Vintage Merlin

I’ve been spending a lot of time on, which is probably the biggest English retro site out there, going through the 250 pages of posts on readers bikes.

Here’s a beautiful Merlin from the back pages;


It’s pretty much perfect.  Not just in the period correctness of the parts, but in the particular brands chosen.  Parts on this bike come from the legends of the industry that are of just the right style for a Merlin.  Like Wilderness Trail Bikes (hubs), Interloc Racing Designs (seatpost), Salsa (stem), Specialized (tires), and Ritchey (fork).

Add in rare black Shimano XT brakes, those fabulous 4-finger brake levers, Mavic rims, Sugino cranks, and a Regina Extra Amercia freewheel – this is some crazily rare piece that I don’t even know what it is – and you have perfection.

It was posted three years ago, but there are some more fabulous pictures here;

I talked about price in my last post, but this is a bike that it would be very hard to put a price on.  I don’t know that I’d ever have the budget to make the builder let it go.  But even then, you’d hope that it’s a bike the owner can hang onto it until he’s able to pass it on to a younger family member, and so on.

No question, this is a 10.

eBay Finds, or, This Blog is Entirely About Gary Fisher Now…

If you’ve been paying attention to my blogging all these years, you might remember that I’ve mentioned often that vintage Gary Fisher bicycles and frames rarely come up for sale.

Things seem to have changed though.

I’ve posted before the seller in the U.S. with the insane, $25,000 price on the Procaliber. Which seems to be an “f-you” response to people telling him his $8,000 price was ridiculous. Today, there are three other vintage Fishers;

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This is a 1987 Procaliber, completely original with Shimano XT parts, chainstay mounted U-brakes, and the most awesome flat handlebar ever.  It’s funny that so many people will mention that their remembrance of vintage MTBs is 150mm stems and 0 or 3 degree sweep handlebars, because I remember these 10 degree bars.  Both of them disappeared from the market, but the big sweep flat bar made a comeback with the Rise of the 29ers.

The price is $700, which is right on the edge of “that’s pricey, but good given it’s condition” and “great bike, but that’s insane.”  And the reason it’s not completely insane is it’s rarity, and it’s place in the history of MTBs.

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Next up is a 1990 AL-1.  One of the first production aluminum bikes, this one, like the Procaliber, is in excellent shape.  It’s a little less original, but has the super cool Fisher Fat Trax tire on the front.

The price here is $950, which is really leaning into the insane.  I love the colour, but if I had to choose, the cheaper Procaliber is a pretty easy win.

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1991 Fisher Procaliber – I’m not 100% certain if that Control Stem is original, but even if it isn’t, the bike is 99% original.  Even the tires and grips, which are very rare to survive this long.   It too is in excellent condition, and has the added VRC cache of being a non-Shimano bike.  Plus for me, 1991/1992 are simply the best years for mountain bikes period.

So, it’s $850, splitting the difference between the two previous bikes.  But is that an insane price?  I don’t think I could ever pay that much for this bike.  But, I can’t say it’s insane, because if this was a Rocky Mountain Vertex, or Altitude, or Thunderbolt of the same vintage and condition, I’m buying it.

It really comes down to if its your brand or not.

Now it gets a little crazy;

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This is a 1990 Gary Fisher Prometheus.  Titanium frame, absolutely 100% original, clearly used, but in very good condition.  The rarest of the rare.  I spend a lot of time on – probably the biggest english website for vintage, retro, classic – and I don’t think anyone there has one.  And they have everything.

The price though is $12,000.

I’ve seen some bikes, like limited run Colnagos with special paint jobs and anniversary Campagnolo groupsets with asking prices like this, and I’ve thought; “I don’t think I’d ever be able to spend that much, but I don’t think that’s an unfair price.”

I don’t know what I think about this though.  It’s amazing but I don’t know if it’s that amazing.

Here it is if you’re wanting to pay the down payment on the guy’s house;

Gary Fisher I

This is a re-run here, going all the way back to my TeamCow Blogspot page.  I needed to get all my Gary Fisher posts in the same place.

So this fancy ad appears on the Fisher website today, touting the ‘Gary Fisher Collection.’

‘Literally a dream come true’ it says.

I was intrigued – it sounded like Trek had created an AMG-like premium brand for Fisher within the Trek empire.  A special set of bikes where Gary was allowed to run wild and do whatever he wanted.

But no.  It’s nothing that good at all.  From the press release;

Trek Bicycle and bike pioneer Gary Fisher are pleased to announce the Gary Fisher Collection, a line of Trek bikes that will replace the standalone Gary Fisher brand. The Collection will be distributed exclusively through Trek retailers.

So Gary Fisher the bike company doesn’t exist any more.  It’s been reduced to Gary Fisher’s signature on the Trek Rig, and the Trek Paragon.

It just doesn’t sound right.

This just feels like a strange move for Trek.  I felt like everything that was unique and cool about Fisher was simply brushed aside in ’93 after Trek purchased them.  Instead of bolted together CR-7s, we got Trek OCLV hardtails with Gary Fisher badges on them.  They felt as much like Fishers as the Cimarron felt like a Cadillac.

But slowly, things changed.  And eventually Fishers felt like Fishers again.  They looked good, and they felt like unique and cool bikes again.

They felt like a company I could like and care about again.

In fact, I bought an ’09 Rig recently.  Because it was a 29er, because it reminded me of the old Supercaliber with the big squiggle graphic on the top tube, and because it felt like a cool bike.

But now, they’re just Treks.

And it just doesn’t seem to matter what Trek does, they’re still bikes trying to appeal to the widest variety of people possible.  In other words, dull.

I swear Trek has some computer program that scans all of the most popular graphic design, and synthesizes it into the most inoffensive and vanilla thing they can come up with, and that what goes on their bikes.  I’m sure you can tell from this that I’m not a fan, but consider that I’ve known of them since 1988, and not once have they put out a bike that I’ve looked at and thought; ‘that looks good.’

Law of averages alone says that they should have come out with one aesthetically pleasing bike in 22 years – right?

And after this many years you’d think a company could come up with a damn logo to put on the head tube!

Fisher had a great logo…

Gary Fisher II

Yes, him again….

He’s the character that I love to be pretty much ambivalent about.

If you’re interested though, here’s an interview he gave at the Handmade show in Austin recently;

I didn’t even watch it.  The comments made it sound like some kind of freakshow, so I passed.  Besides, I can’t be bothered to watch an interview, because really, that’s a waste of one of your senses.  Make it a podcast so I can look at imgur while I listen.  Or make it text so I can listen to Deftones while I read.

Yes I know I can just start it and then open another tab, but that’s besides the point really.

The point is; who cares what Gary Fisher thinks about the health of the handmade bicycle industry?  Does he handmake bicycles anymore?  Is he even looking over the shoulder of the technical school trained kid at Trek, advising him where to click in his CAD/CAM program to place his signature decal?  What the hell does he do anyway?

Now that Trek dropped the other shoe, and has swallowed up Fisher mountain bikes, he’s seemingly just a figurehead for his not-really-existing-anymore bike company, and slowing morphing into the Don Cherry of cycling.

I guess he does provide some personality for what could be the most boring bicycle company ever.

I just don’t think I like that personality.

underachieving since 1996