Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Merlin Cyrene: ageless, grace in motion

There are moments in our lives where everything around us comes together to create perfection. The humidity is down, the sun is up, the temp - just right. It's that spiritual nirvana that recharges the spirit within. You are on your Merlin Cyrene and there's not another soul in sight. The pressures of the world just melt away as you glide through the countryside as if you were the wind. The seemingly effortless power transfer makes the Cyrene feel almost self-propelled and you are just along for the ride. Beautifully sculpted seatstays soften the vibrations of the road, yet keep firmly connected to the powerband. This richly engraved frame is a rolling work of art that some would put on a pedestal. But you won't. It would be a sin to lock this bike away. This bike is made to ride. It just rides more beautifully than any other in the world.

A little background to her namesake: in Pindar's Ninth Pythian Ode, the Thessalian nymph, Cyrene (Kyrene, or Κυρήνη), is granddaughter to the river god, Peneus, and daughter of the King of the Lapiths, Hypseus and Chlidanope, a Naiad. Renowned for her beauty and strength, peerless in hunting, Cyrene, an attendant of Artemis, was untouchable — eschewing romance, preferring the freedom of the hills and dales.

One day, Cyrene wrestled and fought off a lion attacking her father's sheep. The god, Apollo, who happened to be passing by, saw this and immediately fell in love with her. He spirited the lovely nymph across the seas to the coast of North Africa, where the god seduced her. Together, she and Apollo had Aristaeus, who became a minor agricultural god. Apollo built her a city after her namesake, Cyrene, and made her mistress of it. The region, Cyrenaica, is also named after her. In addition, Apollo also granted Cyrene a long life.

I first laid eyes on Merlin's Cyrene at my favorite local bike shop (LBS) in North California, Cupertino Bike Shop (where I acquired Ivy, a 1996 Stumpjumper FS). Over the years, I would return to gaze in admiration over each new improvement of Merlin's stable.

However, it was at the 2006 North American Handmade Bicycle Show, where Merlin took the leap to full engraving of the Cyrene, that took my breath — and stole my heart — away. No gaudy, loud, eye-frying decals or stickers which hint at a newcomer's insecurity — just understated elegance. Confidence.

An approach reveals intricate, unbelievably beautiful, flowing arabesque detail, on the finest brushed titanium.

Drive side of the Cyrene: there is a total absence of decals on the entire frame. Gone is the traditional headbadge, even the company's logo is engraved.

A close up of the head tube.

No paint to scratch or chip off; no decals to peel or flake; just titanium.

A close up of the non-drive side.

Chainstays. Dropouts are forged from 6AL/4V titanium.

Bottom bracket, down tube, seat tube, even the chainstay bridge, all are engraved.

A high resolution picture of the Merlin Cyrene.

An acquaintance once remarked that I am not so much a cyclist as a collector. I am not sure I disagree. I love beautiful things. I love handmade things. Every quarter, when the professors hand out the reading lists, I fork out the additional expense for the hardcover editions. I own a circa 1835 leather-bound book of poems by Keats. Sure, you can download the entire contents of Lamia, Isabella, The Eve of St Agnes, and Other Poems off the Internet in a few seconds, but how can mere pixels on a cathode-ray tube or a liquid crystal display even begin to compare with yellowed leaves which have endured more than one-and-a-half centuries; of thousands of slaughters, wars; and a billion tears, cries, and deaths? In Sun and Steel, Yukio Mishima puts forth that material objects take on the essence of memory and emotions through the passage of time. Thus, a thousand-year-old cabinet becomes more than a mere cabinet, it is now a distillation, a (partial) representation, of the past thousand years — an ark of memory.

In my book, form follows more than mere function.

Imagine this: a bicycle geometry designed by one of the greatest pioneers of titanium bicycles, Tom Kellogg; a frame custom fitted to your unique body dimensions, cycling habits, and personal preferences; forged from beyond aerospace spec titanium; hand mitered and welded by master craftsmen; hand polished and brushed, and then painstakingly hand engraved, leaf by leaf, swirl by swirl, on every tube. All titanium. All for you.

This isn't "Ti-fever."

This is love.



pedalmaniac said...

Wow that is breathtaking!

Anonymous said...

I have looked at this for at least a year...do you know the cost of the frame???

-ben said...

I believe that particular one is a one-off. The thing is, there are quite a few variations of the Cyrene, all with varying amounts of engravings (or even fonts). There's always custom, however :-D

Anonymous said...

Hey buddies, if you want a Merlin bike, you don't ask for the price.
Saint Exupéry said: If you want to build a boat, you don't gather men, who bring wood and saws and nails and begin to build. You inspire them to go to the sea....

Go for riding guys, go for Merlin and you'll never regret

Max from Switzerland

Sir ~B~ said...

I have seen this model online elsewhere and its still beautiful. Sadly, they (Merlin) won't make anything to this again; it was a one-off show bike. I will gladly take the Cielo model and ride off into the sunset anyday......

The Dark Knight