If you’re of a certain vintage you might remember the gaudy purple Mercier jersey (“it’s ugly, but they won’t miss us”) of Raymond Poulidor from the 1960s and 1970s.
You can see that he also rode a gaudy purple bike, which was made by Cycles Mercier, one of the many manufacturers that began life between the Rhone and Loire rivers, in St. Etienne. From 1935 to 1984 Mercier was a sponsor of one professional team or another, having their heyday in the PouPou years, but also finishing strong with Joop Zoetemelk.
Over the years Cycles Mercier was bought and sold and moved here and there, with production ending up in East Asia. They made bikes under the Mercier brand, but also for Poulidor and Zoetemelk and big department/sports stores, I think.
Well, someone has decided to ride the sudden bicycle-frenzy wave and Mercier is coming home! By the end of this year bikes will be rolling off the lines in the old industrial town of Revin, in the French Ardennes. I went up there to write an article for Freewheeling France some years ago and I can tell you that it’s good news for the area to have some jobs coming back (140 this year and 270 next, according to Mercier). All along the Meuse River are signs of a time when little factories were the economic engines of every town, but little else seemed to be happening (the area has an unemployment rate of 25%).
So welcome back, Mercier. I doubt I’ll be trading Bianchi Celeste for Mercier Purple any day soon, but it’s nice to see more bikes being made in the homeland!