23 February 2011

Standing Out

While surfing eBay, I came across a listing for this classic beauty:

It's a Mercian from 1980, made--as nearly all Mercians had been, up to that time--of Reynolds 531 tubing.  The components on it are what one might expect on a top-level touring, randonneuring or audax bike from that time:  Stronglight triple crank, Huret Duopar derailleurs, early Phil Wood hubs.  

It's even in a color I like.  While my favorite is #57 on the Mercian color chart (Why else would I have three bikes in that color?), followed by numbers 17, 9, 53 and 39, I have a soft spot for British Racing Green.  Most bikes I've seen in that color have white lug outlines, panels and other details.  But I thought the gold panels on this Mercian gave BRG a glow and warmth I hadn't expected.  

Now, tell me, how can anyone so deface such a lovely bike?

Around the time that Mercian was made, the tacky accessory you see on its downtube first came onto the market.  It's called the Flick Stand, and it was made by Rhode Gear.

The idea was, of course, to keep the wheel steady when the bike was standing.  It could have been very useful when there was a load on the bike.  In fact, I had one on my bike for my first European tour.  It lasted about three days:  The part where the metal loop attached to the bracket cracked and broke.  

Every once in a while, I see a Flick Stand.  I also sometimes see remnants of them:  The metal loop broke off and the bike's owner didn't bother to remove the clamp. 

If that design flaw had been eliminated, the Flick Stand could have been very useful.  It still would have been ugly on a nice bike, though.


  1. I can't remember ever seeing Mercian bikes in Indiana or Wisconsin. Were they sold in NY?

    That looks like a great bike on ebay - did you buy it? I have an old Trek and an old Kuwahara I am slowly turning into randonneuring bikes.

  2. Big Oak: Mercians are made in England. I purchased mine through Bicycle Habitat in New York City. I don't think they've ever been sold only in specific regions of the US. I know that for a time, a couple of mail-order companies were offering them back in the days before the Internet. You can actually order from Mercian directly, if you want to.

    It may be that you haven't seen one in Indiana or Wisconsin simply because Mercian builds by hand, so there are only a limited number of them available at any given time. And if you see one, there's a good chance that it was a custom build, as all of mine are. I'm also guessing that Mercians, like many British bikes, has had more of a following on the East Coast than in other parts of the country.

    As lovely as the BRG Mercian is, I'm not going to buy it for two reasons: 1.) It's a bit too large for me, and 2.) Spending $2000 on another bike is more than a stretch for me right now.

  3. I tried to buy a Mercian here in Texas a couple of years ago. They do come up, particularly if you aren't looking.

  4. I have seen several Mercians "in the wild" in the Boston area. In Arlington and Lexington, to be precise. The Minuteman Trail, which starts in Somerville and passes through these areas, is at times like a parade of rare custom and semi custom bikes. I once even saw a Mercian and a Bob Jackson on the same day, followed by a Peter Mooney and a couple of Sevens.

    That ebay Mercian is beautiful and looks like the Co-Habitant's size... but I'd rather order him a custom one : ))

  5. There's a nice old Mercian for sale at one of our local bike shops, unfortunately it's much too small for me. I remember in the early 90's seeing a couple of very ornate Mercian frames hanging in a bike shop in Austin. I wish I had the money back then.

  6. Steve: Isn't it funny how some things have a way of finding you when you're not looking for them?

    Velouria: As nice as the bike on this post is, I don't blame you for wanting to order a custom. I haven't biked the Minuteman Trail in about a decade. But I recall seeing custom, semi-custom and rare bikes, too. There must be something about the Trail.

    RTP: That's always the dilemma of cycling: You see something you really like, but it's the wrong size or you don't have the money. Come to think of it, I've had that experience when shopping for clothes and shoes, too!

  7. I have to disagree with your comments on the Flick Stand! I had two of them, one on my Nishiki International (for about 20 years), and another on my Novara Ponderosa (for about 15 years). Neither one broke or required any maintenance. I dislike "kick stands", but the Flick Stand was a simple, unobtrusive way to brace the front wheel so the bike could be leaned against a wall. If I could buy one today, I would!

  8. Anon--A comment two years after the post!

    I'm glad that you have had good experiences with the Flick Stand.

    You might find one on eBay or in a swap meet.

  9. A spring like device is common on many european city bikes to keep the front wheel from turning when parked. I used one last year at this time and it worked just fine. Perhaps not for the purist with a fancy made frame but on everyday bikes it was great.

  10. Coline--I recall seeing those devices. If you have a Dutch-style city bike or an English three-speed, they make a lot of sense. On a Mercian, no.