The Velo Rose
Why did Mercier choose pink as the iconic colour for their road bikes of the ’60’s and ’70’s? I don’t know the answer, but le vélo rose is one of the most distinctive and eye-catching bikes of any era. This particular bike came with its original receipt, handwritten, revealing that it was bought in Normandy in 1976 for 770 francs. I work that out to be about £550 in today’s money.
A French Icon
Unlike the iconic celeste Bianchi frames or the funky orange of Holdsworth Professionals of this period, the bright pink Mercier bikes reflect a bold, risky assertion of Gallic confidence and style by the bike maker. Would British men have bought these bikes? Would they have been proud to ride through their towns and villages on a bike painted such a traditionally feminine colour? What does it say about the differences between French and British culture? I’d be also interested to know if some of these pink Merciers were ever exported to the USA, the land of the Mustang, John Deer tractors and big trucks. I very much doubt it.
A Rare Find
This 40 year old was in beautiful condition. Besides one noticeable scratch on the top tube, the pink paint was still glossy and bright, not very different to what it would have looked like when it was bought new all those years ago. The handlebar tape was original and still in surprisingly good condition, as were the Mafac brake lever hoods, which have normally perished on bikes of this age. Some components had been swapped out, pragmatically chosen by the original owner who updated the standard Stronglight 93 crank to a Shimano Biopace, the platform Maillard pedals to clip-ons, and swapped the tubular rims to Mavic MA 40 clinchers at some point in the 1980’s.
This was a large framed bike, a 59cm, but it rode surprisingly nimbly and though not as light as the high end bikes of the day, it would be perfect for a l’eroica or a long ride across the flat roads of Normandy. Sold on Ebay for the ridiculously low price of £170, and later resold by the guy who bought it from me for over £250! It seems a habit of mine.
Normandy hubs, Mavic rims, Mafac Racer brakes, Selle Italia saddle, Simplex Prestige gears. Weight approx 24lbs.