Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Mercian Stable

So how many bikes does one need?

Rule #12 states that while the minimum number of bikes one should own is three, the correct number is n+1, where n is the number of bikes currently owned. This equation may also be re-written as s-1, where s is the number of bikes owned that would result in separation from your partner.

I currently have the minimum number.

When I started cycling following retirement I bought a Specialized Sirrus Comp ( 2008 ).
I don’t really  know why.
I wanted a bike and sitting upright seemed a safer option. It was built with an aluminium frame and carbon forks, which I assumed was a lighter option. Equipped with 27 gears that seemed more than enough though precisely what that 50/40/30 and 12-28 cassette meant I had not got a clue. The group set was Shimano Tiagra and the wheels were fitted, so I was told, with 700x28mm tyres which I noticed had very little tread.
And so my cycling adventure began!
I got on board and cycled the 7km home, most of which was uphill..and I was exhausted. Driving a desk for 35 years was just no true preparation for riding a bike.
Encouraged by my wife, whom I secretly suspect thought the prospect of having me at home 24x7 after a lifetime of having the house to herself was an anathema , I persevered and soon my fitness improved, the distances increased and I began to experience the thrill of completing a climb and touring the country lanes around Derbyshire.
I soon met other cyclists who welcomed me to the fraternity and started explaining the basics of cycle maintenance and introduced me to that road to ruin, the ( essential ? ) upgrade. Looking at their bikes and listening to their stories I was introduced to the legendary names of equipment manufacturers, the famous races and the incredible history of the sport. Campagnola, Brooks, Mercian were soon to become as much a  part of my vocabulary as it was of theirs.
And a Brooks B17 saddle was my first upgrade, just the smell of the pure leather was intoxicating. This was rapidly followed by a further purchase, a jar of Sudo Cream, as I became painfully aware that leather saddles need to be broken in before  that state of ultimate seat comfort could be achieved.

It was whilst talking about bikes in a tea shop during a break in one of our rides that the opportunity to add to my bike stable emerged. One of my friends mentioned that he had an old Mercian that he was thinking of selling. It had been hanging from his garage wall for the last 5 years and so he thought it needed a new owner and a new lease of life.
I bought it!
It is a 1961 Mercian Audax with a Reynolds 531 frame and I am at least its fourth owner. It was originally equipped with a Campagnola Group Set with a 53/42 chain set but this has later been modified by adding a 30 tooth inner ring. The rear cassette is now a Shimano 14-28 and gear change is accomplished by a gravity downtube shifter though I have upgraded this to an index system for the rear cassette.
The quill stem, bars and seat stay are all the original Campagnola  but the brakes are a mixture of bits from Shimano and others.
The bike currently has 630x32 Schwalbe Marathon tyres mounted on what could be an original Mercian hand built wheel on a Jet Set R-10 rim at the rear and a Mavic Module-3 on the front.
Though the bike was obviously not built for me, it does ride beautifully and whether it is the lower rider profile on the drops, the larger chain rings or some other factor, it is certainly much quicker than the Hybrid. In summary, it is a bike which seduces you to the majesty and engineering excellence of a hand built machine.

My love affair with Mercian had begun.

And so I determined to have my own hand built bike and a description of it has been the topic of previous posts.  The result is a Mercian Vincitore Special ( 2012 ) and I wonder if the story will end here, or........

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