Letter To An Editor

We received an email from Lenyon, who had inquired about Hazard’s review of his Alpha Mercury and possible upgrades for the bike. I had forwarded the email to Haz, and received such a cool reply I figured I would post both the inquiry and the answer since much of the info that Hazard gives applies to almost any bike. Enjoy.
Ok…so I was looking to get myself into getting a bike and I decided
to get the Alpha Mercury. When I got home that night (rode bike home
from shop) I spent about an hour or so looking up reviews on this
model and most of them were “crappy” to say the least. I am no
gearhead and I probably can not tell the difference bet. “good
components” and bad ones, ya know? A lot of the reviews were about
the weight and construction of the frame and its components.

I was wondering, what kind of “upgrades” can I give this bike to make
it feel “personalized” in a sense? Initially I was planing to get one
of those used conversion bikes with all the odd accessories like a
“purple chain” or “yellow wheels” (hypothetically) that you may find
at your local bike shop. I always thought they were “cool” but
something clicked in my head to get a “brand new” bike for about the
same price as one of the old “custom” hookups

Sometimes I can be easily swayed and thats why when I read so many
“bad” reviews for the mercury, it made me think whether I made the
right decision or not.

So far, the bike rides very smooth (again I’m no gearhead) so I guess
that is all that matters.

So my question again was (in case it got lost), what kind of upgrades
you recommend for this model to make it personalized and feel less
like a mass produced bike?

Hope all is well….




Hi Lenyon,

Thanks for the question, welcome to the fixed gear/singlespeed world, and as well, the Alpha Mercury Experience….

First, don’t worry: with a bike in this price range, there’s not a lot of variance from brand to brand – components or quality wise – and in my opinion, the Alpha is as good as any of the others (Fuji, Windsor, etc.).  Entry level components will do you just fine if taken care of.They should last you years of normal to semi advanced riding, but I wouldn’t necessarily go and start racing with them.

(I used to look through all those “conversion” bikes on ebay, that guy that gets the nearly antique 70’s bikes, puts a lockring
on it, re-dishes the rear wheel…  It looked keen, but I never really felt right about those bikes.  I don’t think the Alpha is any better or worse than other brands in it’s class, but it for sure heads and tails above those conversion things.  You made a fine, solid decision.)

As for the weight, all is relative… I was riding and commuting on a 40 pound mountain bike, so to me, anything like the Alpha would be light in my eyes.  I’m not racing, I’m not a messenger… etc…

First, I’ll show off a bit and go over what happened to my Alpha…

First things were a new chain (gold, from ebay), handlebar tape to sort of match the frame, and new sticker for the frame…  Also got a new gold chain ring from the local shop, a 43 tooth so it would pedal a little easier.

I make the sticker in photoshop, and had it printed on cafepress.com… but you can do just as well with markers or a printer, and some contact paper
if you’re careful…

Next thing to go was that black cushy seat.  Comfortable, but not quite so keen looking as the white one here.  I got it on Nashbar.com, it’s a Viscount Aero saddle…  about 9 bucks.  Also, added some green Vittoria tires, 700x23c.  Skinny, but the green looked keen with the gold.

It stayed largely unchanged until I moved to Albuquerque.  When I got there, the skinny tires were really bugging me, occasional flats,and the ride was just a little more harsh than I wanted.  So, I got the biggest tires I could fit in my frame.  Most road riders, or messengers or whatever will ride the skinny things… but the ones I have will hold up for quite a while, and since they’re a little fatter, there’s a little more cushion to my ride now.  Wrists are much happier.

This was taken in my apartment tonight…  it’s how the bike now appears.  I’ve gone back to black handlebar tape, and added one of those”deep dish” back wheels… again you can get these on ebay for like 225 a set, check NYC bikes I think.. they’re called velocity deep dish,and they come in all kinds of crazy colors.  I’ll eventually get one for the front too.  Was lucky enough to get a good deal at local shop here. My Alpha came with some pretty basic (cheap) plastic pedals – Added some metal caged pedals with toe straps, which help a lot when riding it in the “fixed” mode.

Next major change, I think I am going to paint the bike black, and possible get some regular drop bars…  I like the look of the bullhorns, and I lusted after them for a long time, but really, I rarely every have my hands all the way out on them, so I think drops bars will make it look a little more aggressive, and I might actually ride with my hands in the drop position from time to time…

Here’s my quick photoshop paint job:

Oh, yeah, get a water bottle cage.  they’re cheap, and you might be surprised how much you use it.

You can get pretty crazy with personalizing your ride – but again, the fastest and easiest things to do are tires, seat, handlebar tape.  they don’t cost very much, come in a lot of colors, and are easy to install – and well, you’ll have to change them sooner or later anyhow.  That’s where I’d start. You can always concentrate on the smaller details too, like the chain, colored spoke nipples, fancy water bottle cages… different chain tugs/tensioners on the back wheel.

Not sure where you get your bike supplies… if you can, I am all for buying local and supporting the little guy if you can… but it’s not always possible, and at those times, I turn to ebay or nashbar.com.  great resources for parts if you’re careful.

Lenyon, I’m afraid I’ve talked your ear off, my apologies.  I hope you can find some useful information in there.  I’ve had my Alpha for a few years now, and it’s still going great.  If you have not tried riding it in the “fixed” mode, take an afternoon sometime and try it… it’s not for everybody of course, but it’s fun to try out.

Hope all that helps, Cheers!

SoulSideDown Contributor at Large


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