Merlin's XLM represents the ultimate in hardtail technology. With an incredibly lightweight 3Al-2.5V titanium frame, aggressive geometry, and disc brake compatible dropouts, this bike is made to climb very easily and stop very quickly.
Strengths: Merlin represented the best Ti bikes from 1986-1997 by far. The "Extralight Mountain" (XLM) scrubs off some weight (and hence stiffness) off of prior Merlins, and most agree that the trade makes for a better bike.
Weaknesses: post-1997, buy-out ruined a great company. To see where all the great Merlin people went, read the history here: http://merlintitanium.com/merlin_history_info.html
Merlin's premium fit and finish can still be had today in select other companies, but you will pay dearly for the privilege
The XLM is the perfect Titanium 26" hardtail for most riders. Compared to other hardtails, it does not compromise anything significant except price.
As far as I can tell, this bike is never going to wear out. After 2 years of pounding up steep climbs and flying down rocky decents the XLM still holds up to the trials of the trail. This is a bike for anyone with the cash to spend on a sweet, light (mine is about 23 lbs), and super responsive bike. You are not going to find a better titanium bike out there. 4 Chilis for the price which will leave a lasting impression on your wallet and 5 Overall because the bike is simply superior to anything else on the market.
Similar Products Used: GT Zaskar, Specialized Stumpjumper Pro
Bike Setup: XLM w/ full XT, Easton stem and SL bar, Syncros carbon post, fizzik pave ti seat, Ringle hubs, mavic 517 rims, Marzocchi x-fly 100
a Cross Country Rider
from Budd Lake, N.J. USA
Date Reviewed: August 1, 2003
Strengths: Light, beautiful, stiff, soft ride.
Weaknesses: Well, it dents kinda easily, but I expected it. Crashes, and boulders popping up causes denting. I honestly cant find any weaknesses with this bike. I ride the thing into the ground too. I saw some posts reguarding tire clearance issues with a 2.0 tire. No way. I have 2.0 tires on mine, and there is plenty of room for mud. I used to have a RockShox dual air racing shock on it, but I replaced it with a foxf80RLT and man oh man, what a great difference that made. The rockshox is way way way too flexxy, and I'm only 150 lbs to boot. This bike is silent, climbs like you wouldn't believe, and is very sure footed in turns and on the downhills. I used to have a Specialized stumpjumper fullsuspension, and I seriously don't miss the rear suspension at all, even though the bike was very good. My brother Joe has a new stumpjumper now. The last time we went riding, I locked out his rear shock during a gu break, and we went another 15 miles, and he said it rode like a dream. Hehehehehehe.
If you are a mountainbiking purist, there is no other bike out there. Period. If you ride your bike alot, and it's your favorite thing in life, buy this bike. Price to enjoyment ratio is very very good, and at least you GET what you pay for. The best thing about this bike by far, is the way it feels when you are riding it, like it's a part of you, not some clunker you have to lug around. When you screw up, it wasn't the bike. I even have to give 5 chilis for value, because it is sooooo worth it.
Similar Products Used: Litespeed tanasai,(I don't know much about frames, but the litespeed doesn't feel half as nice as the Merlin, but it costs the same) Stumpjumper fxrxc xtr all around
Bike Setup: XTR drivetrain, brakes. Crossmax, Serac Tubless,(Hutchinson sucks, I've used them, plus they are French. Yuck. FOX f80rlt fork, titec stem, chris king headseat.
from Luckenback TX
Date Reviewed: June 30, 2003
Strengths: Light, nice satin finish.
Weaknesses: Barely enough clearance for 2.0 tire, 2.0 with aggressive tread rubs stay on non-drive side regardless of wheel used. Seatpost clamp bolt was too short.
Seems like Litespeed, since buying Merlin, has really let the quality slip. Prices, however, have continued to rise. No mountain bike frame should have such a small amount of tire clearance and especially at this price range. Save your money.
Similar Products Used: trek carbon fiber, cannondale caad4
Bike Setup: sid xc, king wheels, race face cranks, grip shift 9.0
Date Reviewed: December 28, 2001
Strengths: Very low weight. High BB. Non integrated headset( litespeed #@$@#$). Very fast on the up hills, and on the downhill. Very good geometry for racing. The bike simply rolling perfectly on the trail. The titanium simply absorbing all the small bumps. You can pedal in corners. Probably the best bike ever. Before I bought this bike someone told me that it is the bast titanium frame, I couldn’t believe him but now I can tell that he was right.
Weaknesses: I don’t know maybe the price, but I paid only 1150$ instead of 2750$ so I cant complain. No no weakness at all except the clearance too small tires, but for a racer that a good thing 2.0 enough for the competition.
If you can aford it buy it. dont even think on Anything else!!!!!!
Similar Products Used: Non. But maybe the caad 5 Cannondale.
Bike Setup: verrrrrrrrrrrry good stuf.
a Cross Country Rider
Date Reviewed: October 9, 2001
Strengths: Super Light sub 2.9Lbs frame (bike 19.5Lbs), indestructible, very fast, subtle superiority, attention to detail (the disc mount even has a merlin carved into it!), comfort, price.
Weaknesses: Narrow tyre clearance (1.95" max), maybe because mine is disc specific?, head badge. Price
This is my first Titanium frame, almost all of the things I expected from it were there (speed, sharp handling, strength extra comfort etc), My main criticism is with the tyre clearance, however apart from that sheer quality. I would recommend this frame as the ultimate hardtail to build & for anyone with a large enough budget to kit it out with top end stuff.
Similar Products Used: No Titanium but some alu hardtails Orange/Cannondale/Specialized
Bike Setup: XTR/XT, Raceface Turbines/racerings, SYstem, air alloy low risers, ISIS bb, Titec carbon post, beserkr KTI saddle, King h/set, X317's with Hope XCti hubs, Salsa QR's & Hope Mini brakes.
a Cross Country Rider
from Auckland, New Zealand
Date Reviewed: July 1, 2001
Strengths: Light Weight, Responsive, Exclusive, Last a Lifetime
Weaknesses: Limited rear tyre clearance around non-drive side chain stay. Poor finish. That headbadge!!!!!!
The bikes rides beautifully. Very light, a dream to build up, and very responsive. Everything I had hoped for from a titanium mountain frame. The quality of the welding is not as high as I had been led to believe, but it is still pretty good. I own a Seven Axiom road bike, but when the time came to buy my titanium hardtail mountain bike, the Seven was just too expensive. I have now had the opportunity to compare the quality of build and ride directly, and I have to admit that the Seven IS the superior product. I can say this because I own both and have no bias either way. Whether it is worth the extra over the XLM is questionable, and I don't regret my XLM purchase. At the end of the day, the quality of the welding, the finsihing and the headbadge don't make the bike ride any better or worse, but at this price, they are a nice finishing touch which set the Seven appart. The headbadge on the Merlin is a joke at this price point quite frankly. The hot glue used to apply it ooozes through the head badge and doesn't exactly provide the finishing touch that it should. The finishing is also pretty rough. The down tube on my XLM has a distinct grain to it, which might be part of the tapering process? Also, the general standard of finishing is pretty poor. Don't get me wrong, these are really very minor gripes, but enough on such an expensive frame to score 4 rather than 5 chilli's.
Similar Products Used: Seven Sola, Cannondale CADD 5
Bike Setup: XTR, CrossMax UST, Thomson Post and Stem, Easton CT2 bars, Fizik Saddle, SID Race
a Cross Country Rider
from Peabody ma
Date Reviewed: October 19, 2000
Strengths: Light, Great climber, Very responsive
Weaknesses: Tubing used is extremely thin and dents VERY easily. Litespeed now owns Merlin and will not warranty product as Merlin did.
I like the way the XLM performs on the trails and it does climb better than my old mountain frame. The problem I have with the frame is that it dents very easily and that Litespeed now owns Merlin. I have inserted the letter I have written to the president of Litespeed below. I did get a response from the letter saying that they (Litespeed) felt there was nothing defective about the frame and that the dents would not effect the the bikes performance. If you are looking for a titanium frame with the quality and WARRANTY of the original Merlin company, I have to recommend buying Seven Cycles.
Mr. Mark Lynsky, President Merlin Metal Works / litespeed PO box 22666 Chattanooga, TN 37422
Dear Mr. Lynsky, I have been riding the same Merlin Mountain frame since 1990. I have meticulously maintained this bike by tearing it down every two years. I buff the frame out with Scotch-Bright and replace the stickers. After 10 years I decided to build my dream bike with the Merlin XLM frame as the ultimate foundation. I have to say I'm very disappointed in the durability of the frame. I have been on less than 10 rides with this bike and the frame already has two dents in it. I could understand if they were violent crashes but they weren't. One of the falls was down a muddy hill at about two miles per hour. My front wheel washed out and the frame happened to hit a rock in the mud. Since the two dents were in the same location (the tube going from chain stay to the seat tube) I figured the tubing was defective and called your technical support. After explaining the situation your technical support person said he wasn't surprised. The tubing is super thin to reduce weight and that the dents would not effect the performance of the bike. The problem is when you pay a premium price for a Merlin frame you expect it to be as strong and resilient as you advertise on your web site (see your ad below). I expected the frame to last as long as my 1990 Merlin Mountain, which is still running great with no dents. If I had any idea the frame was not as strong as the non-butted Merlin's I would never have purchased it. I'm hoping you can help me solve this problem. If your technical support person is correct and the frame will not stand up to the normal use of everyday riding, I'm hoping you will exchange the frame for a stronger non-butted Merlin Echo. If you feel your technical support is mistaken and the frame will stand up to normal use without denting, I would like to send you the frame for examination and repair of all the defective materials used in building this frame. This is a new frame with less than 10 rides on it. I also feel it important to let you know I'm a 41 year old professional with an Electrical Engineering degree and an MBA. I do not abuse my bikes and the shape of my 1990 Merlin can attest to this fact. I often get complements from other riders in the mountain bike clubs I belong to and the people I meet on the trails. They are all surprised when I tell them it's a 1990 frame. I'm afraid they will be just as surprised when they see my 2000 Merlin XLM with dents in it. Merlin has built a strong reputation in the northeast for its excellent handling, craftsmanship, and strength. People, myself included often say that a Merlin is the first and last bike you'll need to buy. In fact I didn't need a new bike I just wanted one. I would welcome a phone call from you on this matter if you feel it necessary. My daytime number is, xxx-xxx-xxxx and in the evening, xxx-xxx-xxxx. Thank you for your help in this matter,
http://merlinbike.com./bike/xlm.html Profile: State-of-the-Art. Shaving a 1/2 pound off the Mountain bike, the XLM (Extralight Mountain) boasts raw performance. It has all the strength and resiliency of Merlin's legendary Mountain frame, yet remains the lightest hardtail butted Ti frame available in the market. Mountain Biker magazine has proclaimed this bike to be "… the best bike I've ever ridden. Period.".
a Weekend Warrior
from salt lake city utah usa
Date Reviewed: April 28, 2000
Strengths: really sturdy, light, light, light!!! great handling. great looking, very classy.
I love this bike!! I'm not that tall so the smaller frame has tons of rigidity but it's not harsh on the rough stuff. I mean you still feel the bumps but your not beat to hell on the couch hours later. gorgeous welds perfect alignment and the new headbadge rocks!! to bad everyone can't ride a merlin. Maybe a seven would be better but i love it.
a Cross Country Rider
from flagstaff, az
Date Reviewed: February 29, 2000
I've had the XLM for 4 years. This is the second review I have written for this bike and now another year has passed. I love it more than ever. Other riders offer me their bikes for a test ride and I just smile and ask for my Merlin back please. It used to weigh 21 something, but all the foo-foo lightweight junk I hung on it when it was new is now worn out or broken. It now weights in at 23 pounds (I weigh 180) and it is the most shred ready hardtail you will ever lay your eyes upon.
a Cross-Country Rider
from San Jose, CA
Date Reviewed: September 28, 1999
Strengths: Suspension quality Excellent tracking
I bought Tammy's (See the 1997 Raleigh NC post below) Merlin XLM tradeshow frame from her, moved all my components from my GT Avalanche LE to the Merlin and rode the new bike for the first time last weekend.The verdict? Click your heels three times and repeat, I will never go back to aluminum, I will never go back to aluminum, I will never go back to aluminum! My aluminum frame, although great for climbing was a stiff, harsh ride with the rear end kicking up on rocky descents. The Merlin, however, does no such thing - The suspension quality of ti makes for a smooth ride and the bike tracks and maneuvers exceptionally well on singletrack. If you can afford it, buy a Merlin ti frame. One of the ways I afforded it was to buy a used frame. For whatever reason, there *are* riders that want to sell their Merlin frames. Check out this site and Merlin's for used frames.*** A word of advice though, whether you ride steel, aluminum or ti, the ground is still just as hard when you fall!
Hi All :)
I need your help once again.
I am thinking about buying a Merlin XLM frame - if I can find one :confused:
But I am not so into MTB since I do 99,99 % of my training on the road.
I would like to know what frame size that would the best for me. I know that some of the answers ... Read More »
I have looked all over the internet and can't find anyone who has tried to fit a 650b wheel on a Merlin XLM frame. There is a good bit of clearance with my 26 inch rear wheel, but it's hard to tell if a 650b will actually work. I'm looking to see if someone has tried a setup similar to this.Read More »