I've fancied a swoopy top tube bike for quite a while and on holiday in Tuscany last year we hired a couple of bikes and rode around the towns of Viareggio and Lucca. The bikes were sit-upright, relaxed style and mine a step through and I really enjoyed riding around in the sunshine at a steady pace, so decided that we had to have a go at building one.
I knew the look, feel and riding position I wanted the bike to have, so Grant measured my Specialized bike and sorted out the frame size for me. I had the amount of curve in the top tube set in my mind, we used our bikecad program to create frame drawings to get the size, angles and curve. We had to search for the tube as they're not readily available off the shelf and sent it off for bending to the bikecad diagram. The trial tube came back fine and Tim the workshop manager/framebuilder asked me to have a go at designing the lugs.
Trying to design your own lugs is a real treat and I found it quite difficult & drew a fair few ideas on paper but they all looked a bit like something else I'd seen before. I wanted the 1950's crest, so I took inspiration from the bike picture on the crest to draw 'Deco' looking lugs. Viareggio has fantastic art deco buildings - so it all seemed to fit and my mind was made up. Below is my attempt at drawing them, with the working measurements written underneath.
Lug drawing The original drawing had an extra diamond shape on it but my frame is small and would look too much.
Tim took a solid tube and ground the metal back to give the 3D effect and I was really pleased with how it looked. The lugs are bi-laminated, needing to be lugless at the back to join the unusually angled top tube to fit. He then copied this to the seat lug and the fork crown. The bottom bracket is lugless to keep the nice balance between smooth lugless joints and lugged design detail. The rack was also made in-house to suit the frame.
While the frame was being built, our shop were sourcing and ordering components to fit to the frame when ready to achieve the overall look I wanted the bike to have. They bought some really nice wooden mudguards from America, from Woody's Fenders, they were made in leopard wood and made for us in a bit of a rush (thanks Cody), they compliment the honey Brooks saddle and bar grips really well. The bike was built for Sturmey Archer 3 speed hub, with Nitto bars.
Then the paint... (now I know how difficult it is for customers to choose colours!) I wanted an Enamel finish as it would suit it the bike, I got a sample of duck egg blue paint for Rob to mix to. I wanted a bit of sparkle, so Pearl White head tube, fork crown and dropouts, with silver lug lining to match Silver Gothic transfers. The 1950's enamel headbadge was a pre-production sample and arrived just in time! This was then matched with the 1950's seat crest.
The guys at the workshop weren't really convinced by my colours and they did make me start to doubt my choice, they kept telling me it was "growing" on them! lol. But in the end they liked how it turned out.
And the judges at the Bespoked Bristol handmade bike show agreed! Awarding the bike Best Utility in show, against some stiff competition. The bike attracted a lot of attention and some people did try to buy it, but we'd not worked out a price and it was my bike so definitely not for sale. However, because of the interest shown, we're looking at a price right now and introducing it as a new model for the Mercian range. But I'll have to think of a model name.... can't imagine people ordering a "Jane's bike" (suggestions welcome), perhaps Mercian Deco?
Hope you enjoy the pictures, look out for pricing and ordering details which we'll get on the website as soon as we have them.
Thanks to all the guys at the workshop who built, painted and finished the frame beautifully, to the shop for choosing the right components for me and Carl for building the frame into a bike on a tight schedule (on your day off) to get it ready for Bespoked Bristol 2012. She is just how I imagined her to be and I absolutely love her! My first ever bespoke bike and I know how it feels when you get your new Mercian - pretty ecstatic!