Once both bicycles were ready, we of course had to commemorate the occasion. We arranged to meet on a sunny day. Alas as I cycled to our meeting spot, the clouds gathered and so our Mercians met under dramatically overcast skies. They had a great deal to say to one another - though, regrettably we could not understand their secret language.
Somervillain's Mercian is really quite a find. It is a 1971 Olympian model in English Racing Green with white headtube and seattube panels and gold outlining.
The geometry is like that of a club racer (would that be Audax or Sportive?), and the frame fits him well at 61cm x 58.5cm.
The complete history of this bicycle is unknown. The previous owner found it in pretty rough shape - badly repainted and entirely unrecognisable. Only after stripping the surface layer of paint and finding a serial number did it become apparent that the frame was a vintage Mercian. The owner decided to get it restored. He sent the frame off to England for a full repaint and began to hunt around for period correct components.
A year later, the bicycle was restored to its former glory, and it was beautiful... too beautiful! The former owner found himself incapable of riding it. He kept it as a collector's piece for a bit, but ultimately decided to sell it to someone who would be willing to give the bicycle an active lifestyle.
...which Somervillain was more than happy to do. He got a good deal on the complete bicycle, and is happy both with Mercian's restoration and with the former owner's choice of components -
One thing Somervillain was keen to add to the build, was a set of English Bluemel fenders. He felt that the Mercian did not look right with French style fenders, or the plastic SKS. I've considered this as well and agree that English bicycles don't look right with, for instance, hammered or fluted fenders. But for me the plain ones would be all right, since they really have no identifiable style to them and look fairly neutral.
But the Blumel fenders are quite special and difficult to find. Behold the little contrasting mudflaps.
Despite the 1971 Olympic and my 2011 Vincitore being entirely different models made with different lugsets and hailing from different eras, we marveled at how similar they are. The finishing is similar, the tubing is similar, the overall "presence" of the bikes is similar, and our accounts of ride quality are similar. Somervillain describes a responsive, but comfortable ride, easy over bumps and potholes - which is how my bicycle feels as well.
Midlife Cycling will let me try her 1994 mixte - it would certainly be a treat!