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Mercian Cycles ceases trading and enters voluntary liquidation

The 78-year-old Derby-based bike manufacturer has appointed an agency to help with the restructuring and liquidations

After almost 80 years of crafting and designing bicycle frames, Mercian Cycles has ceased to trade and has appointed an agency to help with the process as the company enters voluntary liquidation.

The company confirmed this news to road.cc this morning, saying: "Mercian Cycles Ltd has ceased to trade, and we have instructed an Insolvency Practitioner to assist us with taking the appropriate steps to place the Company into Creditors' Voluntary Liquidation."

Opus Business Advisory Group, hired by Mercian to assist in the process, told road.cc that it is "working closely with the company to help manage a controlled wind down of the business and a smooth transition for stakeholders".

Mercian Cycles was founded in 1946 when Lou Barker and Tom Crowther first set up shop in London Road, Derby, and have been producing superb steel frames since then. In fact, they are frequently named as one of the most esteemed and skilled British manufacturers.

> Northern vintage: 10 of the best 20th century British bike builders from the North and Midlands

The company is well-known for its superb lugs and looks, and the quite eccentric and unique barber's pole paintjob on the seat tubes. Over the years Mercian Cycles had sponsored many pro teams and riders; not only in the UK but also in America, where the brand had quite the cult following. Their frames are often custom-built, sometimes even using hand-cut lugs.

Mercian frames were traditionally built using steel, originally Reynolds 531, though as of 2010, newer steels such as Reynolds 853 and Reynolds 953 and part-carbon construction were in use.

Mercian Janes BIke head tube photo Kayti Peschke

Before steel was displaced by lighter materials such as aluminium or carbon, riders using Mercian won national and international competitions, including the legendary record-breaker and time trial cyclist, the 'Mighty Atom' Eileen Sheridan, as well as one of England's greatest athlete ever, Beryl Burton, who dominated not just women's cycling, but also set a women’s record for the 12-hour time-trial which exceeded the men’s record for 2 years.

In the 60s and 70s, the bike brand also sponsored the Mercian-Bantel Pro team, with the initial three riders who signed for the team being Derrick Woodings, Eddie White and British cycling legend Mick Ives, who passed away in January this year.

> "They just don't make them like Mick Ives anymore": Tributes pour in for British cycling legend who dies aged 84

Until the 1980s, the company operated out of its small shop in London Road, with the bikes being crafted in Castle Street, off London Road. The shop had developed the nickname of 'Crowbars' among the locals, a cheeky play on the last names of its two founders.

Mercian Cycles barber's pole seat tube and forks
The famous 'barber's pole' paintjob, usually applied to the seat tube but also with a matching fork on this custom frameset

In 1984, the Mercian shop moved to larger premises at Shardlow Road, Alvaston, where it continued to operate from until 2019, before relocating back to its manufacturing unit within Derby.

From the original founders, the business passed to Ethel Crowther, ex-wife of founder Tom Crowther. It then passed to Mercian framebuilder Bill Betton. In 2002, Mercian Cycles was acquired by Grant Mosely and Jane Mosely.

Other notable persons to have owned a Mercian include the movie star Ewan McGregor, who had a frame hand-made a few years ago, as well as famed British clothing and accessories designer Sir Paul Smith, who owns and rides several Mercian track bikes. The brand had also recently commissioned several frame colour schemes from the unique and eccentric designer.

Earlier this year, Orange Bikes, another beloved bike brand integral to the UK mountain scene, was put up for sale and deemed "unable to continue trading" by administrators. However, the company was able to avert its ill-fated destiny and was saved from permanent closure, after acquiring its frame manufacturing partner, the Halifax-based Bairstows has been Orange’s frame building partner since its foundation in 1988.

Adwitiya joined road.cc in 2023 as a news writer after graduating with a masters in journalism from Cardiff University. His dissertation focused on active travel, which soon threw him into the deep end of covering everything related to the two-wheeled tool, and now cycling is as big a part of his life as guitars and football. He has previously covered local and national politics for Voice Wales, and also likes to writes about science, tech and the environment, if he can find the time. Living right next to the Taff trail in the Welsh capital, you can find him trying to tackle the brutal climbs in the valleys.

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19 comments

Avatar
froze | 2 weeks ago
2 likes

This is terrible news, one of the best, if not the best, custom-made steel bicycle manufacturers in the world becoming extinct.

I think part of their problem was the failure to market their outstanding product, had they done that like other custom steel builders do, they might have succeeded.

Maybe someone with a lot of money, and a deep passion for custom steel bikes being made by a historically fabled brand, will step in and take over, one can only hope.

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Lozcan | 3 weeks ago
0 likes

Sad news indeed. The go to bike shop when I was at Derby Uni.

Avatar
E6toSE3 | 3 weeks ago
3 likes

Sad, but inevitable. That's a good long time for a specialist business. Remember them from mid 1970s. I lived in a village between Loughborough and Nottingham for three years. A lab tech at the UNFAS got a Mercian all in chrome. It looked great and he was very proud of it

Avatar
andystow | 3 weeks ago
1 like

Dang. As I was born in Derby, I had thought I might buy one someday if I ever moved back to the UK.

Same aesthetic as Rivendell, which also struggles but I suspect has a more dedicated fan base.

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brooksby replied to andystow | 3 weeks ago
1 like

I looked at the Mercian bike picture at the top of the article and thought, "That looks like a Rivendell".  A bike from Rivendell is my "If I ever won the lottery" dream… 

 

(Of course, I'd have to (1) actually play the lottery and (2) somehow manage to bend the laws of probability, for that to ever happen…).

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andystow replied to brooksby | 3 weeks ago
1 like

brooksby wrote:

A bike from Rivendell is my "If I ever won the lottery" dream… 

I almost bought one a couple of years ago, but I bought my Black Mountain instead. I have a couple of local friends with Rivendells, one is an older guy who bought his new at least a decade ago, the other is a shorter lady who lucked out on a used Betty Foy her size on Ebay or somewhere. They're both beautiful bikes.

Avatar
OldRidgeback | 3 weeks ago
3 likes

That is a shame. The company made good quality frames and had a good name. A friend had one back in the day and it was very nicely made. It'd be nice if soemone were to buy the firm out.

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lesterama | 3 weeks ago
3 likes

Gutted. Steel is real, but the market for traditional steel is obviously hard to survive in.

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marmotte27 replied to lesterama | 3 weeks ago
4 likes

This market is getting ever smaller, as mainstream bikes and everything that pertains to them are moving further and further away from traditional bikes.
A few years back I thought there'd be a move away from bling and marketing to stuff that'll actually last, but that seems to have ben wishful thinking.

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Velophaart_95 replied to marmotte27 | 2 weeks ago
0 likes

I thought so to; but the cycling industry, helped by the majority of the cycling media won't let that happen; aero, lighweight, electronic, etc are hyped up every month - and so many people can't resist.

 

Thank goodness for Path Less Pedalled, Henry Wildeberry and others like them.....

Whilst I'm a fan of cycle racing (whether MTB, Road, CX, etc),  I have no wish to ride those types of bikes.

Avatar
BennyHop | 3 weeks ago
11 likes

This is sad news. The demise of yet another bike manufacturer in the UK.
Can the industry be revived or are we doomed to soul-less Chinese imports?
I was about to renovate my 46 year old Mercian and send it to them to repaint, I can't think any of my carbon bikes will get over 10 years old before being scrapped.

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levestane replied to BennyHop | 3 weeks ago
3 likes

Yes, genuinely sad.

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grasen replied to BennyHop | 3 weeks ago
5 likes

Chinese just make what is on order. Soul-less is the designers fault.

But it doesn't matter what bike shop I enter - they all try to sell me a trek, cannondale or spesialized

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Bigfoz replied to grasen | 3 weeks ago
2 likes

Indeed, and I don;t want to cannon down a dale, trek on a trek, or specialise on a Specialized... I've been saving up for a new Mercian Audax frame. Ah well...

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cyclisto replied to BennyHop | 3 weeks ago
2 likes

Today's bikes have a few things that make less resistant to time passing.

A huge, under-reported problem, is the horrible paintjobs of many modern bicycles. They have so many different colors and logos that change every 5 years for the same brand. Car manufacturers painted cars like the VW Polo Harlequin in the 90s, very very few times.

Definitely carbon bicycles ridden hard are less likely to survive, and bikes with battery electronic transmissions and hydraulic brakes will be less likely to take them out of a storage room and ride them after just pumping tires.

But soul doesn't lie that much on the country made, it is more of the specs and materials. I think this even without a name has tons of character https://www.ebay.com/itm/395301458435

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bobbinogs replied to BennyHop | 3 weeks ago
2 likes

Argos in Bristol (no, not that Argos) did a cracking job fixing/respraying my Mercian after an RTI.  Not cheap but not unreasonable...and the driver's insurance paid for it all anyway!

Have a look online, they have some dreamy paintjobs on offer.

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djgorey replied to bobbinogs | 2 weeks ago
0 likes

Another vote for Argos. They've done my Mercian, my Galaxy and my Zeus (twice, my bad not their's)

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bikes replied to BennyHop | 3 weeks ago
1 like

Only 10 years of life from a carbon road bike frame seems very pessimistic to me.

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matthewn5 replied to bikes | 2 days ago
0 likes

Yeah, nothing at all wrong with my 15 year old Colnago EPS.

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