A year in steel

 

Spring – Holding up that first frame, my heart rate is through the roof. It won’t come down anytime soon. When I sign up for 3 Peaks CX, I think “If the bike survives that, it’ll survive anything”. A lot of riding happens in the spring. I get to turn pedals in many different countries, landscapes and scenarios, crits and stage races, adventures with friends and so.

Enthusiasm must be contagious: the first three clients sign up for the first ever batch of Mercedi bikes. The idea’s simple: same ingredients, different proportions. Assembly line sort of process, only there is no line. Just one stubborn woman who refuses to believe small people don’t race hard. Or that custom bikes are for the wealthiests of us. How much better would we all be, given the right weapons to fight with? That’s what I want to find out. Experiment batch is a go.

Summer – One big pile of Columbus steel and ten days. That’s all I’ve given myself. Maybe in a little bit of time I’ll think – “and you thought that was a challenge!” – like I think of my cycling adventures of two years ago. I hope frame building will be the same as riding: long after the challenge has been overcome, when it seems so small and far in the distance, all you remember is the burning feeling of good old happiness. Exhaustion vanished for a second, you cheer with beer to the thing you’d just done. The joy persists.

Autumn – Lined up, shoulder against shoulder, in Helwith Bridge. The bikes covered by pipe lagging and a safety blanket. Not to protect those mix and match paint-jobs we love so much, but to save us from as much bruising as we can. I feel strong and descend with a confidence I didn’t know I had before. When ascending, bike on the back, my small legs take me up high and fast on the Yorkshire Dales. Not only did the bikes survive, they served us like nothing else could have.

The season is on. Almost every weekend, riders of Mercredi bikes step onto podiums or far outside of our comfort zones. We try everything: from grass-roots unsanctioned races to regional leagues and National Championships via the famous Belgian seaside.

Even at our humble racing level, we put in so much work to make our bodies perform to their best. Having made bikes that feel like they are part of us, is the thing I’m the most proud of.

I can feel it for myself and it becomes a lot more real when I see my teammates racing. Sometimes I wish I had added lead in their stays so I’d be able to keep up with them.

 

Winter – As I am writing this, the ‘cross season’s end is in sight and the two next batches of Mercredis are seriously taking shape. The workshop is cold, but the warm smiles of Tom and Timmy make it the nicest place to go to. I still need to do some freelance work to keep a roof over my head but I smile thinking about all the good times that have been had on Mercredi bikes so far, and all the ones to come. And when I think of the challenges ahead, I say to myself what I said in the Peaks: “Small steps. Don’t look up. You got this.”

 

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