IB13: Competitive Cyclist Conjures Up First Merlin XLM 29er Mountain Bike

2014-Merlin-XLM-29er-hardtail-mountain-bike

A couple years ago, Competitive Cyclist bought the Merlin brand, then sat on it. Then they were bought by Backcountry.com and moved from Arkansas to Utah. Since then, the brand relaunched under the new parentalship of Backcountry at NAHBS with the Extralite road bike.

It, like the all-new Merlin XLM 29er hardtail shown here, are made in the USA from US-sourced titanium. This is Merlin’s first 29er, and gets all the modern features like tapered headtube, PFBB30 and 12×142 rear axle.

Tubes are a mix of 3/2.5 double butted titanium available assembled in S, M, L or XL sizes. They use a Paragon dropout built for Shimano’s thru axle. Frame weight is 2,000g for a large. $2,560 for the frame only.

2014-Merlin-XLM-29er-hardtail-mountain-bike

It’ll be available direct only and can be built up using their new online configurator that’ll let you pick and choose a massive variety of component options and see price and weight updated in real time. Play with it and kiss the next 30 minutes of your life goodbye. Start here.

2014-Merlin-XLM-29er-hardtail-mountain-bike

The complete bike will come mostly assembled and pretuned.

2014-Merlin-XLM-29er-hardtail-mountain-bike

Comments

Steve M - 10/01/13 - 4:05pm

That head tube joint aint going to last long.

Jacob - 10/01/13 - 4:05pm

I don’t find titanium bikes as desirable as I once did. Are they still relevant at that price point and frame weight?

Matt Holland - 10/01/13 - 4:13pm

Hmmm that HT joint doesn’t make sense. Imagine grabbing a pipe with two hands, it’ll be nice a stiff. Grab it with one hand and grab your wrist it’ll move all over the shop!

pornitswhatlwouldratherbmaking - 10/01/13 - 4:14pm

That headtube is weird and are all Rock Shoxs going to be getting the black treatment?
Ti is good!

LouisLou - 10/01/13 - 4:20pm

The “Merlin” on the downtube looks like the same font on that recent Tomac Ti road model. There must have been big discounts at Taiwanese Titanium Fabricators Ltd.

Duder - 10/01/13 - 4:29pm

The fine gentlemen at Form Cycles are producing this frame on contract for Backcountry and as such I have a lot of confidence in the build quality. On the other hand: The venerable Steve Garro of Coconino Cycles had also elicited the same concern about the TT/DT/HT junction so I think you’re on to something.

steve - 10/01/13 - 5:03pm

They welded the TT/DT/HT like that so the DT would clear the fork crown. Not saying it’s right but that is the reason.

nathan - 10/01/13 - 5:08pm

Consumer direct? How are they going to enforce the age restriction? No one under 55 can ride ti…

gravity - 10/01/13 - 5:28pm

The headtube is actually not a bad idea, in my opinion. In my experience selling Lynskeys, the bend in the DT/HT juncture was what would most often crank in a crash. Although I think that stiffness is oversold, especially on offroad bikes, Merlin’s design is inherently less prone to flex, and therefore failure. Time will tell; I’m not a materials scientist, but I think it’s a novel solution to a 29er-specific problem.

Also, if the new Merlins ride like and old Extralight or XLM, then these will be some of the best bikes on the planet. Everyone pretends that they’re going to keep their Ti bike forever, and just upgrade it as needed, but they’re just kidding themselves, and 3/4 of those users are riding some carbon monstrosity in a few years. In my experience in a bike shop, the only people who consistently adhere to this are Extralight owners, who are loathe to give up their dream bikes. I always thought that was a strong testament to their quality.

Eric@505 - 10/01/13 - 5:45pm

Knowing that FORM Cycles are the builders makes this frame a LOT more interesting. (Now where did I stash that extra $2650…) I’d be very interested in riding one.
: )

burt - 10/01/13 - 5:59pm

LOL @Nathan! That is so true. I don’t think I’ve ever known anyone under 60 who has owned a Merlin. I’m not sure if it’s because they are the only people who can afford them or if it’s just a geezer bike.

ChadQuest - 10/01/13 - 7:05pm

I am only 27 and ride TWO titanium bikes! I even sold a carbon bike to get one.

mike - 10/01/13 - 7:40pm

there is a lot to like about this bike, Brake mount, rear axle, and BB. The head tube/Downtube/top tube however leave a lot to be desired. It just doesn’t seem stiff or strong enough in my opinion. I have seen Steel Frames with similar design fail miserably. I am aware I am comparing steel to Ti. Best of luck to them. http://www.flickr.com/photos/bikecentric/2182036752/in/photostream/

slippyfish - 10/01/13 - 8:00pm

So sad…Merlin getting passed off from owner to owner, and meanwhile the world has passed it by. They simply don’t have the cache they once had, and that much dough can get you a custom titanium frame by a great builder, who probably once worked for the ‘real’ Merlin back in Boston many years ago.

Tony - 10/01/13 - 8:03pm

Titanium Talibans will love that HT, they love straight Tubes, even if it doesn’t make sense.

Tom - 10/01/13 - 8:55pm

Merlin is not what it used to be, obviously just a empty shell of a name, especially when its a 29er that Merlin never would have designed to begin with, unlike the other Merlin road bike that was at least an updated version of existing geometry. From what I gather, Form does fantastic work, and if I was in the market for a bike like this, I think I’d rather just go direct and get a bike that wears the Form name rather than a Form pretending to be a Merlin.

What is this thing about only old people riding Ti? I know plenty of people young, old, in-between who love Ti, including myself (young).

carl - 10/01/13 - 10:01pm

Are those COMMON HEAD SCREWS holding on the rear caliper? Best road bikes I ever had were a TIME and my unbranded, Asian made Ti road bike. And yeah, I’m 64.

Andy - 10/01/13 - 10:21pm

Or for $2,795.00 you could get a Seven Sola S custom ti 29er frame, which would actually have some Merlin heritage in it. Not just a sticker.

Also that headtube looks terrible.

Ben C-K - 10/01/13 - 11:15pm

@carl: Those are barrel nuts. They’re a cylinder with a tapped hole, into which the caliper fixing bolt threads. To help orient them correctly when they’re being installed, they have a slot for a screwdriver on the end.

chad - 10/01/13 - 11:44pm

I’d prefer ti if it weren’t for the price. I love my ti road bike, but got burned on a custom ti mtb, so I’m gun shy about getting another. Here’s hoping Soulcraft starts making ti frames next year.

Jak0zilla - 10/02/13 - 8:05am

It’s nice to see that with the PFBB30 the “Merlin” will creak just like all the other “modern” bikes. PROGRESS!!!

nsp234 - 10/02/13 - 9:28am

I don’t care whether that HT junction is going to last or not – its just plain ugly. A Frame that costs as much and has trouble doing things better functionally should better look great…

AD - 10/02/13 - 9:57am

There aren’t many places you can get a Handmade in the USA Ti frame with a 90 day return policy. Pretty impressive Backcountry! When’s the Newsboy returning?

travis - 10/02/13 - 9:57am

Hey Merlin / Competitive, Remember the Merlin Newsboy? You wanna create some real buzz, and maybe even sell a few bikes? Find someone that can bend the tubes like that. (and while you’re at it… maybe have ‘em bend the downtube on the above to sit lower on the HT… because…. eww.) 2 birds, 1 stone.

Sign me up for a new Newsboy. Make it right, and make it expensive.

Mark - 10/02/13 - 10:26am

this is why bike shops should not design bikes.

Derp! - 10/02/13 - 10:48am

I still feel ti is the best material for all bikes, but why would you ruin this frame w/ PF30BB, more maintenance, and more creaking just what i wanted out of a frame shelled $2560 for. Also, stock ti is kinda risky it can be either to stiff or soft if your weight doesn’t fall into the “norm” for that size. At a custom ti price, most people would be better served getting a real custom ti frame.

On top of all that, the headtube junction looks like total dog $hit, look at the masters/ most experienced ti builders Moot’s and Seven both of them bend the downtube to fix this issue, and keep a solid weld/ joint.

BikeCrazy - 10/02/13 - 12:13pm

Just feel like chiming in to see if anyone posting the negative comments around the tube junctions considered that the design parameters (I.e. fork crown clearance, stack height, fork length, etc….) most likely caused this overlap. I have experience designing frames and it looks like Merlin tried to update certain parts of the bike while sticking with the straight main tube look that Merlin had in its hey day. The 142 X 12 rear, 44mm headtube and PF30 BB are all newer features that were not around during the days of Merlin before.
If you are a purist in bicycle frames, this probably doesn’t bother you. If you like all of the swoopy tubes that are going on bikes today – you probably hate it.
Personally, the bike looks great and knowing that FORM (previous Titus guys) built the frame, I have confidence in the frame.

K11 - 10/02/13 - 12:18pm

stop the PF BBs already. they are not worth saving a few grams in crankset setups.

it is one less manufacturing step, so these companies can save time and money, and so many riders are, sorry to say it, are clueless and want PF BBs.

Ad - 10/02/13 - 5:38pm

That headtube design has been used on flatland BMX for a while. Quamen had a HT design like that but that was FLATLAND, for ground tricks which doesn’t fill me with confidence.

Also, people complaining about the price of ti… GT have given the Xizang a superb look this year. As a ti option I’m certainly thinking about pulling the trigger and getting one myself, similar kit build to the Merlin above. At €1300 the price for the frame is right too.

slippyfish - 10/02/13 - 7:18pm

+1 Andy

bin judgin - 10/03/13 - 6:44pm

all the best parts… non-custom 29er dork geo, THE WORST headtube, pf30, and not supporting real people! SICK BRO!

cb - 10/04/13 - 9:43am

Agree on titanium being less desirable – after riding one a couple of times.

tiJohnny - 10/04/13 - 5:19pm

Why cant manufacturers see that people DONT LIKE PF BBS. I will vote with my wallet and hope I NEVER have to buy a bike with any type of PF system.

Post a comment:

Comment sections can be a beautiful source of knowledge, conversation and comedy. They can also get pretty ugly, which is why we've updated our Comments Policy. If your comment isn't showing up or suddenly disappears, you might want to check it out.