Thursday, May 3, 2012

Miss Mercian: Then and Now

Two Miss Mercians
One of the things I was very much looking forward to on my trip to New York last week, was visiting Justine of Midlife Cycling. Justine is a fascinating, generous and knowledgable person and we have lots to talk about outside the world of bicycles. But more pertinently to this blog, Justine is known for her small, exquisite collection of Mercians. And so I happily found myself in Astoria, Queens, in an apartment that was eerily similar to my own in its proportion of total living space to the space devoted to bikes. Nothing wrong with that at all.

No This is Not a Mercian Shop
When I first wrote about Justine and her Mercians two years ago, she had three of them - all custom made and painted the same stunning shade of "flip-flop purple green" (more on this later). One of these is a geared roadbike, the second is a fixed gear, and the third a Miss Mercian step-through. Subsequently, Justine unexpectedly acquired a fourth Mercian secondhand - an earlier Miss Mercian model, from an era when the design was still a classic mixte with twin lateral stays. Knowing this, I was looking forward to seeing the two generations of Miss Mercians side by side, and excited when Justine offered me to test ride both bicycles and compare my impressions. While her diamond frame bikes are too big for me, the lower step-over of the Miss Mercian frames enables me to try them.

Justine and Miss Mercian, in Queens NY
Through the quiet streets of Astoria, we rode to the Socrates Sculpture Park to photograph the bicycles along the East River. The park is small, but very pleasant, with a cobblestone path along the water and views of Roosevelt Island and passing boats in background. It was a cold and windy morning, but at least the sun was out, bathing the bicycles in a golden light.

Justine and Miss Mercian, in Queens NY
This is Justine's current production Miss Mercian, named Helene. My understanding is that Mercian switched to this frame style for their Miss Mercian model, because they only use Reynolds tubing and Reynolds stopped making the tubes suitable for classic mixtes a few years ago. I will be honest that I am not a fan of "angled step-through" frames. But the lugwork, the colour scheme, and Justine's very personal build make this bicycle rather charming.

Justine and Miss Mercian, in Queens NY
One of my photographic goals for this bicycle was to capture the flip flop purple green finish in action. The beauty of this colour is hard to describe, but basically it's as it sounds: Under some lighting conditions it looks purple, under others it looks green. Seeing the colours change takes my breath away. Above I captured it in a very purple state, though usually it looks like a much more subdued silverfish lilac.

Green or Purple?
And here you can see what happens when the colour flips to green.

Green or Purple?
Neat, huh?

Green or Purple?
Flip-flopping in the sunlight! I love this colour and might have used it for my own bike were it not so distinctly Justinish in my mind. It is certainly one of the most unique paint finishes available. 

Justine and Miss Mercian, in Queens NY
But all right, there is more to this bike than its paint colour. Like Justine's other custom Mercians, the frame is lugged and made of Reynolds 631 tubing.

Justine and Miss Mercian, in Queens NY
Helene is set up with Porteur handlebars, inverse brake levers, bar-end shifters adapted as "thumbies," side pull brakes, pedals with classic toe cages, hammered fenders, rear rack, a Brooks saddle and a
Carradice saddlebag.

Justine and Miss Mercian, in Queens NY
Justine rides this bicycle in her regular clothing - skirt, heels, the whole deal - and it is her fast, responsive commuter. The geometry, which Justine specified, is pretty tight and aggressive, and she likes it this way. For her this is an upright, but maneuverable and go-fast bike.

Green or Purple?
Justine lowered the saddle for me and switched out the pedals to platforms, so that I could comfortably ride the bike around the unfamiliar-to-me area. When I rode this bicycle, the geometry - not the frame style, but the angles and proportions - struck me as an exaggerated version of my Royal H. mixte. My positioning on the bike was very similar as well. Unfortunately the angled step-through frame and I did not get along when it came to mounting and dismounting the bike: I found the top tube too high for me to comfortably climb over and kept banging my knee. I was also a little uncomfortable with the amount of toe overlap, and between this and the high top tube I felt oddly trapped by the frame, as if everything was too tightly spaced. Of course this says more about the difference between my and Justine's geometry preferences than anything else, but I was a little nervous on this bike as I followed her up the winding bridge ramp to Roosevelt Island. I did not want to crash the bike or to knock it over while attempting to dismount. Thankfully, nothing of the sort happened and we had a nice ride with scenic water views. As we rode, I noticed that the frame flexed for me a bit more than I would have liked, which is odd because Justine describes it as stiff. The subjectivity of this sort of thing is amazing. 

Justine's 1994 Miss Mercian
Stranger still, is that Justine describes her older Miss Mercian as more flexible than the current model, whereas I found it to be stiffer. How can this be? Are we simply associating different sensations with the terms stiff and flexible? It's a mystery. 

The day did not warm up despite the sunshine, and even though I had donned every single pair of stockings I'd brought with me to New York (three pairs!) I was uncomfortably cold. Between this and having to be across town by early afternoon, our ride was not very long. Still, I feel that I got a fair sense of the difference between the two bicycles - although since both of these are custom bikes made for specific people, I am not sure how generalisable my impressions are to Miss Mercians at large.

Justine's 1994 Miss Mercian
Overall, I felt more comfortable on the older (1994) Miss Mercian - with its longer wheelbase, lower stand-over and greater toe clearance. I also preferred this bicycle's ride quality and handling, which to me felt a bit cushier and more stable. None of this necessarily has to do with the styles of the two frames; it is more about geometry really. Still, I lamented that Mercian no longer makes the classic twin stay mixte - it was oh so elegant.

Justine's 1994 Miss Mercian
Justine's 1994 Miss Mercian is named Vera, and the original owner ordered the frame in English Racing Green with gold lug outlines.

Justine's 1994 Miss Mercian
The Reynolds 531 frame was built for cantilever brakes, and eyelets for fenders and front and rear racks.

Justine's 1994 Miss Mercian
The cable routing is kind of interesting, integrating nicely with the twin lateral stays,

Justine's 1994 Miss Mercian
then "climbing" up the seat tube. I have never seen this kind of routing on a mixte before, but I think it works well.

Justine's 1994 Miss Mercian
One of the cool things Justine has got on this bicycle, is this green and gold crankset with built-in chain guard. I have never seen one like it before, and it certainly makes the bicycle stand out as her unique creation.

Justine's 1994 Miss Mercian
I tried the MKS Lambda pedals for the first time and liked them a lot, even though I did not think I would. They are grippy, and not as sharp as MKS touring pedals.

Justine's 1994 Miss Mercian
Justine set up the older Miss Mercian similarly to the newer one, but with a front rack in addition to the rear, a single instead of a double chainring, North Road handlebars instead of the Porteurs, and flat pedals. This bicycle is a little more upright and relaxed, and set up to carry more weight than its sportier room-mate.

Justine and Miss Mercian, in Queens NY
Justine has been riding bicycles for decades as a messenger, racer, cyclotourist, commuter - you name it. And she has owned an untold number of bikes over this time (I believe the estimate she gave me was 60?... but no, that can't be right!) This makes it all the more fascinating, that all of her current bikes are from the same manufacturer. Is it the Reynolds 631 tubing Mercian uses that she finds so agreeable? The way they put together frames? Do their notions of optimal geometry agree with her own? Whatever the answer, Justine seems to know what she wants and she is happy with her choices.

Justine and Miss Mercian, in Queens NY
Of course I am trying to convince her now that she also needs to add this bike to her Mercian collection, then let me test ride it extensively. Fingers crossed!

For the entire picture set, please see here. And I thank Justine profusely for allowing me to try her beautiful bikes!

64 comments:

  1. Oh my goodness, what beautiful close-ups of the green purple Miss Mercian!

    But how did you like Roosevelt Island? :) Gotta admit I shudder at the very thought of visiting it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Shudder, why? It's beautiful there. There is a waterfront promenade that goes around the entire island, free of car traffic with lovely views and a lighthouse. So much history too. I would like to visit it again on a day when the temps are above the 40s is all.

      Delete
    2. I've been to Roosevelt Island once, exploring the island on foot, and I think it has a certain charm all its own. The gorgeous Manhattan views, the section of the main street with the overhanging buildings (almost Scandinavian, in a way) -- I'd love to go back there on a bike! (hmmm.. I wonder if you can take a bicycle on the tram?)

      Delete
  2. The contrast in sense of stiff/flexible is, indeed, interesting.

    ReplyDelete
  3. The flip-flop purple color is astonishing, and I really like the lines of the angled step-through geometry. What don't you like about it - its ride or its appearance?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. By geometry I mean something independent from the top tube design. This bike has very tight front end geometry, which I was not comfortable with. And the ride quality felt odd too me as well - maybe too flexible; there was almost a sense of fatigue and loss of pedaling power for me. I just couldnt get comfortable on it and could not get into a good rhythm. In comparison, the older green mixte felt absolutely normal.

      As for appearance, though as I said I am not a fan of the top tube design, I do think Justine made this bicycle beautiful. I cannot look at it and think it is not a beautiful bike.

      Delete
    2. Do both bikes have similar tires? Because I think everyone underestimates the contribution that tires make to some of the very sensations you talk about when referring to frame characteristics.

      Delete
    3. Tires is a huge one. That and inflation pressure. Smaller things that matter are spoke tension, spoke pattern, spoke gauge, rim flex. Current system wheels are so rigid a lot of this seems not to matter. If you think it doesn't matter at all try riding on wooden rims. Any frame is a limo on wooden rims.

      Delete
    4. Vera (the green bike) has heavier, wider rims and tires than Helene has.

      Vera: Mavic A719 rims laced X3 with DT 14 gauge spokes (36 each front and rear) to Shimano 105 hubs. They roll on Continental Gatorskin 700X32 steel bead tires.

      Helene: Mavic Open Pro rims laced 3-cross with DT 14 gauge spokes (36 rear, 32 front) to Phil Wood hubs. Tires are Panaracer Ribmo folding, 700X32 (really more like 28).

      Delete
  4. Structural materials have resonance frequencies that can create odd effects. I often go out to houses that are framed but not finished with my 20lb dog. The framing is engineered for deflection of less that L/480, for stiffness and lack of bounce. A human walking past won't make the structure vibrate, but the dog trotting across the plywood creates a noticeable (to me) bounce in the framing.

    I wonder if it's something like this that could create the different impressions of stiffness for two riders of different sizes.

    Oh, and gorgeous bikes- I love the flip flop iridescent color!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "Structural materials have resonance frequencies that can create odd effects."

      This phrase is hot.

      Delete
  5. "in the style of women's mountain bikes"

    Is there something mountain-bike specific about this anglesd step-through as compared to other angled step-throughs? Angled step-throughs existed in road and light roadster bikes long before mountain bikes, as on old Raleigh Sports etc.

    Lots of them are pretty nice...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. By "angled step-through" I don't mean the classic straight step though. On a Raleigh Sports the toptube and downtune are parallel. On this frame the top tube is at an angle and not parallel to the downtube. It's a design one sees on women's mountain bikes, not on classic step through frames.

      Delete
    2. The non-parallel step through can also be seen on 80s Raleigh USA Sports and some Schwinn bikes of that time period too. Not sure if that was before mountain bikes or not.

      Delete
    3. This frame configuration still predates mountain bikes by many years, and can be found on sport road bikes from a wide variety of makers. There are two examples toward the bottom of the scroll on this page:

      http://tinyurl.com/cyyc87t

      I'm not sure why these would not be classic step through frames, but in any case they are not mountain bike frame.

      Delete
    4. Didn't mean to suggest that the design originated with mountain bikes necessarily (I have no idea what the origin is actually), only that it is most commonly seen on women's MTB frames.

      Incidentally the new Cooper bikes are using the same frame design, also with Reynolds tubing, on their women's models.

      Delete
    5. I suppose it depends on what one considers a classic to be. My 1980s Raleigh USA Sports has color matched fenders, "thimble" fork, 3 speed hub, trigger shifter, probably came with a chainguard originally, etc. It doesn't have the cachet of a Nottingham Raleigh, for sure. But I would say it's Classic & Vintage, in the BikeForums usage of the term.

      Delete
    6. To my mind's eye the new Miss Mercian frame definitely evokes associations with the cheap step through MTBs we used to ride when I was a teenager. And those road bikes in M's link are just as low end (the thread is called Saved from the Dumpster!). Personally I do not think this design is fitting for an expensive custom frame. Of course it looks much better with Mercian's lugs, that gorgeous paint, and French style components. But it's a pity they discontinued the classic mixte.

      Delete
    7. So what would you call this style of frame? It is not a mixte and it is not a traditional (parallel top tube) step-through. I made up "angled step-through," but it is not a real term as far as I know.

      Delete
    8. Just a step-through, I guess.

      Like those old Schwinn and Huffy step-throughs that have a slight upward bend at the seatstay, what do you call those? (I call them fugly but we all have our biases) :) No denying they are classic & vintage though.

      Delete
    9. "Generic cost-savings design of moderately strong assemblage."

      Certainly mtb is too broad a term as the ones you think of as such rarely look like that these days.

      You could call it "hybrid" as well. Everything's a hybrid anyway.

      Delete
    10. Okay, I've removed the offending reference to women's mountain bikes and hope we can all breathe easier!

      DFD - Well, I like to differentiate. A loop frame is also a type of step-through, but I call it a loop frame. "Angled step-through" it is I guess.

      Oh and I actually like the design with the slight upward bend at the seat stays, I think it's elegant. Eye of the beholder...

      Delete
    11. I have already put away my inhaler!

      But hang on. I am looking at the Miss Mercian page you linked to and the description of the bike plainly says "Built with a single top tube and twin lateral stays to the rear dropouts." Could it be that the twin stays are optional?

      Delete
    12. Sadly no. That information must be outdated. They can no longer build an actual mixte, and I've had several conversations with them about it during which this was explained to me in no uncertain terms. Initially I thought it was a matter of the lugwork, but they can make their own lugs in house, so should't be a problem. Reynolds discontinued the tubing, and they will only work with Reynolds tubing.

      Delete
    13. It is a "dropped top tube" design and is inherently better, for touring bikes, than the twin lateral design. It was and is a common design for custom "ladies" touring frames in the UK. If you've not read it have a look at Tony Oliver's Touring Bikes book

      Delete
    14. Anna wrote: "And those road bikes in M's link are just as low end (the thread is called Saved from the Dumpster!). Personally I do not think this design is fitting for an expensive custom frame."

      FYI,just because something was found in a Dumpster does not mean it is junk.
      Anyway, as I made clear, many makers have used this frame design:

      http://www.vintagecycleco.com/

      Schwinn Paramount
      http://tinyurl.com/7p7doh9

      And a not too shabby Bertin:
      http://tinyurl.com/76sqh3f

      I'd pull that out of the Dumpster.

      Delete
    15. Tim - Thanks, I will have a look at that book.

      M & Tim - Your examples are very valid. But according to my observations, this style of frame is simply not as desirable among women. If they are so common, where are the flickr pictures of proud owners? Where are the examples of new-generations of Miss Mercians other than Justine's? I do not see them, but I see plenty of pictures of Mercian's other models.

      Technically it's true that (all other factors remaining equal, which they never do) the "dropped tt" is inherently better for touring than twin stays. But you know what's even better? A diamond frame! My observation has also been that few women want mixtes or step throughs of any kind for serious touring. More likely the bike is for light recreation and commutes. In which case a mixte is just fine, and more convenient.

      Delete
    16. Veloria wrote: "More likely the bike is for light recreation and commutes. In which case a mixte is just fine, and more convenient."

      Exactly. And no different, really, than the step-through design in that [recreation/commuting] regard. I think what it comes down to is most people, including me, prefer the look of a mixte over a "non-parallel" dropped top tube minus the extra seat stays. And I never said they were a dime a dozen, just that many makers had employed the design over the years, and that they predate mountain bikes.

      Thanks for featuring these lovely bicycles, they are both quite attractive in my opinion. In fact, the Walmart/Mt.Bike/Dumpster look is starting to grow on me. Seriously.

      Delete
  6. Hiya Velouria

    Any chance of a close-up pic on the thumbie bar end shifters, please? Struggling to work it out in my head this time of day.

    Ta very much
    Dave

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Do you need more detail than this?

      Delete
    2. That's grand, ta very much.

      Delete
  7. Shouldn't the rear brakes be on the twin downtubes?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There's not enough space if you want your chainstays short.

      Vintage mixtes I've seen that do this, e.g. Motobecane, have longer chainstays and plenty of space between the wheel and the seat tube.

      I think it's a valid compromise because making a bike compact does more for the ride than the minor problem of having a slightly sloppier rear brake feeling.

      Delete
    2. The vintage Mercian here, with that canti setup, is very unusual. In my experience it has little to do with chainstays (there is plenty of clearance, for instance, on the frame in question) but brake type. Sidepulls get mounted in the "normal" seatstay position, centerpulls most often on the mixte stay bridge. Except possibly for the rare custom like this one, nobody was thinking much about chainstay length and how it affects the ride qualities of a mixte. Based on how the majority of mixtes seem to be used these days, I would say a longer stay suits them better, as does a centerpull mounted around the seat tube.

      Delete
  8. Loving the green/purple duochrome! Thanks to Justine and V. for sharing with us.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Just a note about the MKS Lambda pedals - I have them on my Surly LHT, which is my daily commuter and whenever it rains they become incredibly slippery. My feet slip off regularly, I have experimented with different shoes, but anything I want to wear to work slips on the wet pedals. I live in Portland , OR, so yeah, it rains a bunch. It hasn't been so much of a problem that I have replaced them but, I wouldn't buy them again. Otherwise, I like them.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I seem to recall reading something about people replacing or sharpening the studs on the pedals. It was a while ago and I don't quite recall. If you still the pedals, might be worth a google search.

      Delete
    2. Rivendell sells spikes for these pedals:

      http://www.rivbike.com/product-p/pe92.htm

      Delete
    3. Wet-weather gripability is the only negative with the Lambda/Grip Kings. You can pretty easily mod them to deslipafy them.

      Delete
  10. beautiful bikes, and a great solution to storage, but, why dérailleurs? given her experience there must be a good reason, but i cant help imagining the grinding and clunking

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. reason = hills

      Delete
    2. yes, I was wondering why Mercian doesn't use hub gears..

      Delete
    3. Mercian doesn't make a serious racing bike anymore, but a big part of their cache comes from their racing heritage. IGHs are heavy, inefficient, and thoroughly non-racy compared to derailer systems. Mercian would make you an IGH-ready bike if you paid 'em too, but most mercian customers aren't looking for that.

      Delete
    4. Sorry I missed this whole conversation.

      Derailleur gearing for these bikes is simply due to customer preferences.

      Mercian absolutely builds frames for hub gearing. Any frame can be made with track ends, or with horizontal dropouts that can take either/or.

      Delete
    5. thanks for the pics, strangely the (beautiful) hub geared bikes seem more sporting than the derailleured mixtes, i see the point (and know there arent any rohloffs on the tour de France), but know which I'd go for

      Delete
  11. The comments about stiffness are interesting. Jim Papadopoulos once did an experiment where they had identical bikes built, only the chainstays were a thicker gauge on one. 12 out of 13 riders could tell the "odd one out," but exactly half felt it was stiffer, and half thought it was more flexible.

    It's clear that stiffness is not what we usually feel as riders. If a bike accelerates well, one rider might conclude that it is stiff, another might feel how it "planes," and thus is flexible. The contradiction can be resolved by focusing on the primary observation: The bike accelerates well.

    Jim P.'s experiment was successful in showing that frame stiffness is something that affects the feel of a bike, but I can't help but wish he had asked about the primary observations of how the bikes performed for these riders. That would have been interesting.

    At Bicycle Quarterly, we did a similar experiment. The more flexible frames performed very differently, but I cannot say that one felt stiffer than the other.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My first "good" bike was a well used Emil Wastyn with 3/8" seatstays, skinny chainstays and fork blades to match. No one in the current era would even consider using such a bike hard much less racing track on it. My bike had been used in pro 6day racing on 60 degree board tracks. Fitted with rims of ash hickory and spruce of course.

      More recently Sean Kelly won a lot of races on his 12lb Sabliere which was even more flexible than a Vitus.

      Basically it's a good thing we're happy riding bikes that in fact are overbuilt and have huge safety reserves. I've given up predicting how bikes are going to ride. If I get an aesthetic charge looking at a bike I want to ride it. If it rides well too that's joy.

      That true mixte Mercian is a delight. So that's what all the fuss is about. Just beautiful.

      Delete
  12. Nice bikes, Justine.

    Methodology for creating an aesthetically pleasing loop frame from a hypothetical slant-tubed bike: take off seat. Pick up a keg, drop it. Voila, loop frame.

    The velcroed ff pump bespeaks to the OG roadie status of the rider.

    Oh yeah, stop trying to put your leg up so high - tilt the bike whilst turning the bars, pls.

    I need to get an iridescent flip-flop hub...sort of like a NuVinci.

    ReplyDelete
  13. that purple-green color is astounding. so gorgeous!

    ReplyDelete
  14. How do you folks keep your bikes looking so spotless. Mine is filthy no matter how often I wash it. And road salt has corroded my Pashley's rims. These are lovely bicycles indeed.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Justine, you have a very impressive collection of Mercians! One for every occastion. I normally dislike similar colors themes across my bike collection, but your particular theme very clearly creates a defining style that no one else has, a sort of brand of Justine. Neat. The green-purple is truly stunning.

    I also like the philosophy behind Helene-- "The geometry, which Justine specified, is pretty tight and aggressive, and she likes it this way. For her this is an upright, but maneuverable and go-fast bike.
    "

    This is exactly how I feel about my Jeunet, which is my everyday commuter, and the geometry and riding position seem very similar between the two bikes.

    ReplyDelete
  16. I love the flip-flop purple green finish! Those are my two favourite colours, and the shades of them shown in the photo are very nice. Add the neat effect of them both being the same colour, and I wants it! Sadly, a Mercian is out of my budget, for now, though they do look lovely.

    ReplyDelete
  17. This is a very interesting comparison. The older bike is thoroughly awesome. The newer bike, not-so-much.
    Thoughts on the stiffness issue: is it possible that one of you is concentrating on lateral stiffness, and the other vertical? It wouldn't surprise me if the mixte was more stiff side-to-side, but less stiff up-and-down when compared to the Walmart-shaped bike.
    Thoughts on the flip/flop finish: I can definitely see how this is cool, but it also makes me think of customized Ford Probe GTs, ca 1996.
    Final question: does it bother you that this mixte pretty much requires the use of v-brakes, at least in the back? If it were yours, would you convert it to coaster or drum? Or try to macgyver some sort of contraption to allow the use of a centerpull canti?

    Great post.
    -rob

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh no, I'd keep the v-brakes; I think they look cool here.

      It could very well be that we were feeling different aspects of stiffness. Unfortunately, I just can't tell which one I'm feeling!

      Delete
    2. Would you keep the green BMX chainring? I think it looks b!tchin, with the gold bashring. You expressed some enthusiasm for it above; you could easily replicate that set up if you so desired...

      Delete
  18. Velouria---Hmm...Mercian Number 5? Gotta start saving my nickels and dimes.

    I find your comments on my bikes interesting. For the record, Vera has become more of my regular commuter than Helene has.

    I only wish we could have ridden longer, and spent more time together. You are too kind in your comments about me! (blush)

    ReplyDelete
  19. One thing that puzzles me is that on Helene, the seat stays are made of smaller tubing than the rest of the bike uses. On Vera, the seat stays and the mixte-tubes appear to be the same size, and thinner than the other tubes. If Mercian can still get the tubing for the seat stays as used on Helene, why can't they use that to make a traditional mixte-tube?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Reynolds isnt offering it long enough. I think it's a shame that they don't either make a semi-fake mixte, like the Riv ones, or just use some straight guage chromoly for the lateral stays, and keep making real mixtes like they used to (just a wee bit heavier). Sure, you can't get top headlugs for mixtes anymore, either, but Mercian used to cut their own for the Miss Mercian before, and they still cut their own lugs for several models even now...

      Delete
  20. Remarkable bicycles and remarkable documentation. Thank you for this! I am so happy to see you feature Mercian here.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Lucky Justine! Those are beautiful bicycles. I love mercians, although it is a crazy never have seen one love. I found out about them some years ago and gaaagaaagaaa! I also love that they still build a serious lady frame. I do not care if it is a mixte or single tube. I am always hunting for a Miss Mercian on ebay.
    One thing about stiffness and flex. Justine is a cyclist with years of experience behind her, so probably knows what frame is truly stiff or flexy. Did you discuss and compare what made one frame feel flexy or stiff and why? Jan Heine has written much about this and it is a bit confusing, especially given the dominance of aluminium for many years and trouble remembering how the steel bikes felt before, and how they feel now. Current mid to lower end steel has oversized tubing etc which can be weird. Is my bike flexy or stiff? Not sure.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Everyone: Thank you for the compliments. It's truly a privilege to own and ride my Mercians.

    After every ride, I wipe my flip-flop frames with a cloth dabbed with rubbing alcohol. I do that with the "true" mixte, too, but it was a bit chipped when I got it.

    ReplyDelete
  23. Ah, Mercian love.... I have several fine old bicycles, no less than two Colnagos (one from the late '70s and one from the early '90s), a mid-'80s Gitane tourer, and Bertin Cyclo cross bike form the same era. Then there is a 1965 Moulton MkI. But the true delight is the late '80s Mercian custom professional. It has the lovely long lug points on the bottom bracket and a brilliant red, black, white paint finish. (Photos Cyclofiend, single speeds #280) Yes, I know, after 50 years of collecting, with absolutely no particular intention, I wound up with two each; French, Italian, and English.

    PS-What kind of platform pedals are those on the top tube Mercians?

    ReplyDelete