Merckx Mondays Jul 12, 2010

Photo via Hennie Kuiper’s Flickr

Eddy Merckx had some of the top athletes riding his bikes in cycling’s heyday. I’ve referenced Andy Hampsten a few times for Merckx Mondays but today’s entry is special. I caught this email from Andy via a popular cycling email list. It discusses Andy’s love for Eddy’s mastery of matching riders to frames.

Check it out below! It’s worth the read!

“Hi (name removed),

Good eyes there. Eddy Merckx was and still is the master of matching riders to frames. He would start all of us on Columbus’s Max tubing for the earlier season races. They weighed more than other tube sets but it was a joy to get such responsiveness out of a frame. For my bikes Eddy would get me on lighter but very strong frames for the April Ardennes races and early stage races. By June and the important stage races I would be flying on his lighter bikes with the Tour ride being a very sweet Reynolds 753 based super light frame ready to rocket.

Of course a lot of riders, me included would moan about “yeah but that team gets to ride super light carbon or aluminum” or what ever else looked like greener grass to us. Eddy was good at pointing out to us that there was no sense shaving ounces off of a frame and fork that would save us seconds on the climbs but wouldn’t handle well. “Why gain 40 seconds on a climb and loose 2 minutes on a descent?” he would reason. Looking back to where those materials where in the early 90s I have to agree.

The riders where able to decide what they wanted to ride on. Of course it was limited and I hate to say it but it depended on how the rider’s political status was with the team. Eddy took care of all the riders but few were spoiled with a new frame every week or two like I was.

I really liked the 753 tube set, but Eddy knew it was not a long lasting material. He let me use them for the mountainous tours and a few big one day races, and then put them to rest.

In ’88 I had a fantastic frame made by John Slawta of Landshark that got me up and over the snowy Gavia pass. He used Tange Prestige tubing back then.

Enjoy your ride, whatever it is.

Andy Hampsten”

Great insight into Merckx’s choice in tubesets!

  • Seriously?

    One day, while at work in my old shop, a regular customer rolled in with a beautiful but beat-up old Motorola bike. I figured it was a replica, but a replica is still worth checking out, so I went and annoyed the other mechanic who was checking it in, so I could sneak a peak. The first thing I noticed was the odd size – short seattube and loooong toptube: Obviously custom geometry. Then I noticed something on the toptube; a sticker reading “Andy Hampsten” on the top tube.

    Turns out that this guy had seen the bike for sale on Craigslist in Louisville, KY, and drove down from Indiana to pick it up. I forget how much he paid, but it was something along the lines of $200, and included some Corima carbon quad-spoke wheels, piles of shifter/brake levers, etc. Later, I saw that he posted the complete story along with pictures on the Serotta forums. I just looked for it now to no avail. If someone can dig it up, you’ll be rewarded with some decent bike porn and a story that will make you ache with jealousy.

    The bike itself was beat. Paint was chipping everywhere, especially on the chainstays (probably from Belgian cobbles on countless training rides), the original fork had been replaced with some cheap 1″ threaded thing from Nashbar, and the original components were long, long gone. In a way though, this was the appropriate fate for the bike. For every dozen Motorola bikes that show up in pristine condition, either never ridden or used for a few smooth classic races or tour stages, it’s nice to see that there’s at least one that got hammered and trained on for the next twenty years. As for how the bike ended up in Louisville, that’s anyone’s guess.

  • Gordon Lew

    Cool read. ^Also pretty great story.

  • Seriously?

    Also, not Merckx related, but Hampsten-relevant:

    Everyone’s probably seen that by now, and if they haven’t, then they should.

  • Alex

    “I really liked the 753 tube set, but Eddy knew it was not a long lasting material. He let me use them for the mountainous tours and a few big one day races, and then put them to rest.”

    I’m breaking out this quote next time Grant Peterson posts some screed about the lack of durability of modern race bikes.