DREAM BIKES: Mercer Custom

Nothing can match a fully custom bike, built precisely for your proportions and painted as subtly or outlandishly as you want.

Jon Minster |

Columbus steel

Columbus carbon

10-speed SRAM Force RED

53/39t chainrings, 12-27t cassette

SRAM Force RED rim brakes

ZIPP 404

Veloflex Master 700×25

mercer custom

If you’re shopping for a dream bike, there are hundreds of models to choose from; including bikes from niche brands in countries all over the world, which can be delivered to your door within a week. At the top end of the market, many of these brands offer custom fitting sessions, and you can fine-tune the components until you have a bike that suits your riding style.

That said, nothing can match a fully custom bike, built precisely for your proportions and painted as subtly or outlandishly as you want, with a geometry based on actual human conversations between yourself and the frame builder.

“With a custom bike, you can get a perfect fit – just for you. You can personalise it to exactly what you’ve always wanted. You don’t have to settle for something mass-produced. It’s unique.”

mercer custom

That’s Jared Mahaffey, 43, the owner of this steel dream machine. Jared runs the bike shop BMC (Bicycle Maintenance Company) in Cape Town, and he’s also a maestro in the paint booth.

He painted the frame himself, inspired by the three-way colour scheme of some SUPACAZ bar tape he had lying around. The star-burst pattern on the tape is mirrored on the insides of the fork legs and the chain stays. It’s spectacular – a three-dimensional 1990s fever dream.

Custom bike builder David Mercer built the frame. “I started talking to Dave in 2015,” Jared says. “I wanted a bike that looked like a classic road bike, but with mod cons like oversized tubing, a 1 1/8” headset and internal brake routing. Dave came up with the geometry himself, but I asked for it to be as close to the relaxed geometry of an old Italian road bike as possible.”

The frame tubing is Columbus steel, with a Columbus carbon fork. The rest of the parts are top quality, if not hyper-modern. The wheels are deep-section ZIPP 404s and the drivetrain is 10-speed SRAM Force RED.

“It’s fast,” Jared says. “Fast enough for me…”

PRICE: About R32 000 (frameset, painted)
GET YOURS NOW: mercerbikes.co.za

mercer custom

David Mercer, 40, is fast becoming South Africa’s foremost custom frame builder. He’s a veterinarian who previously built frames in his spare time out of his garage, but has since taken his bike business full-time. His workshop is in Observatory, Cape Town, and he can build you any bike your heart desires, from a tourer with S&S couplers that you can easily load onto a plane, to a sleek road racer, to a Karoo-bashing gravel bike.

What does a custom bike give you that a standard bike can’t?

A custom bike should fit you perfectly, and a custom frame is a great way to express yourself. It’s a one-off: tailored not only to your body and your riding style, but also to your aesthetic sensibilities. It’s your opportunity to ride something different, something that stands out in the crowd; something to cherish, and maybe hand down to your children.

In these modern times, we consume goods made by faceless workers we’ll never meet, who work in factories on the other side of the ocean. Commissioning a custom bike is your chance to support someone who’s truly passionate about what he or she is doing, and it’s an opportunity to be a part of the process from start to finish. This will be your bike, no one else’s.

What tubing do you generally use for road bikes?

I mostly use Columbus Life tubing on my road frames. It’s a sensible, heat-treated, double-butted tubeset made from Niobium steel, available in a myriad of different diameters and butt lengths to suit most builds. The tube quality is excellent, as is the surface finish. A frame built from Columbus Life is reliable, lightweight, and it feels great. Columbus is one of the oldest names in bicycle tubing – they have a heritage that spans a hundred years. I love seeing their dove logo on my frames.

What technology excites you at the moment?

The new wireless groupsets from SRAM are very exciting. As a builder, I love clean lines. Wireless technology is a step forward in eliminating extraneous clutter from a frame.

How long do I have to wait for a bike?

At the moment, the workshop lead time is about six to seven months.

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