At NAHBS 2012, Competitive Cyclist relaunched the Merlin brand as Backcountry’s latest acquisition. Last year, they were wheeling around a titanium 29er at Outdoor Demo. Now, they’ve gone and introduced a new carbon fiber road bike called Empire.
Hiding in plain sight aboard Thule’s roof rack display, the bike is a handmade-in-Italy tube-to-tube constructed beaut. Yes, it’s a carbon bike from a brand steeped in titanium tradition, but it carries over the classic aesthetic -round tubes, not swoopy composite shapes- so it looks the part.
The name comes from Empire Pass in Park City, UT, where they tested the bike on one very steep, very difficult climb. And from the looks of it, the bike was right at home. The frame is just 940g for a 54, with oversized downtube, PF86 BB, full tapered headtube and boxy chainstays to lay down the watts. But the seatstays are very thin and meet up at a 27.2 seatpost, offering a little comfort for the long haul up the pass.
The frame is mechanical and electronic ready, but you’ll have to run a seatpost battery if you opt for Di2.
The head badge is metal and still made in Pennsylvania.
A PF86 bottom bracket spreads the bearings wide but keeps it lightweight. Did we mention the downtube is rather large?
The thin seatstays actually have an oval shape.
It’s sold as a frameset with ENVE 2.0 fork and Cane Creek 40 headset for $4,199 to $4,399. Complete bike with Dura-Ace Di2, ENVE cockpit and Smart 3.4 clincher wheels, Fizik saddle and Michelin Pro4 tires comes in at $8,999. Claimed weight for the complete bike in size 54 is 6.52kg (14.37lb).