Dirt Disciple
My dream bike! Just over a year ago, I was knocked off my bike by a car and suffered fractures, dental problems and psychological effects. It took me a while to get back on the bike, and to help me through, I told myself I'd treat myself to my dream bike.

After looking at various modern bikes and some custom frames, I decided to go a different route and get hold of a bike I desired in my youth. There were a few candidates, but I came across a bargain, slightly rough-looking Merlin Malt and thought it was a perfect candidate for a respray. I know it's not the most highly-regarded frame of the 90s, but I always liked the look of them and although I was a dirt jump rider at the time, I always thought one day I'd own a Merlin with top-end Shimano drive train. I disassembled my previous bike, which was a perfect example of "overbiking", and set about creating a lighter XC bike that would help me in my favourite passtime of riding uphill. After building a prototype with this frame, I disassembled it and sent it off to be resprayed. I experimented with some colour schemes in photoshop and this was the winning design. Screw these modern bikes in camo green and black: this is a brightly coloured 90s bike!
The frame and fork were sprayed by Black Cat Custom Paint, with decals by Retro Decals, who even created custom coloured decals for the fork, to match the colour scheme. I also obtained replacement decals for the Mavic rims, in custom colours, from Ink My Ride. I learned a few things along the way, such as how to install Shimano Hollowtech cranks and how to dismantle and rebuild a suspension fork (Rockshox Judy SL). I sprayed a couple of parts myself: the mounts for the rear brake and the caliper for the front brake, which I did with paints.

The bike has a mixture of parts from different eras, with a retro frame and fork, wheels and drive train from c.2010, and a brand new saddle, pedals and tyres.
It doesn't necessarily have 'top end' parts everywhere, but it has nearly all the parts I want. It has XTR cranks, because I've always dreamed of them. It has a Magura rear brake because I love the way these brakes operate and their low maintenance needs. The saddle was custom fitted using the Selle Italia idMatch, and is the only saddle that has ever been comfortable for me (I have the same one on my road bike). The rear derailleur isn't as light as an XTR or XT, but it is a rapid-rise design, which, despite its lack of popularity, I think is the ultimate rear derailleur design - it's so much easier to flick it into the big sprocket when you slam into a steep bit of trail!
The only things I am thinking about changing are possibly the handlebars, which I might swap for wider ones if my experiment with wider ones on another bike pans out well, and the front brake, which is quite a cheap and probably heavy design, which I'll swap for a higher end brake if I have some spare cash at some point. I have also swapped the cheap grips for some Jitsie foam trials grips since the photo was taken. I haven't tried them for XC yet, but I think they'll be better than the ODI Yetis I used to have. Otherwise, the bike is pretty much perfect! Collecting the parts and working on the bike over the last few months has really helped me work through my psychological after-effects of the crash and all the other crap going on in my life, and now I can't wait for summer to roll around and I can get this going up some British mountains!
Thanks for reading this far!


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I still have my Malt frame hanging up in the shed. It was/is a great xc frame and is now in consideration to be converted to electric, for shopping trip use.
Yours is very nicely put together and finished 👍
I really like this! Great paintjob. Just rebuilding my own Merlin and I'll be getting the same decals after seeing how neat they look on yours

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