Senior Retro Guru
It is a lovely ride for sure.
Up until very recently I had two Mercians, this and my 531C in road geometry. Several slight differences besides the usual geometry and angles etc between the touring and the road versions in that my other was 21" while this is 19 1/2 ". All these little things add up to a very different ride from each. I must admit that it took a lot of riding to make up my mind to stick with the tourer. Don't get me wrong both are lovely to ride but this just fits and feels better suited to my riding at this point. This was a hard decision to make as I had been riding my other one for years and had a real attachment to it and typically, had just had it repainted. Though once I had got this back out the loft and cobbled together it didn't take long to start rethinking my decision, and that was with it in winter commuting mode. This will most likely get some nicer components fitted now it is my #1 Mercian.
I did get this with quite a few marks and scrapes but have touched them in enough that a repaint is a long way off as it is such a nice colour.
It would have been nice to keep them both forever but a replacement cargo bike needed funded so I have kept the one I most like riding.
As for the 653, Reynolds and Mercian say that it is basically 531 main tubes with 753 rear stays. The 531 while being double butted is thinner drawn and a few other tweaks, but basically built for strength and comfort.
I have enquired with Mercian about an off road, disc braked version but due to angles etc it can only be done lugless. Maybe if I get saving
All the best