My Eroica California Ride: Early 1980’s Eddy Merckx Professional

Truthfully, when the Eroica California was announced, my hope was to find an older, California-made road bike. Something like an Eisentraut, or a Bruce Gordon. You know, classic American steel from the west coast. When all I could find were either in the 54cm or 64cm range, I began looking elsewhere. Which is where I came upon this frame on eBay.

I’ve always loved the Merckx Professionals, with their flat crown forks and Columbus SL tubing, yet this bike looked a bit strange. The seller claims it was from 1982 and raced at the European Championships in 1982 at Goodwood with the Belgian team. ’82… Giuseppe Saronni got first, Lemond got second and Sean Kelly, third. Sounds like a good year.

… but, that fork. I’ve never seen a sloping crown Merckx prior to 1985. Those seat stay caps point to a post-1985 bike. I’ve also never seen a single bottle cage Merckx before. The over-the-bottom-bracket-routing puts in the early 1980’s though. There’s a story there, somewhere. I just have to find it. The seller assured me it was unique and yes, custom.

For now, this is the bike, as it came from Belgium, with a bit of frame saver added, a new non-drive side spoke, new pedals with those fragile aluminum clips, Eddy Merckx straps and Clement tires (28mm fit in just fine). I’m hoping my 14-28 Regina freewheel will show up in time for Eroica and if I can’t make the Super Record rear derailleur work, I have a Soma cage extension I’ll add in.

Is she a looker? You bet. Even with a bit of a mis-matched parts kit, it has style. Truthfully, back in those days, racers would mix things up a bit with their parts. Even if this is supposedly the original parts list, I’m not surprised to see Super Record on there.

Here’s the rough parts list: Pantographed Nuovo Record cranks, Nuovo Record non-aero levers (with original hoods), 3ttt stem, 3ttt bars, Turbo saddle, Gipiemme fluted post, Mavic G40 rims laced to Nuovo Record hubs.

What about the tubing? Well, the seat tube isn’t fluted, so it’s not SLX. It’s got the profiles of SL, but no insignia stating that. Could it be a Strada? Or maybe it truly is a custom Merckx that accompanied the 1982 Belgian team to the UCI Worlds… Whatever it is, I’m stoked to have this beauty in my stable.

Many thanks to Jonathan at Mellow Johnny’s for helping tune her up for Eroica. See you guys there!

  • Francisco Alvarez

    I’ve been running those exact tires on my RB-2, pretty good tire for longer rides where protection is key. Enjoy the ride and new bike, looking forward to a good album

  • charlesojones

    Sweet bike! Love the logo’d toe straps – and they look brand new! I have essentially that same bike in a different color. I hope it to make it Eroica this weekend although business obligations may undermine my plans… Best of luck to you. (a little rain in the forecast today may improve the dirt for this weekend)

  • Lee Murai

    I wouldn’t be surprised if the 14-28 works with your current setup. I’m running a 14-32 IRD 6spd freewheel with the same rear mech and crankset and I didn’t end up having to use the Soma long cages.

  • aifos

    That bar wrap is like ¯_(ツ)_/¯

    Beautiful bike. I really miss my Merckx.

  • Chris

    I recently sold a very similar Merckx. Sloped crown, over-BB routing, single bottle cage, number plate hanger, non-SLX. Let us know as you find out more.

    • Ace Metric Cycles

      Yeah, cool find. I, too would like to know more.

  • Kerry Nordstrom

    A classic steel road bike with 28s is so perfect.

    • John Watson

      It rides like butttttah

  • kasual

    Fantastic, really and truly. Makes me wish there was a road bike of this era still in the stable.

    (here’s hoping on that new freewheel. the current “range” looks punishing at best)

    • John Watson

      It just showed up!

  • Matt Rumora

    I too would be surprised if the Super Record didn’t work with a 28t. Pretty sure I’ve had 28t cogs with a Super Record in the past. I think my wife’s bike had that set up with a Nuovo record rear mech. I remember buying Campy aluminum toe clips right after Look pedals hit the market – didn’t care, still wanted them. Sweet setup and beautiful photography – as always.

  • Hunter Garrison

    In Joe Parkin’s book he mentions how his first year racing pro (80’s era) in Belgium that he went on a training ride and one of the Belgians said something to the effect that “you never need two bottles because you can always stop for a coke” that’s heavily paraphrased but he said he was “sold instantly” if this is a custom bike, maybe that’s the logic that went on. Maybe.

  • Josh Caffrey

    Now that’s a bike. Have fun John!

  • carl bradtmiller

    moser set the hour record early in 1984. it seems unlikely they would continue to have a sticker for an old record. i agree the above bb cable routing

    • John Watson

      Merckx frames have that sticker up through 1987

  • Western Rapid

    John, do you have a shot that shows the tyre clearance at the chain stays? Would be interested in seeing how tight it is…

    • John Watson

      There’s 1/4″ or so

  • roger aisles

    hey, quick question- i have a pinarello from 86 with first gen c-record era chorus and records components. will eroica allow it? i think im like a year or two past the cut off. how strict are they?

    • John Watson

      The rules say 1987 and “non aero brakes” but I doubt they’re going to kick people out.

  • test tube ( ‘| )

    Nice that you’re owning a Merckx once again… I owned an 89′ Motorola and I love it millions, and I’m nearly ready to start building a new one based on an MXL frame I acquired last year.
    Have fun on L’Eroica!

  • davis3161

    Beautiful bike. What shoes are you using with the toe clips?

    • John Watson

      quoc pham fixed shoes.

      • jrhydn

        sick! how are those? I’ve been itching to get them

  • Charles Southgate

    #35 that is all

  • c_j_drawbridge

    That bike’s been well loved, truly amazing condition.

  • cookietruck

    those front brake shoes need to be swapped sides (pic 14). you want the open part on the back side so when you brake the shoe can’t slide out the front…

    • cookietruck

      check the back brake also.

      • John Watson


        • cookietruck

          also if the brakes chatter like crazy the pads need to be toed-in some, visible toe-in, the front of the pad should hit the rim first.

    • Flavio Colker

      I would raise the brake levers till it aligns w/the lower flats on the h bar.

  • thollandpe

    I have a 28 (Shimano) freewheel under my Super Record ’82 and it works fine.

    • John Watson

      I’ve got a 28t on there now. Works like a charm! Here I come, Eroica!

  • aspekt

    Nice rubber.

  • T.Go

    How’d the Strada’s work for you? I’ve been on them for a few weeks now… would love to get your thoughts on their ride vs. Pasela’s.

    • John Watson

      Great! Only one flat!

  • Leeman Markee

    I just scored the same frame, but it features the squared fork crown, and the only similar components are the derailleurs, shifters, brake levers. Stem is a Cinelli 140mm (weirdo), bars are Cinelli Campione Del Mundo, seatpost is record, crankset is Mavic. Calipers are Modolo Speedy, mismatched colors. Wheels are missing, saddle missing. Frame is a 64cm (sue me, I got long legs). Why does it have full-housed cable guides brazed onto the top tube? I’m having trouble finding ones like that on goog imgs.