Advice on bike frame for reverse mid-life crisis!

Recently I’m longing for a nice comfortable bike (rather than a speed machine necessarily) with wide tyres for cruising around the mountains and tracks were I live (the SW of Japan). Given the lack of racing this year, I’m thinking about a bike build project.

I’m interested in this frame from Merlin Cycles, and would fit it out with 105 with nice wide comfortable wheels and tyres.

It seems like a decent frame for the cash, but I’d love to hear anyone else’s opinions. The tall headtube is slight concern - I want a relaxed position, but not the same as my shopping bike complete with basket and child seat!

Cheers as always!

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Looks like a good frame for the money. It might be worth calculating stack and reach and comparing with other bikes you’ve ridden to see if a slammed stem would work for you. Stack and reach calculator

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Hey there, fellow expat in Japan! It’d help if you were a bit more specific about the types of roads you’d like to ride.

I have lived near Fukuoka, in Nagoya and am now living in Sendai. In each of these places, the roads were quite different. Gravel roads here in Sendai are pretty difficult to come by, and for the most part, riding my bike means road riding on paved surfaces of various quality. If speed weren’t a concern, I’d get a frame with clearance for up to 40 mm tires and stick either a Schwalbe G-One Speed/Allround (35 or 40 mm) on it or one of the fast Gravelkings (38 mm). That should deal handily with everything up to mud or single track.

Whether you’d like the particular frame from Merlin is completely impossible to answer. Gravel bikes on average have a particular geometry which is subtly different from an endurance road bike. And even within each category, there are tons of variations. The Open UP has an endurance road bike geometry, the 3T Exploro is racier and still others are slacker. Where the Merlin Malt slots in, I don’t know, and numbers typically make that pretty hard to tell.

Several members in the Tokyo Cycling Club forum have bought titanium frames to make a comfortable drop bar road bike, and they seem to really love theirs. Lynskey gave an extra 20 % discount to forum members, and their frame prices start at $1,850 before any discounts. Titanium is supposed to be the goldi locks of bike frame material, especially if you prefer a comfy ride. I don’t have any first-hand experience nor are they my cup of tea (I want something racier).

I know this is quite hard in Japan, especially now with the pandemic, but I’d try to test ride as many bikes as I could to find out what you like and don’t like. With the exception of one bike shop, the shops here in Sendai don’t let me test ride anything. And even if they did, it is at least one size too small.

Also, what is your total budget, what kind of gearing do you think you will need and what kind of ride do you want to have?

PS Perhaps the epic Rides of Japan Youtube channel will be of interest to you. He used to have a Mason Bokeh and now owns an Open UP, which he loves.

Check out the Sonder Camino. It’s only £300 for a frameset. I have one for commuting and gravel and it’s been great.

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Thanks @timothyh ! I think I used that site a few days ago - it’s very useful. I liked using as well.

@onemanpeloton, that definitely looks like a suitable frame, but unfortunately it’s not currently available.


Hi, @OreoCookie!
Sorry, I should have provided more info. I live in Kumamoto. There are few gravel roads to speak of, but the roads range from amazingly smooth to falling apart - especially in the mountains. Come to think of it, there are quite a few gravel tracks alongside quite a few of the rivers near here.

I was actually looking at those two tyres as suitable choices. I don’t have any chance to ride any bike I’d be interested in buying here. I feel like Japan in generally has been slow to adopt disc brakes, and here in the sticks we must be a good few years behind that! My LBS (which I love) is an Aladdin’s cave of old - mostly very difficult to sell - frames, nothing like the wide-tyres all-round style that I’m looking for.

I do enjoy watching that YouTube channel. It was his section on why 1x works for him that made me consider for myself. Until then I was strictly a 2x kind of guy!

As for gearing, I’d probably be looking at 105, 50-34 with a big casette of 32. Or of course, something that would mirror that climbing gear using 1x. I don’t care much about bombing down hills, so I’d happily sacrifice the faster end of the gearing.

Budget-wise, I’m going for as cheap as I can. Given that I won’t be racing on it (I’m keeping my tri bike for when racing finally restarts), I can’t really justify a big spend.

Haha, that sounds so familiar. The shops around here finally make the switch, although one team mate still opted for a rim brake bike in 2020.

Yup, also that sounds extremely familiar :slight_smile:

My next bike will be 1x, I really don’t like shifting in the front. In case speed isn’t your primary concern, then 50:11 is way too tall a gear. Even with 40:11 you will still do 43 km/h at 90 rpm and 48 km/h at 100 rpm, which is plenty quick IMHO.

On a 2x the gearing you suggested is probably the way to go. Although a 1x conversion isn’t that expensive, you need a Wolftooth extender and replace the double chainring. Once you sell the unused chainrings, I don’t think it’ll be that expensive. Slap on an SLX cassette in the back and you are done.

But overall, if you want a cheap build, though, then the Merlin might be an option. It might be cheap enough to buy it and simply try it. You can always sell it later on if you don’t like it — and/or you upgrade to something else.

I think that’s fast enough for me too!

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Thanks very much for the assistance everyone.
If anyone else has recommendations for good value frames, along the lines of the Sonder Camino, I’d love to hear them . . . especially if they have international shipping available. Cheers!

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Let us know how it goes!

I certainly will!!

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GregH -

Just found this thread Googling for info on the Malt G2x.

I have just ordered a size 56cm frame. Plan to build it up with an Ultegra 2x drive-train my friend gave me and some tan wall Panracer GravelKing SK 700x38s on Bontrager Paradigm wheels he also hooked me up with. REALLLLLLLY wish the bare frame set was available in the black/orange instead of the black/green :frowning:

Frame was cheap enough with shipping, and after selling my 2021 Poseidon X the other day, have also had some extra for accessories. Have a 150mm externally routed dropper post coming for it as well, using the new Trans-X dropbar dropper lever.

Will be an interesting build, looking forward to seeing how the geo feels.

Did you ever end up taking the plunge?

I didn’t end up taking the plunge (yet?!) I’ve decided to wait and see what else comes up on the used market later this year, and also thought putting that money aside for covid-contingency might be a wiser choice right now.