Disc-equipped machine with impeccable handling and lively performance
New for 2016 from British brand, Mekk, is the updated Poggio DS 2.6. In the UK, where it’s possible to see four seasons of weather in a single day – or on a Sunday morning club run – Mekk appears to have created a bike for all conditions.
Mekk as a brand hasn’t been around for long, having launched just four years ago, but the men behind the brand have. Mark Edwards (ME) and Ken Knight (KK) were the partnership behind Caratti, the distributor that first brought Specialized and GT to the UK.
Knight had a 15-year road-racing career before turning his hand to bike design. He rode for ACBB, arguably the finest amateur club in the world. ACBB – Athletic Club de Boulogne-Billancourt – was founded in 1943 and over its 72-year history riders such as Jacques Anquetil, Andre Darrigade and Bernard Thevenet, as well as British legends Sean Yates and Robert Millar, have all ridden in the club’s famous orange and grey kit.
Knight has drawn from his years of race experience to help develop the series of frames that make up Mekk’s 2016 range. All in all, 24 bikes make up the 2016 collection, ranging from £500 to £5,500 and based around six framesets, and the Poggio (not to be confused with the Poggio SE, Mekk’s new entry-level carbon frame) is their gran fondo endurance chassis, and that’s reflected in the geometry, which is more relaxed than the racier Primo bikes. There are eight bikes in the Poggio range, six with rim brakes and two with disc brakes, and the £1,999 Poggio 2.6 DS comes with a Shimano 105 groupset and hydraulic disc brakes.
It may be a bike distance to go the distance but, for 2016, Mekk have overhauled the Poggio to improve the frame’s power transfer and handling. It’s now made from a high-modulus Toray T800 carbon with full internal cable routing for both mechanical and electronic groupsets. The switch has reduced the frame’s weight and upped the bike’s torsional stiffness, and the end result is impressive. That stiffness isn’t just felt when pressing on the pedals but also in the Poggio’s agility and assurance around corners – it’s a machine which handles impeccably. But the complete build isn’t especially light, it tipped our scales at 8.81kg.
Mekk have countered the new frame’s added aggression by also increasing compliance. That’s the holy grail on an endurance bike like this, to create a machine which feels sharp, responsive and lively, while also offering a fairly comfy ride. The first thing they did was to decrease the diameter of the rear stays.
On the disc version, the bridge for the brake caliper has been removed, so there’s a small comfort gain there as the seatstays are allowed to work independently and offer a little flex to neutralise fatiguing road buzz before it reaches the rider.
Another bonus to the disc version is the increased tyre clearance. The Poggio DS 2.6 can take up to a whopping 28mm tyre, though, oddly, the bike only comes with 23mm rubber (Continental Ultra Sport II tyres). I’d expect 25mm as a minimum on a bike like this, bringing extra comfort but also, potentially, the increased grip and improved rolling resistance that can come from a wider tyre. It’s worth upgrading the tyres, particularly for wet weather when you’ll appreciate some extra grip.
At the front end of the bike, Mekk have used an oversized tapered headtube, which is standard fare these days, and it’s noticeable just how surefooted the bike is. That’s not entirely down to the new front end, it’s the result of making all of these minor adjustments.
On to the spec. Classics specialists are a rare breed – unlike any other professional rider, they thrive on those gnarled cobbles and similarly inhospitable weather conditions. Nine-time Monument winner, Sean Kelly, although not just a Classics rider, used to hope for bad conditions on race day. He believed half the field was defeated even before they’d pinned on their dossard.
This crossed my mind when I was hoping for some wet weather to give the bike a proper test. Having been impressed with the braking in the dry, I wanted to be convinced of how these disc brakes behaved in the wet: this is where they’re supposed to outgun the traditional road caliper.
Having ridden early versions of disc brakes for road bikes, I was never entirely convinced by the prospect of ditching rim calipers. The benefits of the braking weren’t great enough. However, the Mekk Poggio DS 2.6 comes with Shimano RS785 hydraulic disc brakes and on the first ride it was staggering how powerful these were, yet how easy, after bit of initial feathering, they were to modulate in poor conditions. Gone are the days of the staccato, either on or off, cable disc brakes.
Mekk have used 140mm TRP blades and while it’s possible to opt for 160mm rotors if more stopping power is desired, if you do go for that I’d suggest having a seatbelt fitted to the saddle. But let’s not allow the brakes to overshadow the frame.
Shimano 105 is often described as the workhorse of the Japanese firm’s groupset range and it’s a great choice for this bike as it’s reliable and robust. Mekk have given the bike a huge range of gears by using a compact 50-34t chainset and an 11-28t cassette. For the disc version of the 2.6 (there’s a version available with rim brakes), Mekk have used the corresponding Shimano 105 hydraulic levers to the RS785 brakes. The hoods are taller than those found on a standard 105 lever, having to house the mechanical shifter as well as the hydraulic braking gubbins, but are as just as well designed.
The cockpit is made up of an alloy Saturae handlebar with a traditional round, medium drop bend, while the stem and seatpost (topped with a San Marco Era Startup Power saddle) also come from Saturae, Mekk’s in-house parts brand. By using their own finishing kit, Mekk say they’ve been able to keep control of price and also what products they use on their bikes.
Finally, the Poggio DS 2.6 comes with a set of Saturae RX 50 wheels shod with those aforementioned Continental Ultra Sport II 23mm tyres. The hubs have a magnesium alloy shell and uses Saturae’s own FONA roller bearing system. Lacing it to the 24mm deep alloy rim are DT Swiss stainless steel spokes.
A lot of the weight, as with all wheels, is in the centre, and this is exacerbated a bit with disc brakes. It’s hard to make a call on the durability of the RX50s without spending more time with the bike, but from their ingredients, they’re a decent enough build. In terms of their performance, however, it was noticeable that they flexed a little when we demanded some torque to tackle short, punchy climbs with any potency. As is so often the case, to improve the bike, look to start with the rolling stock.
While riding around in both rain and shine – though mostly rain, unfortunately – I gave this conclusion some thought. It’s rare that a test bike passes every test, and there are certainly things about the Mekk Poggio DS 2.6 that could be improved upon, such as a fancier set of wheels or a plush bar and stem combo, but I think that’s missing the point.
If you wake up and hear rain on the window on the only day you have to get out in the lanes, this is a performance-focused bike well-suited to the task – a bike for riding regardless of the conditions.
– Decent value for money
– Superb frame that handles impeccably
– Powerful braking in all weather
– Internal cable routing is noisy
– Finishing touches could be neater
– A little heavy
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