Sequoia Merz

Sequoia Merz

Specialized Bicycles has recently announced a special edition series of their incredible new Sequoia adventure road bike. It’s a limited edition of only 200 bicycles and River City Bicycles has a full size run! The Sequoia Merz is an incredibly capable bicycle and very much suited to the discovery of the back roads of Oregon. For this edition, Specialized called on Jim Merz, a former Portland resident  and one of their company’s earliest designers, to revisit his design along with current designer Erik Nohlin. We reached out to Jim for his thoughts on living and riding in Portland, his early work, and the new bike and also to Erik for thoughts on this new bike aswell.

The Basics

The Sequoia is a steel frame/carbon fork road bike built on plush, fast-rolling 700 x 42c Specialized Sawtooth tires. (If you follow us on Facebook you’ll know that our marketing guy believes the tires are the best part of this bike. Read that feature here) A SRAM Force 1x drivertrain, thru-axles, and Specialized’s CG-R FACT carbon seatpost and aluminum Adventure Gear Hover Bars are the modern touches that give this bike the perfect balance of classic and contemporary technology. Throwback “Valencia Orange” paint and a custom anodization run of headset, seatclamp, and Specialized’s Cruzero wheels make for a very special Sequoia, indeed.

Priced at $3750, just $250 more than Specialized’s premium Sequoia model, the Merz model adds a Body Geometry Phenom Comp saddle covered in Anza leather, matching handlebar tape, and a Swift Industries Scout Motto saddle bag. This is a bicycle determined to rival the beauty of the locations in which it will be photographed over many seasons of riding and touring. We have a photo gallery of the Sequoia Merz on our website.

Jim Merz, Portland, & The Specialized Sequoia

Jim’s first lugged bike, built 1970’s, with the original Valencia Orange paint by Virginia Church, pictured. (Photo courtesy of Jim Merz)

“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.”

“At one point early on Mike mentions that he is going to take the train to Seattle and Portland to visit dealers and would be bringing his bike and a trailer! When he came to Portland I put him up and from this we developed a great friendship. Later on I began to buy my tubing and frame parts direct from Europe but Mike had the best tires and I used them right from the start. I pushed him to make 700c available, in those days most clincher tires sold in the USA were 27″. He let me test new tires and I did a lot of touring back then.”

1983 Specialized Sequoia (Photo courtesy of Jim Merz)

“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. Tim designed the first Sequoia frames, along with the Allez and first Stumpjumper. I was kind of disappointed about that. (By the way, I designed many of the parts on that 1983 Sequoia. Cranks, pedals, headset, BB, rims, hubs, fork crown, lugs.) 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!”

“The first day on the job I got on a plane for Japan right from PDX! I was the only technical person working there and Mike took me everywhere he traveled. 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.”

Erik Nohlin – Lead Designer, Specialized Bicycles

“With the right vision, the right team and the heart in the right place, projects like this happen. I love how well balanced the hues of this bikes came out. Spent so much time getting all the details dialed and the development team did a great job executing the vision. Rims, hubs, headset and seat clamp have a custom throwback anodization to match the frame hues. The brushed stainless detail is a throwback to the times when elegance was still a mainstream thing in cycling.”

For even more great looking photos and details, check out the feature write up on The Radavist.