Whippy is perhaps my first thought on describing the new bike. Not in the sense of flailing all over the place but in the sense of responsive to the touch and manoeuvrable. Light is the next thing thing that springs to mind: light on the road, light to control and light in the hand.
I have to go by comparison to my 2005 Giant T-Mobile Team Hybrid which feels a lot more sluggish and relaxed a ride. The Merckx is much sharper, both into the corners and when I put the power down out of them. The “sloping” geometry is a lot less so than the Giant’s compact shape which gives for a ride where I feel much more connected to the bike rather than somewhere above it.
The SRAM doesn’t take long to get used to although I did make the mistake of forgetting to check I had shifted up properly, resulting in me attempting to sprint in 34/12 in the misguided belief I was actually on the big ring. Then again, I do this sort of wrong gear idiocy regularly regardless of what groupset I’m riding. It’s clean, it’s precise and pretty bloody obvious to use after about five minutes shifting through the range. Once it starts appearing on complete bikes in the shops I reckon it should start to gain some popularity with riders as a genuine alternative to the big two of Campagnolo and Shimano.
Everything else about the set up is just as I want it. The Specialized Toupe saddle took an hour or so to get comfortable on but by the end of the ride I didn’t notice the difference from the Specialized Avatar I usually ride. That is possibly the oddest thing about it: that it is set up for me and feels right without me having to think about where I am positioning myself on the bike. So when I do think about it it starts to feel a bit alien to not have any niggles about it.