Merida have delivered a TT bike specifically for triathletes. Alex Malone assesses whether what they’ve produced is up to the job
Isn’t it nice when something is made just the way you want it to be – when nothing is compromised in an effort to please others? In this particular instance, the extra attention paid to the demands of our sport mean that this time it’s others who miss out on the goodies.
Ladies and gents, allow me to introduce the Merida Warp Tri. That’s right – the “Tri” means it won’t ever make its way to the road race circuit. It can’t, because it sits outside the suffocating UCI [Union Cycliste Internationale] protocols for frame design, the Warp Tri instead providing a refreshing twist on the manufacturer’s existing TT model. The Warp’s foundation may have stemmed from success in the WorldTour with Lampre-Merida, but the Tri has been adapted to better suit the needs of triathletes. There’s much to be learnt from a squad of 30-odd road professionals racing 90 days a year each, and the Tri is the result of that journey.
Merida, one of the industry’s largest bicycle manufacturers, introduced the Warp TT back in 2013. Back then it was designed to meet the requirements of their latest ProTeam partnership. The company that produces over two million bikes a year took over partial naming rights at Lampre and was subsequently charged with providing the Italian outfit with equipment that met the demanding rigours of professional road athletes and cycling’s governing body alike. The Warp TT was intended to provide the fastest means of travel for the individual test against the clock, but it also had to meet UCI regulations. As we approach the end of the 2014 season and look at 2015 model year bikes, it’s fair to say the TT has proven itself. To assume that is enough to satisfy the sport of triathlon, however, is another matter.
For starters, a long distance road TT is around 50km. At this year’s Tour de France a number of the overall contenders were unsure as to how they would stack up over the penultimate stage: a 54km ITT. The term ‘long distance’ means something completely different in triathlon, obviously. Iron-distance racing and even a 70.3 circuit have a significantly longer bike component than contemporary road pros would ever consider.
It would seem obvious you wouldn’t hand overthe same bike used for 50km to someone about to embark on a 180km, 4-6hr solo effort. A highly aggressive machine built for sub-1hr efforts all of a sudden doesn’t seem too enticing. So Merida delivered the Tri.
“The main thing was the TT was designed for the Lampre-Merida. The main goal was to have one of the fastest time trial bikes in the world, and we did a really good job. The team has gotten some great results,” Daniel Schwenk, senior R&D manager at Merida told 220 Triathlon. “A lot of brands have just a single bike for triathletes and road riders, but that’s not the way we like to do things. The idea was to have a special model that would fit triathletes perfectly.”
The geometry has been adjusted to be suit the longer distances of triathlon, along with the assumption that you’ll need to be in good physical shape from the hips to your back and glutes to be able to run straight into the final leg without cause for concern. For this reason the Tri has an effective seat tube angle up to 80 degrees compared to the TT’s 75-degree maximum.
“The Warp TT is really aggressive and is not the best for long-distance triathlon,” says Schwenk. “To combat this the Tri has a taller head tube and a steeper seat tube angle, which gives the rider a bit more of a comfortable position. The seat post clamp can also be rotated to adjust the saddle position even further. It’s very easy to do; it’s just a couple of bolts to change things around.”
We felt the height adjustment at the front was adequate for varying positions along with the adaptable FSA aero bars, but if holding on the bike for a little longer, this particular tester would have opted for a shorter stem to assist with getting more weight over the front end.
The large aero fairing spanning from the down tube to above the top tube is just one other element that sets it apart from the road-approved Warp – but there’s more to it than just aesthetic appeal, says Schwenk. The larger front section not only makes the bike quicker, but also improves serviceability of running full-length through the frame. Of course, the ease of Shimano’s Di2, fitted to the 7000-E test model negates many of these issues.
“The head tube area has plenty of volume and this gives it a really good aerodynamic profile. This could only be achieved because we didn’t have to concern ourselves with the UCI’s regulations. This was an important element because it meant we could go ahead and design a really aerodynamic bike – one that would even surpass the Warp TT. We also added some nice spacers, especially for more upright positions, to keep things looking sleek. They fit perfectly to the head tube.”
Schwenk admits that while the Tri frame may be more aerodynamic than the TT when tested on its own, the more upright position delivered from a relatively more relaxed geometry means any gains would be dependant on each rider’s set -up. He added that improving stiffness was never on the agenda and it’s an area we certainly don’t believe needs changing. In fact, we were surprised at how supple the rear end felt even with taller Profile Twenty Four Series 58/78mm carbon clinchers inflated to 110psi.
“It may be more aero than the Warp TT, but this is just for the frame only. It doesn’t take into consideration the rider’s position. There was no target to improve the stiffness because the TT is already very stiff. It was all about improving the aerodynamics,” Schwenk added.
Unlike some of the company’s direct competitors, Merida opted not to design provision for complete storage solutions. Schwenk suggests their research showed consumers would rather select their own add-ons. Personally, we don’t mind inclusive extras so long as they work effectively. We’re guessing Merida would rather invest in the areas they are good at, and with the latest Warp Tri it seems like they’ve been able to go that one step better. This time around, it’s just for us – and we like that.