The Custom Mercian Frame BHI Spring '99
Why I opted to go for a custom Mercian frame
by Hal Ruzal
I recently replace my twenty-seven year old racing frameset with a brand new Mercian. My old frame had too many miles on it and was developing symptoms of fatigue. You may ask, since I work in a bicycle shop that stocks a large assortment of racing bicycles, why I would opt for a custom frame. The main reason is strength. My touring frame is also a Mercian and I've ridden that bicycle across the continent without any sign of frame failure. I like my bikes to last a long time and I hope my new racing Mercian will last long into my retirement years (a scary thought).
The Mercian frame uses lightweight Reynolds 531 manganese molybdenum steel tubing (Reynolds the tubing company is in no way related to the people that give us Reynolds Wrap). This tubing is super strong yet resilient. It can be realigned in case of an accident without cracking or embrittlement. The Reynolds steel does not flex like titanium, crack like carbon fibre, or catastrophically fail (not to mention creak) like aluminum.
Mercian's are also built with lugs (reinforcements at the stress joints). These lugs make the bike stronger. Why don't we stock bikes with lugs? It's because a slight extra cost in materials and a large extra cost in labor. Manufacturers may claim that lugs are heavier but the truth of the matter is that the weight sacrifice does not equal the increase in strength. The look of lugs is also esthetically more pleasing (at least to me) than a lugless frame. The frame looks like a functional work of art rather than a marginally functional hunk of junk. Lugged frames also lend themselves to multi-colored paint jobs (the lug is a natural divider) much more readily than lugless frames.
Mercian's can be had in numerous styles (racing, touring, track, or tandem) in a framesize to fit almost anybody. They have 63 color choices plus an infinite number of color combinations. How much does a Mercian frame and fork cost? $750 - $800 doesn't seem like much for a hand built, made to order frameset that will probably last a lifetime.