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What's the REAL story on Merlin quality?(26 posts)

What's the REAL story on Merlin quality?MeDotOrg
May 22, 2001 3:54 PM
I've always thought that Merlin made beautiful bicycles. Since the departure of Vandermark, the purchase by Litespeed, and the moving of their manufacturing from MA to TN, you keep hearing that "Merlins are not the same".

In music, there are "pre-CBS" Fender Statrocasters. In motorcycles, there are "pre-AMF" Harley-Davidsons". Will we speak of "Pre-Litespeed" or "Pre-Tennessee" Merlins?

What I want to know is this: Has anyone spent a considerable amount of time with Merlins made before and after the move to Tennessee? Do you have an opinion as to the quality?

In other words, is Merlin's supposed drop in stature a function of an observed drop in quality, or is it because some of their mystique has worn off?
re: What's the REAL story on Merlin quality?bevcor
May 22, 2001 4:12 PM
Well I'm not a LightSpeed fan but I do own a "Pre-LightSpeed" Merlin Extralight and I love it. Would I buy a Merlin now?? Probally not!
Tom Kellogg sezbike_junkie
May 22, 2001 5:20 PM
They moved over much of the equipment, and replaced much of it with new stuff since the old machinery was getting pretty worn out. He told me the quality is still there and that Litespeed has part of the factory for Merlins only as they are not litespeeds. He of course chose Merlin to build his Spectrums as well. Up close, they look as nice as ever to me (but I chose a Serotta instead).
People are idiotsJeff B
May 22, 2001 11:13 PM
Why do people talk about litespeed's like they are garbage now. They are one of the best frames in the world. Many people bash them because they have proliferated and many people can afford them now. Not too long ago they were unattainable and everyone coveted them like they do now with SEVEN and Colnago c40. Do you think Merlin quality is going to suffer now? Idiots!! You sound like a bunch of FU#$ing teenagers whose favorite band is now getting air play on the big stations and the sense of exclusivity is gone. Same song but more people are enjoying it= same with litespeed. Hey Lance Armstrong rode Litespeed until 2000 Tour De France. His Time Trial Bike in 1999 when he first one was a Litespeed with Trek decals in 2000 they paid him a lot to ride Trek exclusively and made him a cabon fiber bike but his preference was Litespeed for years. He apparently rode a Litespeed Classic in the World Championships and Tour Du pont victories in the early to mid 90s. The quality hasn't diminished since then, they have only advanced their technology. There are many good bikes out there but the ones that seem exclusive are the ones that people yearn for. Litespeed makes one of the best Ti frames period and many of the other manufacturers have learned from them. Stop the bulls$%^ already than somehow these frames are inferior. You're mislead and just plain stupid if you believe that!!
People are idiotslitespeed quality
May 23, 2001 8:46 AM
I am/was in the frame business for many years, so I speak from some experience. Litespeeds are the mass merchants of the American ti makers. While not 'bad' bikes they are inconsistant at best and have terrible finishes.
LitespeedLen J
May 23, 2001 8:49 AM
Sounds like Litspeed is another of those emotional, lightning rod topics that many people can't resist.
Terrible finishes?pmf
May 23, 2001 9:29 AM
How does a ti bike have a terrible finish? They're about as bland, boring and uniform as you can get. I've got a brushed Ultimate and my wife has a Tuscany. They look just like every other high or low end ti bike to me. Its pretty hard to tell the difference in brushed frames.

And they do stand behind they're bikes with a lifetime warranty. So I guess if they're inconsistent (whatever that means), you can always send it back.

Yeah, maybe its the Trek of titanium, but at least I know they'll be around if I have problems. Willing to make that same bet with Seven?

And I like the way you back up all your years of experience with the anonymous handle "litespeed quality".
Terrible finishes?litespeed
May 23, 2001 10:20 AM
Trust me, it's been over 20 years the the biz. I've been to, sold to, bought from, built, cut, mitred, everything but welded ti bikes. All the insiders know the gig. And most of the insiders will tell you the same. Like I said, they aren't 'bad'...they just aren't 'good'. By inconsistant, I mean just that...they can be awful at worse. I tool around Interbike (before the masses arrive) with friends in the morning. There is something special about nicely made, small company products that Litespeed can't match. period. There is a huge difference in brushed finishes as well. Litespeed welds are inconsistant, they (and I've seen many times) don't remove burrs, they leave oils in the headtubes/bottom brackets, they don't 'finish' the headtubes/bb areas in all cases, they pop-rivet bottle bosses, they glue in aluminum seat post sleeves, they glue in headset cup sleeves. Etc., etc. Does this effect ride? probably not. Does this effect quality? absolutely. Does this effect my decision to ever buy a Litespeed and now Merlin? absolutely. Seven has been around now for 6 or 7 years?? They aren't going anywhere....I don't own a Seven, but it would be a no brainer which one I would choose.
no brainer?joma
May 23, 2001 11:09 AM
"no brainer which one I would choose" sounds your emotions got the better part of you. If you have a budget to work on, yeah no brainer is the right word only on the side of litespeed. 90% of the time, your budget decides what kind of bicycle you will buy. That said, I too would love to have a Seven, it's a *no brainer*, if money is no object.
I have a litespeed and there are no...blimpy
May 23, 2001 11:56 AM
glued in sleeves!!?? What are you talking about. I dont buy bikes for their finish, but for there ride. I get jewelry for my wife with good finishes. What now that Seven has been around for 7 years they are here for good?
You are an idiotmr_spin
May 23, 2001 2:01 PM
Oh Please. You don't know what the hell you are talking about. You're not supposed to drink the bong water by the way. Oh, and wasn't Seven started by ex-Merlin people? Hmmm.
Terrible finishes?Larry Meade
May 23, 2001 3:38 PM
Anyone interested in reading a review on a Litespeed check out The latest ProCycling Mag. Robert Millar reviews the Vortex. He seems to like it. I have never read a negative review of the higher line Litespeed bikes(Classic, Vortex, Ultimate, Palmares). Please direct me to a negative review if possible. I have two Ultimates and am apparently too stupid to realize I am riding mediocre bikes. They are truly the best Ti frames I have ridden and that is after 3 Merlins, two of which were XLs designed and built by the crew that is now Seven Cycles. One of them was a custom XL. I sold it after buying a 1999 Ultimate. Apparently a friend of mine is also an idiot as he says his Palmares rides much better than his custom Serotta CSI. You may have been around bicycles since the Wright brothers but just your saying something doesn't make it true. Others who have actually ridden the bikes for a period of time will probably not agree with you.

Terrible finishes?Litespeed Quality
May 23, 2001 9:52 PM
Hey, you guys can buy anything you want. Money is not an object for me when it comes to cycling. Never has, never will's my passion and It's one thing I don't skimp on. And, if some of you think I'm b-s-ing about my knowledge of the subject and I'm talking out my wazoo, cool. But, I'm not - and I know a thing or two about the ti process - from a to z basically. Like I said, I've been around the stuff for a looooong time and have been in and out of many of the factories, been to Sandvick and Ancotech, etc., etc. Been to Tom Kellogg's 'barn' (and it's really a barn), and have worked in the bike biz for many years (and know all the aluminum and steel processes as well, but that's another story). My thing is ti and I know good ti bikes. I never said that a Litespeed was 'bad' (ok, I've seen some really awful ones), I just know there is better. And I choose the better bikes and have 8 or 9 to ride and enjoy. Where I live and ride I see many a fine bike, including many Litespeeds. I just don't think they're all they are cracked up to be. I could tell many a story, but my identity would be given away (and that wouldn't be any fun would it?)

If you like your L-speed, cool - ride hard. Next time you're in the market, however, consider some of the other alternatives.
I agree, the more prolific a bike, is the more it is percievedreal rider
May 23, 2001 10:17 AM
a bad bike. Litespeed is a good example. Cannondale is another. I have tried two new frame materials out and both times have went back to my Cannondale. Its light, stiff, handles perfect, excellent weight distribution, rides pretty good (can barely tell a difference between other materials, probably just in my head). Manufacturers use high price as a "market image" tool. Learned all about this in my marketing classes. Its definitely a factor in the bike industry. Its kinda funny.
You are so right...exceptmr_spin
May 23, 2001 1:55 PM
I totally agree with you. I have a Litespeed and they are superb bikes. I have never understand the zero sum mentality of so many people. More marketing/sales = lower quality? According to that logic, the bike that sells the least must by definition have the highest quality. Idiots.

I must correct you on one point. Lance wasn't riding a Litespeed in when he won the World Championship, and probably not in the Tour du Pont either (he might have ridden one in the time trials, although he had Lotus one year). He was riding an Eddy Merckx frame back then, sometimes with Caloi decals. Lance did have a Litespeed Blade in the late 90s, which he rode in the 1999 Tour time trials (he won them all).

Of course Lance now rides Treks. I've heard that Treks are pretty poor quality. It must be true--look at their sales!
You are so right...exceptLarry Meade
May 23, 2001 3:28 PM
The "Eddy Merckx" that Lance rode in the 93 World championship was in fact a painted Litespeed. It was pretty common knowledge at the time.
You are so right...exceptmr_spin
May 23, 2001 4:46 PM
My understanding is that Litespeed supplied the tubeset, but Eddy's company put them together into a frame. Sort of like Reynolds and Columbus do today. That's not exactly a Litespeed.
You are so right...exceptLarry Meade
May 23, 2001 5:23 PM
Eddy has always had Litespeed build his ti bikes. He provides the specs for each frame size, such as the proprietary head angle, they build it.
stupid post...dave
May 23, 2001 5:54 AM
Quality is a fact, not an opinion. The true definition of quality with regard to any manufactured product is "conformance to specifications". How would you expect consumers to be able to perceive quality? Not many consumers are welding experts, to accurately pass judgement. Consumers seldom have the measuring instruments that would be required to determine "quality". Have you every measured the roundness of a head tube? Do you have the tools to measure alignment? Would you demand proof that the tube butting conforms to specifications?

If by "quality" you mean that the welds and finish look uniform, that's a typical consumer perception, but only one small part of quality. If it looks OK by causal visual inspection, it must be a great product. Right?
John lost his job when they left MA :(128
May 23, 2001 6:33 AM
My buddy built these frames in Allston,I believe it was, and he is a dam good metalurgist/welder or whatever they're called, he did not go to TN, so as a matter of provincial pride and commaradery, I declare the TN bikes highly suspect b/c John would be hard to replace!!
And he was NOT a biker! The funniest thing seeing him on his bike (which he litteraly BUILT)stopping slick gaggles of oogling neoprene Adonins' while deck out in his metal-guy flannels and jeans...what a howl...
How do Moots work into the mix?Michelle
May 23, 2001 10:08 AM
So there seems to be a real camp between Lightspeeds, Merlins, Sevens and Moots. How do Moots rate against the rest?
How do Moots work into the mix?gatorman
May 24, 2001 6:38 AM
Best frames on the planet.
I've Ridden BothPsyDoc
May 23, 2001 11:53 AM
I own a 1992 Merlin Extralight (56cm). This past weekend I was in Jacksonville, FL for a vacation and where we were staying was in close proximity to two respectable bike shops. One of them had a 57cm 2001 Extralight that was built up, so I took the bike out for about a 3 mile spin. I can honestly say that I could tell a positive difference in ride quality, but I am sure that was due to the Reynolds Ouzo Pro fork.

I also inspected the welds on the bike quite carefully. The welds were a piece of art. The quality of the welds on this 2001 Extralight were much better than the welds on my 1992 Merlin. The other shop had a Litespeed Vortex, but it was not built up. In my opinion, the welds on that particular Litespeed were not as uniform. I know...I know...Merlin uses a double-pass welding technique compared to Litespeeds' single-pass technique. Additionally, on that particular Vortex, you could see the seam where the 6/4 titanium sheets had been welded together, but you would be hard pressed to "feel" the seam.

I am in the process of purchasing a 2001 Merlin Extralight. Personally, I like the quality and ride of the Merlins compared to Litespeeds, Serottas, and Sevens. I might have purchased the 57cm that I test rode, but the 57cm frame, with a standover height of 81.4, felt just a bit too tall for my inseam (84.5cm). Also, my position on the 57cm would not have allowed much downward adjustability of the handlebars due to the length of the headtube (16cm). I think I would only have been able to get about a 1.5" drop and I am used to a 2.5 - 3" drop. The top tube was .5cm longer, but I could not feel it; perhaps this was due to handlebars being higher than I typically like.

I do not know if Merlin has had a perceived drop in stature or not. But, I do know that the Summer 2001 issue of Forbes FYI magazine features Merlin as the company for the "best bicycles." The article and highlights the Merlin Extralight, and describes Merlin Metalworks as being "truly the wizard of the biking industry."

I do not know if Merlin is the "BEST" bike out there; personally, I really do not care. The important thing is that I like the style, finish, and ride quality of the bike. If I bought a bike that was proven to be the "BEST", but I did not like it, then I would not spend much time on it. Just my .02
Thanks, Psydoc!MeDotOrg
May 23, 2001 2:06 PM
...for answering the original question: namely, has Merlin quality deteriorated since the move to Tennessee? Sounds like they are still doing great work. Hope you enjoy your new Extralight...(sigh!)

Oh well, what am I going to do with that 401k money anyway? Eat cat food when I'm 90?
No problem...PsyDoc
May 24, 2001 6:36 AM
...I was just glad to find a built up Extralight that I could test ride and compare with my "old" Extralight. Are you planning on getting one?
Not sure....MeDotOrg
May 24, 2001 2:49 PM
...the company I work for was just sold to a large competitor, so my employment future is a little uncertain right now. I'd love to get a Merlin (or a Seven, for that matter), but prudence says I should wait a little while...

I'll troll ebay and craigslist, looking for a little old lady who's selling her dearly departed husband's Merlin for half of what he told her it cost....