Two titans of British cycling presented their very different views “for the love of bikes” last night (2 October), at an event to raise money towards creating safer roads across the UK.
Rapha founder Simon Mottram and Brompton boss Will Butler-Adams spoke at the dinner event organised by cycling campaigner Peter Murray, backed by Velocity magazine and held at the offices of Feilden Clegg Bradley.
Mottram, who raised £140,000 over two years to set Rapha up, used the opportunity to present his opinions on the love of cycling, rather than bikes. He said he loved the “process” of riding a bike, which provided “meaning”; that the elite end of professional road racing was on “a relentless dive”, with dwindling and ageing global audiences for the Tour de France and other events; that there were too many teams, with “no heroes” on the scene and poor media coverage.
“It’s really broken, and it bloody annoys me,” he said. He suggested taking on board some of the dozen or so recommendations of the “Rapha Road Map” report the firm has put together. It includes an altered, shortened racing calendar and new formats from different cycling disciplines. Mottram also revealed that Rapha will next week announce a media and kit partnership with an elite team, pointing to a pair of orange (Poc, possibly) sunglasses on his head as a clue. Following the screening of a 90-second Rapha film, Mottram said that, overall, riding was the answer – and riding every day had made him a better and healthier father and boss.
“We are all struggling for things to believe in. So it’s not surprising that something where you can come together as groups is really taking off.”
Butler-Adams, meanwhile, said he had “never been a cyclist” and added that Brompton’s customers were the 94% of the population who know how to ride a bike, but don’t consider themselves cyclists. He said cycling had a hard-to-describe “elixir” and delight, and he was continually mystified that people choose to go on the underground rather than discover their city on two wheels.
“And you wonder why we’re not that happy. The irony is that this unloved, tossed away, non-techie thing is so much part of the solution for our modern world, where we need to reconnect.”
He was concerned, he said, that investments made by firms such as his own – which has made 500,000 bikes and has a turnover of £38 million – are dwarfed by the $5 billion being raised for investment in technologies such as electric scooters by startups. “I think deep considered engineering has the ability to win the day… The bicycle has so much to offer society,” he said. “Our role is to come up with cool products to get people back into it and remember that delight of the freedom of riding a bike.”
Earlier, Murray took the audience of architects, developers and others from the built environment professions – in other words, Velocity readers – through the work being done by the Construction Industry Cycling Commission on CPD, and urged attendees to include a “Look for the cyclist” graphic on construction site hoardings, pictured above and used at Centre Point in London.
Claiming to be the first person to use the “cycling is the new golf” maxim, Murray also emphasised the number of companies that had written to him, saying that they had done major business through rides like the annual Club Peloton Cycle to Cannes event that Murray himself began 11 years ago.
Questions from the floor included an inquiry on how more women and non-whites could be encouraged to cycle, whether car manufacturers might begin making bikes in earnest, and how organised “precision” and coordination might bring about a positive change in active travel.