Gravel’s the latest craze, right? A new category taking the sport by storm! Not so fast. To quote Tom Ritchey, “Aren’t all bikes gravel bikes?” He’s talking about the sport’s past, when many roads were unpaved and to explore or race on them you just used your road bike. While many Europeans may have forgotten, gravel was a big part of road racing’s early days simply because fewer roads were paved. There was no novelty. It was simply bike riding. With the new Eddy Merckx Strasbourg71 it’s clear Eddy Merckx Bikes has not forgotten its gravel past. In fact it’s named for one of Eddy’s signature victories on gravel
On June 28th the 1971 Tour de France peloton rolled out from Mulhouse to Strasbourg, just 89miles, as it came on the heels of three separate stages — 1a,1b,1c – all raced on the 27th. Eddy was part of a 15 man break that got away chasing an early escape from Joop Zoetemelk and put an incredible ten minutes on the rest of the field, ending the overall hopes of any rider not in that group. Eddy would beat the Belgian classics star, Roger De Vlaeminck, in the small group sprint and be on his way to winning his third consecutive Tour de France. That finale was on a gravel road into Strasbourg.
The new Strasbourg71 gravel bike is one of the first to emerge from the new Eddy Merckcx Bikes, after its merger with the Belgian Cycling Factory, joining another Belgian mark, Ridley. It’s look, and the rest of the line, features very understated graphics, an echo of the Eddy’s storied past and a modern aesthetic to bringing it into the future. Simple and refined. We are fans. Perhaps our favorite touch is the return of ‘Eddy’ on the down tube. It feels more personal that just ‘Merckx’.
The Strasbourg71 is pure gravel, with qualities that make it as at home on US stone as it will be on European. Merckx has reinforced the carbon against impact at the down tube and the rear of the seat tube, two areas vulnerable to rocks kicked up from the road. The rear of the bike, from the flattened seat stays to dropped chain stays is designed to help the rear wheel to absorb rough road, keeping traction and power delivery high, while insulating the rider. The rear stars are asymmetric and mate to an oversized bottom bracket to ensure crisp power transfer – Eddy was a racer after all.
With room for a 38mm tire and mounts for rack and and fenders, the Strasbourg71 is a versatile bike. While a bit longer than the genre bending Parlee Chebacco and the Allied All-Road, bikes that can campaign most gravel roads and still do duty as a club ride special with some 28 or 30mm tires, the Strasbourg71 can hold its own on the road, thanks to a position that isn’t sky high. It’s balanced and stable, not slow and sluggish. In fact, with a different build aimed at the road, the same frame is called the Wallers73 for Eddy’s final Roubaix victory.
We’ll be getting a Strasbourg71 in soon for long term review. Look for that soon in the pages of PELOTON and online.
$4500 with SRAM Force 1x build, Fulcrum 5DB wheels and Clement Xplor MSO 38 tires.