The Co-Habitant teases me for my tendency to love decrepit old bicycles despite having modern options. My Mercier in particular is not only old, but quite crusty - with dulled paint, visible rust, and various other signs of wear. And yet this bicycle is so comfortable and charming, that I have been on an obsessive quest to make it "perfect" in its own unique way.
Pictured here are my latest additions: fenders, front rack, bell, and stem shifters.
For fenders, I chose the inexpensive stainless steel fenders from Velo Orange. The idea (aside from saving money) was that the plain polished fenders would go nicely with all the chrome parts on this bicycle. I think it worked out well.
And this is the tiny, adorable vintage TA front rack, designed to attach to the Mafac brakes on the Mercier. These come up for sale occasionally online and from fellow collectors at reasonable prices.
The rack, while very cute, is so small that I am not sure what I will put on it. A classic touring handlebar bag does not really fit the look of this bike, but I will keep thinking. What did the French put on bicycles with these handlebars?
Finally, we replaced the original Simplex downtube shifters with Suntour stem shifters (this part was done at Harris Cyclery, while the fender and rack installation we did at home). Downtube shifters just did not seem appropriate for this bicycle and reaching all the way down there in traffic did not feel safe. The little stem shifters are perfectly placed and very easy to operate.
In addition, I have begun converting the Mercier to a 5-speed - so the left shifter (leading to the front derailleur) is no longer connected to anything. The left shifter and front derailleur will come off once I get the situation completely sorted, and a vintage French chainguard will be installed. I will explain why and how I am doing this in a separate post - but hopefully it will work out.
All of this does sound like a lot of fuss about an old bike. But in a way, it is the Mercier's decrepitude that liberates me: Had the original paint been in better condition, I would not have dared re-paint the lugs by hand to this nice green-gray from the original black. Had the components been higher-end, I would not have been willing to experiment with a 5-speed conversion. There is a lot of fun to be had with an old bicycle. The main thing, is that you like the ride quality and care enough to gradually improve the rest.