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Old 08-22-08, 07:37 PM   #1
bill_black
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Convert Merlin racer to commuter

I have a Merlin Titanium that is geared and setup as a racer. What I would like to do is make it more comfortable and use as a commuter/utility bike. First of all, buying another bike is not an option.

What kind of issues will I have converting the bike to a hybrid? I want to get flat handlebar and have a riser so it gives me a more upright position. Also swap my gears out since I recently moved to Little Rock from Florida, there are not any hills in Fl and my gearing is for the flats.

I will not need racks and fenders, but would like to get disc brakes in the front, that would require a new fork at least.

I need some guidance on a wheelset and any other advice I can get.
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Old 08-23-08, 07:28 AM   #2
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By the time you fit flat bars, a different stem, a new fork, disc brakes, a disc-capable front wheel, new shifters/brake levers and regear the Merlin you will probably spent well over what a decent hybrid would have cost new or a used high quality hybrid would have cost on Craig's List.
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Old 08-23-08, 12:16 PM   #3
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Well, yeah, it'll cost quite a bit but you'll have a Ti commuter and that's gotta be worth something in terms of feel over a cheapish hybrid.

What about tires? Will your back stays and brake caliper accept a 25 or 28 tire in there? Some of those fits are darned tight. If you can't fit "real world" tire sizes then it's not a total deal buster but it'll make it a harsher ride with more risk of regular flatting if you have to run 23's. Are you willing to accept that?

A disc capable cyclocross fork on the front would likely fit the bill if you really want to go that route. But if it'll accept a 25 or 28 tire with your present fork and caliper why not use those? If you're riding mostly in the dry the braking performance should still be great and it'll save on all the fussing with a disc and disc fork.

The only other issue will be finding some of the old school canti levers for your flat bars. The existing calipers are set up for a short hard pull rather than a longer softer pull. If you can't find any really nice canti levers then look at Avid Speedial levers and run the shuttle up all the way as close to the hinge as possible. That'll give you a leverage ratio very close to the old canti levers.

The only other reason for getting a new fork would be to allow a longer steer tube so you can get a few spacers under the stem.

What wheelset are you running now? If it's a boutique style set then a new "regular" set may be a good idea. But if you want to try the bike out for a few days I don't see why the present wheelset would be an issue. Just mount up some larger tires.

Then there's the whole seriously dedicated vs more relaxed commuter riding position deal. Your frame was set up with a long top tube and aggresive drop to the bars in mind. A lot of the changes noted here will temper that and relax your riding position. But in the end only you will be able to say if it's the right way to go or if the bike is set up just too "racey" to allow it to be a practical commuter.

Some of the changes I've suggested will only require a minimal amount of new parts to try it. You may want to just do that much first and then go find a new wheelset or convert to disc once you know it's working for you.

Another option instead of flat bars that require MTB controls would be something like bullhorns or moustache bars. Both of these options would give you a less aggressive but still hand position friendly riding style and let you use your present brifters or at least use regular road compatible controls. I'm currently running one bike each with the bullhorns and moustache bar setups and really like them. It's a nice alternative to the drop bars where I only used the drop positions once or twice a year while fighting a stupid strong headwind.

Last edited by BCRider; 08-23-08 at 12:27 PM.
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Old 08-23-08, 04:37 PM   #4
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The lowest cost solution would be to forget the disc brakes and just substiture an adjustable, and possibly shorter, stem for your current one. That will allow you to raise the bars and bring them closer for a more upright riding position.

Caliper brakes work very well and, in the flats of Florida, the extra heat absorbtion ability of disc brakes are certainly not needed. My son lives and bike commutes in Gainesville, which is actually "hillier" than most of Florida, and his rim brake pads last for years.

Changing the cassette for a more suitably geared one is reasonably inexpensive too.

Don't make this project needlessly costly.
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