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Litespeed Vortex or Merlin Extralight/XL Compact?(34 posts)

Litespeed Vortex or Merlin Extralight/XL Compact?Caseysdad
Nov 4, 2002 2:34 PM
I know it's an impossible question to answer on a purely objective basis, but... I'm slowly narrowing down my search for my next bike and at the moment my top candidates are these two/three. I would appreciate any comparative feedback, particularly from riders who have experience with each and whose riding style/objectives are comparable to mine.

...And yes, I realize that there will inevitably be those who feel that I shouldn't limit myself to considering ti frames, but just for argument's sake, let's keep it within that realm for the time being.

In terms of background info, I'm six two and approximately 210 lbs. My riding style is oriented primarily toward somewhat casual but longer rides, with a century thrown in now and then. Accordingly, my priorities lean toward comfort and durability slightly moreso than toward the quickness and stiffness that would matter a bit more if I were a serious racer. I won't say that cost isn't an issue, but I'm willing to make a five to six thousand dollar investment if it means getting an exceptional ride that's going to meet my needs well and will last me for many years to come.

Let the opinions commence!!!
re: Litespeed Vortex or Merlin Extralight/XL Compact?Inhighgear
Nov 4, 2002 2:54 PM
I'm 6'0" 215 lbs and love the way my Vortex rides and handles. It's nimble for sure, but not unstable. It's very comdortable on centuries.

Maybe you should try the Litespeed Classic or similar in the Merlin line.
Ask yourself one questionKerry
Nov 4, 2002 4:28 PM
What is Litespeed's top bike? (Note: they make Merlin too) The answer is the Vortex. It is not a choice you would ever regret. Assuming the geometry is a good fit.
re: Litespeed Vortex or Merlin Extralight/XL Compact?Juanmoretime
Nov 4, 2002 4:39 PM
Owning a Vortex, I'm biased towards the Vortex. The ride is great and the bike is much stiffer than my LS Arenberg. At your size, go for the Vortex if it's in your budget.
You gotta love how DogSh$% Breath EsquireLazywriter
Nov 4, 2002 6:15 PM
doesn't show his face in the general discussion. He should be ashamed to expose his real name. I saw what went on in the bike shot forumn where he seemed to have mistaken my bike for someone else's.
I want to settle my score with you Dogsh#$. If you live within 200 miles of me on the east coast, I will drive to meet you so we can settle our differences. How about that? All this BS posturing on the internet bores me. I assure you I will use my "girth" to my advantage.
Well anyway, as far as the Vortex goes, you will be hard pressed to find a more durable, maintenance free finish and a better riding frame for the same $$$$. I mean, don't pay retail for the bike and you will essentially get the frame for $2200. CC was selling it for $4000 with a $750 wheelset and Dura Ace. That put the frame at $2200. So the theory that LS is overpriced is ridiculous. Same holds true for anything if you pay MSRP and I never do nor should you.
The 2002 Vortex is more than stiff enough and with the black decals and the roudn downtube, I think it looks a lot nicer than the 2003 with the oversized downtube. The front end on the bike is very stiff but it is very comfortable. Much more twitchy than my LS Classic which rides like a Caddy, but this bike (Vortex) is exceptional. Ride it and you will understand. That is all I can say.
Nov 4, 2002 8:07 PM
If I worked for LS I'd pay you to keep you mouth shut.
Grow the hell upjtolleson
Nov 4, 2002 10:05 PM
There was a perfectly normal exchange going on until you reacted to whatever long stiff object is stuck in your booty.
re: Litespeed Vortex or Merlin Extralight/XL Compact?koala
Nov 4, 2002 6:16 PM
Ahhh, ride em both.Tom Kellog, who worked for Merlin for a while,likes the XL compact. The vortex has its supporters on this board but for that kind of cash you could consider Seven and Kellog (Spectrum), not to mention Serotta and a guy on the west coast named Bill Holland that some feel builds as good a ti frame as can be made. Also, should you need a custom frame due to your physique, all the above build just that.
re: Litespeed Vortex or Merlin Extralight/XL Compact?bobobo
Nov 4, 2002 6:33 PM
You clearly stated in your post that comfort was your top priority. That being said I can't understand why someone would recommend the Vortex to you over either the Litespeed Classic or Tusacany two bikes which both are more comfortable rides than the race oriented Vortex.

For the price of a Vortex there are many custom ti options available where you will have your very own bike, not one of many thousand identical other ones.
There are so many misconceptions about the amount ofLazywriter
Nov 4, 2002 6:57 PM
Vortexes there are and are made per year. Seven for example sells primarily the Axiom and the Vortex is one of 16 road bikes they make. Therefore I guarantee you that LS doesn't sell "thousands" of Vortexes compared to Axioms. LS has many more models and is a larger company, but has many more models including mountain bikes and they still sell about 3000-4000 or so ti frames per year. If that.
This myth of omnipresence is perpetuated by the fact that LS is in the Colorado Cyclist catalogs each month and they generally spend more on marketing than Seven does. LS is still relatively small. They are a hell of a lot smaller than Colnago but they (Colnago) don't get the same BS. I don't get it. Plus I am more than happy to give my $$$$$ to an American frame builder befroe anyone else, especially in this economy.
The customization thing is also overrated. The fact is that is serves the ego more than it does the ideal fit because 99% of us can get the right fit on stock frames. I did the fit kit for Seven and it put me on what I am essentially riding. The other bike companies are excellent but the Vortex is more advanced than most of you seem to really know. 6-4 is very complicated and the cold working and tube manipulation is the result of a lot of research and development. Other companies knock it because they simply do not have the technoligy to work with it.
I know guys who still race their 6 year old Vortexes including nasty crashes. So much fo the seams bursting and you simpy couldn't do that on an aluminum, steel or cf frame. Just ride one and decide. At least you can do that with a LS. Go try to find a custom frame you can test ride that will be a true representation of what you will get.
6/4 Ti - is it that much better than 3/2.5??Ride-Fly
Nov 5, 2002 12:04 AM
Yes it is stiffer but does absorb road vibes as well as 3/2.5? Also, what is the yield strength compared to the 3/2.5 since it is stiffer? I would assume that it has a shorter lifespan. Finally, there are 2 companies that I know that are making seamless 6/4, Dean and Airborne. Both are less than the Litespeed Vortex. If I had the coin, I think I would go for the Dean over the Vortex and the Airborne. Ride On! BTW Lazy, what was up with the venom you were spewing about Dogbreath?? Was it a misplaced thread?
re: Litespeed Vortex or Merlin Extralight/XL Compact?Heron Todd
Nov 4, 2002 7:43 PM
>In terms of background info, I'm six two and approximately 210 lbs. My riding style is oriented primarily toward somewhat casual but longer rides, with a century thrown in now and then. Accordingly, my priorities lean toward comfort and durability slightly moreso than toward the quickness and stiffness that would matter a bit more if I were a serious racer.

You should get a bike that is designed around YOUR priorities. Forget, for a moment, about brand or materials. What do YOU want from the bike? At 210 pounds, stiffness will be an important issue, whether you race or not. This is particularly true if you plan to carry any gear. A flexible frame will not track as well, will be less efficient, and will be more susceptible to high-speed shimmy. Most racing frames are fine for racers: folks who weigh less than 170 pounds and don't carry any gear. I weigh 190 and can rub the chain on both sides of the front derailleur cage on some ti frames.

What kind of tires will you run? Is 700x23 enough? If you run those, I'd recommend keeping the pressure high. If you want larger tires, make sure whatever frame you buy can accomodate them.

For longer, more casual rides,look for a longer wheelbase and more relaxed frame angles. This will make the ride a bit smoother and the bike easier to handle. A lower bottom bracket will lower the saddle relative to the handlebars.

Good luck and have fun!

Todd Kuzma
Heron Bicycles
LaSalle, IL
Good advice. BTW: Nice advertisement. (nm)Spunout
Nov 5, 2002 4:52 AM
re: Litespeed Vortex or Merlin Extralight/XL Compact?ol
Nov 4, 2002 8:30 PM
A wonderful problem you have having to choose b/w these magnificent frames. My current ride is a Merlin compact extralight it's ride is superb in terms of comfort, stiffnes, shock absorption, handling. My previous frame was scandium aluminium by Casati and the stiffnes is equal to the Merlin, although the Casati had more sensative steering. The Merlin is my eigth frame and it's by far the best in every possible respect.
Had a Vortex and an XL Compact...RCole
Nov 4, 2002 9:24 PM
And I'd have to say go with the Vortex. I had a 2001 Vortex and a 2002 XLCompact. I am 5'11" and 170lbs. The Vortex was stable and comfortable. If you want to stay away from a quick handling bike, I'd suggest staying away from the XLCompact. That frame was "twitchy" compared to the LS. As for the standard Extralite, I've never ridden one so I can't comment. However, I recently sold my XLCompact and am in the process of going back to a LS.
If it were me & I ...............Len J
Nov 5, 2002 4:35 AM
was your size & did the kind of riding you do, I would give Tom Kellogg a call at Spectrum. He is the person who designed (& still designs) all of the Merlins. He is in Allentaown, PA & if you can go there he will personally not only fit you but also design a bike for exactly your weight & riding style. He then subs out the Ti construction to Merlin. When the bike is done, it comes back to him for inspection and Spectrum Powdercoats the frame in any design you want. I think he charges around $2,700 for frame Fork headset & pump.

If nothing else he is worth a call. Nice guy, very knowledgable & honest.

I am not as heavy as you. I weigh 160 lbs at 6'0" and found the Vortex to be overly harsh and way too twitchey for the kind of riding I do, which is long fast rides. While the Merlin Extralight was much more comfortable, I found a lot of flex in the BB when I stood and hammered. I am mainly a spinner, so most of the time I didn't notice the flex. If you are a masher, you might notice it more. I test rode each bike for a 50 mile ride.

If you go custom, I would suggest you discuss slightly longer chainstays, a low BB (8) and a more relaxed geometry for comfort, coupled with extra stiffness in the drivetrain to ensure no BB flex laterally at your size. Remember there is more to custom than just fit, make decisions on bike feel, color, what tire sizes you would like to accomodate, fenders (Or not) racks (or not).

The truth is at the price point you are looking at, there is not a bad bike in the bunch, only a bad bike for the desired uses. Firm up what you want to use it for primarily and then find a bike that fits both you & the uses.

Good Luck

Very well said Len...koala
Nov 5, 2002 6:38 AM
Kellog is up to $3000 for frame, fork, headset and pump. I too, felt he made the most sense of all the ti builders I talked to. I spoke to a rep at seven, serotta, spoke to Bill Holland, and Kellog and someone from Davidson cycles. Kellog will spend the most time with you and last I knew he used only one welder, he says is the best, and he feels free to reject any frame(and does) if he feels there is something wrong with it, and Merlin takes the frame back. You are right, there is more to a custom build than just geometry. I think he will get my business.
Kellogg's forumfbg111
Nov 5, 2002 6:30 AM

Spectrum owners and potential owners post questions here that Tom Kellogg answers when he has time. You might find something useful here as well.
6/4 Ti - What is the real deal?Fez
Nov 5, 2002 6:46 AM
Some guy above said that there are 2 companies using 6/4 tubes. Is this really the case. The last I heard it was not possible (or not cost effective, I don't remember) to make 6/4 tubes, hence the sheets of 6/4 with a welded seam. And if it IS possible to make a true 6/4 tube, why are 2 smaller companies using it and why isn't Litespeed?

And finally, what is the real deal with 6/4 Ti? People say it is stiffer, but rides harsher and is not as durable as 3/2.5 Ti. Would you say it is more like a good aluminum frame than a good 3/2.5 Ti one?
It is possible to make seamless 6/4ColnagoFE
Nov 5, 2002 7:41 AM
At least one company is using 'em...Feather I think. Litespeed can't or wont so they say it can't be done.
I don't think they say it can't be done,TJeanloz
Nov 5, 2002 7:56 AM
I don't think anybody disputes that seamless 6/4 ti can be made- it's just very expensive to do. I believe Reynolds has recently introduced a seamless 6/4 tubeset though, which should make it relatively common.
Don't mean to be mean but...Nessism
Nov 5, 2002 11:55 AM
...people need to understand that the metal used in 6/4 is not stiffer than the metal used for 3/2.5 Ti. The 6/4 is stronger but not stiffer. Because 6/4 is stronger it can be made into thinner tubes which will save weight. Another point to remember is that thin tubes are more flexable than thick tubes. Unless the 6/4 tube is made larger in diameter than a thicker 3/2.5 tube, it will be more flexable dispite the material being stronger.

The bottom line regarding the Vortex is that the tubes are both thin (very light weight frame) and small diameter. These characteristics make for a flexable frame not the other way around.

also seamless and tubes rolled from sheets not the same (nm)ColnagoFE
Nov 5, 2002 12:04 PM
There is nothing wrong with welded tubingNessism
Nov 5, 2002 12:43 PM
True Temper has forged a steller reputation making golf club shafts all using rolled welded tubing. Maybe someone should tell Tiger Woods that the shafts he is using (and about 80% of all pros) are of poor quality?

In fact, many engineers will tell you that the rolling/welding process is a more controlled process than drawing big chunks of metal through dies to size the metal into tubes.

The bottom line is that if the process is controlled, that is all that is important. Quality counts.

never said that there was anything wrong with itColnagoFE
Nov 6, 2002 7:17 AM
Just that it changes some of the metal's characteristics.
True, but the end product is usually stifferFez
Nov 6, 2002 6:11 AM
The Vortex may be a little flexy, but remember the pre-2002 Ultimate? That was a stiff bike. Also the Palmares, another 6/4 bike.
Ultimate and Palmares framesNessism
Nov 6, 2002 6:45 AM
The Ultimate and Palmares are stiff frames because they use a large diameter downtube, not because they use 6/4 Ti. The Ultimate was fairly stiff even back in the day when they used a 3/2.5 downtube because the tube was fairly large and the rear stays are so short.

Regarding the use of a blade shaped downtube, this is not really the best shape to use from the standpoint of reinforcing the bottom bracket area of the frame. The loading in the downtube is a combination of torsion and bending. The oval shape is fine to resist torsion but the blade downtube is ovalized in the wrong direction to best help with the lateral loading. Overall since the blade shaped downtube is typically quite large, it does stiffen up the bottom bracket area dispite the less than optimum shape.

true..and they weigh a lot more than the VortexColnagoFE
Nov 6, 2002 7:19 AM
i'm guessing as much as a comparable stiff steel frame.
Where are you people getting the idea that the VortexLazywriter
Nov 6, 2002 2:48 PM
is a flexy frame? Honestly, if you are comparing it to oversized aluminum, then in comparison, it is not as stiff, but it is a stiff frame.
I heard other guys here and on other sites criticizing the Vortex because it "beat them up" a little on long roads. Are you guys inplying it is a "noodle" because if you are you don't have a clue. My Vortex is stiffer than my Fondriest steel which has a bladed downtube and it is considerably stiffer than my Classic. By no means is the Tuscany stiffer than the Vortex either. I agree that the Tuscany is a great value, but if it were stiffer, Lotto could have easily rode them with the Vortex decals on them. But the did not.
The Vortex isn't the stifest bike, but it is stiff I assure you. The front end especially. It responds so well when you stomp on the pedals but is giving enough to be a comfortable ride. It is not as comfortable as my Classic or the Tuscany for that matter. I am telling you, 6-4 has a different ride quality to it despite the specualtion and theories you guys have.
Both of em are gonna be too flexy for youColnagoFE
Nov 5, 2002 7:37 AM
I'd suggest NOT going TI--or at least considering a stiffer TI frame like Serotta at your weight. I am 6'2" and weigh about 200 and the Merlin XL and Vortex are no where stiff enough for my liking.
I'm Expecting My Ti Dean To Arrive Shortly...Gregory Taylor
Nov 5, 2002 9:42 AM
...and I'll post a review when I build it up. It may be of interest to you because it's a Ti frame (El Diente CSI) that is pitched as being stiffer than average. I'm 6' and around 190.
This is an amazing threadpmf1
Nov 5, 2002 8:31 AM
Someone asked a Litespeed vs Merlin question and its yet to erupt into a flame war.
Nov 5, 2002 12:34 PM
What's the difference? ;-)
Nov 5, 2002 6:23 PM
that's true!