When does an armchair become a racing car seat ?
For my recently acquired Mercian it started to happen the moment I swapped the wide flat bars for a set of normal drop bars , this swap totally transformed this bike from being a very relaxed machine to one that has started to feel a bit more lively and responsive. The next stage would be to fit some narrower profile tyres of either 27” or 700c size . The actual geometry of the frame itself is more than likely the most limiting factor .
As far as I was told by the original owner of this bike it was built to his specification by Mercian cycles of Derby at some point in the 1970’s . The things he specified were Prugnant professional lugs , a higher bottom bracket , increased brake drop , pump pegs on the drive side rear stay , top tube brake cable braze on’s are also offset to the drive side rather than being central , full rear stay wrap over , front wheel dynamo mount bracket and the fairly standard for the era lamp bracket boss on the drive side front fork blade .
His explanation for all these modifications was that he wanted a bike that he could use on weekend club rides , touring duties , road races and when need be any off roading that was required when out cycling . His reason for the pump pegs and top tube cable guides being offset to the drive side were so that when he carried the bike on his right shoulder he would not knock the pump of when lifting it up and the cable guides would not cause any cuts and lacerations to his hands when he was steadying the bike on his shoulder .
All the above modifications show how thoroughly this bike was thought about before any riding started and by listening to the previous owner it was used for loads of cycling and covered many a happy mile with him . At some point as far as I can tell the bike has been refinished as the Reynolds 531 decal clearly states renovated. When questioned the old boy had no recollection of this but when you get to 76 I feel you are allowed to forget some things . The condition of the paintwork is clearly a lot fresher than a 40+ year old bike would be if it had been used for most of its time .
A lot of the components date from the mid 1980’s i.e. the rear Suntour vx rear mechanism , Stronglight crankset and the lovely miche wheel hubs and the use of stainless spokes in both of the 27” wheels. A lot of the other added on bits are a lot earlier like the Simplex bottle cage , springring bell and the classically shaped Lucifer Baby dynamo and lighting set . The elderly gent told me how these were fitted to his previous bike a Maclean which sadly got destroyed when it was involved in a collision .
So far the only work I have done is to swap the damaged and broken mudguards with a pair of much newer and better condition ones I had lying around in the garage. I then replaced the flat handlebar and stem set up for a set of alloy drops with a slightly shorter stem and a set of early Shimano 600 drilled brake levers and some new brake cables, some new pads are on order to be fitted once they arrive .
At present I have covered just over 10 slow gentle commuting miles and once the brake pads have arrived and been fitted I will start using this bike on some longer and more arduous rides , then once I am happy with positioning of the bars I will be applying some black bar tape .