I make bikes to be ridden, not to be shown. That’s why I will never file my filets. But don’t worry, I make very good looking joints straight off the torch. If I spent time smoothing out the joints, the feeling of the ride wouldn’t change. But the bike would become a ton more expensive. If it becomes a ton more expensive, you are a lot less likely to ride it very hard. And that would be a real shame. -Adeline O’Moreau
One thing I knew for certain about Mercredi Bikes: the back of them looked pretty sweet. I spent the last cyclocross season watching them disappear off into the distance over the ’cross courses of the southeastern UK. On the weekly squish into the Toyota Avensis with four muddy bikes crowning its champagne roof, we take it in turn to watch our weapons of choice whilst we each run into a Greggs, on some road, somewhere. Through this shared passion for cyclocross and Greggs, I got to know the builder of these frames pretty well, and I would like you to get to know her, too.
If a brainchild is the realisation of a thought or idea, Mercredi is the heartchild of Adeline O’Moreau, my mate from the red-and-white taped filthy fields of the South East CX scene.
I recall the first time racing with this Belgian rocket, with her red curly hair escaping out of her helmet and her short-arse legs powering through the mud and the muck on a wet Sunday afternoon. Adeline is the personification of energy. Those curls of hair are like springs coiled and ready to pop like a Jack-in-the-box. Her eyes are as wide as a full moon and shine as brightly. They smile when she speaks and suck you in. Talk to Adeline and you cannot help but be enthused by her passion. What I didn’t notice that day was, at that precise moment, Adeline was just annoyed. She was fighting a bike that didn’t fit. Off-the-shelf bikes didn’t cater to her riding style nor her size. All she could find were compromises. And all she dreamt of was perfection. More than that, Adeline wanted to build her very own version of perfection. A cyclocross bike, one that fitted her, had all the clearance and none of the compromises—a tool that was worthy of the name.
Listen, correct, learn
It is Adeline through and through that not only did she make the seemingly enormous leap from dissatisfaction with her current bike to wanting to build her own, she followed up on the kind of wistful dreaming that remains dreaming for so many. Cue 10 days of quick learning and hard graft at The Bicycle Academy in Frome.
“By the end of the first day, I counted three blisters on my right hand. I was exhausted but so happy. I could see, hold, and weigh what one day of work can produce. And that still feels incredible,” she says.
That frame building workshop was the first time that Adeline took to the torch. It was an opportunity to manufacture a tangible ‘thing’, but it was more than that. It was the construction of an answer to the puzzle. It wasn’t just a bike. It was Adeline’s bike. The right bike.
“Sometimes, you feel like every little thing, good or bad, that happened in your life was leading to the exact moment you are living right now,” she explains. “I’m not trying to be deep or philosophical, it just happens like that sometimes. And that’s how I felt on the last day. I got a stand and put my tacked frame in. I popped my glasses on, turn on the flame, checked it was neutral. Made sure I had a rod nearby. Steps of a process. Still new, not yet tacit and natural. I shook my shoulders a bit. Here We Go.
“I don’t know how long I spent brazing. Maybe ten minutes, maybe two hours? I’ve rarely been that focused. The rod, the flame, the tube, the speed, the temperature, the puddle. Burf, my instructor, watched my hands. Every so often he would give me pieces of advice. Listen, correct, learn.”
Thought through function
I’m not particularly interested in the fact that Adeline is a chick who makes bikes. Sure, it makes her unusual in a male-dominated industry. Unusual isn’t always interesting though. I’m more interested to know how she has developed a purity of thought and design so quickly.
“Most of my inspiration and my thought process I carried with me from my design background. Inspiration can come at me from pretty much anything. My friends, a book, a view during a ride, a stupid joke, some famous artists, small coincidences that just make me click—it’s everywhere.”
How is she then able to transform these sparks of ideas into a bicycle? Not only a bicycle, but a Mercredi?
“Thought-through function, bold colours and illustrations have been present in my work for as far as I can remember, as well as the drive to create strong emotions. That’s a huge aspect of Mercredi for me. As important as the faultless performance of the bike, on top of the fit, engineering and fabrication aspects, is the emotional connection. They don’t go without each other.
“It turns just-another-bike into something that will be looked after, fixed and updated; something that puts a smile on your face every time you jump on. That’s what a bike made for you gets you. And that thrill doesn’t go away.”
That thrill led her to want others to experience it, too.
Can’t stop won’t stop
As Adeline says, bikes are made to be ridden. In September 2016, she and teammate Clare, Mercredi’s first customer, raced their plucky Mercredis over those 3 Peaks of Yorkshire. Perfectly appropriate bikes for the ’cross race course, perfectly inappropriate for the fellsides, gritstone steps, and tumbling rubble of the iconic event.
A few months after that, stood with that sausage dog camo bike, we see Adeline clutching two awards at Bespoked: the Columbus Choice, and runner up in the coveted Chris King Choice.
Fast forward to a wet Saturday in July. Adeline stands at the start line of an unconventional race. While the Grinduro may be a gravel race by name, it is at its essence the best kind of bike race. One where there are no rules about handlebar width or type, neither any restrictions on the kind of tyres you can use. Run what you brung and have as much fun as you can while you do so.
As with our first meetings on the ’cross courses of London, I watch Adeline powering away from me on a right mucky July day on the Isle of Arran. This time, she is on her latest build, her Mercredi XC MTB. Why a mountain bike? Maybe it was to bring a gun to a knife fight. Maybe it was a “fuck you” to the rock that unseated her coming down Whernside almost 12 months earlier. More importantly, Adeline chose to build a hardtail XC bike for the simple reason of really wanting to build one, having never ridden one since childhood. Pretty good reason, in my book.
As well as being an official bicycle race and an unofficial beer and whisky tasting experience, the Grinduro, through the hard work of Andrew from The Bicycle Academy, selected and offered four framebuilders the opportunity to ‘Design. Build. Race.’ what they thought would be the perfect race bike. Adeline grasped the chance to truly show off more than just her riding (and tasting) skills.
She would build her Grinduro vision, and show it alongside Donhou Bicycles, Feather Cycles, and Shand Cycles, with the help of Columbus, SRAM, RockShox, Clement Cycling, Fabric, and Giro. To add an element of competition of the forest roads and singletrack of the island, a People’s Choice award would be voted for by the racers. The prize: a trip to the race’s spiritual home for the original (and dustier) Grinduro California.
“I felt honoured, humbled and a little bit out of place, too. But hell yes, of course I would make a bike for the race,” she says.
When it came to what the bike would have to handle—a heady mixture of rooty muddy singletrack, short sections of fast rolling road, forestry tracks and gravel paths, mixed with the weather—the course screamed mountain bike. So where to start building a bike that you’ve never built before, let alone properly ridden? Many would be intimidated by this challenge, but not this girl. Spending a couple of days riding other mountain bikes to see how they felt and moved, the Mercredi operation got into full flow back where it all began down at The Bicycle Academy in Somerset.
“I spend four days in the lush countryside, waking up in a field, tweaking my design, and finally cutting and brazing some metal,” Adeline recalls.
Under the sweet paint job by Colourburn Studio, the bike is built as a prototype rig around a Works Component angle headset, allowing her to try out different head angles. A Zona 29r bent down tube provides lots of room to clear the RockShox SID fork crown, and the rear is kept tight and close for that nimble feeling, whilst still full of clearance around the 27.5” wheel. Boost spacing for the rear end, hooked on some Syntace dropouts, and everything coming together nicely on a T47 bottom bracket shell. The groupset is the new SRAM Eagle GX: 1×12 gearing, 10 to 50 teeth—enough to ride up a wall. Roam 60 wheels and Clement tires finish off a parts list coming straight out of a dream.
The bike features bolt-on cable clips, using bottle bosses down the top tube. “That way,” she says, “I can easily swap the Reverb dropper for a rigid post when loaded adventures call. Keeping everything external also means maintenance will be super easy for me.” This we like, a lot. Add some 3D printed cable clips under the stays to the rear brake and derailleur. “I don’t like hiding things away.”
Paint, all purple and yellow, good vibes and hand signs. If you peeked through the fork or stared at the back of the seat tube, you’d be reminded that everything is a-OK.
“Bikes have gear cables and hydraulic hoses, that’s what makes them work. I’m proud to keep them out,” she says.
Later that night, this plucky, funny, wee Belgian lass (still with huge hair) takes to the stage not only once, but twice. Adeline not only won her category for the race that day, but perhaps slightly more overwhelmingly for her, she won the People’s Choice award, and will be taking her XC build to Cali later this year.
Mercredi in the wild
Adeline now shares a workshop with fellow inspired frame builder, Tom Donhou, in London, and now with 10 Mercredi frames in the wild, I asked her about the future. In true Adeline style she is thinking big. The dream she tells me is for everyone to stop riding shit bikes. Adeline wants to make good bikes for all of these people. With a great team of designers and fabricators, her workshop would offer a handful of well-thought-out bikes, each with a couple of build kits. Features would remain the same—dropouts, routing, clearance, etc.—but geometry and sizing would be custom to each rider. Sounds pretty rad, doesn’t it? I look forward to my opening party invite.
When the last stretch of the last joint was finished, I couldn’t believe what I’d just done. Fuck, I made a bike. And you know what, even then, I thought it would be the first one of many. –Adeline O’Moreau