First Look: Merlin Extralite XLR

Merlin, made in America titanium frames

When it comes to legacy bike brands in America, Merlin definitely rates high on the list. Originally known as Merlin Metalworks, the then Massachussets based frame shop  started up in the late 80s and was regarded as America’s first house of titanium.  At the time, a burly welder by the name of Gary Helfrich was the main torch man. In later years, Merlin would be the early home of Robb Vandermark who would go on to found Seven Cycles. As well-known as Merlin became for developing a variety of mountain bikes, the classic road bike was the one model that best defined the brand

In the years since titanium’s heyday, Merlin has switched hands a few times. Today, the etched head badges and clean welds come to us from Boulder, Colorado where they share space with the Dean brand of titanium bikes.


After meeting up with Merlin folk at the Interbike show, we made plans to test their sole road bike; the Extralite XLR.

Merlin Bikes

A signature look of the Extralite are the oversized chainstays. As usual, the Shimano Di2 drivetrain delivered quick and consistent shifts.  Impressive detail work includes the pinch bolt on the dropout which secures the derailleur hanger. Really nice craftsmanship thru-out.


With the addition of disc brakes the popularity of seatstay bridges has begun to shrink. Added rear end rigidity is always a good reason to use one, but to make it more useful, it would be nice if the Merlin’s bridge was drilled to double as a fender mount.


Customers can choose between internal or externally routed cables. The rear brake line is internal only to the bottom of the downtube before exiting for external routing.


The Extralite’s dropouts are beautifully machined. 12mm DT Swiss thru-axles run thru the high-end xxx hubs.


The Merlin’s ride was notable for how smoothly it rolled. Helping the cause beyond the titanium tubes were the shallow Rolf Prima Veil hoops that were mounted with “handmade” 25mm Challenge Strada Pro tires.



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