2017 best nine

The workshop looked tidy and peaceful when I closed the door leaving for a short christmas break. Nothing like the storm of the past few days; as Tom is away, he gave me carte blanche to spread in the cold and bright space. It didn’t take much time before files and offcuts were everywhere, putting all the small finishing touches on the last batch of Mercredi bikes of 2017.

What a year. From a bivvy bag on the workshop table to a tent at the top of the Angeles Forest, it’s been one I’ll remember for a long long time. And as I get my butt in gear for some exciting things in 2018, allow me to pause for a second and look back at my best nine: not according to internet hearts, but according to my own BPMs.

In chronological order –

1. February – Aoife Doherty becomes SSCX European champion.

Aoife Doherty – by Tom Powell

A dominant ride for a truly multi talented rider, one of the first Mercredi owners and a woman who I was extremely lucky to learn from during our time as teammates. A well earned title she will be defending in March in Koksijde.


2. March – Sausage Dog Camo

#sausagedogcamo – by Giles Smith

A tiny cross bike, the trust of its owner, the illustrations of Thomas Slater, the technique of Dan and the help of all the pensioners of the sausage dog hotel. All captured through the eye of Giles Smith. When everyone’s on the same wavelength, fun bikes happen. Since then, Robin and his #sausagedogcamo have happily covered over 4000km of the rough stuff.


3. April – Bespoked

Bespoked 2017 - Chris King Award, runner up.

Bespoked 2017 – winner of the Columbus Choice and Chris King Award, runner up.

Hands shaking like never before and the feeling that my stomach is crushing my lungs. There was no more fucking around: Mercredi and it’s unfiled fillets had to be introduced to the world. I was blown away by the positive reception and all the amazing conversations that slowly killed my voice through the weekend.
The runner up Chris King Award and the Columbus choice rosettes topped it all off. I knew I had to keep making bikes.


4. April – The Pannier potatoes stop at km 150+ of The Dirty Reiver.

Potatoes have never tasted better. In fact, there has never been any food that that tasted any better. Fuelled for the next two hours, still smiling more than aching and covered in dust, we set off to climb our way to the rolling path around Kielder reservoir. The most beautiful ride made even better by the wonderful team we gathered to tackle it.


5. July – Grinduro!

Grinduro on Aran – Satchel Cronk

It’s impossible to look back to 2017 without talking about Grinduro. And the series of events that played a defining role in the year for me, both personally and professionally. The chance to ride in one of the most beautiful and challenging places I’ve visited; the humbling task to make a bike for it alongside 3 of the framebuilders I look up to the most; the absolutely mind buggering outcome of the race and the public’s choice.
Winning my race as I pedal a mountain bike for the first time since childhood. And on what bike! The odd one out, my Mercredi hardtail, winning the public’s choice against Donhou, Feather and Shand’s mean drop bar machines. To this day, I have to pinch myself to remember it’s not the kind of dream you get from eating too much cheese.


6. September – the 3 Peaks.

After 4 hours and 34 minutes, there is no blood on my face when I cross the line as 9th woman. First timers and old schoolers, everyone cheers to another ridiculous time around the infamous 3 peaks of the Yorkshire Dales.
The unfinished business I had with the race is dealt with and Pen Y Gent didn’t get the best of me this time around. All that’s left to do is down a beer and hug all the friends who made it around in impressive times.


7. October – California – Let’s get you situated.

On top of the Angeles National Forest – John Watson


Re-assembling my bike under the friendly eye of everyone at Golden Saddle – and with the help of a can of Club – is when I realise it was all really happening. California. The next ten days go in a blur of hot springs, dusty trails and mountain top camping. And if the ever changing scenery wasn’t enough – every single person we met is what made this trip absolutely memorable. Those who share the sunset over the the Angeles National Forest and those who share business tips in their workshops. Those who opened their homes, their heated gazebos, their shops and their hearts. Those who ride alongside telling stories and those who kindly sit in front putting the hammer down. The ones who stopped to chat, the ones I was introduced to. The ones who make the trails or make the bikes. Some from there, some from far away. Everyone I met in California was so kind and enthusiastic and driven. Kyle went above and beyond to show me around – and I can only hope one day I get to show Europe or the UK to someone the same way he did.
I still have to sit down and process it – write about the trip in more detail. The race. The sun. Until then – thank you, everyone.


8. November – Clare Ross becomes CX regional champion.

Clare Ross becomes CX regional champ – John Orbea

It’s hard to pick one out of all the amazing rides Clare covered this year as she is having a stunning cross season so far, after a spring and summer full of great adventures.
On the same bike she completed the gruelling second Torino Nice Rally just 2 months earlier, Clare powered her way through the Welwyn Garden City course to victory in the senior women category. There is surely more to come from the little rider before the season is over.


9. December – Welshmas

On the first day of Welshmas, the Brecon Beacons were covered in snow. It was puffy and soft and crunchy under the tires. It was everything bike riding needed to be. Our shoes are slowly drying on top of a fire. Glass of wine in one hand and cough medicine in the other, and we’re preparing to see 2017 off.

A stinking cold helps me contain my excitement for what’s to come. Which is handy as otherwise I’d just be shouting it to anyone who’d listen. So keep your eyes peeled and your ears to the ground: 2018 is going to be a big year.

I hope you spend it well and it takes you on some wonderful adventures. Happy New Year. And as always: Good vibes, only!


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