A Berry Blast from the Past: 1981 Jim Merz MTB

Yesterday morning I had a date with a framebuilding legend from the American West. Like DiNucci, Strawberry, Bruce Gordon and others, Jim Merz was a key figure in promoting the production of custom frames in the ’70s and early ’80s. He was a machinist first, turned cyclist, turned builder. He was also an endurance cyclist, pedaling from Portland to Panama in 1970, logging over 8,000 miles. He also toured extensively in South Africa.

Jim brought his knowledge of loaded touring and trekking to his own operations, designing, fabricating and in a lot of ways shaping the world of touring bikes forever. So why haven’t you heard of Jim Merz? (Or perhaps you have, no assumptions here.) Well, Jim’s a unique guy and one that didn’t necessarily seek out the limelight like others in his day. That didn’t mean Jim wasn’t busy. In fact, in his ten years of solo framebuilding from 1972 through 1982, he built around 400 frames from Columbus and Reynolds tubing; he was the first US-builder certified to use Reynolds 753.

In the 1980’s Jim went to work for Mike Sinyard. You see, Mike had supplied Jim with tires for his previous tours and Mike wanted to start making frames at Specialized. He knew just the right guy for the job. Jim worked for Specialized until 1990.

This bike was constructed in 1981 and underwent quite the restoration. Here it is in the condition Jim found it a few years back. Jim tracked down the original parts for this project, with the exception of the bars and headset. It was treated for rust, repaired and repainted, fully restoring this stunning bike to its full glory. The parts on this bike are in incredible condition, showing patina without boasting abuse or neglect.

I had the pleasure of meeting Jim Merz yesterday, in the Los Padres National Forest, just outside his home in Big Sur. We talked cameras, wildlife, and bicycle touring while working on documenting a special project.

More on that later, for now, enjoy these photos. If you want to see more of Jim’s work, check out the Merz Bicycles Facebook.

  • Matthew Handscombe

    Man, I love these early bikes. That worked fork crown… Drilled and tapped Dura Ace… Fantastic!

    • Tim Guarente

      Yeah, that crank is baaaad! Nice all around bike, Jim!

  • Joshua Eric Sawyer

    What a gorgeous bike and fantastic resto.

  • Nicholas Petersen

    I could tell those were Ukai rims immediately. I feel old. Amazing bike.


  • Carrion Cargo

    So good! Color, gumwalls and selection of cool parts are all still great.

  • Matt O’Donnell

    God damn that’s gorgeous. I want to have so bad.

  • breed007

    I was born in 1981 and have always wanted to restore a “birth year” MTB. That’s a high bar!

  • James Rollins

    I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and riding with Jim and he’s a super interesting guy to talk to about American frame building history…and this bike is cool on so many levels.

  • Richard

    Now THAT is bringing a vintage parts bin to life! Nicely played. That geometry! That Huret! That Phil hub! That FRAME PUMP!! Sweet.

    • DaymanDaryl

      The triplized Dura Ace crank…I would have expected a TA on this. A drilled and tapped Dura Ace crank. That’s a story I want to hear!

  • Charlie D

    Cool bike

  • caliente

    Look at those itty bitty phil wood logos!

  • boooom. that color!

  • Lovely vintage MTB. Why wasn’t they’re a picture of the builder – then or now? Its about the guy who made as well that the restored bike. Jim is alive and well in CA.

    • … Did you see yesterday’s post? I was saving the portraits…

  • nothingfuture

    Here’s my run-down of things I like about this bike:
    1. Everything
    2. Frame pumps on MTB’s need to be a thing again
    3. Dura-Ace converted to a triple
    5. Campy seat QR because we have standards, people!

    So good.