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New Merlin vs. Old Merlin? New Ultegra vs. Old Dura-Ace?(11 posts)

New Merlin vs. Old Merlin? New Ultegra vs. Old Dura-Ace?Pebbles
Feb 26, 2002 5:00 PM
I just put a down-payment on a 1998 Merlin road frame, and all the salespeople kept saying in awed, hushed tones, "It's one of the last Massachusetts Merlins ever made!" My question is, Is there REALLY a difference between the ones made in Somerville, MA, and the ones made after Litespeed bought them out? They said the Massachusetts guys went down and trained all the Litespeed guys in their ways, but they also seemed to revere this last example of Massachusetts manufacture. The price I'm paying isn't exactly a bargain, and I'm giving up my Litespeed with Dura-Ace components to get this Merlin, with possibly lesser components (not assembled yet). Is this 1998 frame really better than the 2002 ones? Has anyone out there ever done a comparison test-ride?

Also, my husband tells me that new Ultegra is better than 1997 Dura-Ace, and I shouldn't be so hung up on the fact that I'm giving up Dura-Ace. Is he right? Thanks.
re: New Merlin vs. Old Merlin? New Ultegra vs. Old Dura-Ace?pmf1
Feb 27, 2002 5:50 AM
What LS model are you trading in? What Merlin model are you getting?

If the old DA is 8-speed, then yes, I'd say the new 9-speed Ultegra is better. The worst part of this group used to be the STI shifters. From what I see, Shimano has improved them. SInce DA went 9-speed, it has changed very little. I can't recall when that was though. All I've seen is a move to all STI shifters being Flite Deck comaptible (I hate the Flite Deck system). So, if you're trading in DA 9-speed, there will be little difference. Also, the carbon forks LS came with several years ago were really lousy. Tthe Merlin will probably come with a better fork.

The Merlin models have not changed at all over the last few years. The 1998 Ultralight is pretty much the same as the 2002 Ultralight. So, the question is, did those guys in MA do something magical with their welding torches that no one else can equal? Were they trained by Jeddi Knights on some distant planet? Of course not. People who tell you this kind of crap are the same folks who point to a weld as proof that one bike is better than another. Stupid as it is, there will always be some morons who will revere the MA made Merlins as being something mystical while the TN made ones are just corporate junk. If you buy this, I have some Florida swampland you might be interested in.

If you like your LS, you could always upgrade it for lots less than the new bike would cost. The money saved could be put toward a worthy cause (a new carbon bike). Having a new bike is always enjoyable though.
"corporate Merlins"TJeanloz
Feb 27, 2002 7:18 AM
People have this romantic notion that when Merlin was at Smith Place in Cambridge they were just a little shop producing top notch bikes. They weren't. They were a pawn of the Saucony Corporation's bike division. The bike division was always a pain for Saucony, and Saucony was always trying to cut costs at Merlin and QR. I would much prefer a Merlin built under the ownership of the American Bicycle Group than one built under Saucony.
"corporate Merlins"pmf1
Feb 27, 2002 7:41 AM
I get so tired of the prevailing attitude on this board that any ti bike made by some supposedly boutique manufacturer (e.g., Seven, Serrotta, Moots, etc) is so much superior to those mass market Litespeeds (and now Merlins since they're the same thing) that are only ridden by posers. Just compare the welds (which tells you nothing). Each is custom made (which 98% of us don't need).

Its interesting to find out that the former small time Merlin Co. was actually owned by a huge sportswear manufacturer who actively tried to cut costs.
"corporate Merlins"yesno
Feb 27, 2002 1:43 PM
merlin makes about 40 frames a day.. and on the other side of the factory LS makes 450..

you decide the diff..
double pass puddle welding vs. single pass..
stuff like that...
re: New Merlin vs. Old Merlin? New Ultegra vs. Old Dura-Ace?dmilkerson
Feb 27, 2002 6:12 AM
Ask Tom Kellog this question at I know some people may think he is biased because he is still associated with Merlin, and what else is he going to say. But he strikes me as quite an honest person and he will tell you that the new Merlins are every bit as good as the old Mass. Merlins. He has mentioned that the quality is even more consistent than it used to be. He seems like a perfectionist and if Merlin wasn't supplying him with top notch frames he could always go to Seven or IF. As a matter of fact he had all 3 (New Merlin, Seven, and IF) send him frame samples so he could decide who would be providing his frames. While Seven and IF were good, Merlin was still the best of the 3 and he has stuck with them.
New Merlins are a waste of time and money.the Phantom
Feb 27, 2002 12:43 PM
As a prior owner of a Merlin Extralight and the present owner of two Seven Axioms, my opinion of the present production Merlins: I have seen several later Cambridge and Tennesee production Merlins and was apalled with the poor construction quality, bogus alignments and a major list of small details that should have never left the factory. I recently saw a compact extralight that the small cassette gear actually scraped on the chain stay due to poor construction. I would call that poor design too. Note other details: Not one Cambridge based Merlin employee still works for the company. Would you move from Boston to Boneheadville for a job with a company that does not give a damn? Only a handful of replacement employees were offered jobs in the new location, all the others found a locked door and had problems getting paid for their last weeks of work. Merlin/Sacouny presently has several employee lawsuits for various issues including blatent discrimination and harrasment. Clearly, Merlin/Sacouny didn't give a damn about the employees and left them in the cold without notice. Presently, Merlin has the highest return rate of any manufacturer of Ti bikes, more than Litespeed who held the prior record. Many of the retailers who carry Seven and Merlin report that most of thier customers would never buy a second Merlin. Several top 10 bike shops in the country have dropped Merlin due the the inferior quality and numerous other problems. As for the preformance between Merlin and Seven, I never looked back after gladly dumping the Extralight. When sacouny came into the picture in 1998, it seemed that the entire Merlin organization went down hill along with the products. The loss of several key employees enmass,(to form Seven Cycles)seemed to be the death blow for a once excellent frame maker. Merlin as a make and label is now a poser bike maker relying on the past name and reputation. Note the shady mail order houses, cutting the prices to well below last years wholesale, are the actually selling the top quality frames or schlocking the repaired returns?? This pisses off the retailer stuck with old, dead stock Merlin frames.Bottom line, the Merlin frames made before 1997 are excellent and made well. After 1997 and the departure of seven employees to form Seven Cycles, Merlin/Sacouny went down in flames. The current production frames are questionable at best with retailers ready to dump them in a hurry.
Seven is a nice ride butLazywriter
Feb 27, 2002 2:06 PM
it doesn't ride any better than a Litespeed Tuscany or Classic. I rode a Seven a couple of times as I was interested in the Axiom. The craftmanship was nice, but ride quality was not any different. The fact that they are few and far between is there biggest appeal for most people. The idea of exclusivity gives some people the illusion of a better quality product.
Now, I rode the Litespeed Vortex and subsequetnly bought it and I can tell you that the ride is better than the Axiom. "Better" in a race bike sense in that it is stiffer, handles better and is cooler looking IMO. I really wanted to like the Seven as I already owned a LS Classic and wanted to try something new and I wasn't crazy about the integrated headset design (but I am gaining confidence in it now). But wasn't impressed by the ride of the Seven. It rode well, but no different than my Classic.
If you buy into the customization BS, then Seven seems like the way to go, but to be honest, there whole fitting program is a real pain in the ass and you better get it right the first time. Very nice bike, but not the mystical or legendary ride that people assume.
I am not trying to convince anyone that LS is better, but I am saying that Seven is not what people make them to be. My Vortex is a proven bike in racing, but the Seven is more a bike for an enthusiast and not a racer. The idea that LS is carp quality because they are popular is just idiocy.
Seven is a nice ride butif it fits its great
Feb 27, 2002 4:04 PM
the idea that one is a better racing bike than the other is inherently silly ...
seriously.. think about it...
Seven is a nice ride butLazywriter
Feb 27, 2002 5:28 PM
How is it silly? There are some bikes that are more of a relaxed geometry with different rides characteristics. That is the same reason why my Classic is not as suited as the Vortex for racing. The Seven falls into a more relaxed type of riding whereas the Vortex, Ultimate and the many aluminum rides are stiffer and better suited for racing.
Silly question in my opinion.
Seven is a nice ride buthere i go
Feb 27, 2002 9:10 PM
I know a lot of racers that swear buy a more relaxed geometry..
(no one would call a seven solopsistic..)
lemond for one...
point being being.. put me on my 10 year old fits like a glove steel 23lb medici and race me in a crit or up a hill or whatever...
and then put me on my axiom and race me .. and i will have won both races...(cocky but likely true)

so which bike is a better racer.. ? they both are great...

frame angles give different handling characteristics...
some prefer slack for stages and steep for tt's and in between for crits...
so what?

your vortex may be a more efficient bike.. in terms of wieght and power transfer .. but it doesnt go anywhere unless you pedal it...
my axiom or my mediici both go plenty fast...
they just ride and feel different.
i even got fourth in a big TT race on a stock road bike.. with the wrong gearing for the in effect that bike with the wrong gearing and no aero stuff was better for racing than all of the people
that finished behind me?

the best bike for racing is the one you are on...

all bikes are only as good as the person riding them...
(given that they are aligned and that they fit and that they are reasonable)..