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Craftsmanship

Where quality and craftsmanship count.

Tony filing a seat lug

There are many thousands of bikes you can choose from, so why choose a Mercian?

We have a workshop team with an average of 20 years working with Mercian Cycles in their current roles – so you can understand why we think that the levels of craftsmanship, skill and experience in our field are hard to beat, not only in the UK but worldwide. Add this to the traditional construction methods which respect the finest quality materials and you have a frame you can be proud of for many years.

One frame-builder builds each frame from start to finish, each builder has his own number which you will find on the bottom bracket shell near to the unique frame number. There are no production lines here! There aren’t many products on the market today that have been built by one craftsman; they take care with each stage of construction, because they put their stamp on it – it’s one of their frames.

Once you have placed your Mercian order, a Bikecad drawing is produced to check that all of the measurements are compatible with your requirements; that it will work with your choice of wheels, tyres, brakes and mudguards etc. The drawing and frame specification details are then sent to our workshop where it is allocated a unique frame number – a combination of the frame number and year of manufacture. These records are kept locked in our workshop for future use, in case you decide to order another Mercian in the future as many of our customers do.

We build our frames in Reynolds tubing because we think it’s the best, Reynolds have an excellent heritage and product that works hand-in-hand with our philosophy to produce the finest lightweight steel bike possible. The days of “one tube-set suits all” have well and truly gone, with the introduction of 631, 725, 853, 853 Pro Team and the newest 953 stainless steel tubing – we order your tubes to suit you and your frame, depending on size, intended use, weight carried etc.

Vincitore lug

The individual tubing and components for your frame are then set aside or ordered-in by a frame-builder and boxed ready for the build date. When the frame is ready for building, the frame-builder begins by filing the lugs; with skill and patience the lugs are cut and filed with hand-tools to create the cut-outs and intricate designs which make Mercian frames distinctive and beautiful. The Vincitore lugs are crafted from plain lugs with spearpoints welded to the plain lugs then drilled, cut out and filed by hand for many hours to create the intricate distinctive look that is unique to a Mercian Vincitore or Vincitore Special.

The Reynolds tubes are then carefully mitred and fitted into the lugs and placed against an alignment board where the builder can create the right angles for the frame. The lugs and tubes are fitted together and the frame is pinned to hold securely in position while the frame is brazed in the open hearth. This part of the build process takes years of experience to perfect and has been passed down from frame-builder to frame-builder. The open hearth method of joining the tubes and lugs with a combination of air and natural gas has been used since the 1940’s and reduces the possibility of overheating the tubing, this method is gentler and kinder to the tubes than the quicker frame-jig and oxy-acetylene method often used today, a much higher and direct heat which can be too harsh in the wrong hands. hearth brazingOnce heated to correct temperature the brass or silver solder is carefully flowed into the lug/tube joint to secure the tubing in the correct position. Each frame-builder has their own preferred methods of manufacture, but we believe our construction methods are the reasons why our frames have longevity. It also means that if a frame tube is damaged in riding, we can undo the brazing and replace a single tube or tubes without problem, meaning your frame can be repaired rather than buying a new one, giving you many years of pleasure.

Lugless frames are constructed in a similar way with the tubes skilfully mitred by hand to ensure that they sit perfectly together before using brass to join the tubes in place with the joins filed perfectly smooth to give a sleek and seamless appearance.

The braze-ons are then added according to the order - bottle cage bosses, stops or guides, rack eyes, gear lever bosses etc. Once the frame is complete and checked for track once more, it goes through for final checking with your chosen wheels and components before the finished frame is cleaned ready to go into the sprayshop.

Tim, workshop manager

From this point the skill and artistry of the paint sprayer and the frame finisher take over, again time and patience are of paramount importance. The painting of a Mercian frame is not a quick process usually taking around 3 weeks to complete.

The frame is primed with etch coat primer, which is allowed to air dry in the clean conditions of the finishing room before being carefully rubbed down with fine grade paper to give a first class base for the paint.

We use the finest quality stove enamel paints we can get our hands on, which are kinder to the environment (and on the sprayers!) than two pack paints. Stove enamel paints must be baked and the most modern piece of equipment in our workshop is the oven to give the finest long-lasting finish possible.

Most of our 60+ colours are not straight out of the tin, but are mixed by hand by our sprayers resulting in the rich, deep, vibrant shades that we offer. We can mix colours in enamel or pearl paints to match a sample if required, we have had beer bottle tops, ties and coats sent in to match paint to, we’re lucky to have sprayers that are very experienced and conscientious who use their skill to give your frame the look you want, if they’re not happy with the final finish – it won’t leave the workshop until they are.
Rob spraying
Rob spraying

Contrasting head tube and seat tube panels, barbers poles etc, are sprayed then baked before being masked up and rubbed down with fine grade paper to give the coats of the main finish a good base. The main colour is sprayed and the masking is removed carefully while the paint is still wet (a tricky job) before baking at the optimum temperature to ensure that the finish is not only long lasting and durable, but looks amazing.

Lugs are lined by hand, with a special pen-like device. This is a very skilled and time consuming job that takes months to perfect even with daily practice. The frame finisher gets the right consistency of paint and with a steady hand, follow the contours of the lug to neaten any area where two paint colours meet or to pick out the lugs to show them off to their full potential.

Transfer fitting is another skilled role needing a steady hand and dextrous touch when dealing with the application of tissue-thin transfers. Transfers are fitted and left to air dry for up to 5 days before varnishing. We use a combination of varnish-fix transfers or dry-fix transfers to give the best finished look possible to the frames, many coats of varnish add the final gloss and protection to all the paintwork and transfers before a final stoving in the oven completes the painting process.

Phil in the Spray shop
Phil in the Spray shop

Before leaving the workshop, the threads and the inside of the seat tube are cleaned of any excess paint or varnish to get the frame ready for the components. Finally the frame is checked over prior to despatch to the showroom for building into a complete cycle or readying for despatch to the customer.


MERCIAN CYCLES
7 Shardlow Road, Alvaston, Derby, Derbyshire, England, DE24 0JG. United Kingdom.
Telephone: (+44) 01332 752468. Email: service@merciancycles.com
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