- by mercredi
- posted July 31, 2017
There’s grit in the corners of my eyes when I wake up on the sleeper train chair in London Euston. Actually, there’s grit everywhere. It’s like I’ve been in a fight with a grit monster. Which, if I’m completely honest, is not far from the truth.
Before Grinduro arrived in the UK, I remember looking at that new party race from afar, thinking boy, this sounds right up my street.
The adventure started with a phone call from Andrew, it’s almost a habit now.
But holly shit! Feather, Donhou and Shand are the ones I look up to the most this side of the pond. I feel honoured, humbled and a little bit out of place too. But hell yes, I’ll make a bike for the race.
A little while after, a weekend in May, I find myself on Arran on a recce ride with Paul, Amanda, John and Neil. The island is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever explored. The riding is so varied, the landscape changes going around every tree. There’s hills and gravel and singletracks and steep descends and drop offs and I fall in a ditch a couple of times, and I am terrified a lot of the time.
At this point, I’m certain of it: I want to make a XC MTB. Partly because the ghosts of landing face first on the rocks of Pen Y Ghent’s descent at 3 Peaks still haunt me. Partly because I just really really want to make one. I’ve never made one before – and I’ve not ridden one since childhood.
But where the hell do I begin? Tony gave me a fit earlier this year, that’s a start. But from there, what? There are so many more variables in the design of a MTB – and my experience riding one is very limited, ancient and absolutely irrelevant at this point.
To make things easier still, at that moment in time I’m also moving workshops. Everything is up in the air and I have no idea how I’ll be able to deliver.
Once again, Andrew saves the show. He offers me to come down and build at Bicycle Academy – it’s still one of my favourite places on earth, which also happens to be home to the most concentrated amount of MTBers I know of. So I pack my bivvy and head to Somerset.
I spend four days in the lush countryside, waking up in a field, riding some of the boys’ bikes to see how they feel, tweaking my design, and finally cutting and brazing some metal.
The bike is built as a prototype rig, around a Works Component angle headset, allowing me to try out different head angles. The Zona 29r bent down tube gives me lots of room to clear the RockShox forks crown, and the rear is kept tight and close whilst still full of clearance around the 27.5 wheel. Rear end is spaced for Boost and everything comes together nicely on a T47 bb shell. Solid! I also go for bottle bosses cable routing, all external, down the top tube. That way, I can easily swap the Reverb dropper for a rigid post when long adventures call. Maintenance will be also super easy that way. And some 3d printed cable clips under the stays to the rear brake and derailleur. I don’t like hiding things away. Bikes have cables and hydraulic hoses, that’s what makes them work. I’m proud to keep them out.
I worked with Rob from Colourburn Studio on the paint. The Grinduro purple mixed with the Mercredi yellow make for an eye popping colourway. The frame is covered in long arms giving hand-signs, which are my illustrations. After doodling almost an entire notepad worth of hands I picked 4 that would make the cut. It was just about the good times. When you look through the SID, you can see everything is A-OK.
The weather made a turn for the worse giving me even more confidence in the choice of a XC MTB, although I felt very nervous riding the bike for the first time on race day.
The entire ride was amazing. A lot harder than what the recce ride indicated. If my MTB was a little slower up the long hard packed climbs, it allowed me to fly down the single tracks to take the win in my category and come out 3rd fastest woman altogether. But the best in all this was to see how much time I made down the technical single track descent. Confidence descending – restored, I felt like I was flying.
We huddled up in the theatre for the results, nerves made it hard to speak. I knew I raced as best as I could and there was nothing I would change on the bike I made. It was the result of taking my chances and doing things a little bit differently. It was the result of a lot of work and a lot of support from amazing people around me. And of course, that was all that mattered. But still. There was more I wanted to win.
When Andrew called my name for having won the public’s choice, I wanted to shout to the top of my lungs. For the first time since starting Mercredi, I felt like an impostor a tiny little bit less. I must be doing something right, I thought.
Whiskey that night tasted better than ever. Now, I hear there is no horizontal rain in California.
Thank you to Giro, Columbus, Sram, Clement Tires, Fabric and the Bicycle Academy, for allowing me to make an absolutely sick bike I can’t stop riding.