Merlin have one of the best bike building reputations in the business, founded on their ability to lay down immaculate TIG welds on their titanium superbikes. So the last thing we expected on their 2003 concept bikes was lugged joints.
Their TLC (Titanium Lugged Carbon) bikes will use the titanium lugs to join carbon tubes. This is the same way Seven and others have been building composite frames for years so it’s a proven move. The surprise is that Merlin are also producing a TLT bike that uses the same titanium lugs to join titanium tubes from their Extralight range.
Why a surprise? Mainly because lugs have been dropped by most companies as they add tubing overlap and extra weight. Compared with butted tubing they’re not even an efficient way of adding strength, with only the ‘plug together’ manufacturing convenience as a real advantage. Seeing as the lugged joints are going to be TIG welded anyway it doesn’t even sound like they’re doing it to avoid burning through ultra-thin tubes. All we can think is that the move is on purely aesthetic grounds as the finished articles will almost certainly be retro classics, but if there are any Ti welders out there who’ve got a better idea, feel free to let us know.
One rider who might just about remember lugged mountain bike frames is the new signing for Merlin / Litespeed importers the American Bicycle Group. Despite having been on the MTB circuit for as long as we can remember, Nick Craig is still one of the leading contenders for National honours. We look forward to another year of epic NPS battles between him and old adversary (and ex Diamond Back team mate) Barrie Clarke who is now racing for Giant.