Made it to the sign!
I finally had a chance to take the Mercian out for a true ride. Up to now, I had been assembling the bike and only took it down the block for testing. The other day, I rode it around a few local roads for more testing. Finally this weekend I was able to stretch it's legs for a good 4 hour ride through the Sierra foothills. I took a ride from Loomis, through Auburn up Placer Hills Road beyond Meadow Vista to Dog Bar Road. From there, I dropped down to the Bear river, then took Magnolia Road back to highway 49 at Lake of the Pines. From there, you take the roller coaster hills to North Auburn, then back to Loomis via Taylor Road. It was about 4 hours of riding, close to 60 miles. Unfortunately, I forgot my camera, so I have to settle for these phone camera pictures.
Lunch break at Dog Bar Road.
You might notice in the photo above, that I switched saddles for this ride. I didn't want to ride for 4 hours in a saddle not yet broken in!
The Bear River at Dog Bar Road Bridge.
Passes the no hands stability test!
As you can tell from the pictures, it was a fine day for riding. A little breezy at times, but not too bad. The air a little cool at first, but it warmed nicely by the end of the ride. The bike performed quite well. The drivetrain worked fine, I was concerned about the front derailleur clearance, but there was no issue. I occasionally missed a shift in the back but that was my mistake, the price of not using an indexed system.
The bike's ride is very good. The handling is quick, more like a racing bike than a touring bike. This is typical of Mercians. Their geometry is decidedly sporty. This is a classified as a touring frame, but it's wheelbase measures 103.5cm,(40.75"), compare this to the Surly LHT with a wheelbase of 108cm,(42"). Added to this is a relatively short top tube. The result is a quick handling bike, I would say more a "Sportive" type geometry than a "Campuer"; I call it an English Randonneuse. If you really want a Mercian tourer, better ask them for more chainstay and more top tube! Incidentally, I did notice a little toe clip overhang, also the result of the short top tube I suppose.
Riding the bike, I recalled the reason I like Mercians. Towards the end of the day, coming to Auburn on HWY 49 from the north, I was down in the drops and I felt perfectly comfortable. There is something in this geometry that puts my body in the right position. This, too, may be a result of the short (56cm) top tube.
The gearing consists of the Velo Orange Gran Cru 50.4 BCD crank, with 46/30 chainwheels, and a 11-28 cassette in the back. This gives me a very wide gear spread while still permitting a short cage rear derailleur, (in this case the Shimano Tiagra). I feel this range will be sufficient to tackle Iowa Hill if need be. I'll give it a try sometime soon I hope! The shifters are the Dia Compe ENE friction. These have a very light feel to them, lighter that the Rivendell "Silver" levers. I thought that the internals were identical between those two levers, but I can certainly feel a difference.
Braking is certainly not a concern with this bike, the Tektro CR720 provide excellent stopping power. Probably overkill for this bike, but I also chose cantilevers for the generous clearance they provide for fender installation. The "Cane Creek" levers work very well with these brakes, and they are quite comfortable. Their quick release feature is also helpful.
All in all, I'm pretty pleased with the bike, but I want more time to get used to it's ride. I'll have at least one more journal entry about this bike and the whole process of obtaining it.