My commuter bike is again out of action being patched up for further winter abuse on the grimy roads. Which has left me with a choice – get the special bike out of its winter hibernation and subject it to the mud and grit, or just drive the car. I went for the first option.
But what if there was a third option? If cycling has taught me one thing, it’s that you can generally buy yourself out of most problems. So I finally pulled the trigger on that handmade, steel frame bike I’ve been yammering on about for ages.
After a series of emails and phone calls with Mercian in Derbyshire, last week I travelled up to their shop to make my choices. Unlike buying a ready-made bike from a shop or the internet, I was able to specify every individual part of the bike making it a completely bespoke end product. Mercian have been around since the 1940s making mostly road and touring bikes. They produce about 300 – 400 bikes a year.
As I will be mostly using the bike for commuting I opted for an audax setup which is a little more comfortable and less aggressive than the racing setup. The geometry of the bike was established based on my body measurements and then I checked these against measurements I had taken of my current bike. I chose to have two bottle cage mounts on the frame as well as front and back pannier lugs.
I went for Reynolds 725 steel tubing and in terms of the finish went for it in pearl red with pearl white details. The name in gothic text, a few white bands on the down tube and a proper head badge.
I am looking at having it built up as a complete bike, but for now have just paid a deposit for the frame building and spraying. I thought I had finalised the components and finishing kit choices, but a few last-minute, concerned emails from my wife’s Uncle about why on earth I was choosing Campag Veloce rather than Athena, and the problems of trying to squeeze mudguards with tyres larger than 23mm through Campag brakes have lead to further discussion with the Mercian shop! Further details to follow, however the groupset and finishing kit will all be in chrome to ensure it has the classic bike look.
I’m looking forward to having a beautiful, hand-crafted object for everyday use. I’m going to love riding this bike.