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Merlin XLM 29 Titanium Mountain Bike Frame

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Item # MLN0011

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  • Titanium, XL ($1,749.50)
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The legend continues.

Shaped stays, both seat and chain, define the ride and form of modern hardtails. It all started over a quarter century ago, when Merlin set out to build a frame for the defending '85 NORBA champion -- and proudly lives on in this XLM 29 Titanium Mountain Bike Frame.

That Merlin resulted in two mountain bike firsts; curvy, manipulated stays and titanium as a frame medium. It also launched them into the lime light -- almost immediately, Merlin cutouts from period 'zines joined the airbrushed model shots and super car collages decorating shop work benches. Fast forward to today, and those manipulated stays now allow large, 2.4-inch twenty-niner rubber to comfortably reside in the XLM's stubby 17.5-inch chainstays.

No easy feat, considering the requirements of current one-by and narrow Q-factor cranks populating the bottom brackets of high-end, race-worthy 29ers. Just as important as tire/crank clearance, the XLM's mix of 3-2.5 titanium and appealing curves reward riders with an experience well out of reach of the omnipresent black weave -- 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. This 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.

Like all Merlins, the XLM possess oversized down, top, and seat tubes that are connected to a 44mm head tube and PressFit 30 bottom bracket. This produces a triangle that's extremely light and stiff for excellent steering response. In fact, Merlin was a pioneer of oversized tubing, dating back to its very first mountain bike designed for Joe Murray and later, designed with him.

Also, just like those originals, every XLM features American sourced titanium tubing and is hand-built in the USA. It even includes a Thomson seatpost collar to keep things on this side of the pond. When spec'd with a 100mm suspension fork sagged at 20%, the XLM's head tube angle settles in at 70 degrees with the BB floating above terra firma just over 12 inches.

A 120mm fork, on the other hand, will slacken the head tube slightly and raise the BB height. The seat tube tilts at a standard 73 degrees; it accepts 31.6mm posts and 34.9mm front derailleurs. The XLM is compatible with IS standard brake adapters and comes with a Shimano 12 x 142mm thru axle for the rear drops.

Staying true to the Merlin name, the XLM Titanium Mountain Bike Frame has a natural, brushed finish that will never rust -- even for those living seaside. It comes in sizes Medium, Large, and X-Large.

Tech Specs

Frame Material:
3-2.5 titanium
Head Tube Diameter:
Headset Included:
Bottom Bracket Type:
Cable Routing:
Front Derailleur Mount:
34.9mm clamp-on
Derailleur Pull:
Seatpost Diameter:
31.6 mm
Seat Collar:
Recommended Use:
cross country
Manufacturer Warranty:
2 years

sizing chart

XLM size by rider height


Geometry chart


Geometry Chart


XLM 29

Seat Tube


Effective Top Tube






Stand Over

Head Tube


Head Tube Angle


Seat Tube Angle


Bottom Bracket Height




S 16.2in 22in 22.2in 15.1in 29.1in 3.5in 70o 73o 12in 16.8in 41.2in
M 17.5in 23in 23.5in 15.8in 30.3in 3.5in 70o 73o 12.15in 17.5in 42.7in
L 19in 24in 23.9in 16.6in 31.4in 3.9in 70o 73o 12.15in 17.5in 43.7in
XL 21in 25in 24.2in 17.5in 32.6in 4.3in 70o 73o 12.15in 17.5in 44.7in

Reviews & Community


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Avg. ride time: 49m per week
  • Average ride time is based on Strava activity over the last 3 months. Give your reviews credibility by connecting your account.

Love My Merlin!!!

  • Familiarity: I've put it through the wringer

I absolutely love this bike. Maybe it just fits me perfectly, but this is easily my favorite hardtail (possibly favorite bike) I have ever ridden.
The ride characteristics are amazing. I have ridden aluminum, steel, and carbon fiber, and other than a slight weight compromise, Ti is definitely my favorite. It is just the right mix of stiffness and soft in just the right places. This thing just rides so smooth!
And it is beautiful! I absolutely love the look of the raw titanium, and it looks amazing with anodized red bits, so anything I could get in red I did. Gorgeous!

Love My Merlin!!!

Hey James, what tire you running in the back? I've got the same frame and clearance in the back is tight, honey badger at 2.2 (they measure out at a little over 2.3) don't fit and nobby nic 2.25 (measure a little less than 2.2) are tight in my frame. Wondering what you are running?

I ran into the same issue. Had some Geax Saguaro 29x2.2's back there that would rub occasionally. I actually have this bike a bit frankensteined. What you see there is 650b wheels with a 2.4 Conti X-King in the back, 2.4 Conti Mtn King up front, and a 140mm Fox 34 650b fork, and I absolutely love the way it rides.

Avg. ride time: 1h 19m per week
  • Average ride time is based on Strava activity over the last 3 months. Give your reviews credibility by connecting your account.

Great frame for every day hammering!

  • Familiarity: I've put it through the wringer

I've tested this frame off and on for over 2 years and I keep coming back to it for its smooth ride quality, efficient power transfer and stable geometry. I finished Leadville 100 last year in under 9 hours and I have to say this bike was a dream to ride on all day due to its comfort and power transfer. But dont just trust me, take a look at this review as well-

Great frame for every day hammering!

Pricing increases due to what reason????

  • Familiarity: I've put it through the wringer


Familiarity: I've put it through the wringer

Whoa.... Not sure how many other people noticed the hefty price increase to the Merlin XLM and Extralight here in the past few days. Being that these bikes are being made for Competitive and sold only through Competitive, I find it very hard to believe that anyone in the market for titanium will find these new prices for the ti models acceptable when you can go to FORM directly for the essentially the exact same bikes, being built by the same hands with a different logo/headbadge for considerably cheaper. This pricing now puts these 2 ti bikes from Merlin into the territory of the finest titanium manufacturers like Moots, Firefly, Eriksen, Alchemy, Mosaic etc. Unless these are being scheduled to be offered at 30-40% off or something, the price increase makes no sense.

The pricing increase is in part due to the new Etched logo's vs. the transfer decals. The Etched logo's wont wipe off when wet! But of course these take more time and therefore require increased costs. As far as comparing quality, go to NAHBS and check out Form cycles. He has an impecible record and I have spoken to each company you are comparing against and they have all had great things to say about Form's quality. As far as costing more than Form directly, you have to add up all of the custom frame options to get an apple to apple comparison and in the end we are competitively priced against the equal quality competition in the domestic market.

Avg. ride time: 18m per week
  • Average ride time is based on Strava activity over the last 3 months. Give your reviews credibility by connecting your account.

Tried and True

  • Familiarity: I've put it through the wringer

This bike is a timeless beauty. The attention to detail is impeccable. I absolutely love this bike! It is quick, light and nimble. It's a real crowd pleaser, not that that is an important thing- but people do really trip out on this bike. Check out what Aaron Gulley at Outside Magazine had to say after riding it for a few months.

A Fantastic, Balanced Frameset.

  • Familiarity: I've put it through the wringer

Superbly balanced geometry makes for a strong climber and stable descender in one frame. I'll happily sacrifice the small weight penalty compared to an all-carbon frame for the incredible solidity that the XLM provides. The finish and build quality testify to its price, too.

I've had the privilege of riding one of our Merlin XLM / SRAM XX1 prepackaged bikes for the past few weeks. Feel free to check out the bike and my review of the complete machine here:

A Fantastic, Balanced Frameset.

Does Merlin have a custom program? I would...

Does Merlin have a custom program? I would like a 650b long travel bike

Best Answer


At the moment, Merlin doesn't have a long-travel 650b model that we could offer you. We do, however, have a wide variety of machines that would fit that bill. Please feel free to give me a call at 888.276.7130 x4648 or drop me a line at if you want a breakdown of bikes that could probably meet your needs.

- C

Ti Bike For the Ages

    I took this bike out for a nice 18 mile loop and had so much fun on it, that I kept linking up trails all day. This bike is an awesome do-it-all hard tail and for good reason. The titanium frame is incredibly light and stiff which allows you to fly on the climbs and saves a bunch of energy. On the descents, I was pleasantly surprised on how well the bike cornered and smoothed out technical rocky sections. I am 5'11'' and the Large frame fit me well but I do wish I had a smaller stem than the 90mm that was on there but it was great nonetheless. The frame had a snappy feel to it, that allowed me to 'load' up the frame as I would with a full suspension bike to push me through corners and over jumps. That being said I couldn't corner with the same confidence as I can on my Yeti SB66. Perhaps a set of 24 spoke I9 wheels would allow for a little flex in the corners than the 32 spoke wheelset I was on. This bike was great at keeping my energy high because of how efficient it was and how fun and snappy the frame was. If you are looking for a hardtail 29er this would be a great bike to add to your collection. If you have any questions about this bike, please give me a call and I would love to talk to you about it.

    Here is my contact information: My direct line 801.736.6396 ex. 4389. Feel free call to me anytime, I?m always happy to talk about bikes or gear or the weather. Whatever works! I?m here Mon, Tues and Friday 1:30-10pm MST and Saturday 9-5:30 as well as Sunday 10-7. I look forward to speaking with you.

    Avg. ride time: 31m per week
    • Average ride time is based on Strava activity over the last 3 months. Give your reviews credibility by connecting your account.

    Pigeon Hawk XLM

    • Familiarity: I've used it once or twice and have initial impressions

    The Merlin XLM was my first experience on a Ti MTB and it certainly did not disappoint. Having ridden steel, aluminum, and carbon hardtails in the past, Ti was a nice departure that definitely had some benediction. The material has a character all its own and when paired with some modern improvements such as a taper headtube and 12x142 rear axle it wins a spot in the garage for years and years to come. First off, the frameset was uber light and felt like a rocket ship up loose, rocky climbs. What I found most impressive was how smooth it, even through football fields of loose rocks. While the geometry felt great climbing, it was difficult for me to get use to the knife-edged handling when pointing the Pigeon Hawk downward with the 100mm RockShox World Cup fork installed. I found it difficult to descend with utter confidence and carry maximum speed through corners. I think utilizing a 120mm fork to slacken out the head tube a bit would be a big benefit to the mountain riding that is in Utah. All in all, the Merlin XLM handled well and smoothed out rough bits with ease, but my preference would be for a slacker HT angle for descending.

    Pigeon Hawk XLM

    No need for an AARP card to ride

    • Familiarity: I've used it several times

    Ti frames seem to have a reputation as 'bikes for old men'. Maybe the 'softer ride' is better for their aging colons or their lack of fitness, but the Merlin XLM doesn't require a social security check to get your hands on one.

    I'm a steel frame fan at heart. Thought the majority of steeds in my stable are carbon these days, I nerd out over the structural integrity of Reynolds 853 steel and the stiffness of Columbus Zona tubing. So when it comes to Ti, I'm already a fan. But not all Ti frames are created equally and geometry certainly plays a key roll in ride quality.

    I spent a weekend on the Merlin XLM, riding several different spots along the Wasatch Front. The whisperings I had heard about Ti 'frame flex' quickly melted away as I climbed the sweeping singletrack in Green Canyon, putting all 125 lbs of weight on the pedals. See, this hardtail doesn't ride like other metal bikes in your stable, it rides well. So well, I had to remember I wasn't on an Open 1.0, I was on a Ti bike with way better geo, but that still climbed like my favorite road bike.

    Descending any trail on the XLM is beyond fun, and Corner Canyon was the perfect place roam the downhill and see how it performed. The XLM is the kind of fun that makes you end your ride with a shit eating grin across your face. Flexy? Not like your steel Breezer from 1985. Stiff? Undoubtedly. Worth every penny? Absolutely. You'd be silly to go with any other Ti hardtail on the market. Build it up with SRAM XX1, an Enve cockpit, a set of carbon Industry Nine wheels and never look back.


      Outside Magazine voted the XLM one of the five best bikes at interbike 2013.

      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.

      That babe from high school has grown up

      • Familiarity: I've put it through the wringer

      The XLM being re-birthed as a 29er, along with updated geometry and specs, makes me a happy man. I was lucky enough to race this bike recently, along with some high country rides. I came from a Santa Cruz Highball Carbon, so the bar was high. This bike is smooth as silk, typical of Ti but once again proven here. The oversized head tube brings it in touch with the modern era. The bike actually climbs better than my Highball, and is nearly on par on the descents. All around, it's sexy and it performs.

      My one complaint is that there was some seat post slippage with both an Easton Carbon and Thomson aluminum post. I hope this can be dialed in, otherwise it's a lovely machine.

      That babe from high school has grown up

      Try flipping the seat collar over or turning it around so the bolt is in the front. One of those usually does the trick. If that fails you can use some 120 grit sand paper inside the frame's seat tube to rough the top one inch some.