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Merlin Cielo - Beautiful, but...(25 posts)

Merlin Cielo - Beautiful, but...Caseysdad
Nov 1, 2002 12:22 PM
During a recent visit to my LBS I was lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the new Merlin Cielo. The artistry that this frame exudes is almost breathtaking, but somehow I just can't get over its seemingly odd marriage of titanium and carbon. My questions to the guys at the shop generally elicit a response along the lines of, "Yeah, we don't get it either - but it sure is beautiful!"

So, am I way off base in thinking that, while aesthetically very pleasing, this bike may actually have ride characteristics that fall short of either a pure ti or pure carbon frame? (Or at least that the properties for which people generally purchase frames of one material or the other may work against each other when combined like this?) I'd like to think that the guys at Merlin wouldn't produce such a high end bike if all it had going for it was good looks, but I have yet to hear anyone offer a convincing explanation of what this bike has to offer in terms of ride qualities that would warrant serious consideration as anything but a high-ticket novelty purchase. Sure it looks nice, but for five or six grand I'd hope that it could also stand side-by-side with other Merlins and deliver a ride to match its looks. Granted, it may very well do so - and if that's the case, could someone please explain it to me?
I'd be more likely to lend it to a museum than ride it, but...fbg111
Nov 1, 2002 12:39 PM
... the design philosophy looks quite distinct: Ti joints, carbon tubes, except for the Ti chainstays. I'm guessing the designers want Ti characteristics at the joints and carbon characteristics on the tubes. Maybe Carbon's light weight combined with Ti's [fill in this blank]? Maybe an engineer can come along and make some better educated guesses than I can.
merlin : can you back up the marketing?Sean2
Nov 1, 2002 12:43 PM
this is why we need standardized and applicable scientific tests for ride quality, vibration dampening, etc. - does anyone have links for any resources on the web that would help on this topic? All I see are alot of subjective comments.
merlin : can you back up the marketing?Caseysdad
Nov 1, 2002 12:54 PM
Actually, one of the things that has always drawn me to Merlin bikes is their ability to substantiate the quality and relative superiority of their materials, processes, etc. - and ultimately their bikes. If you do some digging on their site and elsewhere on the web, you can track down some highly technical engineering information that, to my untrained eyes, seems to offer a fairly convincing argument for their bikes. That's a large part of why I'm still holding out hope that there's a logical, technical rationale behind the Cielo - i.e., because Merlin doesn't strike me as the kind of company that's going to produce eye candy that doesn't also deliver from a technical standpoint.

Now, whether all of the technical information in the world can actually translate into something meaningful in terms of ride quality is an entirely different matter. I think that while "ride characteristics" can be quantified till the cows come home, "ride quality" falls solidly into the "beauty is in the eye of the beholder" category. Hence all of the subjective comments.
merlin's not above gimmickssteve-z
Nov 1, 2002 1:05 PM
how about a ti cruiser?
merlin's not above gimmicksCaseysdad
Nov 1, 2002 1:07 PM
Ouch! Point taken...
merlin : can you back up the marketing?Eric_H
Nov 1, 2002 1:14 PM
It really is eye of the beholder. Merlin's techno-babble would have us believing the Extralite, with its double-butted tubes is a "stiff" riding titanium frame. Well, I can say otherwise from my experience.

I have always wanted a Merlin XL. The stars aligned last spring and I picked up a 2002, size 58, for a good price. While I do love the ride, I have to say it is definitely on the soft side at the BB. I am 6' and 168 lbs, race category 1, and I can flex the BB quite a bit. Much more than most bikes I have owned (for instance Columbus Foco steel or Easton Scandium, my two most recent frames before the Merlin). For next year, I plan to race on an aluminum frame and keep the Merlin as my "grow old with me bike". Don't get me wrong, I love the bike and its ride, but as a pure race bike it leaves me wanting.

So what does this mean? Basically, I do respect Merlin for putting some decent technical information about Ti frame fabrication out there, but really it is marketing. They are using the techno-jargon to sell to a potential buyer. Plain and simple. And yes the Cielo is beautiful. I wish it was my "grow old with me bike".
merlin : can you back up the marketing?Caseysdad
Nov 1, 2002 1:49 PM
Thanks for the good feedback and the hands-on perspective.

Not to sound critical, but I'm somewhat surprised that you chose an Extralight as a serious racing frame in the first place. I've always had the impression that this frame (as with ti frames in general) is oriented more towards producing an exceptionally comfortable ride for people who lean toward centuries over racing. If you're riding style is such that BB flex is that much of a consideration, would an XL Compact provide a more suitable experience? (Just asking - I don't know one way or the other.)

Perhaps the Cielo is intended to take advantage of carbon's relative stiffness in order to produce a more race-worthy counterpart to the Extralight, while still maintaining some of a ti frame's desirable characteristics???
Merlin XL as a racing frameEric_H
Nov 1, 2002 2:53 PM
Don't worry, I'm pretty tough when it comes to taking criticism!

I chose the Merlin as a racing frame for two reasons: 1) I was able to get it for a VERY good deal and I was needing a new frame because, 2) I had broken two Rocky Mtn Scandium frames in the 2001 season. I really wanted to have a bike which was reasonably light, yet durable and dependable. Breaking 2 frames the previous season was a major pain in the ass, and I live within a 30 minute drive to Rocky Mountain's factory. But when the frame breaks on Wednesday even living that close doesn't mean I can get a new frame for Friday!

You are correct, the Merlin XL Compact may have been a better choice. I rode an Agilis, which is the compact design with straight-guage tubing and the amount of flex at the BB seemed equal to my Extralight. I have not ridden an XL Compact, perhaps it has less flex. I'm not sure though, because in the compact design the down tube and chain stays are the same. The shorter tubes are the seat tube and the seat stays. I think a shorter seat tube would help in lateral stiffness, but I'm not sure the seat stay length would make a big difference.
It's pure marketing.elviento
Nov 1, 2002 1:50 PM
I just think it's an effort to jump on the latest carbon bandwagon to make some extra dough.

Here are my questions:

First, Merlin was a traditional ti frame builder. They aren't really a carbon frame builder. Where do they get the know-how to make these carbon bikes? Or just get some carbon tubes from Reynolds or whomever, and glue them to ti lugs? Is it that easy?

Second, a regular ti frame has 13 joints. But the cielo adds another 10 joints to that (the interface between carbon and ti). The interface is likely to add unecessary weight and creat potential breaking spots. It kind of bothers me to know that a bike I am on is glued together from many pieces, especially when it's not necessary.

Third, what does it have that an all-carbon frame doens't have, besides aesthetics? Lighter? I don't think so. Stiffer? You decide. Even for aesthetics, did you know you can order a C40 with just clear coat finish, assuming 00F is too garish for you?

If you think they are not about marketing, why do they come out with so many new models each year (and discontinue other models as well)?

The Cielo is MUCH MORE expensive than a C40 if you add a stem, a carbon post and a carbon fork to the package (since these items are included with the C40). Please don't tell me a C40 is $3799. We all know there are various ways to get them under $3000, even $2500.

Is it a worse bike than other merlins? Probably not, I dont' think Merlin will sell dangerous crappy bikes, but I don't think it offers any improvement over regular merlins either.

Sure they are nice to look at, but not nice enough for me to dump $4500 on it.
It's pure marketing.teoteoteo
Nov 1, 2002 2:04 PM
Not that I disagree with principles of what you say but at least the 4500 will come with the piece of mind that the 23 joints have a lifetime opposed to discount overseas C-40's which will be laughed at when you try and warranty them with the US distributor. Apples to Apples I'd take the C-40.

Another point to bring up is does Merlin use seamless tubing? Litespeed doesn't...and if Merlin doesn't than we can add 1 big ass weld to every tube on the bike bringing the number above 23.
Seamless TiEric_H
Nov 1, 2002 2:44 PM
I am pretty sure all of the 3/2.5 Ti frames build by Merlin and Litespeed are seamless. The 6/4 Ti tubes used by Litespeed are seamed. Reynolds is now producing 6/4 seamless.
Nov 1, 2002 2:53 PM
If all the claims of CF are true, then build the entire bike from CF. Likewise Ti. Any time you have an interface between these dissimilar materials (or steel/CF, or Al/DF) there are risks of failure and certainly a likelihood of increased weight. There just isn't any reasonable argument to support this mix of materials.
Nuh uh!Crankist
Nov 1, 2002 12:58 PM
I can't imagine why we would "need" to quantify frame dynamics when it's our subjective response that really matters. Science schmience! We hop on the damn thing and it works for us on some level or it does not. What better way is there to make a buying decision? Trust what you discover in a frame.

Re: Nuh uh!Caseysdad
Nov 1, 2002 1:06 PM
I see your point, but I'd like to think that a bike purchase - particularly one at this price point - would involve both my right brain and left brain. After all, a frame made out of recycled PowerBar wrappers may "work for me" on some level, but I think I owe it to myself to approach the buying process rationally enough to balance feels good with is good. Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it), there are plenty of bikes that can deliver more than adequately on both counts!
Re: Nuh uh!Crankist
Nov 1, 2002 1:22 PM
"to balance feels good with is good"

I just can't understand logic which would seperate the two.
It seems to be an inability to trust what your senses are telling you. And if it's recycled wrappers smooshed into a tube that get it done for me, then I may well take that over what a system of "scientifically" compiled numbers dictate (should they differ).
likewise can serotta back up the marketing of the gimmick Ottrotbobobo
Nov 1, 2002 3:52 PM
Merlin Cielo - A Work of ArtBowWow
Nov 1, 2002 1:40 PM
I'll bet it's a bit flexy at the BB...

But I don't think I've seen more beautiful lugs, and that CF weave just sets off the entire effect. Wow!

The ride would be muted for the tiny vibrations, but have a nice snap when you jumped on it - just look at those chainstays.
re: Merlin is a copyteoteoteo
Nov 1, 2002 1:50 PM
Of the Serotta Ottrot which has been out for more than a year. Of course one could argue Serotta stole Seven's idea as they made one before Serotta. The concept was to combine the best of both materials. Or if your Trek you say that neither company has the know how to make good carbon lugs. If you think that sounds funny read the next paragraph.

Now I said Trek accused them of being unable to make a good all Carbon bike BUT Lemond (a Trek company),is making a Tete De Course Carbon/Ti bike that is going to be very nice. The Lemond will use a "Ti Spine" meaning the Top tube, Seat tube and seat stays are Carbon while the rest is Ti. The full Dura Ace bike will be 4600 which is about the cost of the Serotta Frame.

Ben Serotta makes great bikes and swears that this is the next step in great bikes. As a side note we loaned an Ottrot to Davis Phinney (a friend of Serotta), when he returned the bike he said it was the nicest he'd ever ridden.
David phinney is a marketing Lackey for serottabobobo
Nov 1, 2002 3:57 PM
That guy always says that last bike he's ridden was the greatest.

By the way, the idea of mixing ti and carbon has been done by Colnago for over 5 years with the CT1 so they all stole from you know who in a way. The Ottrott like the Merlin looks like pure gimmick. If your toptube, downtube, fork and seatstays are all carbon how in the hell will that bike retain the ride of ti? Answer: it doesn't! It's basically a repackaged 75% attempt at making a carbon bike without going all the way because the builder is unwilling to commit for sales and business purposes to a full blown carbon bike. Funny how Bens most expensive and according to him best bike now incorporates more carbon in it than ti. Pure gimmick, bike, go buy a Calfee if you want a real carbon bike, not a poseur marketing gimmick.
emperor's new clothestrekkie1
Nov 1, 2002 1:50 PM
It's a plain jane, raw, unpainted ti frame with the main tubes whacked out and some plain carbon tubes glued in. How is that artistry or "aesthetically very pleasing?" Looks like a Frankenstein bike to me. Don't confuse beauty with expense.
Check Out the Titus FCR w/ Carbon inlays...Ride-Fly
Nov 1, 2002 2:01 PM
ABSOLUTELY the sweetest rendition of Ti/Carbon unification. The TT and DT are laser cut and then a carbon sleeve is inserted and heat blasted to fill the cutouts. Reportedly saves as much as 1/4 lbs for each tube, if I remember correctly.
Does it have to be about performance?TJeanloz
Nov 1, 2002 2:31 PM
The Cielo has taken a lot of knocks for being impractical, or not as 'good' as a strictly ti bike or a strictly carbon bike. But is appearance not a legitimate factor in buying a bike? If it's not, than I don't know how Columbine stays in business ( Isn't beauty enough?

A lot of people are drawn to Colnago because of their paint schemes- can't Merlin take the same track? For years, people knock Merlin for producing dull, gray bikes; now we knock them for building something exotic? The marriage of ti and carbon isn't what makes this bike news- because it has been done, a lot, before. What draws people to this bike is the throwback beauty of the lugs, and the rest of the design. I think it's gorgeous; I know some people think it's ugly, and some people put no value on looks and don't care. But at the end of the day, I'm not riding the Tour de France, but I would like a good-looking bike, and the Cielo certainly is one.
re: Merlin Cielo - Beautiful, but...mackgoo
Nov 1, 2002 10:48 PM
A classic lugged frame taken to the Nth degree.
a carbon bike for a welding shop...julio
Nov 2, 2002 3:56 PM
Though I don't know the exact weights I doubt there's any advantage. Don't even start about those Titus tubes, what a gimmick, it's all about making a more expensive bike that's pretty otherwise they wouldn't cut a bunch of logos and holes in the Ti tube - can you say stress concentration.. There are a number of carbon tube manufacturers (in and outside the bike industry)that can sell premade tubes wound over a madrel. Merlin and Serrotta make really nice Ti bikes but they don't have the tooling or experience to build a full carbon bike so they do this instead and hope people buy on the wow factor alone.