The Merényi Burletta is another example of a steel machine that shows modern metal is far from outdated when it comes to building a performance-focused frame.
The Burletta is the flagship machine of Hungarian framebuilder Daniel Merényi and his work marries stiffness, handling and ride quality in equal measure, in what is a thoroughly engaging bike to ride, though, naturally, there’s a minor weight penalty over a carbon fibre machine. However, the frame is a work of art and the attention to detail superb.
Steel has enjoyed something of a resurgence in recent years as a material from which to make a bicycle frame and not just one consigned to touring, audax or winter riding duties. The UCI Continental-registered Madison-Genesis team is a case in point, riding the steel Genesis Volare 953 on the domestic circuit, both in Tour Series criteriums and the Tour of Britain stage race.
The Burletta is made from Columbus Zona Niobium – an oversized, thin-walled tubeset typical of modern steel machines of this type. While the Burletta lacks the girth of a carbon fibre machine, where the industry is seemingly locked in an arms race to create the biggest downtube or bottom bracket, it’s beefier than the spindly tubes of years gone by, or those machines that hark back to that era, like the recently-reviewed Cherubim Sticky.
The Burletta’s wider tube diameters – 35mm on the downtube and 31.7mm on the toptube – are designed to increase the stiffness of the frame, while the super-thin – just 0.2mm thick – wall thickness helps keep the weight relatively low for a metal machine. The frame, sold through Burletta’s UK stockist, Mosquito Bikes, is available with a steel fork, a Columbus Minimal carbon fork or Pegoretti Falz carbon fork. The Llewelyn Cadenzia lugs, designed by Darren McCulloch and the man who taught Daniel Merényi his craft, Dario Pegoretti, give the Burletta an artisan look and they’re beautifully crafted.
The Burletta is sold as a frameset for £1,900, so our review will concentrate on the performance of its chassis, though naturally the rest of the spec contributes to the way it rides. One point to note, however, is that each and every Burletta is custom-built to order and made-to-measure based on a bike fit at Mosquito Bikes’ store in north London.
First, a history lesson. Burletta derives from ‘burla’, the Italian word for joke or trick and is a reference to the comic operas of the 17th and 18th Centuries. The ‘trick’, as far as Daniel Merényi is concerned, is that while the frame has the appearance of a traditional, lugged steel frame, it is designed to perform like a thoroughly modern machine – and, on the whole, is succeeds in that regard.
It’s a rigid, agile and responsive ride. The oversized tube profiles and inherent stiffness of the Columbus Zona Niobium is evident when you stand on the pedals. The Burletta happily converts any effort into speed, with little in the way of the flex that you may perhaps expect from an old-school steel chassis. Step things up a gear, whether getting your head down on the flat or approaching a climb, and the Burletta is a willing companion.
Now that carbon fibre dominates the peloton, there’s an inevitable assumption – often justifiable – that it’s the best material from which to make a lively, engaging and, ultimately, fast bicycle but that’s not always the case. Aluminium has also made something of a comeback and the Burletta shows that steel is still more than capable of mixing it when the hammer goes down, whether that’s sprinting for a town sign on the club run, or tapping out a fast pace over rolling roads. Of course, each frame material – and, with it, each frame design – offers a different experience, but the point is that riding a high quality, performance-focused steel frame won’t necessarily put you at an immediate disadvantage, as we found when we reviewed the excellent Stoemper Taylor last year.
Naturally there’s a weight penalty where steel is concerned, against both aluminium and carbon fibre, though that’s not to say the Burletta is a slouch when the road rises. It doesn’t have the inherent zip of a super-light carbon fibre machine, like the Canyon Ultimate CF SL 9.0 SL or the Storck Aernario Basic, when the gradient ramps up and you stand on the pedals, but it holds its momentum well and the inherent stiffness of the frame means there’s little sense that the Burletta is holding you back. Besides, a rider in the market for a frame like this is unlikely to be concerned with having the absolute lightest machine for their money.
The Burletta’s handling is excellent, too. Agile and responsive, it tracks through tight corners with precision, and the frame handles imperfections in the road surface well. It’s quick under hand, as you’d hope, but ultimately a sure-footed and agreeable machine to ride.
Our machine came equipped with a full Campagnolo Super Record mechanical groupset, with the Italian firm’s Eurus wheels shod with Continental GP4000S, along with a Deda handlebar and stem, Thomson Elite InLine seatpost and Fizik Arione saddle.
As we mentioned at the top, the Burletta is sold as a frameset and Mosquito Bikes can build it up to almost any spec you like, so our build is almost arbitrary – but, needless to say, the Campagnolo Super Record group was flawless, with quick, accurate shifting in the inimitable Campag style, and the Eurus wheels were stiff, reasonable in weight (a claimed 1,482g) and a decent mid-range option. Continental’s GP4000S tyres are popular and rightly so as they offer excellent grip and low rolling resistance with good puncture protection for a race tyre.
The Merényi Burletta is a beautifully crafted – and, in this finish at least, eye-catching – machine and one which also offers a superbly balanced ride that shows off the best qualities of steel.