A trip to Mercia – product knowledge key to marketing delivery
Buying a bicycle these days is like entering the world of the unknown. New brakes, new frame technology, specialist gear – you name it, it’s there to strike fear into the heart of the hapless shopper who just wants to buy a bike. If you want to buy a specialist bike itself, you enter into an even darker world of gear ratios, metal alloys, steering head angles and wheelbase lengths. All a bit daunting.
But not at Mercian Cycles of Derby. Mercian – situated in the old Saxon kingdom of Mercia (hence the name) – are bike makers of the old school, hand building bikes from “old fashioned” Reynolds tubing. These guys know a thing or two about bikes. That’s why they offer a range of frames to suit different purposes and are happy to talk about what you want from the bike. But the best thing about them is they are not precious.
You can talk bicycling science with them if you like. Or you can talk plain English. It’s all the same to them. They’ll treat each and every customer with the same courtesy as the next.
I was in their shop last week to get them to melt out my naturally-welded-in seat post (which also involves a re-spray of the frame). As I had bought my bike from them originally, I thought it best to go back to the company that put it all together in the first place.
And I’m glad I did – they’ll repair it to good as the day it left their workshop and, following a discussion with them, it will also have a new paint scheme (“why not take the opportunity of changing the colour rather than having us re-spray it in the same colours?”). They also advised me on a new groupset (cranks, chain and gears) as my own measurements of chain wear indicated a 75% wear factor. I feel confident that when it comes out of their workshop it will be as good as the day I bought it.
But here’s the core of my story. While I was in there, in stepped an elderly man pushing in his equally elderly shopping bicycle which was suffering from a graunching bottom bracket. He hadn’t bought it from there. It wasn’t made by Mercian. It was so old that I doubt you could still get the parts. Yet the staff at Mercian treated him with total respect, advising him about how to fix it and offering to help him do it.
You see, at Mercian they not only build and sell their own bikes, they are happy to help anyone with a bike. Without distinction. Without patronising behaviour. Customers are all the same to them: cyclists – whether racing or shopping. Not for Mercian the fobbing off with the badly fitting pattern part. Not for Mercian the dismissing of someone because they don’t look like a cyclist. No, at Mercian cycles you are a human being.
In six weeks time, I take delivery of my repaired and re-sprayed Mercian frame. I will enjoy it and take pleasure in it. But the best pleasure of all is knowing that the guys at Mercian are decent human beings with honour and truth in their bones.
In a world of dubious techniques, social media spin and over-hyped brands, it’s nice to know that there are people like the team at Mercian Cycles. We can all learn a lot by taking a trip there – and, when you’re done, you can always go to the pub across the road for an “all you can eat carvery for £3.59”. As the man at Mercian said to me – “£3.59 – you wouldn’t even get a Latte in London for that!”
Dead right. What a contrast – in every possible way. Real people. Real values. Real honesty. Take a trip to the heart of Mercia yourself. You’ll understand why the Saxons settled there.
Images courtesy of Mercian website. Photographs from a collection on that site by Dan Strain.