Product Development: Extralight Road Frame for Merlin Metalworks

February 1, 1991

in Bike Design, History

Calvin ready to fight for Greg LeMond’s frame

One of the more complex projects I developed at Merlin Metalworks was the Merlin Extralight.  It had a number of firsts:

  • Industry’s first butted titanium tubeset
  • Industry’s first oversized titanium chainstays
  • Industry’s first 34.9 mm front derailleur clamp
  • Industry’s first 2.5 lbs titanium frame

I’ll add more to this as I have time.

I remember that when I first developed the tube butting idea, Merlin wasn’t really interested.  The idea of taking 0.75 lbs. out of the frame wasn’t exciting to some.  I loved the idea so I put together a tubeset.  The timing was fortuitous because soon after I made the first tubeset, Greg LeMond approached us about buying titanium frames for the Z Team.

Ashley Korenblat helping with Greg LeMond’s frame

Ultimately we built bikes for Greg and his team that year.  The next season – early 1992 – we introduced a limited edition version of Greg’s bike:  the Extralight.  Merlin’s owners weren’t sure we could find 200 customers for this $2,495 frame – the most expensive titanium frame ever introduced – so offering is as a limited edition seemed like a safe plan.  We sold out really fast and decided to include the Extralight as a standard part of the line.

The Polaroids – yes they really are Polaroids – I’ve included here are of the Merlin Metalworks team each participating in the fabrication of Greg’s frameset.  I think it was Matt O‘s, Mike A’s, and my idea to include everyone on helping fabricate Greg’s bike; we wanted to include office people and everyone else that didn’t typically participate in the framebuilding steps.  Every employee’s hands were on that first frame at some point in the process.  We liked Greg.

Gwyn Jones coping a tube, with hammer at the ready

I’ll post more images as I get them scanned.  I’m not sure if I’m going to post my photo with Greg’s frame; it’s a bit risque.  I also seem to be missing a few images.  I don’t have a good history with archiving.

Press:

  • I have a lot of articles to scan
  • Nothing Like It.  Bicycling Magazine, December 2012

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