Merlin (bicycles)

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Merlin titanium MTB frame
Extralight crank area with engraved bottom bracket shell.
Weld beads.

Merlin Metalworks, Inc. was a pioneer in titanium bicycle design and construction. Merlin introduced the first titanium alloy mountain bike, oversized tubesets, s-bend chain and seat stays for mountain bikes. For road bikes, Merlin commercialized the first titanium butted tubing and many other innovations.[1]

History[edit]

The company was founded in 1986 by Gwyn Jones, Gary Helfrich, and Mike Augspurger in Cambridge, Massachusetts[2] They were the first to manufacture bicycle frames constructed solely from titanium. Merlin became known for their meticulous and visually pleasing puddle welds; this contributed to their reputation as the Lamborghini of bicycle frames.[3]

The first Merlin frame was a mountain bike frame custom-built for the defending National Mountain Bike Champion, Joe Murray.[2] In the following year, the company began a strong relationship with frame designer Tom Kellogg, who helped them produce the world's first 3-2.5 titanium road bicycle frame.[2] In 1988, Mike Augspurger left Merlin to found One-Off Titanium in Florence, Massachusetts, a company specializing in experimental and custom-designed products for bicycles.[4]

In 1990, the Subaru-Montgomery team, consisting of Lance Armstrong, Steve Hegg, and Ken Carpenter, began its successful three-year relationship with Merlin.[2]

In 1991, a year after winning his third Tour de France, Greg LeMond’s Z Team came back to the race on prototypes of the Merlin Extralight. The first titanium bike to fully achieve the metal’s promise, it was as strong as steel but lighter, and possessed a unique and pleasing road feel—slightly more forgiving, with a little extra spring and, somewhat counterintuitively, also more stiffness.[5]

After the company became acquainted with Bob Hall, the first person to enter the Boston Marathon in a wheelchair, they began making titanium-racing chairs for him.[4]

In 1994, Merlin introduced the first titanium cruiser called the Newsboy, which received positive reviews. The bike was re-introduced in 2002 with front-suspension and disc-brakes.[2]

In 1995, Rob Kish won his third Race Across America on a Merlin Extralight.[2]

Acquisition[edit]

Saucony, led by Hyde Athletic Industries, acquired Merlin in 1998.[6] Many employees, led by one of Merlin's first employees, Rob Vandermark, left Merlin to form Seven Cycles. Gwyn Jones was the only original founding member that remained with the company. As a result of Saucony's ownership, sales of Merlin frame declined, as stocks were left piling high.[3]

Merlin Metalworks was purchased by the American Bicycle Group in 2000 who relocated the company to Chattanooga, TN.[2] Until 2011 American Bicycle Group owned three bicycle manufacturers: Merlin, Litespeed, Quintana Roo and the bicycle component maker Real Designs.

On March 16, 2011, American Bicycle Group announced that bicycle retailer Competitive Cyclist of Little Rock, AR had acquired the rights to the Merlin Metalworks brand.[7]

At the spring 2013 National American Handmade Bike (NAHB) show, Competitive Cyclist announced the return of Extralight Merlin road bike production with new geometry and additional models projected for later in the year.[8] The Merlin frame is made of American sourced titanium by Form Cycles of Arizona.[9]

References[edit]

Official Site[edit]