Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Springtime Transformations

Can you spot the differences between this picture and the Mercier in its initial state?

If you are thinking that the colour scheme looks a bit different, you are right. Originally, the Mercier had black lugwork and paneling - but to my eye, this created too harsh of a contrast with the cream frame. It also had the effect of stopping the eye at the frame's joints and making the bicycle look "choppy", whereas I like mixtes to have an elongated, fluid look to them. So after considering my options, I bought some enamel paint and hand-painted over the black lugwork and panels. The new colour is a light green-gray; very French and Spring-like. I have yet to redo the gold pinstriping around the edges, but from a distance it looks passable as is.

Another visible update to the Mercier is this fantastic Ideale saddle - acquired in a trade with a Lovely Bicycle reader (thank you!).

Ideale saddles are French, and described in this interesting article as "celebrated and enigmatic". This one is a Model 6, which is a short-nosed women's model from the 1970's.

It is comparable to a Brook's B72S and has two rear loop springs.

An extremely comfortable, elegant saddle. And the engraving is gorgeous. I have cycled a total of maybe 50 miles on it so far and it feels just perfect.

The last significant update has been replacing the tires. The shop where I found the bike fitted it with 20mm racing tires. To give you a point of reference, 20mm is narrower than the wheel rims. I think the fact that I was even able to ride on these tires at all - let alone 10 miles to Harris Cyclery to get new tires - is a testament to how stable and comfortable the Mercier is. The only problem I had, was with cracks in the road: 20mm tires are narrow enough to get stuck in the most innocent-looking cracks! After this happened to me once and I almost got knocked off the bike, I became hyper-vigilant.

Thankfully, now the bicycle is fitted with 32mm Panaracer Pasela Tourguards - a beautiful vintage-looking tire with tan walls and superb puncture protection (These are the same tires I have on Marianne, and I have been very happy with them over the past year).

In addition to these updates, there are other little things we've done, like remove the spoke protector and the reflectors from the wheels, remove the Pletscher rack (which did not look right on this bike), clean the handlebar grips, and replace the black tape used to patch up a crack in the white cable housing with white tape, making it less visible. Future updates will include a set of inexpensive fenders from Velo Orange, a vintage front rack, and switching the downtube shifters to a set of old stem-mounted ones. So far, the only new components or accessories I have bought for this bike have been the tires. Everything else has been vintage, and for the most part acquired in a trade. I think I will try to do the same with future updates. Will see where this goes!

26 comments:

  1. Wow, that's a gorgeous saddle! The patina of the leather just looks so soft and welcoming.

    I'm sure those tires will make her much more usable, and the fenders much more practical. Hope you get a chance to get some good riding out of her soon!

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  2. And the small rackling?.. You didn't mention the small rackling! It sits so perfectly on those Mafac racers.

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  3. lovely! that lilac skirt is so pretty :D
    im loving the mixte shots. My saddle is also super old and quite comfy, but only becomes a pain in th butt when is under 50°, which is hardly ever out here
    xxo.meli

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  4. Your this post brings back to (my) mind how my so-called 'beater' bike has 'grown' with me through the years. After slow (continual), replacements, additions, substractions (removals), painting and repaintings it has grown from an ugly and shunned (by others ..not by me) 'ugly dickling' into now a 'beautiful and 'beloved'( by me as well as by The others, now :D) swan'(my'premier' and most reliable bike).
    So now I don't try to make ALL changes ALL At Once but let my bikes (and my home too) grow with me through 'slow changes, changing and additions' with me through the years ... to come.
    Hope you too will have such happiness (in fact more correctly it's 'joy') with your 'chosen' bikes.
    ;)
    Lemony.

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  5. Ooops .... Finger-mind disconnection! 'dickling' = duckling.
    Lemony

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  6. portlanduze - Thanks, and yes it is welcoming! It is so perfect for this bike; what luck!

    MDI - I did mention a "vintage front rack"! I will write about it once it's attached with fenders and I have photos.

    Lemony - what kinds of bikes do you have and how many? All these hints of different bikes! Oh and thanks for cheering me up with that typo : )

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  7. I would so love to steal your bike and ride away on it :). Although, I would prefer to have dark brown grips matching the new saddle.

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  8. Brown grips are coming! We're choosing between treated brownish cork or elk hide.

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  9. How difficult is it to switch from down-tube shifters? My Peugeot mixte has them too, and they drive me a little nuts since I ride in a hilly area.

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  10. Velouria,
    My bikes:
    BSA (1955/56 -3spd - from Granddad)
    Raleigh Sportster (1954 - from Granddad)
    Triumph (lady -1950's -likely '55 - from mom)
    Hercules ( 1954 - from aunty)
    Aleoca Citta (b-present - recent - from ex-neighbor)
    Purchased:
    Raleigh Popular 1981 (bought second-hand)
    Dahon (Folding bike) -purchased 2nd-hand
    Trek 8000 (2006)
    Raleigh Elegance
    Princess Sovereign
    Eyeing/'Contemplating':
    A Gazelle
    A Batavus :p
    Lem

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  11. Wow, spring really has sprung. Look at that bike transform!

    Are you going to touch up the white paint anywhere?
    I was going to suggest whether you touch up the white or not, that you apply a light coat of car wax to the frame so the reflective sheen on the new gray panels matches the white overall.

    Glad to hear that such an initially comfortable bike has become even better with a few choice tweaks.

    Corey K

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  12. I'm glad Corey is also a wax fanatic! It looks lovely, but a front rack without something suitable in the back will leave it unbalanced. I look forward to seeing the solution in back...

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  13. Hi Vel!

    I love what you've done with her so far! ...

    I was thinking, if YOU haven't read this:

    http://bespoke.onthefourth.com/?p=1083

    ... you should! It so happens that the writers of this are the folks who brought your Pashleys to North America, Eric and Donny, friends of mine here in Toronto who run their distribution company above my favourite bike shop in the world.

    Anyway, happy Spring to you,

    Best regards,

    - Mike

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  14. oh, awesome choice. I love the gray-green. It is indeed a great French color, often juxtaposed with tiny bits of a clear lipsticky red to great effect. One of my favorite.

    This is turning into a gorgeous bike.

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  15. Anon 4:25 - It's a matter of removing the downtube shifters, installing stem shifters, and installing some sort of thingie where the downtube shifters used to be. I can describe the process a little better when I get it done on Monday.

    Corey - The green-gray enamel paint is fairly glossy as is, whereas the cream frame paint has gotten lackluster with age, so maybe the other way around!

    Lemony - What an excellent list. Do you ride them all? If you get a Gazelle or Batavus, I am curious how they will seem to you compared to the Pashley. I have test-ridden them briefly, but it is not the same as owning.

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  16. Steve - I am looking into some vintage rear rack options; hoping a secret contact will come through!

    Mike - Thanks for the link, I'll take a look. But I thought the Pashley distributor was somewhere in Arizona?..

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  17. Velouria,
    So far the 'individual personality' of each of my bikes has not 'bothered' me physically. This is probably because I bicycle very often.(And this is the consequence of my being my own 'boss' in my 'home-office' - working day & night - 'long-hours' eeh? - as an investor of stocks & shares listed in some foreign stock-exchanges.) I take frequent breaks to just cycle around or to town for tea/coffee breaks with friends to destress from the monotony of my 'financial pursuit'. :D heeehee
    That's why sometimes I wonder why some of my friends are so sensitively & differently affected by bikes of different brands or structures.
    Do I ride all of them?
    The Raleigh Pop., R.Elegance and P.Sovereign are my more constant companions. The rest I personally use them each 3 or 4 times a year but (except for the Triumph) they are used by my friends who spend the weekends fortnightly at my home (Their unofficial 'club-house' :D haahaa)- for our rides to town. (Some umarried ones would sometime stay overnight on Saturdays).
    I may rein in a mixte (or 2) if it crosses my path. For the moment if I want to go for a 'fast' ride I use one of the customised 'racers' of my 2 younger brothers who since they started work have forsaken their bikes for the wily sports cars. :D
    Hope I've not bored you with my lenghty exposition - I just try to be as explicit as I could in sharing my experience with you. Thanks for sharing yours with me and my friends.
    ;)
    Lemony

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  18. I was going to mention the grips but I see plans are in place for their overhaul. This little bike is looking fab now you've done some work on her. Neat paint job with the grey-green!

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  19. Lemony - That is fabulous. Do you have any pictures? If I remember correctly you mentioned a bicycle website that your significant other runs, but I couldn't find it. I would definitely recommend reigning in a mixte or two - it's its own experience, different from either racers or 3-speeds. Of course beware that it can also start its own addiction. And I can relate with you about working all day (and night!) and needing to go on bike rides as a way to take a break.

    Carinthia - We do have a tentative plan to replace the grips, as the old ones are not only old but absurdly small. At first we even thought that these were not the originals, but child's grips melted to stretch and applied by the owner after-market. But now I have looked at pictures of similar bikes from this era, and they all appear to have grips like this.

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  20. Velouria,
    If I were to set up a website it would sooner than later be inadvertently tranformed into a forum for investment instruments and related topics ... very boring for avid bicyclists to be at. :D

    My bf has the intention to but he harbours the fear that he wouldn't be able to keep it 'alive and lively' with continuous or continual postings. This is because he is always on the move and away from 'base'. Now for example he shuttles between Taiwan and Korea supervising the manufacture of certain products under licence (there).
    The other reason for his inertia in this direction is the widespread proliferation of 'cycle chic' webs/bloggs and the existence of very 'notable' ones like yours, Copenhagen Cycle Chic; Amsterdamised; Change Your Life - Ride a Bike;Portlandize; Bike Commuters; LGRAB ... to mention just a few.
    But I think he would the moment it's feasible for him to do so. I know him..:D

    Maybe I let you into my 'secret hope' : To knock into you whilst you're roaming in Vienna.;) He has 2 'homes' in Austria.
    Lem

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  21. What kind of grips are you going to install?!?

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  22. Looking good! Very springy :) I'm so impressed by your re-purposing and trading.

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  23. I've encountered a few mixte frames over the years, but have never seen the type of rear-brake cable routing that your Mercier has. A more typical setup is a center-pull brake on the slanted top tubes, with a long cable straddling the seat tube. Any braking issues?
    I will share your blog with a friend from work who rides a cool John Deere mixte bike. (John Deere as in the tractor company.) It was a thrift store find.

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  24. Tom--there is no brake bridge on the mixte bars, so we can't move the brakes down to their more traditional and logical position. The Mafac loop components seem original. It appears to be designed this way, as odd as that sounds. It brakes OK for steel rims and will do more so with proper pads and better pad alignment that we can achieve with Kool Stops.

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  25. perhaps that gorgeous Ideale saddle could go on the new Royal H mixte? thanks for the link--I also have an Ideale 6 saddle but did not know its age, just a bit about them generally

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