Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on May 24th, 2017 at 1:36 pm
One of the most well-known bike brands in the world has just released a limited edition model (only 200 will be sold) that has a Portland framebuilder’s name on the downtube.
The new Sequoia adventure road bike from Specialized Bicycles has the name “Merz” emblazoned on the frame in honor of the work of Jim Merz. As you might recall in a story we shared of a bike tour Merz took in 1972, he was one of the first custom framebuilders to set up shop in Portland. After getting his start here in the early 1970s his work caught the attention of Mike Sinyard — the man who started Specialized. It was 1982 and Sinyard needed help building his “Stumpjumper” mountain bike frames which were taking the country by storm.
When “The Big S” wanted to bring back their Sequoia road bike to capitalize on today’s big adventure riding/gravel bike market, they contracted with Merz on the design. Below is an excerpt form an interview with Merz recently posted on the River City Bicycles website. In it, Merz explains how he first met Sinyard:
“So I had started building frames in Portland Oregon in 1972 or so. My then wife Virginia was working for Cycle Craft, one of the best shops in Portland in those days. So I had some connection with the bike industry but tubing and lugs were not easy to find in the USA, no internet!
I somehow found out about a guy in San Jose who was importing impossible to find bike parts, like Cinelli stems and bars. His name was Mike Sinyard and he called his company Specialized Bicycle Imports. So I got on his mailing list and once a month he would send out a flyer written by hand listing all the parts he was selling. In these “Bike Boom” days it was very difficult to find bicycle parts, everything was sold out because of the crazy demand. Mike had a interesting way of selling, he would list a bunch of hard to find parts and the price. You would pay up front and he would order them from Italy or France. When they came he would send them to you. Anyway, I guess he had some other frame builders because he ordered Columbus tubing and frame fittings with this same program. So that is how I met him, I was one of his first customers.
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Around 1981 he started thinking about making bikes. I kept bugging him to hire me but no luck though. He ended up hiring Tim Neenan to be the first bike designer… But Tim decided that he did not want to live in San Jose and Mike was adamant that Tim could not have the job unless he was in the office. So Tim left. Mike called me and asked if I still wanted to work for him. Yes!
… It was an amazing, crazy amount of work and travel. I met and worked with all the major bike companies and people. We got so much done, MTB’s were selling like hot cakes! I designed the Expedition bike, and updated all the other bikes including the Sequoia. So that is how I got to work in one of the most innovative bike companies in the world. And now this Sequoia all these years later, a little bit of Portland to NorCal connectivity.”
The bike itself (which retails for $3,750) is gorgeous and very thoughtfully appointed. It’d be perfect for loops through Forest Park’s roads and trails and could even tackle the singletrack that beckons in places like Stub Stewart off the the paved Banks-Vernonia path. If your curiousity is piqued, River City has a full size run in stock.