Up to date experience of Mercian /Chas Roberts

General cycling advice ( NOT technical ! )
davidlove
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Joined: 6 May 2012, 9:58pm

Up to date experience of Mercian /Chas Roberts

Postby davidlove » 6 Nov 2014, 4:02pm

Dear All,
I am thinking of putting hand in pocket and buying myself a decent steel audax bike. These two names seem to come up a lot and their web sites are promising, has anybody been to them recently and what was the experience like ? helpful ? knowledgeable ? friendly.

Many thanks!

JohnW
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Joined: 6 Jan 2007, 9:12pm
Location: Yorkshire

Re: Up to date experience of Mercian /Chas Roberts

Postby JohnW » 6 Nov 2014, 5:22pm

It depends on what you mean by recently. My most recently built new frame was a 2005 or 6 Mercian and it's brilliant. The attention and service that I got was brilliant. I've since bought a few bits from them by post, and their service was about as good as it gets. That's just my experience. You're best to go to the shop to be measured.

The hardest part was choosing the colour for the frame.

A lot of local, serious long-distance riders seem to find Hewitt's of Leyland to be very professional and top notch, both in terms of actual bikes/frames and service. In your position, I'd include Spa in the frame as well - you can go and road-test one before you decide.

LWaB
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Re: Up to date experience of Mercian /Chas Roberts

Postby LWaB » 6 Nov 2014, 11:18pm

A friend of mine tried to purchase a Roberts earlier this year and, after the promised delivery time more than doubled without the frame even being started, gave up and bought an off the shelf frame from elsewhere. Pick a builder who actually does something close to what they claim to do.

goatwarden
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Re: Up to date experience of Mercian /Chas Roberts

Postby goatwarden » 7 Nov 2014, 8:08am

davidlove wrote:Dear All,, has anybody b
... their web sites are promising

Many thanks!


I presume by "promising" you mean it in the sense of a child showing great promise, but currently being rubbish by adult standards? I find both their sites quite clunky and lacking in much more content than you could present in a small brochure.

They both make beautiful frames which will be a pleasure to ride.

In 2010 I had a tandem built by Chas Roberts with which I am very happy. On the way to getting it I rejected Mercian, amongst others, as they refused to make exactly what I wanted (front disc brake).

Chas is a thorough gentleman and a pleasure to deal with, as is Brian, the bloke who screws bikes together. I have heard from others that various other people there can be very difficult to deal with but I didn’t experience that.

In hindsight, if doing it all again, I think I would probably spend a lot more time investigating the possibilities of using a much smaller, less well known frame builder; I might still go the same way again but equally I suspect a less well known builder could deliver a product just as good and possibly at lower cost. You really do pay a lot for the name with Mercian or Roberts. (I can think of at least one less well known, and still very good, frame builder who would likely charge even more than Roberts.)

Although I am very pleased with my Roberts, and despite my taking a lot of trouble to ensure they did what I wanted, it was not perfect and I have made changes. If you do go to a frame maker it is critical that you take an active role in dictating what you want. Don’t just sit back and let them make the frame they want to sell you; you will only regret it later (this is what most "Specialized" or "Giant"branded, along with many small bike shops, do; they sell you the bike they want to sell then hoover money from your pockets in attempting to alter it to what you wanted afterwards; this is so often the case with people wanting a fancy road bike and have no shortage of cash but a distinct shortage of knowledge of bikes.)

A good frame builder should know much more than you but it doesn’t necessarily mean they are always right. I remember reading a blog by a couple who had their bikes built by Chas Roberts and had specifically asked for the cables to be all run along the top tube to prevent freezing in a Canadian winter (of which they had previous experience); Chas supplied the frames with the cables run on the down tubes and bottom brackets as he normally would and sure enough they were disappointed to lose gears and rear brakes when riding in a Canadian winter.

davidlove
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Re: Up to date experience of Mercian /Chas Roberts

Postby davidlove » 7 Nov 2014, 8:50am

Thanks all of you!
It is difficult to get the balance right isn't it with "experts". You wouldn't employ an architect merely to draw up plans of a house of your own design and I guess part of the considerable cost of a made to measure bike is their expertise. However you go there with some ideas in your head and I certainly don't want them building a frame that then needs a lot of tweaking later to make it fit my requirements that would be a nightmare!
I have some fairly definite problems that will need answering, as for my height I have a long back and short arms which with an off the shelf bike pushes my centre of gravity forward hence the need for made to measure.
Delivery times as you say are long Mercian quote about 6 months!
Your comments have been very useful I think I need to keep looking and thinking!!

Brucey
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Re: Up to date experience of Mercian /Chas Roberts

Postby Brucey » 7 Nov 2014, 8:56am

I think it is fair to say that most people who need to go to a framebuilder go because they have tried everything else and/or they know what they want and they can't get it elsewhere.

There are other folk who don't need to go to a framebuilder but go anyway, perhaps because they think they are somehow getting something 'better'. This might be the case but then again it might not be the case; you could be paying a lot more for stock geometry and stock tubing, but just nicely built with an expensive name on it.

If in either case your expectations are unrealistic then it could all be a bit of a disappointment; you could end up with a bike that suits you and fits you noticeably better but then again you might not get any real (tangible) benefit at all; it is after all just a scaffold on which your components hang, albeit one that has to fit and flex in just the right way if it is to work properly.

If the costs seem high, it doesn't work out much per year if it is a bike that lasts you twenty years or so. If you ever sell the bike it'll be worth more too, so the ownership costs may not be all that high.

I have a few handbuilt frames and some of them cost a fortune when they were new; years later they seem like good value for the most part; if looked after, they still do the job they were meant to do if they were specced out carefully in the first place.

cheers
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~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Brucey~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

fastpedaller
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Location: Norfolk

Re: Up to date experience of Mercian /Chas Roberts

Postby fastpedaller » 7 Nov 2014, 9:41am

davidlove wrote:Thanks all of you!
It is difficult to get the balance right isn't it with "experts". You wouldn't employ an architect merely to draw up plans of a house of your own design and I guess part of the considerable cost of a made to measure bike is their expertise. However you go there with some ideas in your head and I certainly don't want them building a frame that then needs a lot of tweaking later to make it fit my requirements that would be a nightmare!


That's an interesting analogy you've made there, and one I've though of in the past myself. If looking for a house to buy (I've said) in the past that nothing we've seen fits the bill perfectly - but if I had one built would I get it perfect? I suspect there would be something I'd not thought of? Same with a bike..... Make a VERY detailed list down the the last cable eye, and go over it several times - there'll be some minor detail that's easily forgotten! Hope you enjoy the process and result :D

reohn2
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Re: Up to date experience of Mercian /Chas Roberts

Postby reohn2 » 7 Nov 2014, 12:02pm

I agree with Brucey,it could be heaven or turn out to be hell and a costly hell at that.
IMO it depends on whether you really need or want(the two are different) a handbuilt frameset,there's a lot of mystique around 'handbuilt' but unless you have particular needs an off the peg frameset can be just as good.
Unless you're fully familiar with the tubing,fittings,etc,required,you're in the hands of the builder who you hope will get it right after consultation,your weight,what the bike will be used for,luggage carried,couplings for flying,brake type,specific brazeons,dropouts,drivetrain to be used,etc,etc.

Whereas with an off the peg frameset you can see what you get and even test ride it with some dealers(Spa has an excellent service in that respect)and it costs a lot less.
It all depends on you and you specific requirements.
I wouldn't compare a bespoke frame builder to an architect but I would compare it to a made to measure bespoke suit of clothes,personally I've never had any problem with an OTP suit but I do have problems with some OTP frames due to my longish thighs,which mean I have to be careful how I choose a frame,though a long layback seatpost usually sorts that out,stems come in incremental sizes so the fit can be tailored,brazeons are enough and correct for brakes,drivetrain,etc,for the sort of frameset I use.
Which leaves tubing,a minefield unless you really know your stuff,the vast majority don't and include myself in that,because I simply don't have the breadth of experience of riding every tubeset in every material,trad frame sizes compared to compact and semi compact frame designs,etc,etc.
But I know what I want out of a bike and I know,due to the experience I do have what suits me.
A bespoke frame would have to make some real differences to my cycling to make me want to spent upto three times that of an OTP one.
Then there's the kudos,a minefield within a minefield and which could amount to just snobbery.

There was a chap on here some time back kicking up merry hell because a well known frame builder had made his frame 5mm too long in the top tube,I'm of the opinion such people need to get a life and get on with it,but could see other people's opinion that if a frame builder can't work within a 5mm tolerance there's something amiss,you pays yer money and takes yer chance, as the say.
Good luck with your quest,but if I were you I'd have to be absolutely sure a bespoke frameset was offering me substantially more than OTP one was capable of.
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I cycle therefore I am.

JohnW
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Re: Up to date experience of Mercian /Chas Roberts

Postby JohnW » 7 Nov 2014, 12:36pm

reohn2 wrote:.......................There was a chap on here some time back kicking up merry hell because a well known frame builder had made his frame 5mm too long in the top tube.................


Was it the top tube John, or was it the head tube? - and where was he measuring to/from, was it centre-centre of top/down tube or was it to the top of the lug - and how did the lug on the frame which was the object of his displeasure compare with the lug on the frame he was copying?...........................it goes on, doesn't it? I always get my frames built, and I know that you don't, and you query whether I get a better frame for having it built-to-measure just for me. It's a good question John - and ever since you asked it, I've tried to answer it myself. I think that my answer is : potentially, yes.

Just leaning on my own experience, and considering that David has, apparently, had good times with Chas Roberts frames I'd simply go back to Chas Roberts. I'd tell him what issues I'd had with the previous frame(s) so that any problems could be addressed, and go for that. My experience of the frame builder who built all but two of my frames is that they value and respond to your loyalty - and they get to know your quirks and there's always a certain satisfaction in knowing the guy who built your frame personally. Failing that, and particularly if cost was an issue, my first call would be Spa. It's a pity that Mercian couldn't do what he wanted.

There are three areas of cycling tackle where I'm not cost conscious - one is frames (the others are wheels and helmets). A frame is what it costs. My usual previous frame-builder was Johnny Mapllebeck (Pennine), except for one frame which was an Ellis Briggs - another local (to me) builder. I was never disappointed. I only switched to Mercian because Johnny was long retired and, disappointingly. Ellis Briggs didn't seem to be interested in building a one-off for me.

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pedalsheep
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Re: Up to date experience of Mercian /Chas Roberts

Postby pedalsheep » 7 Nov 2014, 3:08pm

I bought my Roberts in 2006, I don't know if that is recent enough for you but I do know that since then it has given me over 60,000 miles of very happy riding and I have never for a moment regretted spending so much money on it. It was, and 8 years later still is, my pride and joy. Chas and Brian could not be more friendly, knowledgeable and helpful. There was another guy there who could be a bit grumpy but he has long since gone. Promised delivery time was one month and that was exactly when it was ready for collection.
Where do you live? It makes since to use a framebuilder who is relatively local to you. Why not go and visit Roberts and form your own opinions? They have stock bikes that you can take for a test ride. I only went to look and ended up ordering a bike! They are about a ten minute walk from East Croyden station. Probably best to phone before you visit as they can be very busy, especially on a Saturday afternoon. When you order a bike they take very detailed measurements so accommodating your long torso and short arms will not be a problem.
There will always be people who tell you that you don't need a custom bike. This may be true but if you can afford it it is a very nice thing to have. My Roberts is much the best thing I have ever owned and the cost spread over the last 8 years (if my maths is correct!) is less than £4.50 a week.
'Why cycling for joy is not the most popular pastime on earth is still a mystery to me.'
Frank J Urry, Salute to Cycling, 1956.

Brucey
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Re: Up to date experience of Mercian /Chas Roberts

Postby Brucey » 7 Nov 2014, 3:15pm

pedalsheep wrote: I bought my Roberts in 2006....
......There will always be people who tell you that you don't need a custom bike. This may be true but if you can afford it it is a very nice thing to have. My Roberts is much the best thing I have ever owned and the cost spread over the last 8 years (if my maths is correct!) is less than £4.50 a week.


I've had my Roberts frameset a bit longer than you; if my maths is correct the expenditure is currently running around.......

10p a week.... :shock: :shock: :shock:

:lol: :lol: :lol:

cheers
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TrevA
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Re: Up to date experience of Mercian /Chas Roberts

Postby TrevA » 7 Nov 2014, 4:08pm

I think with both you are paying quite a bit over the odds for the name on the frame. I used to have a Mercian (bought around 2004) but the frame broke in 2009 - the seat tube cracked above the bottom bracket. I replaced it with a steel 631 bike from my local shop (Langdale Lightweights). He used to build his own frames but now has them built abroad (eastern Europe). This was substantially cheaper than a Mercian (complete bike £1000 with Tiagra groupset and Mavic Aksium wheels). I've replaced the wheels but the bike's still going strong after 5 years and around 20,000 miles. Can't say I notice the ride being any worse than the Mercian.

You might want the kudos of a Mercian or a Roberts, and wish to support the British artisan frame building industry, but a Spa steel audax frame represents better value for money. Another cheaper alternative would be a Vernon Barker frame (built in the UK but without the premium of a Mercian/Roberts).
A cart horse trapped in the body of a man.
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Mick F
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Re: Up to date experience of Mercian /Chas Roberts

Postby Mick F » 7 Nov 2014, 4:32pm

Up to date?

I had a Trigger's Broom of a bike.
I'd swapped and changed everything except the frame, so Mrs Mick F said to me, "Why don't you buy one then?"

So I read all the mags and catalogues and really liked the look of Mercians. They featured heavily in the Freewheel catalogue, so I wrote off the Mercian and asked for a brochure. It came through the post a few days later and I was smitten. :D

That was back in 1986.
I bought a Vincitore, and I took the frame back to them in 2007 for a refurb for its 21st birthday present.

Here we are in 2014, and I'm still in love with it, and hopefully it will go back for a 50th birthday refurb in 2036, but I'll be in my mid-80s by then. :shock:

Mercian?
Can't fault them, but I have no experience of any other framebuilder, so my opinion is immaterial.
Mick F. Cornwall

yostumpy
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Re: Up to date experience of Mercian /Chas Roberts

Postby yostumpy » 7 Nov 2014, 4:49pm

Not forgetting Bob Jackson of course.

Image

Here'z my 'world tour' frame built up, Frame and paint, and a few minor alterations was £605. and headset was fitted free.
Born on 01/01/2014 ( first ride actually the 2nd as it was peeing down)