It’s not every day that you get to take delivery of your dream bike, built by hand by your best friend. The opportunity to select your own components for a build is exciting enough, but working from scratch is an entirely different kettle of fish altogether. Over one year on and plenty of adventurous miles in between, here’s my custom steel Mercredi from Belgian framebuilder Adeline O’Moreau of Mercredi Bikes.
I’d been lusting over Mercredi cyclo-cross bikes long before I’d met Adeline. Admired from afar, I’d glimpse these bright bikes under the steam of incredible riders visiting our local winter league or scroll through the popping designs on the Mercredi Instagram feed.
When I finally met this enigmatic character at a Rapha Prestige gravel ride on a damp November weekend in Manchester, I was in awe; both of her riding skill and intense personality. I think we spent the day among mutual friends taking the mick out of her dodgy English phrases and sliding about the mucky towpaths. How we became best friends is no mystery.
Fast forward a few years and I was growing increasingly green with envy of Claire, Beth and Robin’s cyclo-cross builds. After a few seasons struggling on a canti loaner bike that didn’t fit too great, and my gravel bike that I couldn’t get a shoulder through, I decided to finally pull the trigger and start the process of commissioning my very own Mercredi ‘cross bike.
Custom bikes – the process
Although it was the cyclo-cross bike that was missing from my arsenal, I wanted Adeline to make something for me that I could also use for longer off-road rides, as bikepacking was really my first love. After a multitude of questions – alongside Adeline knowing me and my riding style pretty well – she set about designing a steel frame just for me.
I visited Tony Corke in Bath for a fit, starting from scratch on his jig to optimise all the contact points for CX racing, without being super aggressive. The depth of the fit was so much more than I’d ever experienced before, and I learnt so much about fit specific to different disciplines, like the longer cranks for CX which was fascinating.
Adeline got to work on my frame. The key features being a large front triangle for easy shouldering and ample clearance for wider gravel tyres. Of course the WhatsApp progress shots were very exciting, but they were second only to selfies of Adeline ballooned in about 10 layers in her shared workshop in the depths of winter, and two pairs of glasses on her face.
Before long, I took delivery of my beautiful steel frame at Business As Usual in my hometown of Bristol, where it was handed over to Rob at Colourburn Studio for the paint. Inspired by neighbouring Forever Pedalling’s 90’s corded telephone with a palette of turquoise, yellow, bright pink and purple, Rob got to work on the eye-catching gloss paintwork after a trip to the blaster and hours of meticulous prep.
The final step was the build, which involved another friend Mark from Sterland’s Cycles. The initial build was a mix of Shimano Ultegra brakes and cranks with an XT Di2 rear mech and Wolftooth chainring. After being invited to join Shimano’s Gravel Alliance a few months later, I upgraded the set-up to full Shimano GRX Di2, opting for a 1X set-up with a 40T chainring and 11-42T cassette. I kept the display unit which I’ve loved since my first encounter on my Pinnacle Arkose. It is perfect for showing battery level and gearing on the fly.
But how does it ride?
I’d be lying if I said my long-awaited custom build didn’t take a while to get used to. I felt so high up; the geometry so different to the Arkose which was now starting to gather dust in the corner of the garage. At the same time, my affair with cyclo-cross was coming to an end. I despaired that I had just dropped a shed-load of cash on a bike that I wouldn’t really use anymore.
Thankfully, that nagging doubt was proved wrong. I soon discovered that a huge triangle wasn’t only great for shouldering, but also for half-frame bags. The longer I spent on the Mercredi, the more in-tune we became. It certainly wasn’t as heavy as I’d feared as my first steel bike; in fact at this tubeset quality they’re really quite lightweight.
After a slightly rocky start, we’d become inseparable. The Mercredi only graced one cyclo-cross race – it had felt wonderful, but my legs certainly hadn’t. We turned to bikepacking trips instead. Enduro-style gravel races, local rides from home, ‘School Night Bivvi Club’ outings and everything in-between. I soon learnt that the ‘CX’ tag was merely that; a label. What I actually have is a bike for off-road riding that was built specifically to fit me (and my favourite 40mm Nanos). I’ve never been as comfortable for as long on any other steed as I have aboard this purple dream.
Find out more about Adeline’s design philosophy and how framebuilders are leading the way for off-road bike design with this episode of the Unpaved Podcast.
Last modified: 17th July 2020