Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Perfectionist - Merckx MX Leader

Perfectionist (Oxford Dictionary)
Pronunciation: /pəˈfɛkʃ(ə)nɪst/
a person who refuses to accept any standard short of perfection

Here at Rewind we have been lucky enough to have seen a number of very nice Merckx bikes through our door.

This current Merckx is one of the last steel frames made by Merckx - believe this is a late 90s model.

The MX Leader is constructed with Columbus oversize steel tubing, based on the Columbus MAX tubeset. Story goes that Eddy was not satisfied with the MAX tubeset, so commissioned Columbus to produce a custom tubeset specially for MX Leaders, to Eddy's strict requirements. The MX Leader frameset was renowned for its stiffness, and was considered a "sprinter's frame".

"Columbus MAX tubing is ridiculously oversized and ovalized, to the point where it's simply too stiff for most of us. It's this kind of stiffness that has endeared Max to countless professionals, especially the big sprinters.

For most framebuilders, knowing MAX is Columbus' big gun is enough. But for Eddy Merckx, it had to be improved. Merckx had to have his own tubeset, tweaked to suit the rigors of stage racing and long one-day events for his sponsored pros (team Motorola, Team Lotto and team Telekom). It's short wheelbase, coupled with the stout pipes, let the MX Leader descend like nobody's business. Point the bike downhill, aim it at a corner's apex and you'll sweep through in a magic arc. Those fat, aero-shaped MAX fork blades do a terrific job of relaying tactile information from the hub to your hands. As far as high-speed handling is concerned, it's hard to imagine a bike being much better than this.

The MX Leader is a great bicycle, with timeless geometry and a short but storied pedigree. But it's more than a bike that will last you (barring rust or a crash) a lifetime. It is a piece of a legend."

This Merckx MX Leader was sourced from France, in original Merckx pearl white with blue logos. Paint condition was very very good, with no dents, dings, heavy scratches or any such damage.

Unusually, the paint was not a common or standard scheme, but one which we suspect was special ordered for a French Merckx retailer - Phida Cycles. We suspect that these frames may have been used as part of a racing team, and may have competed as part of a local or European race series. Evidence of such is that this example also has a number holder braze on just under the top tube. Given the condition of the frame, however, it is unlikely that this particular example turned too many miles in anger.

Some traditionalists say that original paint will always be better than a respray (and yes, if you are keeping pieces period, this may be appropriate), but because of the weird black fork/white frame/blue logos aesthetic, Rewind Cycle decided (perhaps foolishly) to embark on a Team replica paint scheme.

While the colour scheme is the predominant driver for the respray, there are a number of other reasons for this. Original paint, if in good condition, may be 15+ years old. In a production line paint system, the finish generally does not command the attention to detail that a one-off, hand refinished job will achieve - factory paint generally isn't as thick (more paint = more $), nor as glossy as a hand refinished job. Furthermore, since this frame was produced, paint technology has also moved on, so the paints themselves are also more consistent, and can achieve deeper lustre and finer metallics.

The next post will focus on the Merckx team paint schemes, and deliberation of which to choose. We will also describe the process to paint the traditional Merckx striped scheme.

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