My 4th Mercian

Well late in 2016 I set my yearly target at 4700 miles for 2017.

 

This works out at an average of 391.66 miles per month , with 20 days gone I have covered less than 170 miles and with a frost forecast for the next few nights it doesn’t stand a lot of chance of going up by much at all , as I don’t enjoy cycling with frost or ice on the roads .

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Dashboard showing temp

 

I can hear you all shouting and telling me to man up and ride no matter what , I don’t mind the rain and cold but just not riding when frosty , icy or snow is laying and that is it . Well it’s way too early to start worrying about a recovery plan to get my target back on track so will just carry on doing whatever miles I do and worry about it in November and December if I am still behind target .

 

 

The most annoying thing about it is that I have a couple of new to me bikes that I want to get out on and see what they ride like . One of them is a 1989 built to order Mercian King of Mercia road bike that I obtained from its original owner as he no longer felt it was the bike he wanted anymore . It was used regularly until 2005 and since then it has had very little if any use at all . The surprising thing about it is how immaculate a condition it still is in with just a couple of small areas that show a bit of wear .

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Mercian King of Mercia

 

The frame and fork stampings confirm that they are a matching pair , all the running gear is from the same era and is as per the original supply apart from the rear wheel which got destroyed at some point in 2005 when it was involved in an accident . The group set is Shimano 600 Tricolour set which still looks as good as the day it first hit the road and operates as smoothly as you would expect it to , it even has the aero seat post that are getting quite rare this day and age .

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Mercian King of Mercia

It also has a rather different stem fitted that has a screw on cap that you need to remove to enable adjustment to be made to either the height and angle of the bars , it’s the first time I have seen one of these stems never mind used one , it could be a bit shorter for my liking but it will be fine I should think .

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Mercian King of Mercia

 

The original owner had it built to a non-touring specification so limited clearance and no mudguard or rack mounting points with over bottom bracket cable guides and 2 sets of bottle cage mounts in Reynolds 653 tubing. Finished in a classy dark green paintwork with a browny gold seat tube that almost looks as good as new .

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Mercian king of Mercia

 

This is the 4 th Mercian I have owned over the years and each of them have been purchased from the original owners . So far this one has only covered about 10 miles in my ownership since being reassembled by my local family owned bike shop last week . Once the less frosty weather arrives I will be using this on the dry days seeing as no guards are fitted .

Green Mercian

I need to swap the pedals over to some Shimano spd clip in ones and then its ready to go as since these pictures were taken I have already swapped the saddle over to a Selle smp one as is normal for me , ok I am sure the purists will say it should have a Brooks b17 fitted instead .

Brooks Professional

When you look closely at the frame you can see why Mercian earn their reputation as one of the uk’s top framebuilders .

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55 and not out

Well some of you might know it was my 55th Birthday yesterday.

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Sirius 653

It’s been a good life so far I feel , ok a few ups and downs but in general I don’t feel I can complain too much in all fairness , maybe some would but I am not . Our mortgage is paid off , I am in my 12th year at my current employers holding a good enough job down and best of all its 1.5 miles away from home which means I can commute easily by bike on a daily basis and still come home for my lunch. Even if I go the scenic way home I still clock up less than 10 miles in a day for a total of 4 journeys .

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Sirius 653

These short gentle commutes are ideal for testing out my recent acquisitions or builds before they hit the road on a longer journey. It’s surprising using the local cycle paths how many times you have to slow down and change gear to avoid all sorts of obstacles like dogs , school children and metal control gates en route .

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Sirius 653

During the last week I have been using a Sirius Touring bike for these duties and it has behaved well so far. It’s a 23” frame with more braze ons than you will ever need . At some point in its life I would guess the wider touring wheels have been swapped for a pair of narrower road wheels for whatever reason .

The gearing is a 3 x 7 set up so it should be able to propel any strong legged person up most inclines he ever comes across whilst out touring no matter how heavy a load is on the bike . The Shimano RSX brakes seem to provide adequate stopping power so I would presume those are more than capable of stopping this bike whilst laden . The gears and brakes are controlled by a set of early Shimano sti units that if I remember rightly are of the flight deck variety and again they operate nice and freely .

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Sirius 653

I often wish bikes could talk to their owners so they could tell you about some of the journeys they have made in their existence under previous owners; the gent I got this from was totally unaware of what it had done prior to him buying it a while back . All in all this would make an ideal touring bike again although I do feel it would pay to swap for some wider rimmed wheels and the fitment of some guards would never go a miss in my mind .

Experience’s Seen

Over the years what other people do to their bikes has never ceased to amaze me .

 

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Pollard

 

One of my more recent purchases has been converted from a geared set up to a single speed one. Once the rear quick release was unreleased it became apparent that the rear wheel hadn’t been spaced to suit rear wheel drop outs , so a quick undo of the cone locking nuts and the insertion of some washers and hey presto the wheel now sits nicely into the rear drop outs rather than wobbling about in there .

 

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Bromwich Mixte

 

Other things have been the insertion of coke can shims on seat posts when the correct sized ones are available off the shelf at your local bike shop. I have even seen electrical cable joining blocks holding two halves of a brake cable together which is a crazy thing to do when new cables are so cheap and readily available .

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Claud Butler Sierra

 

 

We won’t touch on the subject of tyres and the condition some of them have been in either, again you can pick up new decent quality tyres at what I think are reasonable prices . I know all the above add up pound note wise but I feel a few quid spent making a bike safer on the road and more presentable is definitely worthwhile . I don’t mind if it’s a bike that I know has been sat unused for a while , but when its one that is in use at the time of my enquiry then it’s a different thing in my eye .

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Continental TourRIDE

 

 

Unless I state otherwise all the bikes I sell are ridden by me for at least 100 miles to make sure that I am happy . I can put my hand on my heart and say there should be no issues with the bike for its new owner .

Dunelt 1950’s Road Bike

Some time back in 2012 I answered an advert for a 1950’s Gents Racing bike for sale at a bargain price.

 

Once I spoke to the elderly gentleman who was selling it we agreed a time for me to come over and view the bike .

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1950’s Dunelt

 

 

I was met by a gent in his late 80’s who was being told by all his family to give up cycling and was therefore selling his owned from new bike that he thought he bought sometime in the 1950’s with his first wage packet . He apologized for the fact that it no longer had a lot of its original parts fitted as he had worn them out over the years and had last replaced the vast majority in the late 70’s . He quite happily told me it was a Dunelt bike but was unsure of the exact model but he knew it was Reynolds 531 tubing as he paid a bit extra for this over the standard tubing .

 

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Dunelt

Working from memory the wheels were the concave weinmann units laced on to maillard hubs and a nice wide range cassette unit and a fairly modern crankset , but things like bars and stem were all original, looking at the pictures I founds on my one drive over the Christmas / new year period I would say they were later additions . Each time he overhauled it he also hand painted it a different colour bless him and couldn’t remember what the original colour was or if it was under all the recoats he had done .

 

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Dunelt

A quick ride around the block and an exchange of some hard earned cash and the machine was being loaded into the back of my car along with a box of bits and bobs that he had mainly used for keeping his pride and joy on the road including a very heavy wheel alignment jig .

 

After a couple of more short trips around the block it was time to change the tyres and brake cables and start putting some more miles on this great old bike , next job was to make it a bit lighter by removing the steel front and rear racks that were fitted . The bike was used mainly for my daily commuting miles and was also taken on holiday for some gentle rides along the seafront at Burnham On Sea .

 

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Dunelt

 

I had always felt it was rather a shame that such a great bike with nice detailing around the lugs and other areas didn’t have a nicer paint finish , so I made the rash decision to have it bead blasted and powder coated and then re assembled . My then local powder coater’s were only offering a very bright shade of orange for anything quicker than a 3 or 4 week turnaround so that is what I went with .

 

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Dunelt

Upon collection I was well impressed with the quality of the workmanship done and as instructed by them placed it up in the loft to harden up before getting it out again as and when required . During this hardening time I was offered a rather nice Mercian bike and to make ends meet I decided to sell the Dunelt to offset the cost of the Mercian a bit , so it was reluctantly sold via e bay and never to be seen again .

 

If i hadn’t been looking at my newly re discovered one drive it would never have crossed my mind at all , and looking at the detailing again I hope somebody has built it up and enjoyed riding it as much as I and the original owner did all those years ago .

 

To this day I keep an eye out for another Dunelt but they don’t crop up very often and are mainly ladies town bikes .

Using a 1950’s onwards Bike for daily use

Last week I wrote a blog about using late 80’s early 90’s Mtb’s as commuting bikes.

 

 

Let’s go back a bit further in time and look at using classic 50’s – 60’s Town or roadster bikes today .

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Phillips

 

All of my experience of this kind of bike is based around using what I believe is a mid-50’s Raleigh Lenton that has been used for doing my daily commutes on since April 2016 and in all fairness it’s only been since September that it has been running 100% . The main issues have been the original 1954 four speed sturmey Archer rear hub  but I was aware of an unknown gear issue when I bought the bike .

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1950’S Raleigh Roadster

 

The reason I chose to buy this actual bike over any of the other similar aged bikes I looked at was the fact it was fitted with 26 x 1 ¼” Alloy rims that would or should actually allow some braking effort to be applied when needed , as the thought of using one with steel rimmed wheels in the damp and cold conditions does not inspire me greatly .

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1950’s Raleigh Roadster

 

The vast majority of bikes from the same era would have been fitted with steel rims and rod linked brakes all of which don’t add up to a great daily commuter , but that is only my opinion and again not based on any experience of using one . So my advice would be to try and find one with alloy rims and conventional caliper brakes that are cable operated .

 

 

Once I had the original 4 speed hub replaced by a mid-60’s 3 speed AW model hub the bike has run faultlessly and has also been used for a couple of 20+ mile leisure rides just for a bit of fun and has covered well over 150 miles since so there is no reason once a bike of this era is fettled into a reliable state it can’t be used as a daily commuter .

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1950’s Raleigh Roadster

 

The frames and the vast majority of the components fitted are of a more robust nature than most modern components in my mind , so yes the bike weighs a lot more but once up to riding speed they float along lovely and are even more relaxing to ride if fitted with 28” wheels over the more standard 26” wheel .

 

 

The vast majority came with full length mudguards and chain covers . Some even had a dynamo lighting system built in as standard, with a few modern gizmos added these can be quite useful lights .  Even if the original guards have disappeared there are loads of guards available that can be fitted with out too much issue , the ones on mine are Sks chromo plastic ones designed for 700c wheels which provide loads of clearance between tyre and guards and are squeak and rattle free in operation .

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1950’S Raleigh Roadster

The gear ratios provided leave a lot to be desired on most Sturmey Archer units but with a bit of swapping over of the rear gear and or the crankset you can normally get it somewhere near ideal to the terrain that you ride on locally . And then there is also the ability to just run it in single or fixed gear mode as well .

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1950’s Raleigh Roadster

With a machine that is at least 50+ years old it has more than likely lost all or most of its originality so is a lot less desirable to bike theives so one less thing to worry about as well .

 

The other great thing is the initial purchase cost is likely to be lower than a modern bike from your local retail outlet. So far I have spent just over £120 on buying and getting the bike into a reliable daily commuting machine that stands out from the rest of the bikes parked in my workplace bike rack .

 

Sourcing from e bay , gumtree and local auction houses examples of these town bikes can be had from as little as £20 , plus whatever needs doing to them to get mobile again , I am not aware of any parts supply issues although there isn’t always a lot of choice on tyres but currently Schwalbe offer a couple of choices of a fairly puncture proof tyre .