Tuesday, June 24, 2014

A Life with a Brooks B17

One of the most popular posts that I have written for this Blog was all about the breaking in of a Brooks B17 saddle . That particular post was written about a black B17 that I had had fitted to my new Mercian Vincitore Special and was the second in my series of Brooks B17 saddles.  In the event the life ( with me ) of that particular saddle was short as I discovered that the riding position on a road bike was significantly different from the Specialized Sirrus Comp Hybrid, my original bike and the place where I fell in love with Brooks saddles.

The original saddle was a Honey Brown with Copper Rivets and both looked and smelt like the piece of handcrafted excellence it was.

The image above  was taken when the saddle was still relatively new and at this stage the score was

Brooks B17  6   -   My Butt    0

I bought this saddle in the spring of 2008 and sat on it constantly for the next 10000km of cycling by which time the saddle and I were coming to an understanding. I fed it with Neat Oil, wiped it down when it was soaked from the rain or covered in snow, polished the copper rivets and generally treated it with respect. In return it began to change its character, moulding itself to my butt ( or did my butt mould itself to saddle shape ?)

As I started cycling more, my friends introduced me to the algorithm of how many bikes even an OAP cyclist actually needs and so I started to acquire just a few more; all essential purposes of course, no luxury here. With these new bikes came a range of saddles including Fizik Arione and Selle Italia and so the Hybrid, and hence the Brooks B17, got less use.

Recently however I have been going through a period of forced maintanence on the road bikes ( I did  tentatively suggest to my wife that this probably indicated that I  might be in desperate need of another purchase, but the look of astonishment on her face and cries of wonder made me think that I might be better putting that idea on hold ) and so I have returned to the Hybrid and hence to Brooks.

I had forgotten just how comfortable my long lost love had become as she had matured into a grand old lady

I wonder if I made a mistake in exchanging the black B17 on the Mercian, perhaps there was a more fitting model in the Brooks range I should have chosen.

Anyway, off now to give her a polish and take her out for a trip to the local tea shop.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Real Steel.... Mercian of Derby

My last post featured some steel bikes that I had seen and started a bit of a reminiscence. About 45 years ago, just after I had left University, I started work at a Rolls-Royce plc plant in Raynesway and at lunch times, to get out of the office, I often used to walk down the road to Alvaston, buy some fish and chips and then wander back. There was, and still is, a bike shop in Avaston though I never paid it much attention, it was called Mercian Cycles . Little did I know then how much I would come to admire and revere their products. Time passed, my career progressed, I was moved to RR CHQ and I never thought about Mercians again; if I ever did before. I was too busy travelling the world, thinking about business opportunites and trying to do deals.

And then I retired.

Suddenly I would be home for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and 52 weeks in a year. My wife was delighted and after about 2 days suggested that I bought a bike, she was obviously concerned about my health and thought I needed to get out more.
My first purchase was a very heavy, very old, very cheap  MTB and it lasted about 4 weeks before the rear wheel imploded with spokes shooting off like guided missiles.  It was then that I discovered Mercians.
A retired friend, who had been riding all his life and was a strict adherent to the N+1  principle regarding bike ownership showed me his collection and invited me to try them. One of these was a 1961 Mercian Audax

My love affair with Mercian had begun and Alan, seeing how smitten I was, offered to sell it to me. How could I resist?
The history of Mercians is well documented on their website but pure words cannot do justice to the feel and pleasure in owning and riding a hand built machine, using the tools, skills and crafstmanship which has been developed over decades and is still in use today.

The lug work on these bikes is exquisite, and as I heard more about about the beauty of hand built machines, made to fit perfectly the owner, a desire began to grow to have one made specifically for me.  I had learnt at work that projects needed an end date and so for me, the idea was to have a bike tailored just foe me in time for my 65th birthday, a Mercian Vincitore Special. The bike took 6 months to produce and a week before my birthday I received a call that it was ready.

I am told that the large manufacturers like Giant et al, have 6000+ bikes a year rolling off their production lines. I dont know how many Mercian produce but what I do know is that each one is invested with love and care that the big players could only dream of.

I now have 2 grandsons and I am giving their mothers strict nutritional guidelines to ensure that both grow to the exact dimensions needed so that they fit my bikes perfectly.

Mercians are forever

Do you have a Mercian story to tell?  If so, add it to the comments box and share it with others.