Custom Builders [Merlin Metalworks Inc]

As promised, I will be doing a weekly column on Custom Frame Builders from around the world.

I first learned about Custom Builders was back in the late 80s, i was living near Boston, Massachusetts area. Also at around that time, titanium tubings were making a big impact on the frame building scene.

While browsing a local bike shop, I was introduced to Merlin Metalworks Inc. The company was founded by Gwyn Jones, Gary Helfrich, and Mike Augspurger in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1986 to manufacture bicycle frames and racing wheelchairs constructed from titanium, being the first to do so. The first bike Merlin built was a mountain bike frame for the the defending National Mountain Bike Champion, Joe Murray. Later, the company began its strong relationship with Tom Kellogg who helped them design their first 3/2.5 titanium road bicycle frame.

Saucony acquired Merlin in 1998, 2 years later, Merlin Bicycles was sold off to the American Bicycle Group who relocated the company to Chattanooga, TN

These days Merlin can’t compete with titanium builders like Seven, Litespeed and Moots

First Merlin mountain bike frame

1991 Merlin print Ad

1991 Merlin print Ad

1991 Merlin print Ad

I was lucky enough to own a Merlin road frames (very similar to the one above), they were not custom at that time. I didn’t really like the feel of a titanium bike. I kept my frame for nearly 20 years then i sold it last year!

Tom Kellogg

Early Merlin frames were fitted with “Press fitted bearing BB” then later on they introduced “GREASE GUARD BB, but both versions were not service friendly.

  • tdbowa


    such nice frames !!

    personally i love titanium frames . . but to each their own !

  • Dan

    That project E looks suspiciously like a Starfuckers frame. That said, despite being technically superior, Ti frames can go blow. I don’t know what it is but I always feel I’d be happier with Al or steel.

  • Waffles & Steel

    Nice profile of Merlin. This is a great series. I’m looking forward to the next installment. Just curious, can you elaborate on why you don’t like titanium frames? What’s not to like?

  • Brian Fu

    that Merlin was the only Ti bike i owned in the past, was long time ago, can only remembered i could never get comfortable on it!

    today, steel tubing can really compare to Ti tubing, only problem with steel is the weight and rusting. now with 953 and XCR, there is no more excuse!

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  • Capi

    Does anyone have an idea how much a 1991 Merlin Road would be worth today?

  • tdbowa

    ” Does anyone have an idea how much a 1991 Merlin Road would be worth today? ”

    What kind of shape is it in ? Complete with parts ? If you provide more specs, I can likely find out for you . . Accompanied with photos of course !

  • Brent Eischen

    Just bought a Merlin. I am trying to find out the year. I was told it is a 1988-1989. It has almost complete campy record c (not sure about the brakeset. I can’t decide if i should keep it or strip it down and sell everything. It is my size however I have so many bikes. The decals have almost all pealed off. It have a pressed in bb that was service last year and is smoooth

  • Doug

    I have three Merlin bikes, two Cielo’s and an Extralight. They are beuatifully built frames, the Cielo’s are subtle works of art and ride like a dream. One of the Cielo’s belongs to my daughter. New Merlin bikes are very hard to come by I suppose unless you go the custom route. In terms of workmanship and looks, they have it all over Moots and Lightspeed. I just purchased the last Cielo frame I could find off of eBay and built it up with Di2. The smoothest bike I have riden bar none. Long live Merlin…

  • Ncphotos2000

    I am looking for pricing on a 1991 merlin. Looks like it has the original parts and is in decent shape. The guy is asking 500.00. Thoughts….