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!