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Merlin Extralight/SRAM Force 22 Complete Bike Review

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review detail Merlin Extralight/SRAM Force 22 Complete Bike

Merlin Extralight/SRAM Force 22 Complete Bike

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Detail On : Merlin Extralight/SRAM Force 22 Complete Bike

Titanium holds a magic power over cyclists. No, it's not the lightest material out there. That distinction goes to carbon, but it is highly durable. And, when your quiver only has room for one frame, shouldn't you choose one that will last a lifetime? The Merlin Extralight/SRAM Force 22 will win you over with its timeless design and sensible build.

The Extralight features the same double-butted 3Al-2.5V titanium (3-2.5) tubing of yesteryear. But, to refresh your memory, we'll shed some light on this designation. Simply put, it refers to the percentages of the material composition, with the 'three' being 3% aluminum, the '2.5' being 2.5% vanadium, and the remaining 94.5% being that of titanium. In its original application, 3-2.5 was used throughout the aerospace industry for its exceptional strength-to-weight ratio and high resistance to corrosion. Today, however, you'll find its primary application in the high pressure hydraulic lines of airplanes, and of course, in the Merlin Extralight.

Still, strength and low weight considered, the question begs to be asked, why 3-2.5 titanium? Well, it all comes down to its ride quality. In comparison to other alloys, you'll find that 3-2.5 features a higher strength-to-weight ratio, lower sidewall density, and a higher elastic modulus, all in exponential figures. But, in layman's terms, this means that the Extralight is lighter, stiffer, and stronger than other alloys -- even the exotics like scandium and magnesium. However, we feel that these terms are simply thrown around far too often, so let us explain how these actually translate to ride quality.

3-2.5 expresses less deformity under stress than aluminum, but more so than carbon fiber. This characteristic translates to a highly responsive and direct feel under load. However, unlike carbon fiber, which strategically redirects shock energy throughout the frame, 3-2.5's elastic modulus creates a natural dampening of vibration and shock. The Extralight benefits from less abrasive handling without diminishing any of its natural stiffness.

And this brings us onto the subject of engineered-in rigidity. Merlin brought the Extralight into the modern age by increasing the diameter of the tubing to 1.375in at the top and seat tubes and 0.875in at the seatstays. You'll also find that this generation features a 44mm oversized head tube that's been mated with a full carbon Enve Composites fork. Additionally, Merlin designed the bike around a PressFit 30 bottom bracket. This allows for the use of a contemporary drivetrain, which will guarantee efficient power transfer along the S-bend chainstays to the rear wheel. Merlin also took the liberty of varying the downtube's diameter to correspond with frame size. As a result, the smaller frames feature a 1.5in diameter down tube, while you'll find 1.75in tubes on the larger frames. The head and seat tube angles are likewise size-specific. Essentially, this tunes the characteristics to each frame size, creating a seemingly custom feel. And just as importantly, the aforementioned updates make the Extralight stiffer, increasingly responsive, and more compliant than any iteration before.

But, of course, we can't discuss the topic of Merlin without mentioning its uncompromising level of craftsmanship. Every Extralight features American sourced titanium tubing and is hand-built in the USA. And just to keep the Old Glory Train running, each frame includes a Chris King Inset 7 headset and a Thomson seatpost collar. Of course, the Extralight's welds are seamless, and due to 3-2.5's natural resistance to corrosion, its beautiful, brushed finish will never rust -- even for those living seaside. Given its strength, durability, and eternal good looks, Merlin has created a timeless ride that will long outpace the zeitgeist, quite possibly making it the last bike that you'll ever need.

Adding to the bird-of-prey ferocity of the Extralight, a full complement of SRAM comprises the drivetrain. We spec'd the Merlin Extralight with SRAM's Force 11-speed groupset. The crankset is the SRAM Force 50/34t compact, which has been paired with a SRAM PG-1070 12-25t cassette out back. For the cockpit, the build features a Zipp Service Course handlebar and stem. Topping the Zipp Service Course post is a Selle Italia Carbonario Saddle. The bike rolls on a pair of HED Ardennes LT that have been cased in Schwable Lugano tires.

The Merlin Extralight Frameset is available in the color Brushed Titanium and in the sizes 50, 51, 52, 54, 55, 57, and 58cm. Please note that the sizing numeral references the top tube length of the frame. To be certain on fit, please reference our size chart.

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