The Strasbourg 71 is Eddy Merckx Cycles’ first gravel bike. Which also makes it their best gravel bike, albeit by default. The name comes from a stage of the 1971 Tour de France won by the man himself (as was the overall title). And that stage also had a stretch of gravel near the finish. Get it?
Now obviously Uncle Eddy wasn’t a dedicated gravel racer, but if he had been it’s a fair bet that he’d have won. And won everything. Multiple times. Plus, naming bikes after the Belgian great’s victories is quite a nice touch, and makes them far from the most ridiculously-named bikes on the market.
Anyway, back to the bike, and the Strasbourg is an alloy-framed beast aimed more at the entry-level gravel racer rather than the season (semi) off-roader. The frame itself is 6069 alloy paired to a monocoque carbon fork with clearance for up to 38mm tyres. Speaking of which, the bike itself comes with 32mm Continental Ultra Sport IIs on Fulcrum Racing 5 disc brake ready-wheels so the bike’s ready for an off-road adventure but it’ll roll very nicely on-road too.
Drivetrain is a combination of Shimano 105 and ST-RS505 hydraulic disc brakes, the new entry level for hydraulic Shimano discs. But don’t let that fool you into thinking that performance is compromised, because it’s not, these brakes work as well as anything around. Disc rotors are 140mm, by the way, which seems to fast be becoming the road standard judging by the sheer amount of bikes they’re specced on.
It’s also worth noting that the Strasbourg has mounts at the back for a rack and mudguards, as well as a mudguard mount at the front, too, so this one would be more than capable of acting as a road bike through the British winter.
For finishing kit, bars, stem and seatpost are all Deda Zero and the saddle is Prologo’s K3 STN. It’s a quality build and I was hoping that the ride lived up to the promise.
Fortunately, it did. Geometry-wise it feels like a road bike in as much as your ride position is fairly aggressive, don’t let the heavily sloping top tube fool you. I didn’t have scales to hand, but it wasn’t offensively heavy either, and responded nicely while riding to acceleration. Obviously a bike like this is never going to climb or sprint like a full-on road bike, but you won’t find yourself left behind either.
The Strasbourg handles well, even if it errs on the side of stability rather than nimbleness. It’s not a bike for nipping in and out of tight spots (nor is it designed to be) but there’s a security and comfort about the ride that inspires confidence. Taking some of the corners on this that I later took on the Fuji SL 1.5 (and I know that’s not a fair comparison – watch out for a first ride review of that) you definitely realise what gravel bikes are for and what they aren’t as you can’t quite hit the same corners with the same speed and not expect to have a rude meeting with the opposite kerb.
We haven’t got a UK price yet but kit-wise the bike is specced very well. The 105 hydraulic brakes are fantastic and give the combination of power and sensitivity that really comes into its own on rougher terrain. Similarly the Fulcrums wrapped in such large tyres make for a wonderfully smooth ride, even if you’d want to swap them out for something with a little more tread before you head into proper off-road territory.
The Strasbourg might be Merckx’s first attempt at a gravel bike, but it’s definitely not a stab in the dark. It’s been well thought out and well specced, and as long as the price tag fits for an alu-framed bike, it’s something well worth considering if you want a bike that’s both something of an all-rounder and a bit different as well.