If you’re in the market for a top-level carbon fibre race bike but don’t want to spend a fortune, then the Nitro SL from Merlin Cycles could be worth a look.
With a full carbon fibre UCI approved frame and fork from a well known Belgian bike company, Shimano Ultegra mechanical groupset and 7.7kg fighting weight, it’s a good deal at £1,999. But it’s currently discounted to £1,749 making it a belter of a deal.
You get a frame made to modern standards, including the oversized front triangle and tapered head tube, and skinny seatstays and 27.2mm seatpost to provide some comfort.
Despite the modern design, there’s a traditional external threaded bottom bracket. These are definitely coming back into fashion after creaking issues have plagued many owners of frames with press fit bottom brackets.
A full Shimano UItegra mechanical groupset is a nice thing to see, and the semi-compact 52/36t chainset and the 11-28t cassette is a great combination for racing and high-speed riding antics.
Fulcrum Racing Quattro wheels are shod with 25mm wide Continental Ultrasport II tyres and the bike is then finished off with a 4ZA handlebar, stem and seatpost, which is topped off with a Marco Ponza saddle. The 4ZA brand is owned by Ridley bikes, a clue there for you as to the origins of the frame… The bike weighs 7.7kg on our scales,
It’s currently out with Stu Kerton being ridden around the Wiltshire roads and lanes, so stay tuned for the full review soon. In the mean time, let’s look at what competition the Nitro SL is up against. More details at www.merlincycles.com
We can’t not mention the Canyon option, and showing what a good deal the Merlin looks to be, for £1,849 you can get the Ultimate CF SL 9.0 with a full Shimano Ultegra groupset and Mavic Ksyrium Elite wheels with Canyon finishing kit, so a broadly similar build. Though Canyon claims a 7kg complete weight.
Costing £1,900 is the Trek Emonda SL 5 which provides an OCLV carbon fibre frame and fork, but again showing what a good deal the Merlin is, Trek only manages to fit a Shimano 105 groupset to this model.
On paper, then, the Merlin Nitro SL looks very good. Let’s see how the review comes out soon, will it live up to early expectations?
David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds.