Rock Lobster Team Tig 853 review£299.00

Merlin Cycles has been building bikes under the licensed Rock Lobster brand name for years, and the 853 is a perennial favourite

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Merlin Cycles has been building bikes under the licensed Rock Lobster brand name for years, and the 853 is a perennial favourite.

It’s a classic XC/trail frame with angles set up to be happiest around a 100mm travel fork. We’ve ridden several complete bikes on this frame over the years, and even taken them on trips to the ultra-technical singletrack of Sierra Nevada with FreerideSpain.com, but we’ve never had a bad moment.

Despite being impressively race light for a steel frame (one of only two here under 2kg), it has a resilient toughness that won’t shrink or skitter away from sketchy lines or rock fields. Reynolds' flagship tubing keeps a stiff upper lip in steering terms, while the slim tapered tube back end gives a good balance between long-haul comfort and muscular power delivery.

Touches such as investment cast dropouts, low-profile ring reinforcing on the head tube and captured bolt sockets on the forward-facing seatpost slot give a retro feel. We’d avoid using really big discs on the rear because there’s no inter stay brace to spread stress, and there are no rack mounts either.

The excellent-value complete bikes Merlin creates are another great reason to play ‘team tig’ if you’re after a classic steel speed bike, though.

Guy Kesteven

Freelance Writer, UK
Guy started filling his brain with cycle stats and steaming up bike shop windows back in 1980. He worked the other side of those windows from '89 while getting a degree in “describing broken things covered in mud" (archaeology). Dug historical holes in the ground through the early '90s, then became a pro bike tester in '97. Guy has ridden thousands of bikes and even more components the world over since then and can remember them all in vivid, haunting detail. Can't remember where the car keys are, though.
  • Age: 45
  • Height: 180cm / 5' 11"
  • Weight: 68kg / 150lb
  • Waist: 76cm / 30in
  • Chest: 91cm / 36in
  • Discipline: Strict sadomasochist
  • Preferred Terrain: Technical off-piste singletrack and twisted back roads. Up, down, along — so long as it's faster than the last time he did it he's happy.
  • Current Bikes: An ever changing herd of test machines from Tri bikes to fat bikes and everything in between.
  • Dream Bike: His Nicolai Helius AM custom tandem
  • Beer of Choice: Theakston's Old Peculier (not Peculiar)
  • Location: Yorkshire, UK

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