Spread across the wide commercial complex of America, many brands paint an obese, money grabbing, and unhealthy picture of the good ol' USA. Alternatively, companies like Thomson, Industry Nine, Chris King, and Merlin, found bundled in this XLM XX1 Complete Bike package of singletrack joy, do just the opposite.
Evolving from small shops that rode on the shoulders of visionaries into aerospace-level production facilities, these American icons not only represent, but celebrate the dream. And to ensure that this package's ride is equally heartening, a FOX 32 FLOAT 29 FIT CTD leads the way, with SRAM XX1 to put power down and XTR brakes to keep the XLM in check.
Without a doubt, however, the pillar to this hardtail's class-leading ride is shapely American sourced titanium tubing that's hand-built in the USA. Dating back to '85 Merlin was the first Titanium frame to hit the market, and the first to use both curved seatstays and chainstays. And, while this is important for tire/crank clearance, these appealing curves reward riders with an experience well out of reach of the omnipresent black weave. And no matter how much marketing magic is wished into carbon, its inherent dampening is going to feel dead and dull next to the XLM.
This is due to the double-butted 3Al-2.5V titanium's modulus and ability to express less deformity under stress than aluminum, but more so than carbon fiber. It translates to a responsive and direct feeling under load (think of a spring) that, unlike carbon fiber which redirects shock energy throughout the frame, creates a natural dampening of vibration with a lively ride.
Speaking of that, in addition to reflecting the American ingenuity and craftsmanship found in the XLM, the Industry Nine Trail wheelset, occupying its thru-axle dropouts, mimics the energetic ride as well. This is due in part to a respectably low wight, but most importantly to the impressively quick and positive engagement of I9's proprietary freehub mechanism and flex-free, nipple-less alloy spoke design.
The wheels are tubeless-ready and wrapped with 2.25in-wide Schwalbe Rocket Ron TL rubber. They're tubeless ready as well, but you'll need to pull the installed tubes and add sealant. Turning the rear wheel is a 10-42t SRAM XX1 X-DOME cassette that's connected to a XX1 BB30 32t Crankset with a 156mm Q-Factor via a hollow-pin 11-speed XX1 chain.
Finishing the drivetrain is a XX1 X-Horizon rear derailleur that shakes your right hand through a XX1 trigger shifter. Sharing real estate with that shifter, on a Thomson Titanium handlebar, is a set of XTR brakes that squeeze 180mm front and 160mm rear XT rotors. The build also includes a Thomson X4 stem and Elite seatpost with a Selle Italia SLR Kit Carbonio saddle perched atop.
The 100mm-stroke FOX fork gives the Merlin XLM a 70-degree head tube and places the BB above terra firma at just over 12 inches. This combination keeps the bike's center of gravity low for stability, while the short, 17.5-inch chainstays ensure easy negotiation of switchbacks, while also reinforcing the titanium frame's playful nature.
Staying true to the Merlin name, the XLM XX1 Complete Bike has a natural, brushed finish that will never rust — even for those living seaside. It comes in the sizes Medium, Large, and X-Large.
FOX 32 FLOAT 29 FIT CTD Trail Adjust Kashima
Chris King Inset 7
SRAM XX1 11-speed
SRAM XX1 11-speed
32 t SRAM XX1 BB30 Crankset 156 Q-Factor
Crank Arm Length:
10-42 t SRAM XX1 11-speed
SRAM PC XX1
[front] 180 mm Shimano Ice Tech, [rear] 160 mm Shimano Ice Tech
ESI Racers Edge
Selle Italia SLR Kit Carbonio Flow
35 mm Thomson
Industry Nine Trail
[front] 15mm thru-axle, [rear] 12x142mm thru-axle
Schwalbe Rocket Ron TL
29 x 2.25 in
all-mountain and cross country racing
Titanium, M: 9,600g
Effective Top Tube
Head Tube Angle
Seat Tube Angle
Bottom Bracket Height
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Though the market for hardtail mountain bikes is contracting as full suspension designs improve and get cheaper, we?re still pleased to see the arrival of the XLM29. For the uninitiated, Merlin was a pioneer in the off-road category, introducing the first titanium mountain bike back in 1986, as well as oversize tubing and shaped chain and seat stays. After some rough years that saw the brand nearly driven to extinction due to some mismanagement and uninspiring acquisitions, the company is returning thanks to the vision of Backcountry, which purchased Merlin a couple of years back and has decided to roll out an updated, 29-inch version of the classic XLM. It?s beautiful titanium, as expected, with all the modern touches, including an oversize, tapered head tube, a PressFit 30 bottom bracket, and a 12x142mm rear thru axle. The bike has a short head tube and fairly slack head tube angle, as well as a relatively high bottom bracket, which should make for a chipper, playful ride. The bikes are being hand-built in the US for the moment, hence the premium price tag.