Monday, September 22, 2008

It's a grrreat day for a mountain bike ride...

Said, of course, with a Jackie Stewart Scottish brogue. It's been way too long since I got out on a mountain bike. I picked up this old 1991 WTB be-decked Merlin a while ago and finally put my touches on it so it could be up to my standards. This is the bike that had the stuck seat post. The bike came to me with a Softride suspension stem. I would have probably left it on because I do like them. They suit my riding style and I have spent plenty of time on them in the early 90's. However, this one had such worn out bushings that a nudge of the bar to turn the bike resulted in the bike staying on a straight line because the bars would turn the stem without affecting the fork.


The first change was installing an old Salsa 150mm length stem. Because the head tube is a bit on the short side, I went with an Easton Monkeylite XC low-rise bar. After getting the seat post out of the frame, I went with Easton, again, for the seat post. I like this simple post. It's worked well for me for a long time on a road bike I had.

This frame is from the era when Merlin licensed WTB's Grease Guard system for the bottom bracket. Bearings are pressed into the frame with a straight 17mm axle. The inside seal of the bearing is removed as there is a system that allows grease to be pumped in through a grease port on the bottom of the shell into a sealed labyrinth that directs the grease into the bearing purging the old grease out and filling the bearing with new, fresh grease.

The bearings in the frame were shot. Couple this with the Topline cranks that were on the bike and I had to install new bearings, bottom bracket axle, and cranks. I've never been a fan of early 90's CNC cranks, and especially of the Topline cranks. Give me a nice cold forged crank any day. And I had just the right crank - a Ritchey Logic crankset with 46/34/24 rings. Perfect. New bearings pressed in with new 123mm axle and the bike's taking shape.

Parts laid out ready to install.

Inside the shell showing the snap-ring grooves and bearing stop and the grease port.

Right side bearing installed in place on the axle ready to go in the frame with the other bearing.

I pulled the brakes off, cleaned them up, reinstalled with new cables. Noting finer than WTB Speedmaster rollercams. The rear brake pads were worn, so a new set of WTB Gripmaster dual-compound pads went on. Front brake pads are fine so they stay (when they wear out, another new set of Gripmaster goes on). New derailleur cables, fresh grease in the WTB Classic hubs. Pulled the fork and cleaned up the rust forming on the steerer tube (note: one should always coat a steel steerer tube with a layer of grease to keep rust from forming). The headset is also a WTB Grease Guard model made by Chris King. That puts the bike with Grease Guard in all the bearings (hubs, bottom bracket, headset, and even in the brake arms which rotate on a brass bushing/bearing).

So, the bike is ready to ride. Where to ride. I haven't ridden the San Gernimo ridge yet, so that's where I head. I quickly came to the realization that I am sorely out of shape. The steep hills kicked my butt. They were short and steep and that's not what I needed today. The weather being absolutely beautiful made up for my shortcoming. It's hard to ride when your mind still thinks your body is race ready, but your body is not quite on the same page. Oh well. Instead of staying with the plan to ride into Tamarancho, ride a loop, ride back, I knew I needed to make a better decision so just rode out 1 hour and back an hour. That was sufficient.

Okay, on to photos. The view from San Geronimo ridge with Pine Mountain Ridge and Bolinas Ridge behind that.

The bike.

Front end - note rare 118mm front WTB hub with custom Potts built Type II fork. Extra special.

Rear hub.

Front hub with early 70's Campy flat quick release. The front hub is 118mm wide at the lock nuts. A standard front quick release is too short. This quick release is from an era when rear hubs were 126mm. Works just fine on this hub. The skewers that came with the bike were Ringle twist things - I hated those in 1991, I hate them today. Give me a nice quick release any day.

Front brake. The braze-ons are for a Bruce Gordon front rack.

Fine coating of dust.

Did I mention it was a beautiful day?

Low bridge (well, low if you're 15 feet tall).
From 1991 Merlin / WTB

(What's playing: The Clash Spanish Bombs)


Head Honcho said...

Beautiful Mike. I like the details you showed us. Ain't nuthin' like a good cold forged crank, that's for sure.

And mix of old and the juxtaposition!

Jim G said...

Hot damn that is one fine classic bike! I might have to visit the shop one day soon and run out the door with it. ;) If this is an old WTB, that means Steve Potts built the frame and fork, right?

Xd said...

for some reason, for me, the Clash and autumn go together.

blackmountaincycles said...

...and winter, spring, summer...

blackmountaincycles said...

Jim, the frame is a 1991 Merlin XL size. The fork is a Potts built custom for the bike. (note to self: lock bike in shop ;-) )

Alex said...

Great ride report and a really cool bike. I can relate to the comment about the mind being race ready but the body is not. Arrrgghh!

Really need to get my hands on one of those Merlins.... another dream bike!

Brad said...

Gorgeous bike. Would you mind explaining your dislike of CNC'd cranks? I never had one so I'm curious whether strength is an issue. I've always been a fan of the welded cromo cranks from Bullseye or Tioga

blackmountaincycles said...

"Would you mind explaining your dislike of CNC'd cranks?"

Mainly, I like the looks of the cold forged crank arms better (Ritchey, Sugino, Specialized, Shimano, Suntour...). Second, CNC arms had more of a preponderance for breaking.

Vince said...

Hi, great bike and write up. I have a Merlin Extralight Road Bike from 1991 with grease guard BB. I know I have to service this one day. I appreciate the photos. Where did you get the axle and bearings? Phil Wood?

blackmountaincycles said...

Vince, yes, Phil axle and bearings.

Vince said...

Did you need special tools or just removed the circlips to pull off the spindle and bearing?

blackmountaincycles said...

Vince, special tools to press the bearings in place, while not necessary, do help to insure the bearings don't get damaged when installing. They aren't a hand fit into the frame. The circlip is pretty much extra insurance that the bearings don't move in the frame. And the bearings are definitely a press fit onto the axle.