Who does he think he is, Eddy Merckx? That’s the kind of comment you’re likely to attract if you’re riding this bike, because the orange livery – even though the frame decals don’t say so – is unmistakably Molteni, the team that the great Belgian captained during his all-conquering heyday.
Italian Ugo De Rosa built bikes for Big Ted for most of his career, and when Merckx retired and went into frame-building, it was De Rosa who showed him around the jig and brazing torch.
So De Rosa still likes to commemorate the partnership even though it’s over 30 years since Merckx retired, and who can blame him?
Bike technology has come a long way in 30 years – the latest carbon frames are half the weight of those ridden by the pros in the 1970s – but recently there’s been a revival of interest in steel, with a new generation of cyclists looking back to the era of Eddy Merckx for style and inspiration. For those people, the De Rosa Neo Primato is a perfect fit.
Made from Dedacciai Zero Uno tubing and weighing 1.7kg, it has both the sought-after feel of steel and the look of the golden era of cycling. At the London Cycle Show at the end of last year, the Molteni De Rosa Neo Primato had a permanent crowd of admirers around it. In these days of weird-shaped bulging carbon tubes, an elegant, slim frame with classic clean lines suddenly looks beautiful again. For added authenticity, the Neo Primato comes with a steel fork – a rarity on a modern drop-bar bike.
As long as you’re not aiming to break the Alpe d’Huez record, the De Rosa Neo Primato will be fine for all of most people’s cycling needs. It’s not the lightest and it’s not the stiffest but if that’s what you’re after you won’t be remotely interested in this bike. What it is, however, is one of the most stylish bikes around at the moment, one that will make you stand out from the crowd, and who knows, it might even make you feel like Eddy Merckx, and isn’t that what we’re all aiming at?!
Unfortunately, we had one nitpick with our test frame – the seatpost slipped and we were a little disappointed about that because it’s a De Rosa-branded 27.2mm seatpost, so in theory everything should be exactly right. Eddy Merckx was famously fanatical about his saddle height, and he wouldn’t have been impressed, but a different clamp bolt was the simple and straight- forward solution and something a good shop would surely catch before you even bought the bike.