Squadra di Vecchi Tori

Merckx corsa extra – columbus max by kiwicyclist
August 8, 2010, 8:59 pm
Filed under: products

It seems like most visits I make to Shifterbikes these days are like having a birthday and xmas rolled into one – I’m either dropping parts off for the next project or collecting the latest bit of work that ShifterDan has put together for me.

I called into the studio last Thursday night to collect my former merckx reincarnated with a new frame sourced via fyxomatosis from France – a v. nice nos Merckx corsa extra in columbus max in exactly my size – I have been keeping an eye out for one of these frames for some time.  I was intrigued to find out what all the fuss was about – Dan had told me the difference in ride quality from other steel frames was like nothing else and he was not kidding.

Here is the result:

Doesn’t look too shabby with shamals either:

So apart from looking good most importantly what is like on the road?

It is nice – very nice – to ride.  Much stiffer than either my Casati or my previous Merckx frame – (which are both made of columbus brain tubing) – but not to the point of feeling ‘harsh’ – and although the tubeset is considered to be stiff (see below) – compared with a modern carbon or alloy frame its no more so and has all the good things that steel has to offer – the frame produces nice feedback from the bitumen – hard to describe but the closest I can think of is a nice road ‘buzz’ coming up through the frame – reassuring feedback which had me feeling pretty comfortable on a 3 hour test ride on Saturday morning out with the group.  Standing out of the saddle there is no feeling of flex or ‘give’ that other steel frames can provide – this will be a good bike to race. 

Some close-ups of the tubing – different shapes at either end which was fairly revolutionary for the era:

Close up of the aero fork:

For the techheads out there I’ve reproduced an extract on max tubing from Prollyisnotprobably.com – the full article can be found here:http://prollyisnotprobably.com/2010/02/merckx_mondays_22.php

“It’s best to note that MAX was not proprietary to Eddy Merckx bicycles. Many other manufacturers used MAX on their bikes. Later, Merckx developed a proprietary lugset and changed a few tubing specs on the MAX tubes and re-named it MXL. Here’s a description on MAX that has been floating around the web, un-cited, for quite a while. I cannot find the original source, which is why it’s still un-cited.

“Columbus MAX tubing is ridiculously oversized and ovalized, to the point where it’s simply too stiff for most of us. It’s this kind of stiffness that has endeared Max to countless professionals, especially the big sprinters.

For most framebuilders, knowing MAX is Columbus’ big gun is enough. But for Eddy Merckx, it had to be improved. Merckx had to have his own tubeset, tweaked to suit the rigors of stage racing and long one-day events for his sponsored pros (team Motorola, Team Lotto and team Telekom). It’s short wheelbase, coupled with the stout pipes, let the MX Leader descend like nobody’s business. Point the bike downhill, aim it at a corner’s apex and you’ll sweep through in a magic arc. Those fat, aero-shaped MAX fork blades do a terrific job of relaying tactile information from the hub to your hands. As far as high-speed handling is concerned, it’s hard to imagine a bike being much better than this.

The MX Leader is a great bicycle, with timeless geometry and a short but storied pedigree. But it’s more than a bike that will last you (barring rust or a crash) a lifetime. It is a piece of a legend.”

Complete tubeset photo by Bishop Bikes

The MAX tubeset was often called ‘too heavy’, sluggish; over-built for the average rider. With a *40mm x 30mm biaxially ovalized down tube, shaped from a 5mm round tube with a .8/.5/.8mm butting profile, the MAX weaponry was undeniably rugged. It accelerated like a rocket. The chainstays are 36mm tall and 18.5mm wide with a .6mm wall. Remember, this is steel, not aluminum. MAX’s top tube was made from a 31.7mm tube and biaxially ovalized to 37.5x26mm with a .7/.4/.7mm butting profile and the seatstays are ovalized to 18.5x12mm.

MAX DT, TT and lugset photo by Bishop Bikes

As I mentioned before, the MAX tubeset was used for a brief period of time, prior to the MXL tubeset. Now, the MXL tubeset did not use the original MAX top tube or seatstays. I’m not really sure why this is, but it more than likely has to do with weight and general aesthetics. After seeing the profiles of these tubes, it’s easy to consider this tubeset incredibly heavy, when the reality is, the total mitered set for a 58cm frame came in around 1500 grams, which is lighter than many of Columbus’ modern day tubing.

MAX bottom bracket shell photo by Bishop Bikes

Where MAX gained a majority of it’s beef was in the club-like lugs. these things resemble a medieval weapon. Depending on the year and casting, the BB shell would weigh between 260 to 290 grams. For comparison, most BB shells weigh around 100 grams. the MAX BB shell was almost three times as heavy! Talk about a “beefy” bottom bracket.

MAX fork crown versions photo by Bishop Bikes

MAX also had two different fork crowns. A lugged version, shown on the right and an internal version for a flush-finish. The blades on the fork are 18.5×35.8 ovalized to 14mm at the tip. Constructed from 9/.6 Columbus Nivacrom steel.

Catalog scans from Tears for Gears

In 1992, Eddy Merckx introduced the MAX bike to the public. Professionals had been riding these frames for a brief time period and this was the first time it was available to the general public. The MAX Merckx frames had a fastback-seatpost clamp, the rather chunky fork crowns we saw above and the different TT and seatstays. They were short-lived to say the least.

Catalog scans from Tears for Gears



3 Comments so far
Leave a comment

stu im building up my merkx corsa extra now, and am thinking i’ll take it to dan but just a question about the headset size i know its 1″ threaded but do you know the facings and such?

and what bars and stem are you running?

looks amazing by the way, so jelous of the max tubing, mines SLX

Comment by gink_04

Yep its 1inch threaded – mine is a record headset – PBK stock them at reasonable prices. Not too sure about the facings etc but Dan would be able to answer those questions.

The bars and stem are both 3ttt – I run a 110 stem and 42cm bars centre to centre – sourced from fyxomatosis.


Comment by kiwicyclist

everything about that max-tubed merckx is spectacular.

Comment by virag

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