicely,while the activation of both shifters and brakes requires minimal effort.

With 11 speeds, the jumps between the rangy 11-28 cassettr are perfectly stiff. The saddle by comparison is fairly squishy and features a pressure relief channel.

Wheels

Although designated ‘entry level’ in the Fulcrum range, trickledown means the Racing Sport wheels come with many of the features you find on much more expensive pairs, such as wide asymmetric rim profiles, durable sealed cartridge bearings and higher tension spokes that boost stiff ness and power transfer. They’re fitted with Continental Ultra Sport tyres.

Their 25c width is nicely supported by the rim, providing a good profile and lots of bump-eating volume.

With a lightweight folding bead, they don’t add excess weight while the relatively high number of threads per inch and tacky compound helps them latch onto the tarmac and smooth out its imperfections.

The ride

First impression

Pulling the ROC out of the box for the first time, the complete bike felt decidedly insubstantial. On the road this means the whole package gets underway with an absolute minimum of effort.

Initial impressions of the Merlin’s geometry are that it’s definitely at the snappier end of the sportive bike spectrum.

Quick to get moving and quick to turn, it definitely promises to be a fun bike to burn up some miles on.

On the road

The complete Shimano 105 groupset is very agreeable to use. Everything works faultlessly. Braking is powerful and the shifting, especially between the chainrings, is quick and confidence inspiring.

The bike’s large diameter downtube is fairly conventional in its almost continuously round profile. However, its breadth ensures there’s not much evidence of twisting across the front of the bike.

It’s also triple-butt ed, meaning it gets thinner internally in three stages. One of the effects of this is that while the whole bike stays stiff it also manages to take some of the edge off the terrain beneath its wheels.

It’s a slightly ethereal thing to explain, but the Merlin is definitely an aluminium bike that really makes the material work to its utmost.

The result is a ride that’s superior to most cheap carbon frames, which can feel dead by comparison.

However, although the bike does an excellent job of attenuating some of the sting from the road it’s still a pretty taut package.

Comfortable for an aluminium race bike, it’s not as smooth as many dedicated sportive bikes. 

Handling

The Merlin’s secretly combative nature isreflected in its geometry. The short head tube is definitely down around racing length, while its 72.5 degree angle also provides pretty quick turning.

In common with the Tifosi, there’s absolutely no reason you couldn’t pin on a number and go racing on it.

In fact, its flighty nature means it requires a little more input to keep it on track than more sports-tourer-style sportive bikes.

The fairly long stem further accentuates this, popping the rider into a relatively stretched position.

However the bike doesn’t wear its racy credentials too heavily. The compact 50/34 chainset means there are still plenty of gears to get over varied terrain, while the saddle is densely upholstered.

Mind you, the bike’s weight and disposition provide no anchor to its acceleration, the excellent Shimano 105 brakes will slow it down in a trice.

A confidence inspiring trait boosted by the plentiful grip the tyres afford. 

Spec

Frame

Hydroformed Triple Butted 7005 Aluminium

Groupset

Shimano 105 5800 11-speed

Brakes

Shimano 105 5800

Chainset

Shimano 105 5800 34/50t

Cassette

Shimano 105 5800 11-28t

Bars

Deda RHM EL

Stem

Deda RHM

Saddle

San Marco Era Start Up Power

Seatpost

Deda RHM RS-EL

Wheels

Fulcrum Sport

Tyres

Continental Ultra Sport II 25mm Folding Bead

Contact

merlincycles.com

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