A VISIT TO MERCIAN CYCLES. To pick up Pricey's frame!

30.1.07

Phil Price, a friend from work, is a dedicated cyclist who normally rides his ‘Orbit’ commuting bike to work most days and nights (we work shifts) in all weathers, however, he had now decided that it was time to get a better bike and he fancied a Mercian! Phil chose the ‘Strada Speciale’ model and asked my advice about some of the design features and what bits to have brazed on and together we came up with a lightweight frame that he could used for fast days out and even weekend tours if he fancied. Phil chose a superb colour scheme of flamboyant ruby with a silver head-tube and silver ‘barbers pole’ on the seat-tube, with the lugs picked out in white.

That was 6 months ago (the Mercian waiting list is that long) and now the time had arrived when it was due to be picked up from the Mercian shop up in Derby. On the way up we stopped at a garage near Ross-on-Wye and ate a huge chicken curry pasty each followed by a bar of chocolate to give us energy for the drive up to Derby. As I had been to the Mercian shop before we had no trouble finding it and there was even a car parking space right outside. Having entered we had a good look around the well-stocked Mercian shop, there we a few Mercian’s on display which we examined closely, also on display in the window was one of the new Paul Smith designed Mercian bikes, we both decided that it was a beautiful bike with stunning paintwork but not the sort of bike we would we want to get caught seen riding.

John Ely was in charge of the shop at the time so we introduced ourselves and John went out the back to get Phil’s frame, I was completely gobsmacked at the quality of the frame’s paintwork and we both stood there admiring it whilst we talked to an old-timer, then the hard bit came for Phil as he parted with his hard earned cash. Having said our goodbyes to John and the old-timer we were now feeling hungry and the ‘Blue Peter’ pub across the road from the Mercian shop had been recommended to us so off we went in search of nourishment. The Blue Peter has a carvery so we paid our money, queued up with everyone else and piled our plates up high, we scoffed the lot but still has space for a huge portion of sponge and custard for pudding, after that we were well and truly stuffed.

Phil then had the great idea of visiting the Mercian workshop a few miles down the road so that he could meet the person who had created his frame!!

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The Mercian workshop is an older red-bricked building tucked away on a more modern industrial estate which seems to have grown up around it. I knocked on the door and sheepishly asked if we could have a look around. We were greeted by number 3, (sorry number 3 I have forgotten your name! - all Mercian frames have a frame number and then a single number suffix denoting the maker of the frame). Number 3 invited us in and we explained the purpose of our visit, it was soon established that Phil’s frame was built by Tony Phillips, who I think is number 7! Phil posed for a photograph with Tony and we chatted about frame designs and the like. Derek Land, the workshop foreman was busy frame-building in the background and unfortunately we didn’t get a chance to talk to him. Tony took us to the back of the workshop, where the paint-spraying room is to meet Rob Poultney, the Mercian painter. Rob showed us the paint-spraying booth and the oven, both of which I had seen before but I was just as enthralled. We talked about all things to do with painting frames and Rob explained that he joined Mercian as an apprentice frame sprayer at the age of 15. We joked and laughed with Tony and Rob for a while but we didn’t want to keep them from their work and we had the journey back home in front of us so we reluctantly said goodbye. We both agreed that we had a great time in the company of some superb craftsmen!

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