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1990 Merlin: A 26-year-old itch

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1990 Merlin: A 26-year-old itch

Old 09-10-16, 02:48 AM
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gaucho777 
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1990 Merlin: A 26-year-old itch

For the TL/DR crowd, just skip ahead to the photos below....

When I was a teenage racer in the late 80s and very early 90s, a Merlin Ti road bike was one of the most coveted bikes around. But they were very expensive. Dentist bikes, if you will. There was one guy in our local club that had one, a rocket scientist at Rockwell. A LBS that sponsored my junior team (shout out to Newberry Park Bike Shop) carried Merlin frames and offered a generous 50% discount to junior team members. At the time (I turned 16 in 1989), I worked as a pizza delivery driver to cover race fees and other cycling expenses, and did pretty well for a teenager. I saved and saved until I had enough to buy a Merlin frame, around late 1990 or early 1991, but just couldn't pull the trigger. The purchase amounted to a life's savings. Plus, around this time, my team became sponsored by Parkpre and I was given a free race bike, so it was even harder to justify spending all this hard-earned money on another bike when I was expected to ride the sponsor's bike. And college was around the corner, so I never did get my Merlin...Fast forward 25+ years and @inkandsilver puts up a 1990 Merlin Ti road frame for sale. I couldn't resist.

After slowly gathering parts, it's finally together. I built it basically as I might have built it back in the day with a Dura-Ace group, American Classic post, Flite saddle, and too-narrow tires. Actually, I can't wait to wear out these tires and replace them with wider tires. (The wheels I borrowed from my Parkpre; these two bikes, both 7-speed Dura-Ace builds, will be able to share a pair of clincher/tubular wheelsets as needed and these skinny tires were already mounted.) I found an unknown brand Ti stem in the right size that compliments the frame nicely. I mistakenly assumed the FD was a 28.6 clamp, but had to go with a 31.6mm 7800 FD at the last minute. Otherwise, it's basically a 7400/7401 group except for the Shimano 6600 headset (the 7400 headset I had was not the right crown race diameter so I used the headset which came with the frame/fork). I wasn't happy with the variations of anodizing on some of the parts and how they blended with the titanium finish, so I stripped the anodizng and polished the brake levers, shift levers, and pedals.

Rides real nice. Very responsive and lively feel. The fit is good, a hair (~1cm) more stretched out than my other road race bikes but something I was inentionally looking to try for a go-fast bike. Weighs 18.16-lbs as the kids do it, or 19.09 lbs with pedals. Looking forward to many happy miles and adding some patina to the white cork tape.







Hint of a Tom Kellog signature:






Some nice welds:






More pics: 1990 Merlin Ti - Photobucket

Last edited by gaucho777; 09-10-16 at 12:22 PM.
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Old 09-10-16, 08:05 AM
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Nicely done. Anything other than a Flite would have been heresy
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Old 09-10-16, 08:09 AM
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Great!
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Old 09-10-16, 08:36 AM
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Lovely-- we are close to the same age, --- my grail Merlin belonged to a guy in a group i rode with a few times.
Naturally, he was late 40s/early 50s.

Frame/fork like yours, but with the battleship gray Ultegra 600 group and purple anodized Topline cranks and other miscellaneous purple bits

At the time, i dont think i had ever seen anything so cool--- it looked like a well thought out street rod with pedals

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Old 09-10-16, 08:55 AM
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gaucho777-
What a lovely bike with such gorgeous workmanship! The welds make it look as though it was stitched together.
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Old 09-10-16, 09:01 AM
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Wonderful bike!! Also liked the narrative, and congrats! Very rare to see one with the original fork, most folks replaced them with CF later. I think you know of my love for Merlin, and we viewed them the same way you did. i love the geometry TK did with these and think they were just fantastic bikes.
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Old 09-10-16, 09:08 AM
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I thing of beauty. Maybe it's a perspective thing but those chainstays almost look thicker at the dropouts than the bottom bracket.

Cool build!
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Old 09-10-16, 09:54 AM
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Thanks everyone for the nice words.

@numbernine, they are definitely beefy stays. For extended reading, there's was a fascinating Paceline thread several years ago in which Tom Kellogg, David Kirk, Richard Sachs (atmo) and others get into an elevated conversation regarding the benefits of large round stays as used by Merlin, Spectrum, Kirk Frameworks, etc.
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Old 09-10-16, 11:11 AM
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Definitely the 'it' bike in 1990. I spent (wasted) a lot of quality time just admiring Merlins in Spinning Wheels in Toronto's Cabbagetown.
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Old 09-10-16, 11:18 AM
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very nice. looks mean in a good way!
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Old 09-10-16, 09:49 PM
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Very nice! I rode 140 miles on my '94 Ti Merlin today. It felt very fast and very comfortable
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Old 09-10-16, 10:13 PM
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So very beautiful. I'm happy to have played a small part in this great story. Nice to see it rolling again.
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Old 09-11-16, 06:34 AM
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I have the '99 standard road frame. I've had it since '99 and it's one of the last frames to come out of the Sommerville MA shop. I picked it up at the shop and had a great tour while there. The bike shop I worked at carried Merlins and many of my friends rode them...mostly the Extra Lights.
That's a beautiful frame...enjoy
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Old 09-11-16, 07:31 AM
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Really, that's a gorgeous bike.

I am riding at the St. Paul Bike Classic in ten minutes with some friends and one might bring his Merlin out to play.

Perhaps I can take a foto for you.

Can't imagine most of us would need any other road bike.

The ride is superb.
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Old 09-11-16, 07:42 AM
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Beautiful bike and awesome story. Hopefully it brings you years and years of joy.
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Old 09-11-16, 09:02 AM
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Congratulations! Certainly a fabulous bike. I really like your subtle polish job on the anodized components.
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Old 09-11-16, 09:27 AM
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Gives you the perfect opportunity to tell people, when asked how it rides...."like Titanium. Can't describe it very well, any other way."
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Old 09-11-16, 09:29 AM
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One of very few sets of 7400 brake levers in captivity that aren't beaten to death or having mismatched hoods.
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Old 09-11-16, 09:42 AM
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Totally dope.
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Old 09-11-16, 10:43 AM
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Originally Posted by gaucho777 View Post
Thanks everyone for the nice words.

@numbernine, they are definitely beefy stays. For extended reading, there's was a fascinating Paceline thread several years ago in which Tom Kellogg, David Kirk, Richard Sachs (atmo) and others get into an elevated conversation regarding the benefits of large round stays as used by Merlin, Spectrum, Kirk Frameworks, etc.
Kind of interesting to read considering Mr. Kirk is so well known for radical stays...DKS and terraplane. Any thread with ATMO, TK and DK is going to be a great read.
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Old 09-11-16, 10:50 AM
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@gaucho777, your water bottle cages are upside-down
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Old 09-11-16, 10:53 AM
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Very, very nice.

Merlin frames are pretty rad, and this is an especially great bike for you given that history.

I kinda regret not grabbing one I had a chance to pick one up here locally, very similar frame with 7400-series STI setup and alu fork, all with *lots* of miles in their past - but looking back I think it wouldn't have fit me well, and at the time I couldn't swing the cost. All for the best, perhaps, as I believe another forum member picked up that same bike for a screaming deal after I passed!

Beefy stays definitely make sense with ti, as I'm led to understand that OS tube diameters tend to optimize the best qualities of the material in this application. Will have to search up that Paceline thread mentioned above!

Some of the details here remind of my (much more recently-built) Holland ti.
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Old 09-11-16, 10:56 AM
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Originally Posted by kingston View Post
@gaucho777, your water bottle cages are upside-down
I totally did that the first time I installed a set of the stainless King cages of this design!

Actually went for a ride like that.

Put in a bottle, it *sorta* worked...but not really.

A few moments of head-scratching later, allen wrench came out again...
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Old 09-11-16, 11:01 AM
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Stunning bike!
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Old 09-11-16, 11:07 AM
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Originally Posted by kingston View Post
@gaucho777, your water bottle cages are upside-down
Ha! You are totally right. I've been using these cages on another bike (the right way). Guess I'd have figured it out before my first real ride.

Thanks again for the other nice compliments.
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Avatar photo courtesy of jeffveloart.com, contact: contact: jeffnil8 (at) gmail.com.
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