First ride on the 1972 Mercian

1972 Mercian

Test riding a newly built bicycle can be unnerving.  Will the bike be uncomfortable to ride?   Will the brakes fail while descending down a steep hill?  Will the shifters slip while climbing?   Will I drop the chain while crossing a busy intersection?   Well, now I can one more possibility to the list of dreaded catastrophes.  But first, let me share how I chose this 1972 Mercian frame’s components, which I recently acquired as a frame and fork with very compromised paint.

1972 Mercian

Here it is, after cleaning, reviving, and waxing the frame and building it up.  The tubes are double butted Reynolds 531, but the transfers were lost long ago.  Fortunately, there was no rust inside the bottom bracket shell or anywhere else on the frame.  And, the compromised paint on the top tube is not that visible from afar.

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I was surprised to find brass residue inside the bottom bracket shell, left over from brazing.  Normally I expect to see silver, as is typically used.  Since silver can be brazed at lower temperatures, there is less chance of overheating and weakening the main tubes.  That led me to research how these frames are built and I discovered the whole frame is heated, after tacking the lug points, in an open brick oven, with natural gas.  Apparently, this evenly heats the areas to be brazed, so the chance of overheating doesn’t exist, as when one directs a flame at the lug joints.  Each builder has their own preference as to brazing materials, some use brass and some silver.  The builder of this Mercian frame chose to use brass, at least for the bottom bracket shell.

After taking measurements and determining the rear spacing, I was inspired to set up the drive train using Suntour components combined with a Stronglight crankset and Huret shifters.

Suntour adjustable BB

Suntour adjustable BB with sealed cartridge bearings.

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Suntour SL High Normal front derailleur.

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Suntour Perfect 14-32 5 speed freewheel.

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Suntour Vx rear derailleur.

Vintage Huret Shifter

Huret drilled downtube shifters

The rear Vx derailleur works perfectly and provides very smooth shifting.  The front SL is a “high normal” front derailleur, and it was extremely easy to set up.  I chose it because its cable stops were what I needed, given the type of stops used on the frame.  The Suntour cartridge bearing bottom bracket is about as smooth and free of friction as they come, and it has lock rings on both sides which allow for a perfect chain line adjustment.  It would be nice if all BB’s were built this way.  The 14-32 Suntour Perfect freewheel is … perfect!  The low gear is a 33, but I found that I never actually needed it, even climbing the steep hills of Mt. Tabor Park.1972 Mercian

I still haven’t determined what model Mercian this is.  The lugs are fancy, and resemble the lugs used for the Olympique model of this era.  The fender eyelets and the 44 cm chainstays suggest the bike was meant to be an all-rounder – good for sport riding as well as light touring and randonneuring.  Mercian cycles are well regarded, so there are plenty of photos and websites available on the web.  One particularly fetching Mercian can be seen here.1972 Mercian

It has been a while since I have ridden on 700c wheels shod on a classic road bike. I was reminded how much fun it is to blast up the hills and to be inspired to sprint past other riders on their newer carbon fiber machines.  This bike is fast!  The downside to 700c wheels on such a small frame, however, brought me back to reality.  With headtube and seattube angles of 72 degrees, and fork rake at about 50 mm, this bike has tons of wheel flop and trail.  More than I like, and I noticed that right away when I rode into downtown Portland across the Hawthorne Bridge on a windy day – the front end was blown around due to the high trail.  And, at slow speeds the bike is not as stable as I would prefer.  However, at higher speeds and while descending, this bike performed well.

Mafac racersMafac racers

After spending way too much time trying to get a set of GB vintage centerpull brakes to work (due to the small amount of space at the seat stays), I finally switched over to a set of Mafac Racers, and was done with my brake set up in no time.  Really, no better engineered centerpull brakes can be found.  I had to clean and sand the rims, and install Kool Stop orange pads on the front set to eliminate brake squeal.

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GB Stem

Mercian headbadge

For the rest of the build, I used a Maillard/Weinmann wheelset from 1988 which was in great shape, and mounted Continental Gatorskins to the rims – great tires for 700c machines.  I had a GB stem and rando bars on hand, and decided to use some green cable housing to bring out the colors in the Mercian headbadge.

1972 Merican in Mt. Tabor Park

Now to the mishaps of its test ride.  First, I took the bike up to Mt. Tabor Park, prior to taping the bars, to see how the bike performed and determine if any changes were needed in the set up.  All good.  The bike fit me perfectly, and I really enjoyed the first ride.  Then,  I commuted to work on this bike, across the Hawthorne Bridge and into downtown Portland.  No problem, had fun, passed other cyclists, felt like a champ.  Then, it came time to venture back through downtown Portland.  There is an area of 4th Avenue that seems jinxed.  On this particular stretch I have experienced a tire blow out on my Jack Taylor, a rear flat on my Guerciotti, and too many near death experiences involving car drivers changing lanes into me or pulling out in front of me.  Today, something new happened.  As I was descending down 4th toward the Hawthorne Bridge ramp, I switched over to the far left lane to avoid traffic.  Then I encountered some kind of strange road surface anomaly that set up quite a bit of vibration on the front end.  As I was struggling to hold on to the brake hoods, the water bottle, which I had mounted to the handlebars, flew out and began a cannon-like descent down the street, fortunately not hitting any cars or pedestrians.  I quickly pulled over, spotted the water bottle, chased it down and polo-like was able to stop its progress, pick it up, and proceed on my way, quite daunted.

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And that’s when I remembered the bad ol’ days of putting 100 psi or more into my narrow road tires.  I had inflated these tires to 100 rear and 80 front.  As soon as this mishap with the water bottle occurred, I pulled over and lowered the pressures.  After that, I rode home in quite a bit more comfort.  And with a smile on my face.

1980’s Peugeot 650c Conversion

 

Peugeot Canada

I came across this Canadian Peugeot on eBay. Before I converted it to a 650c city bike, it was equipped with a mix of Shimano 600 and 105 components, and even sported some brifters, which of course had failed some time ago.  Probably, the bike was garaged after this and that is why it was in pretty decent shape.  Thank you, Shimano.

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There was a little bit of rust in the bottom bracket shell, so I decided to treat the frame with Weigle’s frame saver.  It was nice to see the vertical drop-outs, and the cutouts on the lugs were a surprise.  Most of the finish work is very good, except for the sloppy work on the seat stay brake bridge.  Of course, the serial number is  meaningless, except the “Y” makes me wonder if this was a PY model.  Canadian Peugeot’s were manufactured by Pro Cycle beginning in 1978.  The company used lug construction vs. the French models which were internally brazed.   The frame and fork are Reynolds 531.  The fast back seat stays and the unicrown fork, as well as the style of the Reynolds stickers (which are in French) made me date this bike to the mid-80’s.  I’ve never seen a Peugeot in British racing green, but I really do like this color.  There are even some gold racing stripes on the left side seat stay.  So, it doesn’t look as French as it does British.  (And, I guess that’s why it’s Canadian.)

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I salvaged the nice Shimano 105 rear derailleur by inverting the b-screw, a la Sheldon Brown.  That made it possible to use a 32 tooth cog on the rear cassette.  For this city drive train I used a 45 tooth SR ring, a Velo Orange chain guard, and a 165 mm SR Signature crank.  With this wheel size, that yields a gear inch range of 34-93 with the 12-32 7 speed cassette pictured.  That’s just about right for any kind of city riding that involves hills.  I used Tektro’s long reach brakes, which are what I use for all my 650c conversions, and 650c Terry Tellus 28 mm tires. These tires ride quite well and are virtually bullet proof.  The wheelset is comprised of 28 hole Dura Ace hubs laced to Mavic XP12 rims in a 2 cross style.  This wheelset came off of a late 90’s titanium triathlon bike. While this set may seem positively robust by today’s standards, I am a big fan of strong wheelsets with at least 3 cross lacing and 32 spokes front and rear.  However, for a small and light-weight rider, which is who I designed this bike for, this wheelset should work just fine.

Peugeot 531 City Bike Conversion

For the rest of the build, I chose an upright position using Velo-Orange’s Monmartre handlebar with reverse Dia Compe levers.  I had some matching Shimano 105 shifters, so used those to complement the rear derailleur.  They can be used in friction or index mode with this 1 x 7 drive train.

The standover height is 29 1/2 inches.  The bike weighs 21 lbs as pictured, so it will make a very nice and responsive city bike for a small rider.

For sale now.

1980’s Viner City Bike Conversion

1980's Viner

A few posts back I featured this Viner that I had purchased with the intention to disassemble it and keep the frame on hand for a potential build.  Well, I kept looking at the frame and couldn’t help thinking how much fun it would be to convert the bike to 650c (from 700c) and to build it into a city bike.  A city bike in Portland, Oregon is not the same as a city bike in other cycling hubs across the globe.  We have hills here, we have bridges, shockingly little cycling infrastructure, and hence relatively fast commutes compared to more laid back cities such as Amsterdam.  The ideal city bike in Portland (at least for now) is a bike that is nimble, fast, and lightweight.

Tektro Long Reach Brakes, Terry 650c tires

Tektro Long Reach Brakes, Terry 650c tires

So, I built the bike back up, keeping as many of the original components as would make sense for the build.  However, once I got into the project I could see that the only components that should be kept were the original crankset (Ofmega Mistral with Campagnolo rings), Shimano Italian threaded bottom bracket,  Shimano 105 front derailleur, Atax stem, and Shimano 105 shifters.

During the time I was working on the bike, I heard from a reader who asked me how you can tell a real Viner from a fake one.  Well, I was surprised that anyone would even try to fake a Viner, but apparently this has happened.  After doing some research I found an informative blog that helped to clarify this point:  all real Viner’s have their bottom brackets stamped with the seat tube length ( in cm) on the underside of the BB.  This is how you can be certain that you are riding a real Viner vs. a fake.  This Viner has “49” stamped on the underside of the BB, and it is a 49 cm frame.1980's Viner

The success of converting a bike from 700c to 650c depends on the original frame geometry.  A bike with a lot of BB drop, and with a shallow head tube angle can present more of a challenge than a bike that has a steep head tube and not so much BB drop.  Also, a bike with very little fork rake combined with a slack head tube angle can also present a challenge when converted to 650c.  Unfortunately, this little bike had all of those frame geometry problems.  It’s a small bike that should probably never have been built for 700c tires.  To shorten the top tube a very steep 74 degree seat tube angle was used, combined with a slack 71 degree head tube angle, and very little fork rake at 45 mm.  The result:  a bike with more wheel flop and trail than is ideal in my opinion.  However, converting the bike to 650c IMPROVED the wheel flop and trail numbers substantially – going from a wheel flop factor of 21 to 19 mm and a trail measurement of 69 to 58 mm.  I did this frame a favor by converting it to 650c.  Some vintage Viners (all of which were hand-built) feature very fancy lugs with cutouts.  This frame is simpler, but all of the finish work is outstanding.

Beautiful finish work on the seat lug, Columbus Cromor tubing

Beautiful work on the seat lug, Columbus Cromor tubing

Columbus drop-outs, fully chromed chain stays

Columbus drop outs, fully chromed chainstay

I used a Shimano Deore XT rear derailleur in case the new owner of this bike wants to use index shifting (which works fine with the Shimano 105 downtube shifters and this derailleur) and/or larger cogs in the back.  With the 42/52 rings, lower gearing in the form of larger cogs for city riding can be helpful.  The cassette I installed is 12-30, giving a low gear of 34 inches for this wheel size.  If the new owner wants to convert the bike back to a road bike, all that is needed would be to swap out the bars and levers for road-type equipment and possibly change out the cassette.  Here are some photos of the rest of the build:

Omfega Mistral crankset with Campagnolo rings 42/52

Ofmega Mistral crankset with Campagnolo rings 42/52

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Mavic CXP33 black rims with silver sidewalls

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Nitto Northroad bars with Lizard Skin red white and blue grips and original Atax stem

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Ultegra hubs with 32 holes front and rear

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Ofmega Mistral crankset – considered one of the nicest cranksets ever made

One of the nice things about this Viner is the color of the frame.  It is seemingly black – but also purple/brown in low light.  The black Mavic rims with the silver sidewalls seemed to be just about perfect in highlighting the frame color.  I had fun building up this bike, but I do NOT want to have too much fun test riding it – I have too many bikes in my stable already.