Hosted by David Bernstein & Carlton Reid since 2006 Posts

February 24, 2024 / / Blog

24th February 2024

The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast

EPISODE 347: Richard Fletcher

SPONSOR: Tern Bicycles

HOST: Carlton Reid

GUEST: Richard Fletcher, Isle of Man

TOPICS: Cycling on the Isle of Man. Mark Cavendish and Matt Stephens. Bike Style bike shop, Douglas. Manxman ferry. Dot Tilbury’s funnel. TT racing. Mountain road. Pan-Celtic. Isle of Man Youth Tour.


Carlton Reid 0:13
Welcome to Episode 347 of the Spokesmen cycling podcast. This show was engineered on Saturday 24th of February 2020. For

David Bernstein 0:29
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Carlton Reid 1:04
The plan was to record this interview while riding to Laxey on the Isle of Man with cycle guide and event organiser Richard Fletcher, pointing out the roads long used by fellow Manxman Mark Cavendish, but then weather! I’m Carlton Reid, and I was on the Isle of Man for the AGM of the British guild of travel writers. members could choose a one day fam trip activity. And while others chose spa and yoga retreats or cookery sessions, all indoors, I had asked to go cycling. I brought my road bike on the Steam Packet ferry from Heysham and was eager to hook up Richard with a radio mic and then chat, as we pootled along. The driving rain put paid to that idea. And after a bitterly cold two hour ride, we drip-dripped into a Douglas bike shop. Right. And I’ve just seen a photograph of you there that I took on the road, and you’re smiling. But there’s sleet. There’s rain, there’s basically we’re riding through it almost a river coming up through to Douglas. So that was pretty grim out there.

Richard Fletcher 2:23
Yes, as bad as it gets over here. But yeah, you’re out on your bike. And there’s the worst places to be. So as long as you don’t do more than an hour and a half in that sort of that sort of weather, then it’s fine. Right?

Carlton Reid 2:35
So warmed up, we had a cup of coffee, and a bit of cake in Noa’s bakery, and that’s Noa. And next door to that is Bike Style. The bike shops who are now sitting on very nice sofas here, in in a nice bike shop. I’d like to say overlooking, you know, the scenic wonders of Douglas, but we can’t actually see a great deal. And when we were out riding this morning, you you basically you took me out to some scenic places, but we didn’t actually see anything. So just describe the ride that we did this morning. What would we have seen if it would be a beautiful day? Because we’re kind of going towards Snaefell, weren’t we?

Richard Fletcher 3:12
Yeah, well, the hills, the route, we went on the hills all around it, basically. So and yeah, on a clear day, that’s what you see. You can you can see the island from sort of side to side and top to bottom only when you’re out it’s particularly if you get some height. But today, because it’s hilly, you get white-out effectively. So yeah, there’s quite low cloud and you don’t see a lot. But yeah, it would have been a nice ride if our view wise if it had been clear.

Carlton Reid 3:42
Because we did get pretty damn cold out there today. So the route you were originally planning to take me on would have been towards Laxey

Richard Fletcher 3:52
We’d have gone north of the east coast of the island. And you get some stunning views on the East coast. Well on all the coastal routes on the island, and the island basically has villages and towns dotted around the coastline. So as soon as you come in from the towns, you start climbing, and you go either over a hill into a valley and over another hill and back to the coast. The island is only 12 miles wide and it’s been its widest point, and 36 miles long. So you can cross from coast to coast or top to bottom in a day. But there’s lots of minor roads. I think some of the roads we went on. They were most of them were single carriageway roads to the benefit that is the nicer island because they’re quiet, very little traffic. But yeah, it’s just today was a rough day for it.

Carlton Reid 4:42
So if we had done that ride, which we’re planning to do towards Laxey would have basically written past Cav’s house, yeah?

Richard Fletcher 4:51
Well, he’s born and brought up in Douglas and Laxey still has a house in Laxey. And Laxey’s got a lot of history from it was an old mining village years ago not a big population there. It’s people have a possibly have an impression of Cav that because he’s a sprinter the same of the Tour de France with a sprint train that he’s a rider for the flatlands but the he was born and brought up over here where you there are hills everywhere you go. And in his amateur racing, I think you see that that he’s used to coping with that type of terrain.

Carlton Reid 5:29
And tell me about Dot Tilbury because Dot Tilbury you’re talking about basically before when we’re in the coffee shop about a big funnel of riders. Then at the bottom, you would spit out these well known riders that we’ve all heard of.

Richard Fletcher 5:42
Yeah, I mean, I’ve been cycling for 40. More well, more than 40 years and until Dot came around, and the cycling tended to be quite insular. And people would get into cycling because their parents had all their brothers or sisters. Dot started a children’s league on a Tuesday night, more than 20 years ago now. And it started attracting more and more children into it, who weren’t anything to do with the normal cycling scene. And within a relatively short space of time, it got to the stage where she was getting 200, then 250. And now 300 kids would turn up on a Tuesday night and be introduced to cycling as an activity. And that’s been going on now say for over 20 years. And I’d say for a small population out the Isle of Man 86,000 people, that’s the most directly cause of of the high standard of cycling because you use the word then there is a sort of wide funnel of kids becoming involved in cycling. And yes, there’s when they get to 14, 15, 16. And all the distractions come around or other activities come around, particularly in this day and age where there’s so many alternatives to to spend your time still a larger number drop out at the bottom of the funnel than would have if she didn’t run that league. And I think she’s the most direct link to the success of of elite cycling over here. I remember when did that exactly set that up? I don’t exactly 20, 20 something years ago be more than 20 years

Carlton Reid 7:20
Where Where does she where’s that is it’s just like an off road circuit?

Richard Fletcher 7:24
It’s on a perimeter road around the National Sports Centre. So it’s about half a mile round pan flat. And it’s like an oval, like a 600 metre version of an athletic track effectively, but it’s tarmac. And they race round there on a Tuesday night, they start when they’re almost just off balance bikes then through to when they’re 16. And they that’s where they get into cycling, and then as they get to the older age groups, and they then move into the more sort of traditional cycling. Dot also takes them away on trips. So they go to places like a day on the Manchester Velodrome they take part in the youth series that British Cycling runs. And we run around with that over here. So they get to perform on home soil as well. In fact that is coming up in April, this year, there’ll be over 200 kids come from the UK, the best 200 Kids in the UK will come over to ride in the Isle of Man. And about 50 of Dot’s kids will be in those races as well.

Carlton Reid 8:32
Because you’re one of the organisers of yeah, they used to it

Richard Fletcher 8:36
I recently do, the youth has been running for 14 or 15 years now. And last couple of years, the organisers sort of change over time, became involved and become involved. So Emma Dyer who has been involved for many years and organising it Rob Holden, ex professional cyclist and myself are the three main organisers but it’s a big team of people that put it together and it’s closed roads Yeah, we get Road Club full road closure which is one of the USPS if you like of them coming to the Isle of Man that the kids aren’t used to riding on closed roads they used to running on closed circuits around parks and things like that. And we get the national escort group guys come over so it’s quite a an atmosphere for the kids the it’s not to to France but it’s sort of to ride on closed roads with national escort and we bring Tony Barry’s neutral service cars over as well so they’ve they’ve actually got a almost like professional experience that they get and I think that’s why I like coming over for it.

Carlton Reid 9:39
And one of the ways you’re able to close the roads is the Isle of Man government is pretty well used to closing roads for the TT so is that part of it? You can you they are used to closing roads?

Richard Fletcher 9:53
Yeah, they are and there’s an acceptance by the public there’s always some resistance to close. as roads, whatever it’s for, and we try and minimise that. But yeah, the sort of structures and the policies and laws are in place to help you do that. The TT happens has happened for 100 years. 1907. Yeah. That that’s an established thing over here. What people probably don’t know as much about is that at this, the bicycle TT started in the 30s. And it was, again, it was because they couldn’t do it. on the Isle of Man; in the UK rather. So you had the I don’t know, whatever the governing body of cycling was then. And you had a breakaway group called British League of racing cyclists. And they, they got together with the Isle of Man. And we ran one of the first big mass start races over here in the 1930s last century. And that for a time that became the biggest race in Britain for cycling, so you had top names like Tom Simpson, and all the big riders at the time came over and race the Isle of Man, the International, before in this sort of following the Second World War,

Carlton Reid 11:12
when there was no nothing like that everybody was time trialling, yeah, famously and alpaca Yeah, you know, black alpaca going out in secret in the morning

Richard Fletcher 11:20
Yeah, so the road racing scene was established, cycling was established then right, and then became Manx International Cycling Week, which ran through till 2003, which was a week long festival where we close roads for two the whole week for cycling. That went into decline mainly because people’s habits changed. And they didn’t want to take a week off from their work holidays to come to Isle of Man for cycling when Majorca and other places were, were beckoning. So now we tend to have smaller scale races, we had the we’ve had rounds of the British National series for seniors. So the premier calendar, we’ve hosted the national championships. And consistently we’ve run the National Youth and junior two sets around the British youth series and around the British Junior series, the Peter Buckley series, which it’s still I still call it that. Peter Buckley was actually from the Isle of Man. And when the Commonwealth Games gold medal, and

you’re from the Isle of Man too, so you’re a born and bred Manxman

Yeah, I spent a little bit time off the island but mainly on the island. Yeah. My wife’s from the UK. And my dad was from the UK. So it’s, but yeah, it’s been my home is here.

Carlton Reid 12:40
And tell me a little bit about how you sort of semi funded Cav’s early career with some cash, but indirectly.

Richard Fletcher 12:51
Yes, that’s my claim. And I don’t think Mark would want to know about it or agree with it. But Mark’s mother. For many years, Adele ran a dance workshop, not far from this shop, actually. And both my daughters did ballet. So I spent quite a lot of money on pointe shoes over the years with with Adele. And so I say that and that was about the time Mark was getting into cycling. So yeah, I must have contributed in a small way to Yes,

Carlton Reid 13:16
yes. And he of course had a dance background at first.

Richard Fletcher 13:19
I believe so. I think I think a lot more is made of it than that. But yeah, when I think he was nine or 10 or 11, I think he did some ballroom dancing. So I wouldn’t be surprised if in the next three or four years, he appears on Strictly or something like that. Be a good candidate.

Carlton Reid 13:37
And he’s got a house, you said at Laxey. He’s got houses dotted around, but one of them. One of them is certainly here. So he would be a known figure here. And I’m here, obviously for the the AGM of the Travel Writers Guild, and even you know, the top big wigs. And when we had our gala dinner, they mentioned Mark Cavendish. Yeah, you know, so he he’s a known figure, quite apart from in the cycling scene, but he will appear and he will do local, local, right. He

Richard Fletcher 14:10
He comes up frequently to see his Mum and Dad, who both live on the island. And yeah, when you see, he goes out with the local lads on both training rides, and you’ll he’ll, he’ll pop up and do events as well. I run a sportif each year, and I haven’t had any contact with him. But the British Cycling entry system that was used, the entries pop up in your email inbox and there’s one M Cavendish OBE, who just paid his entry fee and rocked up like any other rider to it to just make a big thing about you made the day because he’s turned up and he was late getting to the start and we sportifs quite relaxed. But when he got to start on when went round with the lads who were strong enough to ride with him, and he because he was They started you went past everybody in the event and it made the event all you could hear in the sort of coffee shop afterwards was because Cav passed me on this hill or Cav passed me here. So it’s great, but he does. He just slots in. And I think I think I don’t know, you have to speak to him. But I think he enjoys the fact you can just behave normally over here and go about his business without getting accosted for this, that and the other. So,

Carlton Reid 15:23
So we’re about on the roads before most of the people were getting with this wide berth. But we had a couple, and it was such atrocious weather. And they were coming past at speed. Yeah. And that wasn’t that wasn’t very nice. And you might have told one of the drivers they shouldn’t have been doing. And that was it was a horrible close pass. So how much respect do you generally get? And could it be some of it down to you’ve got that funnel of riders, and you’ve certainly got somebody as famous as Mark Cavendish, that, you know, the big wigs talk about him? So might there be some, even if it’s just a small bit of people’s brains? Like why can’t you know, close past those cyclists; one of them might be Cav and then I’m in the national news?

Richard Fletcher 16:10
It’s a bit subjective, my gut feel, because I do do quite a lot of riding off the island is my gut feeling. I think the drivers over here are a little bit more considerate than elsewhere in the in the in the British Isles is a bit subjective. But generally speaking, I think the overall rise in popularity of cycling, whether it’s here or in the UK, has also contributed to maybe people being a bit more aware. I don’t I don’t think it’s it’s not malice of people in cars. I think it’s it’s ignorance of, of the fact they’re inside us. steel box, and you’re not. So it’s not something that would ever I mean, I’ve been cyclists for many years, it’s not going to put me off cycling anyway. But I think it is the it’s still the main barrier to people taking up cycling who aren’t experienced cyclists. So it’s a bit of culture change people’s personalities change when they get in the car. And then that’s, I see to unbonded really, but no, it’s not too bad over here. And the roads themselves because they’re not big roads, people have to drive with a bit of care and attention most people to give you plenty of room.

Carlton Reid 17:23
So, okay, well, a few seconds ago you said British Isles rather than the UK. So Isle of Man isn’t in the UK isn’t in the EU, ever. It’s but it’s part of the British Isles, and it’s a crown dependency. There are different rules here. Because if you’ve got your own government and one of those rules, or lack of rules, is you can go as fast as you want in a car on certain roads. And that’s partly maybe a legacy of the, the TT that’s been going on. So if you’ve got this TT circuit, and even on Ordnance Survey maps, it says, you know, this is the TT course. But these are public roads. These are these are not not closed circuit at all apart from when it’s running in June, and the roads are closed. So at those roads being no speed limits, means some drivers, not all of them for some drivers are going to be going crackers on those roads, because then you can overtake a policeman, police car 200mph nand they can’t do anything about it. So does that mean cyclists avoid that, that course, that road?

Richard Fletcher 18:31
There’s only one section that most cyclists avoid. That’s the what’s called the mountain road. It runs through Ramsey over alongside Snaefell the only mountain on the island and drops down into Douglas. So whereas 20, 30 years ago I used to commute over that road. Most people would avoid it now and I would avoid now is because and there’s a number of reasons for that. One is that yes. A lot of drivers do put the foot down when they get on a mountain road. There are safe passing places on the mountain road. If you were doing excessive speed and you took a police car, they would still pull you in because it’s below there’s no speed limit. It’s allowing us to do art drive. Um, I’m not sure the legal definition but in a safe manner effectively. So it’s not unlimited speed, it’s driving to the road conditions and if you overtook them at 70 and it was misty, they put you in so it’s them. There’s there is some control over it. But particularly motorbikes because of the history. They like to really push it over the mountain. And it’s so I wouldn’t go up there on a bike now for two reasons. One, you can although we’ve got terrible weather today, and even in on a summer’s day, the mountain in patches can be misty. So you could set off from Douglas or Ramsey in bright sunshine. And once you get above 1000 feet or whatever in the mist, and the speed differential between a car even not absolutely ragging over the mountain, and the bicycle going uphill is such that you be at risk of being hit from behind. Because the driver just wouldn’t see you in time,

Carlton Reid 20:17
Do motorists avoid it, do they also seem motorists to go I’m not gonna get that because

Richard Fletcher 20:22
I mean, I say I lived in Ramsey and commuted to work in Douglas, for 20 years. And I could, I could probably drive the mountain road blindfold. But I do know some drivers and even taxi drivers who don’t like riding, because the because it’s the TT course there are no cat’s eyes in the middle of the road. So it’s actually quite a difficult road to drive in the mist. You need to know where the roads going up ahead. So yeah, there are some motorists avoid, as well.

Carlton Reid 20:54
So that’s a 37 mile stretch of, in effect, a triangle of roads that are marked on the OS map as the as the TT course. But the island has something like 688 miles, all other roads. So we’re talking, you know, 640 Odd miles of other roads. Yeah. So that’s something that right, avoid them. You don’t have to sometimes use that road to link up with other things, you can always avoid it.

Richard Fletcher 21:23
And the funny part is that the when we have bike races or their motorcycle races, there mountain road, because it’s very, there are maybe three businesses on the mountain, or I think you went to one victory cafe, that they were allowed actually to close the mountain road with very little resistance, because they’re alternative routes around the island for motorists. And there’s not many people live in the mountain road. So it’s it’s actually a lot, it’s a road you wouldn’t use when the roads are open, it’s for an event, you can often get a road closure on the mountain road quite quite easily because of that. But now the other road, most of the active cyclists, they wouldn’t use a TT course because they are effectively the island’s equivalent of sort of arterial roads. Most of the traffic is on those roads. But it means the roads the side I mean, we went on some of them today can’t learn without being able to see where we were. But they’re the roads that run alongside or crisscross those roads. And the traffic is fairly light. Still, we didn’t have a chance to go up to the north of the island where it’s the northern plane is flat. But that’s where virtually all the local racing takes place. Now because there’s very little traffic it’s mainly just farmland, but farms and fields.

Carlton Reid 22:48
At this point we’ll cut to a break. Take it away, David,

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Carlton Reid 23:52
Thanks, David. And we are back with Isle of Man Mr. Cycling, Richard Fletcher. So describe where maybe Kev or Pete Kennaugh where they would have ridden where would they go? Do you think would they have a standard training ride? Or would they mix it up?

Richard Fletcher 24:09
No, they mix it up and I know Cav’s thing that he doesn’t like to repeat the same road on any training ride. I think he covered that when he did a piece over here with Matt Stevens. But they ride the ride all over basically. And you can it’s for small island, there are a lot of roads, you can you can mix it up. And you tend to look at the weather and see which way the winds blowing and decide a new route then rather than have a planned route, but they will know both those two and any boys have been involved in cycling over here you get to know every road on the island basically. So

Carlton Reid 24:51
you would link it up in your head and then just kind

Richard Fletcher 24:54
of criss cross and go where the coffee is really

Carlton Reid 24:59
and then Then on this trip, maybe they’re just pulling our leg I don’t know. But the bus driver everybody who’s been talking to us on this trip has been stressing the folklore element of the Isle of Man, which I wasn’t really terribly familiar with at all. So everybody is stressing, you know, you’ve got to when you go across the Fairy Bridge, you’ve got to say hello to the fairies. How much of this is would you tell that to the tourists? And how much of that is no people on the island genuinely, you know, believe in this stuff.

Richard Fletcher 25:36
I don’t know if I believe in it. A lot of a lot of the people buy into it.

Carlton Reid 25:42
And why?

Richard Fletcher 25:44
Because I’m I’m not one of those I’m not a superstitious person. But there is. I mean, there is a big Celtic background the history of the Isle of Man is interesting. So don’t buy into all the folklore stuff. The background history of the island where the Vikings were heavily involved in the Isle of Man if you look at it geographic on a map, you can see that if you’re military strategist, where would you base yourself if you want to rape and pillage all over the British Isles, you got the Isle of Man because you can bet your base here and strike out and hit violent Wales England or Scotland from it. So the Vikings were have a big influence on the islands. Longer history. And then because of that, the Scottish Lords got rid of the Vikings and then the Lords of Darby took over from the Scots. So there’s a lot of not folklore that but there’s a lot of good, meaty history about the island. The the other stuff? I don’t know, I think it’s it’s the stuff about mythical creatures and fairies is, is probably because you then you’ve got a small island race basically. So you get myths and things from a an environment like that. But yeah, it’s uh, it’s, it sells a lot of gin. Yes.

Carlton Reid 27:17
Definitely good stories. Yeah. And we’ve been given, you know, books of folklore. And so you’ve got to say, hello to the fairies

Richard Fletcher 27:25
doesn’t mean the other Celtic nations have similar things. So Irish, Irish methylene and Welsh and Scottish as well. That so there is quite a strong Celtic presence here. And there are quite, there’s quite a lot of exchanges between, particularly in the arts around the Celtic side, so you’ve got them Normandy, Brittany, Cornwall, Wales, Ireland, Scotland, and they do get together, particularly in the art side and, and share the same sort of music and poetry and everything else. It doesn’t overlap as much in into sport. Although we’ve got a really interesting event coming over here in July this year, called Pan-Celtic, which is like an ultra endurance event. And I was amazing guy, I didn’t know anything about the event until earlier this year. And the guy who organised a guy called Matt Ryan, who lives in north Wales, the opening entries for it and had to close them within 48 hours later because he’d filled the field and it’s people from all over the world coming. We completely coincidentally bumped into a German couple on a cycling holiday and they said Are you from Alabama? We’re coming for the pan Celtic this year. And so they’re flying in, mins booked to Gatwick and Gatwick to here to do this event that starts does 100 mile loop around the Isle of Man and they’re getting on the ferry and they go off to Scotland right around there.

Carlton Reid 28:59
You know the route and what they what are they doing loose route

Richard Fletcher 29:03
it’s about like it’s about 1500 miles in total. It’s one of these ultra distance the other man is strange and it’s been set as the because we got very right it’s been set as the first stage they’ve been classed as a time trial. It’s not it is a race and it isn’t a race it’s a it’s a race where nobody wins anything is the way that if the organisers describes it, but it’s a personal challenge thing so when the clock starts normally on the pan Celtic it doesn’t stop until you get to the very end whereas for this year because the argument is being used the first stage they don’t do a ride through the night here and then get their morning ferry over to patient and then ride I think they go north then and ride around Scotland for the rest of it. But I’m seeing the rest of the room

Carlton Reid 29:48
because normally on the pan Celtic it’s if you get to the ferry port late well you’re gonna get the ferry the next day and that’s that’s added to your time. Yeah, where is this one? And usually they’re gonna stop the times there is like a time drive.

Richard Fletcher 30:04
Yeah, because it’s a three to four hour journey over I think so yeah, they’re they’ve got they’ve got a big enough window the starting at seven o’clock on Saturday evening and they’ve got to do better thing is boundary and five miles. So the very least 8.45 next day so I can’t see anybody missing that that they should have a little bit sleep actually

Carlton Reid 30:27
do what route they’re doing actually on yeah went

Richard Fletcher 30:30
through the route with the organiser because he we’ve actually got another big cycling event the next day. So we needed to avoid clashing with that. And it basically does a big loop of the island round round the perimeter mainly but they cut into they’ve got the participants left some interesting clients did it as well they go burn the client pool faulty will, which is effectively going up the mountain it’s not the mountain road TT causeway but it’s the it’s a, it’s a nicer if you can have a nice climb, it’s a nicer climb than the TT course one

Carlton Reid 31:07
and they are avoiding the TT course completely. There’s not not not hitting it at all

Richard Fletcher 31:11
on it for about a mile. And that’s it because when you get to the top of that climb, you actually go backwards along with TT good for you then go back into the interior. But that’s that’s fine. It’s then it’s the middle of summer it’ll be the middle of the night when they get there as well. So there won’t be a lot of traffic on that road.

Carlton Reid 31:31
So that’s it as you’re saying before there’s there’s there’s no cat size on that road. So that’s a road that maybe people avoided that night anyway.

Richard Fletcher 31:37
Um, yeah, this well. There are alternative routes. So yes, you will, they will fit in on if there’s not misty then you would go that way. Because the quickest way from north to say, most direct way. But generally speaking in nighttime, it’s quiet anyway.

Carlton Reid 31:55
So last night, we had a talk from Milky Quayle. Who’s one of these guys who who averages 186 miles an hour on his motorbike as he’s going around the corner, sometimes hitting 200 miles an hour. And he was one of the questions I asked him was, you would die if you hit a pothole at 30 miles an hour, nevermind 200 miles an hour. So the local authority, the government must be pumping a huge amount of money into keeping that road. absolutely pristine. And there’s never going to be a pothole on that road. However, does that mean that other roads, the roads, maybe the cyclists are on? Does that mean they’re getting short shrift there because they’re getting roads where there’s gonna be potholes, and then all the money has been pumped into that mountain road?

Richard Fletcher 32:46
The don’t know the answers are so the there’s a perception certainly that the TT course will not upset from the TT course it has a priority. And it is always, as you say, perfectly maintained. And it has to be actually sculptured sometimes to accommodate the motorcycling. So the the course has probably got faster over the years, because it’s been improved. There’s a on the mountain road section, there’s a couple of places where the road is actually been that not banked. But is lends itself to is certainly not off camber for it that way. So that there is a lot of money spent on the TT course. But that’s justified by the fact that the TT races are revenue generating. So whether the, whether that means it whether that’s to the detriment of other roads is a moot point. Some people locally would say, definitely, whether it’s financial or just resource wise, in terms of the time spent. And generally speaking, I think our roads are fairly good. I tend to ride a gravel bike now anyway, so on You seek out rough road sometimes. So it’s not as I don’t think we certainly don’t think we’re the roads elsewhere. The roads outside of TT girls over here are certainly not any worse than UK roads now. And I’d say overall, slightly better than a lot of areas of the UK. So be it as much the time I think is nCn calm the isn’t more than the money you’ve got limited resources to do road maintenance. So if you’re spending quite a lot of that time on a TT course you’ve you’ve a limited timeframe.

Carlton Reid 34:40
By the same token, you probably got some pretty good experts who are probably using some pretty good scientific equipment to spot potholes forming and that might benefit.

Richard Fletcher 34:52
Maybe not seeing that but we’ve got the we’ve got reporting so you can report potholes and they do that for very quickly to them when you report them. When it’s inevitable, you’ll get where and turn around. Look at the weather today. It’s there’ll be, I’m sure when this week is out, there’ll be a lot more potholes than they were last week.

Carlton Reid 35:15
So, so far, we’ve talked about road cycling, and you’ve talked a little bit about gravel cycling there. What about mountain biking?

Richard Fletcher 35:22
Mountain biking is is a growing thing. It’s been under exploited. I think

Carlton Reid 35:26
in that get in the bank shop here. I’m just turning my head. It some of this road bikes over there. But there’s a tonne of mountain bikes. Yeah.

Richard Fletcher 35:33
I mean, the there are 26 plantations over here

Carlton Reid 35:37
are found they are what we would call Forestry Commission. Yeah, yeah, Department

Richard Fletcher 35:41
of the Department of Government that looks after them and uses them for growing trees, basically, and harvesting those trees. But within those plantations, a lot of them have had over the years. sanctioned and unsanctioned trails built, they tended to be built, historically, they’ve tended to be built. And then forgiveness, asked afterwards, rather than permission to go and build the trails. And the government, the barn has been quite friendly in that respect, in that they generally want to encourage access to those plantations. The we tried to formalise that in the last couple of years and recognise that we’ve probably got as many trails and the quality of those trails and the accessibility Australia is just as good as some of the sort of identified cycling parks in particularly in Wales, Scotland and Ireland more recently, but we’ve never really produced a a tourism product that, and we’ve never really joined them all up. So there’s been quite a big effort in the last two years to do that. And there’s a there’s a scheme, just kicking off at the moment government agreed funding in October last year, to produce effectively a, an Isle of Man trail Park. And that’s taking a cluster of seven plantations that are quite close to Douglas, and joining them together, they’re about they’re only about four road crossings to join them together, because they either abort each other or they’re, there’s a road crossing to get into the next one. So that’s a project that’s, that’s starting now. To join those up. And then I think it will be used as a as a tourism product, but also be of great benefit to local population. And then you’re involved in that. Yeah, the I’m involved in advising the government on it. The the rise of gravel cycling as well, because a lot of it. Within those plantations, you have forestry, roads, fire fire roads. And so we’re going out from this bike shop actually, on Saturday and on a gravel ride, and we’ll take in at least two of the plantations during that if the weather improves.

Carlton Reid 38:03
So the government is pumping money into into these plantation rides. It recognises all the big wigs recognise Mark Cavendish, or they use Mark Cavendish as something to talk to a general audience and there’s not wasn’t a noise of scientists at all. It’s an audience of, of just general travel writers who they were talking to. So is their awareness that cycling is important to the economy and potentially could become even more important in future. Yeah,

Richard Fletcher 38:35
it’s growing thing that the Isle of Man’s tourism product has changed over the years. If you go back to my childhood, it was a bucket and spade tourism, where the the mill towns of the Northwest would shut down for a week and the there was Scottish week, there was Irish week. And it was that type of holiday that fell away when the trips to Spain and things like that came about. So that was one section. Then it it moved on to basically in more niche tourism, such as around the heritage railways and things like that. And that became very popular. More recently, so last three, four years. All the studies and reports that have been done around the future tourism on the island says actually that generation is these strong say flatlining because that flood that is declining. The new demographic, a tourism want the outdoors and that’s what the Ironman has got in spades. So, the activities such as I think the government does now realise that activities particularly such as walking, cycling, golf as well, there are numerous golf courses over here. And then anything, the more sort of general, outdoor and active type of activities are they will be the future tourism on the island. So cycling and walking in particular are being focused on we’ve got some I’m not a hill Walker at all. But the the that is as an asset over here this does access all around us there’s an 82 mile coastal path, go the route route fall on them that is under use is it’s not known about really, but it’s there. And it doesn’t need a lot of work to make it a top rate tourism product, like some of the the Pennine routes that you have in the UK. And cycling wise. Yes, the there’s mountain biking has been absolutely recognised and the see the money has been allocated to do that. And I think that will become a product and I think gravel and sort of lead you into road as well. So I mean, the challenge that mean chance, I think is is for cycling is getting a bike go via

Carlton Reid 41:02
the ferry. I mean, some people might fly but the ferry it’s a brand new ship. Yeah,

Richard Fletcher 41:07
they use those pretty friendly with the bikes. I mean that there’s room yeah, there’s actual

Carlton Reid 41:12
room where you put your bike? Yes, and you hang them up. And it’s like what most varies, even in fact, I don’t know any ferries where there’s a room where you put your bike? Well, that’s come about

Richard Fletcher 41:20
because I say about three or four years ago, there was a recognition that the future lay in those niche, outdoor active elements, the various brand new so we did a gap analysis effectively. And what’s the difference between the Isle of Man and an established cycling destination to take the weather out of it because if you comparing, say Croatia to the Isle of Man or basically to the weather booked the other things, the more the more basic things are the same. It’s they’re having cycling friendly accommodation, which can be the most basic thing where you don’t get looked at as if you’re from a different planet when you turn up in lycra with a bike through to the proper cycling friendly hotels, which would have secure bike storage, maybe a little workshop, side tap to clean your bike, that type of thing. So looking at the combination in the Government Department concerned has now a registered recycling friendly hotels and gives them advice as to what they need to do. In terms of that. The very youth was another one where back in my day, the crew were really friendly, but you’d roll up down the ramp and it says sticky bike over there mate. And it’d be just put against the side of the deck where all the cars work. Now as you see the new ferry the Manxman has got a dedicated cycle storage park so it’s that type of messaging if you like people coming over that actually cycling is welcome here the big ticket items are things like putting together a proper trail Park product the route became in on blinded by rain in the last couple of miles went past what’s called a nunnery estate which is an older stately home and been in talks with the owners of that put a close road title circuit in it. And they’re quite keen on that funding won’t be an issue. But but that so there is recognition particularly around so I think that it’s it’s a it can become an an important tourism product.

Carlton Reid 43:31
And when people are laughing they because maybe not in February

Richard Fletcher 43:36
no I don’t think and there’s a big push to try and encourage visitors to the island in what they call the shoulder periods. But no if I was I’m blunt about these things when people ask about the Ironman and cycling cyclists more enjoyable in good weather. It’s as simple as that. So yeah, you would come in the not this year the high season but he come between April May June July August September. I wouldn’t I personally wouldn’t do a trip outside those months I’d be them a lot of people would say well there’s no such thing as bad weather just blanket but

Carlton Reid 44:14
we had some good kit on today and we still got cold I

Richard Fletcher 44:18
know yeah the the sort of you were you can tweak the sides a bit on now are around mountain biking because you what we tend to do with the locals anyway. On a day like this, if you were going to go out you go on a mountain bike in the plantations and you don’t hear the wind and basically So building that mountain bike trail Park product could actually extend the season because yes, you still gonna get money, but you don’t get score and worse because you there’s just no wind in plantations. That’s where I would probably do my gravel riding or mountain biking Not quite not quite as bad as this but you can extend it a little bit in that respect I think

Carlton Reid 45:05
so people listening to this they thought right definitely not in February but in the months that you’ve just recommended summer basically they want to come across they want to see this this fantastic very with its dedicated bike room they want to do the same roads that cab has done and other top local riders they want to do the plantations maybe on a mountain bike How did they find out about this and how do they find out about you? So what social media and what websites can they go look at will the

Richard Fletcher 45:41
there is a cycling website we’re trying to build up quite a lot now called and that will become hopefully one of the main portals to visit Isle of Man website as well has quite a lot of information. But nowadays a loop it’s not totally reliable you can easily find on Strava or rider GPS routes on the island that aren’t somebody’s commuter route, but they are actually a decent ride. So it’s quite so much easier nowadays I think to find you yourself new routes or or you can you can hire a guide but it’s small enough Island to find your way around. What where it’s more difficult I think and that’s why we’re putting the work into is on the mountain bike side. I go out with mountain bike I’m because I’m mainly road cyclists. I’ll go to mountain bikers and I’ll go trails I never would have found if I hadn’t gone out with the group that did the old time. So the idea with trail Park is that it will just be on trail forks are one of the products like that it will actually be very well signposted. So that you can the the network we’ve designed is it’s about 64 kilometres of trails. And we agree right start the project actually although it might seem cosmetic, the most important thing is the signage. So people can without a guide or or necessarily GPS files that they can find their way around and find the know where the coffee shop or the toilet block or whatever on their ride. So that’s it’s probably going to take 18 months to complete it but the aim is we’ll have that a credible product for people wanting to do that for the start of the 25 season.

Carlton Reid 47:38
So famously Majorcar is a destination without cycling product and clearly part of the attraction of of New Yorker is nice weather yeah early season well yes or late season one and but also beautiful road but the certainly the nice weather is a is a is a pool, but here could become a cycling paradise could become either a cycling paradise in many ways already, but could become even bigger in the future, especially with like short haul stuff you having to be necessarily, you know, in the future, we’re gonna have to start basically holiday much closer to home. Yeah, I don’t like climate change and not flying everywhere. And taking a ferry is much more ego than flying to Majorca. So cyclists could come to the Isle of Man and not go to Majorca

Richard Fletcher 48:33
and I think to say the weather is important factor. But yeah, it is more the hassle of I mean, I’ve done it all my life cycles since I was 15. Taking your bike on a plane is a faff, it’s now because I’m old and grumpy when I go I do still do a lot of cycling outside of the UK. But it was hired by want to do that. Now if I go to France of France, alright, well, France is different. Unfortunately I’ve got a friend lives in France with a house and I leave a bike there. But I’m gonna go anywhere else Spain or Italy or further afield I was hired by because I don’t like the faff of going through airports and boxing it up and unboxing it and wondering whether we’ll get there. The ferry is a lovely way to do that you can just literally ride on the boat. So yeah, that that is the best way for cyclists to get the Isle of Man is to bring it to bring their bike on the ferry. That and yeah, I think it is a viable alternative is going it’s going overseas without going too far.

Carlton Reid 49:38
You’re going out of the UK,

Richard Fletcher 49:41
You are going out of the UK and the rod. There are a variety of road to get here is quite fun. That to me. The sweet spot for a visitor is about a three or four day trip. And then you can ride different roads every day and enjoy them in that way. Say they it’s been record week, we spoke to a few of the tour on cycling tour operators because one of the other things in sort of gap analysis that was done is it the Arman is not on in the portfolio of a lot of tour operators. Some like there’s a company that I’ve done some work with, they, they’ve got the Isle of Man because I did a trip for them, basically, and, but a lot of the larger ones don’t have the Ironman as a destination. So we need to convince them that the Ironman should be a destination on their portfolio, and then put together the trips for them to do. So that’s another sort of initiative that needs to

Carlton Reid 50:42
get across here before those companies put it on and they become saturated. And it’s another Majorca. Yeah,

Richard Fletcher 50:48
it’s we’ve got we’ve got lots of space that we could handle.

Carlton Reid 50:53
Thanks to Richard Fletcher there and thanks to you for listening to Episode 347 of the spokesmen podcast brought to you in association with Tern bicycles. Show notes and more can be found at The next episode will be about the bike navigation app Komoot, but it soon veers off to a discussion of a round the world cycle trip. That show will be out at the beginning of March. Meanwhile, get out there and ride …

February 20, 2024 / / Blog

20th February 2024

The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast

EPISODE 346: Monica Garrison

SPONSOR: Tern Bicycles

HOST: Carlton Reid

GUEST: Monica Garrison of Black Girls Do Bike

20th February 2024

The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast

EPISODE 346: Monica Garrison

SPONSOR: Tern Bicycles

HOST: Carlton Reid

GUEST: Monica Garrison of Black Girls Do Bike




Carlton Reid 0:13
Welcome to Episode 346 of the spokesmen cycling podcast. This show was engineered on Tuesday 20th of February 2024.

David Bernstein 0:29
The Spokesmen cycling roundtable podcast is brought to you by Tern bicycles. The good people at Tern are committed to building bikes that are useful enough to ride every day and dependable enough to carry the people you love. In other words, they make the kind of bikes that they want to ride. Tern has e-bikes for every type of rider. Whether you’re commuting, taking your kids to school or even carrying another adult, visit That’s t e r n to learn more.

Carlton Reid 1:03
I’m Carlton Reid and today’s episode is a half hour chat with Monica Garrison of Black Girls Do Bike a Pennsylvania nonprofit now in its 11th year of group rides and more for black women and girls. And yeah, I should have checked out the weather map before I asked the first stupid question. Have you been riding today?

Monica Garrison 1:28
Oh, no! There’s snow everywhere. We had a big storm yesterday. Yeah, yesterday.

Carlton Reid 1:35
I should have checked your weather. Okay. So how much of the year can you not cycle in Pittsburgh?

Monica Garrison 1:43
Pretty much November to March is pretty snowy and rainy, and cold. So we have a nice big offseason here, though some folks ride through the winter. I’m not one of those people.

Carlton Reid 1:57
So you kind of come say March, April, you’re kind of really desperate to get out on your bike, that kind of thing.

Monica Garrison 2:05
Oh, yeah, the mid March The weather seems to shift and and cyclists return full force and and then we’re good. I mean, we get pretty hot in August and July, you know, it’s a bit unbearable and humid. So there’s some time there where it’s not so pleasant to be out on the bike, but pretty much yeah, the rest of the year we’re riding.

Carlton Reid 2:27
So I really should have checked the weather. Because that was such a stupid question, wasn’t it if you’re deep in snow, and of course. That’s okay. So the rest of the year. tell me about the rest of the year in Pittsburgh. What’s it like riding in Pittsburgh?

Monica Garrison 2:43
So Pittsburgh is notorious for its hills. It’s a very hilly city. So it’s not for the faint of heart. Literally. I think over the last 10 years, we’ve had a really good programme, Bike Pittsburgh is our local Bike Ped organisation. And they’ve done a really good job of creating infrastructure that connects. So there are large parts of the city that are interconnected for commuters and everyone else on bikes. So that’s nice. We have what we call the gap trail here, which is a Great Allegheny Passage. And it starts here in Pittsburgh, and you can ride it all the way to Washington, DC. So a lot of local cyclists put that on their list of things to do in the spring and summer, before it gets too hot. And our we have Port Authority, which is our local bus transportation here. And they made an effort a few years ago to outfit all of the buses with bike racks on the front. So no matter where you’re headed, you can take your bike with you

Carlton Reid 3:52
Now, we’re very jealous. When when we see Americans with, with buses with that on the front, we get very jealous, we’ve got very few services that will will do that. So I’ve seen photographs on your, on your website, where it’s like the media images where you can get these the photographs you’re allowed to use. And there’s you and your kids, and there’s a bike lane in Pittsburgh. So I can visualise extremely well, the bike lane that you were talking about there, but your kids. So not only are you getting women of colour, and you’re getting people just generally onto bikes. You’re we’ll talk about your chapters in a minute, but you’re getting your kids onto bikes. That’s something that you wanted to do. That’s something that just happened what so how have you managed to get your kids on bikes?

Monica Garrison 4:46
I mean, when I was a kid, I loved riding my bike, so I just assumed that they would too. And I you know happened to me correct. But what I did was honestly I started them riding really early like my son and daughter for probably pedaling bikes at the age of four. And so the earlier you get them in, The more consistent you are with them wearing helmets, then it just becomes a part of their life. And so you know, when, when Black Girls Do Bike started, it was a time where I was riding my bike a lot more than I had in the past. And so I just invited them to come along, and they they kind of got bitten by the bug. I will say my, my daughter, my son is probably the one who goes with me the most these days, we’ll load up the bikes and drive to like our downtown area and spend a couple hours riding around when the weather’s nice. And that’s really fun to do. So yeah, it’s just a no, no, it’s, it’s a fun thing to do as a family. Cycling is great for me as a solo sport. But I also like bringing folks along and you know, showing them how fun it can be.

Carlton Reid 5:55
So you have all these chapters across I mean, this one is the one that’s in London, is that still going?

Monica Garrison 6:01
it’s still going but we have, we have a leadership vacuum, there we are our leaders who started the group stepped down to do another project. So we’re actually looking for someone to kind of step in and, you know, rejuvenate the chapter.

Carlton Reid 6:17
Tell me about the chapters in in the US than them and how big did they get? Which are the biggest ones? What’s the chapter story?

Monica Garrison 6:25
Sure, we have 103 chapters here in the US. So as you can imagine, pretty much every major city here has a chapter every almost every state has has at least one chapter. The smallest chapters are, you know, a few 100 ladies and our largest chapters have anywhere from 1500 to 2000 members. I will honestly say that I we’ve never gotten 2000 out on a bike at once. But generally our rides are, you know, anywhere from five ladies to maybe 40 to 50 ladies.

Carlton Reid 7:04
Is it a kind of Facebook private group organised is that? Is that how you get in touch with everybody?

Monica Garrison 7:10
Yeah, I think Facebook’s been the easiest way. I mean, we’re 10 years into this journey. So Facebook was a lot more robust 10 years ago, but it’s still the best way to kind of organise people. And yeah, so each each chapter has its own Facebook, private Facebook group. And then so folks who are interested can go to and then they can click on chapters, and then they can find the nearest chapter for them.

Carlton Reid 7:36
You’ve got very, very strong, bold graphics. Is that something that was there from the get go? Or is that something that evolved? Did you have members who are graphic artists? How have you managed to be really bold and distinctive?

Monica Garrison 7:53
That’s a good question. So it was always the intention from the beginning. Or I should say soon after, there’ll be an increase. So the plan really wasn’t to have chapters and have t shirts and jerseys and all this, these things all came organically as people began to ask for them. But, but once we started to design gear, I yeah, I think, you know, I was a business major. So I have a little bit of insight into, you know, what makes for good advertising. I’m also a photographer, so I’m visually built to, you know, built to appreciate things and design. I do most of the design myself, I usually just have an idea, and then I’ll collaborate with artists who can bring it to life. And I just, I There are a couple of reasons, I think, because as a Black woman, I know that, you know, our skin tone, generally looks really nice with bright colours, it’s kind of they complement each other. So I never shied away from bright colours and in, you know, variety in that respect, but also in terms of getting the message out, I think, you know, if someone’s wearing a shirt, and it’s visually appealing, and it catches the attention, then you’re more likely to spread your message and have people ask, what’s this about? You know, I’ve never seen this before. So I do think the the visual part of it is a huge part of our success.

Carlton Reid 9:20
And I kind of guessed why I kind of surmise that you’re a photographer because you’ve got your credit on some of the photographs. And there’s obviously a studio lights going on there. There’s some serious photography going on behind the scenes there. That’s like some pretty impressive stuff.

Monica Garrison 9:36
Thank you. Yeah, I think that’s been one of my favourite parts of this process is I’ve been able to flex my photography and video videography muscles a little bit. And, you know, in terms of like posting on our social media, that’s that’s it’s a nice way for me to be creative and not get too caught up in the day to day things.

Carlton Reid 10:01
So before that 2013 You’ve been going now this is your 11th 11th. Yeah, yeah. So So back, it was 2016 There was an article in bicycling it was by Elly Blue. Elly was the person who had the idea for bikenomics. So that’s me and Elly have spoken a lot over the years. So I know who Elly is. But there’s, there’s a quote in there, which I’d like to quote back to you. I mean, it is 2016. I’m not expecting you to remember this. But I just want you to riff on this really. And that is, so this is a quote and this is from you “know that my journey to riding may be completely different than yours. Know that my experience while riding, and even how I am perceived, while riding will be different to yours.” So Monica, clearly I cannot even start to imagine what it must be like for you as a Black woman on a bicycle because it bicyclists famously kind of like we’re out there sometimes when we’re not the most favourite people have lots and lots of what can I outcasts in many respects, even now. So you kind of take that, and then you take the fact that you’re a woman. And then you add on you’re Black. So you’re, you’re really stacking it against yourself here. So so kind of riff on what you said there about how the perception, your perception of you when you’re riding is going to be so so?

Monica Garrison 11:44
Yeah. Yeah, thanks for kind of breaking that down. It’s, so I do remember the quote, now that you read it, it’s, it comes back to me, I still believe it to be true. So you have a couple of things. So most women who are women of colour even plus size women, which is a category I fit into, we’re not expected to be cyclist, right. No one expects us to pull up on a bike. So you the first thing you overcome is the expectation of from the outside world, like, where did you come from? And what are you doing on the bicycle? And we could also have those internalised things just from our community. When folks say, Well, you know, why, why do you own a bike? Or how’d you get how’d you get into that? So there’s expectation. And you mentioned drivers on the road. That’s a big thing. For me, I prefer not to ride on the road, I try to ride on the trails as much as possible. But that’s just it’s a comfort level thing. And I think it varies from city to city and because all cities aren’t the same, but you know, as a woman cyclist you have, you might have men catcalling you, drawing attention to you physically when you’re on the bike from from a car, as a cyclist of colour. I know some cyclist, I can’t speak for all but some cyclists of colour feel less safe on their bikes. Because you know, the person behind the will, could have ill intentions for you. And, you know, an automobile always wins that contest, right? So if someone does want to do your do you harm or at least intimidate you, you know, you could be in a vulnerable, a more vulnerable position if someone doesn’t appreciate you being on the road as a cyclist, but then also has a problem with the colour of your skin. So I feel like I feel like most cyclists of colour feel that pressure as well.

Carlton Reid 13:46
Sorry, sorry. If you’re in a car and you experience racism, you’re in a car, you’ve got locked windows, you can you can kind of hide. But if you’re on a bicycle, you can’t hide, your skin is out there, you’re really like making sure that people know you’re there and that must be very vulnerable.

Monica Garrison 14:06
It does feel very vulnerable. It’s almost like you feel like a sitting duck, right? So if you put yourself in that position, I imagine you want to feel like you are equipped maybe to escape right? So physically, you may want to make sure that you have the strength, the stamina to get out of a tough situation. But yeah, when it comes down to it, as I said, the automobile is always going to win. So if someone does want to do you harm, not a whole lot you can do and that’s the scary part, as a cyclist and a cyclist of colour.

Carlton Reid 14:46
And then nothing all that I’m going to assume here that that’s one of the reasons why you would want to ride in a bunch of women, Black women together because you are not going to you want to get like there’s a group of you? You’re no longer alone?

Monica Garrison 15:03
Yeah, sure, safety in numbers. If you’re on the road, and they’re, you know, 10, 15 of you, then you’re drawing attention in the way of all the cars are going to see me. Right. So safety, but also there’s strength in numbers. So if something does happen, then you have folks there who are witnesses to report it. Hopefully, the the fact that there are multiple women, or people will deter someone from doing something, you know, negative. But yeah, certainly that I mean, there are many reasons why riding together is great and there are positives, but I think that’s definitely one of them.

Carlton Reid 15:40
At this point, we’ll cut from Monica to a short ad break. Take it away, David.

David Bernstein 15:46
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Carlton Reid 16:46
Thanks, David. And we are back with Monica Garrison of Black Girls Do Bike. So tell me about your Sheroes. Who are they?

Monica Garrison 16:56
Yes, Sheroes are women across the country who have volunteered their time to organise at least one monthly ride. They moderate the Facebook pages that we talked about earlier. And they keep you know, they keep it exciting. They also are plugged in, I’m plugged into the sheroes. So they let me know what folks are asking for or what things we need as an organisation or even get their opinions on, you know, designs, for instance, for cycling gear. But they’re just really enthusiastic women who who our boots on the ground, they’re doing the work that keeps the organisation moving forward. And they are really amazing. They’re like super fans of Black Girls Do Bike for the most part. And I’m very grateful to have them working on our side.

Carlton Reid 17:48
Now, how’s the industry been with you? Because famously, the industry is pretty white, is generally male. It’s kind of tech bro, but for bikes. So how has the industry? How does the industry perceive you? How is the industry maybe funded? You supported you? How have you done with the industry?

Monica Garrison 18:13
Sure. The I think in general, the statement would be that the industry has been very supportive. I was my first like introduction to the cycling community was the National Bike Conference in Washington DC many years ago. And I was really well received there. And then over the years, we’ve managed to have partnerships with probably Trek Bike was our first like manufacturer that would that partner with us for a couple of years. And they you know, they help support our national meet up one year and we all went to trek headquarters and participate in the Trek 100 we’ve been partners with REI, who’s a big outdoor supplier store here in the US. I don’t know if they’re overseas, but they’ve been a really nice strategic partner, not in terms of monetary support, absolutely. But also, you know, behind the scenes, finding out where our pain points are as an organisation and also connecting us with other orgs who are operating in the outdoors for minority groups. And, you know, for other activities like hiking and running and things like that. And then just along the way we we’ve had a number of other just companies who have stepped up from year to year to support us in different ways. But so yeah, overall, I think it’s been amazing. I’ve been in rooms that I never imagined I would be, you know, answering questions and helping with things like plus sizing for women in merchandise. You know, even even with designing bikes, I’ve given input with that. Notoriously women have Black women have issues getting cycling helmets that fit over their natural hairstyles. And I’ve been involved in, you know, some folks who want to change that. So I think overall, it’s been great. I’ve done lots of interviews through the years. And I think our message has, at least within the cycling community, I think our message has gotten out there. I think a lot of people are aware that we exist and know that we need support.

Carlton Reid 20:28
So imagine, you know, go back to 2013, when when this first kicked off, and now, have you seen any systemic changes? So you see, have you seen anything like, oh, wow, that’s so different to 10 years ago? Or is it this is going to be an uphill struggle? How do you how do you think it’s gone up? There’s 10 years? And how much of a difference maybe have you made?

Monica Garrison 20:52
Yeah, I think we’ve made really good strides. I think, when you when you show up to a bike event, now versus 10 years ago, there are a lot more women and people of colour at those events. I think I think obviously, we have a long way to go. But I definitely want to acknowledge the progress that we’ve made. And I hope that Black Girls Do Bike has been central and you know, letting people know of the concerns and issues that face our community, uniquely. But beyond that, I think, the most important thing, if you know, if we’re here, 10 years from now, still doing this work, is kind of the pain point has always been having people of colour in the decision decision making chairs, right, working at companies working in the industry, whether it be racing, whether it be you know, even other types of cycling, BMX, all of all the genres of cycling, I think we don’t have enough people of colour, who are working in those jobs, who can affect change from the inside. And as always, we’d love to see more bike shops that are owned by people of colour, which is a rare thing here in the US.

Carlton Reid 22:09
Monica, it’s gonna be a tough one to answer but but why is that? What Why? Why do you have to do what you do? Why Why isn’t it just normal for a black person to get out of bicycle? What’s what’s, what stopped black people from doing this?

Monica Garrison 22:27
That’s a good one, I think, well, I’ll speak for myself, but then I’ll go a little bit more broadly into it. So when I was a young person, I didn’t, there were no women in my family who rode bikes, I’ve never seen other than in my adult life, as a young person never saw my mom, you know, just casually get on a bike and ride it. So there’s that there is just not a norm in our community. Beyond that, I think you won’t really ride regularly, unless you have a bike that you enjoy riding that’s comfortable. And to get to that point, you have to spend some money, right to get a bicycle that is, you know, essentially fit to your body and, and is comfortable to ride. And so it could be just a matter of making the investment, there are a lot of sports that black people aren’t in because the barrier to entry be economic. And so here in the US, that’s, you know, the, there are a lot of black people below the poverty poverty line, who will never be able to enter some of these sports. And, and I think some people are just intimidated to walk into a room where they’re the only person that looks like them. Not everyone but but I think that is that can be a characteristic of people of colour, Black people. So you know, if you you may not want to show up to a ride, when you aren’t going to know anybody you anticipate it’s going to be all white guys who you may or may not have anything in common with, you don’t know how competitive the rides gonna be. So there are a lot of unknowns. And I think that alone is enough to keep you from trying something new. So that’s kind of where we come in, right? We we are pushing cycling as an activity that everyone can enjoy. But we’re also giving you a safe space, for lack of a better word, to to enter into it and to try it and see if you like it. You may try it and not like it never come back. But for some people, they show up they ride and they find that it’s you know, enjoyable and they and they continue to come and they discover something new. So we try to get that image intimidation factor out of the equation.

Carlton Reid 24:47
trying I’m trying to think if I have know the answer here, but in the Netherlands, where it’s a societal norm to ride a bike, Black people ride bikes. Asian people ride bikes, you know, Muslim women in their hijab ride bikes. It’s because it’s a cultural norm to ride a bike, because you were saying there before about, you know, you didn’t see your mom ride a bike. Well, in the Netherlands, all people will see their mom, their Auntie’s, their grandmother, the bank managers, everyone on bicycles. So there’s no real huge split in, in like a colour thing at all. It’s just it’s a cultural thing. And so, on the one hand, I’m asking you a question about being Black on a bicycle. But that question could be just as easily have asked of white people, generally, white people generally in the cultures, you know, in Britain, and in America and not in the Netherlands, but where we were out, it’s not a cultural norm to be on a bicycle. So that’s why people are on bicycles. And there is the colour aspect to it, of course, but it’s just generally, people aren’t on bikes. At the end of the day, and we are Monica, we are kind of weird.

Monica Garrison 26:03
No, you’re right, you’re right. It’s, it’s not a cultural norm to ride a bicycle in the United States, maybe with the exception of a few cities. I think, and I’ve heard this argument made, and I, for now, I agree with it until I hear a better one, which is, and I don’t know if this is true in the UK, as well. But here the infrastructure here is built around cars, right? So it’s car centric. So there is really a safety concern with being on a bicycle and on a lot of major roads in the US. And secondly, we value as a culture, individualism and we lead tie status to our car. So it’s the bicycle is secondary. The funny part is there was a time when bicycles were the main form of transportation here, right, and, and roadways were actually built a many of our fundamental roadways were built so that cyclists could get around and then at some point that that shifted, but I honestly don’t think we’ll ever move away from that maybe in 100 years, when, you know, cars are self driving, and it’s a lot more safe. And, you know, folks, their, their definition of success has changed. But for now, with a car centric society, I think cycling will always be a second class citizen,

Carlton Reid 27:29
just to end really, and that there’s a quote, another quote, I’m going to pick up from the Elly Blue article again, this is this is Monica by you. And I’d like you to riff on this a bit if you if you can. So, you said the cycling spectrum is a beautiful one. So what do you mean by the cycling spectrum?

Monica Garrison 27:46
I mean, the spectrum of personalities, and literally the types of people who ride bikes, I find as a as a general bunch, cyclists are extremely kind, gentle people. And, you know, anyone who appreciates the, you know, the value of getting on a bike and in finding that relaxing, I’m willing to be a friend to that person. But yeah, and even just a cycling in general, there are many types of cycling. So you can kind of there’s a phrase here you get in where you fit in. So once you decide that you like riding a bike, there’s so many things open to you in terms of the kind of cycling that you do, whether it’s long distance like cross country rides or cyclocross, gravel, BMX. You know, there’s so many things that you can get into.

Carlton Reid 28:40
Monica, it’s been an absolute pleasure to talk to you. Can you please tell people where they can? I’m definitely going to plug the fact that you’re looking for London people, but just where can people get more information? About Black Girls Do Bike, I’m kind of giving it away back is going to be a bit anyway, just give us the URL?

Monica Garrison 29:02
Sure. is the best way to find us. And from there you can link to as it’s pretty easy to navigate so you can link to our shops, check out our gear, you can link to our chapter page and see all the cities that we’re in.

Carlton Reid 29:18
Thanks for listening to Episode 346 of the spokesmen podcast brought to you in association with Tern Bicycles. Shownotes and more can be found at The next episode will be a fireside chat on the Isle of Man with Richard Fletcher. That’s out at the weekend. But meanwhile, get out there and ride …

January 28, 2024 / / Blog

14th September 2023

The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast

EPISODE 339: Balance bikes, Bikeability and the Saint Piran team at the Tour of Britain

SPONSOR: Tern Bicycles

HOST: Carlton Reid

GUEST: Ricci Pascoe

TOPICS: From mail order innovator to net zero hero: farmer’s son Ricci Pascoe founded Bike Chain of Cornwall in 1985 and created the UCI Continental team Saint Piran in 2016. It’s been quite the journey.


Carlton Reid 0:13
Welcome to Episode 339 of the Spokesmen cycling podcast. This show is engineered on Thursday 14th of September 2023.

David Bernstein 0:28
The Spokesmen cycling roundtable podcast is brought to you by Tern Bicycles. The good people at Tern are committed to building bikes that are useful enough to ride every day and dependable enough to carry the people you love. In other words, they make the kind of bikes that they want to ride. Tern has e bikes for every type of rider. Whether you’re commuting, taking your kids to school or even carrying another adult, visit That’s t e r n to learn more.

Carlton Reid 1:04
On today’s show, I talk with bike industry veteran Ricci Pascoe. We talked about the St Piran racing team he founded and which had such an amazing Tour of Britain last week with a young rider I’ve known since he was a very young rider, finishing high on general classification, just a few places behind famous World Tour professionals. We also talked about mental health, aiming for net zero and getting more people on bikes. I recorded Ricci remotely; he was talking from his bike shop’s cafe

Ricci Pascoe 1:44
Over the years, a bit of a fan. I liked what you produced like this mega I’ve been involved in the industry for 35 years I mean you’ll you’ll remember me probably is Ricci limited mail order maybe back in the day you know that type of thing.

Carlton Reid 2:00
I was actually going to start there because yes, I absolutely remember that because you were doing mail order long before you know in ads in the comic and Cycling weekly and long before there was internet ordering.

Ricci Pascoe 2:16
Oh, mate there was there was five of us that probably carved up the UK market Jack Parker, Ribblethey started Who else was there Oh Mel Bentley you know that type of thing.

Carlton Reid 2:27
So why so that was that was via that was via Ricci limited or was that via Bike Chain was that

Ricci Pascoe 2:32
Ricci Limited was always the mailorder side and then obviously we morphed or people couldn’t remember. Bike Chain was kind of the local name that are you horrible is just people could use yeah maybe understand bytecode well, but in fact up to the will not come a franchise in the UK I don’t know here writing Do you remember called Townsend limited? Oh yeah. Yeah, what was all its concept that there was a director there Steve Walsh been riding the CPU years we’ve been set up I remember it very well actually was in the 80s So I said look, if you’re going to multistore site in the 80s got it by chain if you do the data for the year in terms of the layout one thing that other members were doing several million turnover back then. And you could have bought 12 properties in the UK for example, Hardisty’s or you could go to 12 places bought the 6 million pound you could have had your turnover back within well within the year you could have your turnover back and then if you were the importer you read the 30% the retailer was making under 30% Within two years you’d about an asset they based on file stock to franchise so the reason why the two byte games we morphed the name for Ricci limited into bunkie who’s been a little bit innovative I suppose cropped it away and when the internet came along I yeah I didn’t really get I had no interesting notes I didn’t really impressed that we had quite a bit of volume and you know what what you got up Marwat you know what wiggle did or chain reaction or these they you know, they develop the computer programme to sell product or industry is very collaborative.

Carlton Reid 4:18
So you had the bike shop first before the mail order.

Ricci Pascoe 4:21
The mail order first, believe it or not, is from my parents, my parents farm so, you know, I was a racing cyclist, you know, an average elite racing so I raced there I went to live in France and never really saw the front of the bike race. So I’ve travelled and a lot of gutters and you know became because you know, we were we were actually making cycled clothing in in Red Rooster, any i 25 Girls do what the cool CMT were cut making trim. So we had our own clothing. And I was exporting that to France and then importing look pedals and then we became the importer plateau and back to clean and chizine And, you know, so we did a lot of that. And we moved from a parent’s farm down to the retail store, which is still there in red roof. Go back, Jane Reki, or we call it more service course now it’s more forgiving thinker and Service Course, as an identity. Yeah, and that’s the history of it, right? It’s just,

Carlton Reid 5:21
and then you also took a second unit in Bissoe.

Ricci Pascoe 5:25
Yeah, so sort of four or five kilometres away, we’ve got, again, I’ve either been inspirational or mad, I bought a place on an honour on a mineral tramway between the coast to coast, and I paid a lot of money for our border and my art rather than my head. It’s sort of 12 acre site. And, yeah, it was sort of cafe and higher. And just recently, in the last two or three years, we’ve really expanded the site, you know, we put a proper kitchen on with commercial pitch in with on Dean, he’s an ex macro finalist, and J and another shaft with a great food offering and hospitality, and it’s the headquarters. So we now call it some parent cafe. So again, you know, it’s another venue to visit, and, you know, exemplifies the values that you now see with the, with the team,

Carlton Reid 6:21
so the team was founded 2016, is that right?

Ricci Pascoe 6:24
Right. 2016. So, my passion has always been cycling, you know, a bit like yourself, and you know, how you know, how to get people, you know, similarly with cycling or out on bikes, and so on, and so forth. And, you know, mistakes over 30 years, in terms of how not to run things, or not outdo things. So, you know, the thing that’s really the embodiment of, you know, if I had enough money, I was mad enough to hopefully do something that’s really, really good, but not a broken model, you know, I wasn’t making sustainable, so no advertising. You know, we’re just giving young people opportunity of activities and deliver a press release. We just didn’t break bikes, right there and got them travelling away, and during the race in and you’re learning the craft, so that was the pattern around it. But it’s morphed into something, you know, a lot more fun, you know, a lot more students. So it was all about giving opportunity, young people, the anatomist at the beginning, and trying to get people on board with that message is, is kind of tough, or was tough. You know, and it’s taken seven years to get the point where now I will say people were an always on Corporation, we’ve been seen by 180 million people in two years. And, uh, now there’s been a sea of change for me in a much what I’d like to do is, is use it, you know, for good, and I’m poacher turned gamekeeper. I’m 58. And I’ve got a three year old. And I guess before, before Lowen was born, I probably didn’t really think about the planet or our future. And the minute he was born, I’m like, Oh, my God, what are we doing? You know, we, you know, this is worried I want to future from Assam. You know, I want to make this nice entity, an example of best practice, you know, wisdom, let’s, let’s amplify the voice let’s, let’s use it for something really good, you know, stick to our true family value. And so, you know, very, really now is about, you know, that opportunity is about telling people about great that we do and making people aware of, you know, our sustainability campaigns, making people aware of, you know, how we’ve on boarded a mental health partner in a deal, they get 24/7 All my staff writers get X 24 hour there. Haven’t had a breakdown personally 16 years ago when every thought had a successful life. But you know, I didn’t build on success. I felt that I failed at things through throughout my life, that people say, Oh, you got a successful business, but you know, I didn’t feel like I’m taking one at that or I didn’t feel well at relationships. I didn’t do well. I’ve done very well at sport. So whilst I felt my life was paralysed by failure, you know, it all came to a head with a with a a breakdown and I got some really great family care and psychiatric care went through a nine month period of really great care and caregiver side and it was, you know, it was with that desire to do something, you know, baby then cycling. Again, a bit like yourself, you. You said, look, the industry is great, but we’ve got to sort of help you know, what is the point of cycling, you know, what is good about cycling out and we’ll enjoy your benefit. diplomat. So we’re not trying to put our viewpoint across in a in a in a political way. We’re just saying that about people in many ways unlock themselves, you know, whether it be helpful ladder or Plaza, you know, of course, is the inspiration around the sport, you know, and if we’ve got an ability to talk about excellence, and our care programme and whatever progress before, let’s do it, but you know, we are we are from a grassroot. Now, do you know, many people in the world that’s, you know, elite programme, trying to showcase what can be done in and around a bicycle. So that’s kind of the background to

Carlton Reid 10:42
you contacted me before the Tour of Britain. And you asked if I’m following a turbine, and this year, I wasn’t because I didn’t actually come close enough to Newcastle. Normally, when it’s north north, I will go and follow it. But this year, it wasn’t. But then you had, obviously a stellar Tour of Britain, with Zeb who’s from from Newcastle, and is a my best my son’s best friend. In fact, Zen Oh, that’s how I was probably zaps. First, what are these first coaches? Because my son, when he was very young, and Zeb was very, very young, they would come to the go ride the British Cycling go ride club, I helped found a new castle. So that’s how I know that that’s when I said I’ll say hi to said that, that time knows that. But then obviously, you had a fantastic Tour of Britain, you then therefore also had a fantastic tour and just just tell us, tell us from your point of view, what the Tour of Britain was like for you? Because it was it was almost I mean, you had it. I know you had a good tour Britain last year, as well. But I think this is probably surpass that. So so just tell us how you found this year to a Britain?

Ricci Pascoe 11:54
It’s a great question. But if I’m out even one step further back, like, you know, I always talked about now, you know, what does success look like? What, you know, what is success for you? What is it? And anyway, we’ll come on to the magnificent achievements of the the team and the riders and everything in a minute. But success for me now is have we created a happy environment? Is there a smile on people’s faces? If and when anybody or the leisure organisations, whether they continue in the sport, or even if they say, look a family level through finer levels? Right, how we will find our level, you know, when we find our level, you know, is the person happy? Can we retain them in the sport? You know, can we, you know, if we’re on an upward trajectory, and we say, Look, you know, okay, the levels gone up, but would you like to be still part of the parent, and we’ve got development teams pulled out by those three, or we’ve got a frequent cycling club, to deliver the sport, as a potential living or pro rider, we want to retain you through deliberate, free to join on the website, the service course, some parents parents post, and join for free. For me, success is about happiness. It’s about the process that we do, and do it in the right way. And never forget where you come from, it becomes increasingly harder, because with the same measure of success, and we are inundated with with people don’t how did you do it? How can you do this? What you’ve done on your children 53 in 1000 budget when you know, any song 50 million? Yeah, how can you riders, you know, in the top six in a grant, I mean, I had to look back in the in the records cloud to find out, you know, has it been done before on a when Bill did it in 2011? We got a third of the been a couple other writers have been but in recent times, No, it hasn’t been done. It’s, it’s almost impossible to do. So then you got to say, What have you done it? And, and interviews and we’ll look at any of these interviews, the interviews that he gave, you know, they would make the cry foul, because he actually doesn’t talk about himself the first day. He says, you know, I’m in a family I’ve been given the freedom to do you know, I’m listening to value, and I just seem to get into so much more out of myself. And, you know, you Ryan, everybody making that effort to put that little individual component into it. So you make the one there, you know, without that, go right back then. So you gotta remember that always go backwards without that go right section. So you have a component within that attacks. And so what I was talking about is, let’s hear the stories from everybody’s just comparing is not up As a returning officer, Tim Martin, you know, but let’s say, I’m using Express at the moment together, we are strong. And I firmly believe that you know, whether it be teams, race organisers governing body, the media, we all have a role to play in cycling these days, you know, and if we can amplify that, and then take it into community or environment, or, or education or transport or whatever, then then we’re all winning, we are definitely all winning. So it’s very good of you to say, what does that success feel like? Perhaps add all the caveats that we’ve just talked about? Because the success is really? Look, we don’t own the sport. You know, we’re just sold internet. And if you remember, your custodian of something called it does change the viewpoint. And I know, with your, your writings and your rap that it doesn’t seem like, you know, what’s the path across intermittently over the years? It’s the reach out now. And for a lot of genuine people is heartfelt. And so that to set the test, you use the word is stellar. What we have to let go, Okay, here we are now, how do you start to get into stellar? I mean, you know, ultimately, I think the French have a really strange expression and magic that I mean, like, you know, would you prefer to be, you know, a Northern Star that burns bright forevermore? Or would you prefer to be a shooting star, which everybody stays personal, we want to be the former rather than the latter. So success looks like giving everybody their moment, in particular event horizon. So, you know, and that’s certainly the event horizon. And the, the monumental change for me is that young man now believes himself. And we, as a family just learned, given that belief. So what we’ve done first and foremost is say, let’s give you the right race broker, and let’s give you the ingredients, let’s, let’s put a relaxed situation, it lets you know, Coach, you know, Coach, or look at your coach and bring on best practice, you know, let’s do the best with the resource that we’ve got, you know, let’s not over promise and under deliver. So, you know, if we stay, we can do something, do it. And I think people like the fact that you’ve got honesty and integrity in what you can do. So if we’re going to erase overseas, you know, we got to come back from Belgium at 10 o’clock in an evening. You know, everyone says, Can you fly us back like other other things? No, no, you got to jump in the car. And I’m sorry, it’s a six hour trip back. Yeah, that’s the level that you know, we never promised. I mean, we can’t deliver because

Carlton Reid 17:52
that that is today isn’t your team is basically racing in Belgium, as we speak.

Ricci Pascoe 17:57
Oh, we’re riding. You’re lucky to drag me away actually. Hope? Yeah, we’re the GP, the dual arm or is, you know, again, yeah, we’re getting invites these races because I think people are saying, well, how are you doing this? You know, how are you doing it? You know, we’re touring Norway. Yeah. Wonderful. You know, we turn off we’re going to silver Swanee van, we got a white car, a black car, you know, the white back. So we look like the poor cargo performances are far from it. You know, so,

Carlton Reid 18:29
I mean, let’s go back to your your business hat as well, not just your your your team ownership and creation hat. Yes. does it benefit your business? Having a team it does actually wash its face? Does it does it? does it benefit you commercially

Ricci Pascoe 18:45
that the team does. But of course, it doesn’t benefit the business. If you’re spending 60 hours a week on on something else, you know, it’s very hard to, you know, generate independently overcoming life is if I spent the same energy in my business, I would be wealthy. But by doing a team that’s got something different, my life is very rich. My life is rich, because you can eat steak once a night, why two states, three states for steaks. So by actually giving opportunity by actually doing something that you know, you know, if you do something the right way, and like legacy is a really important thing as well. So, and it’s not like a seek because Oh, yeah, I’ve got lots of money. I want to feel better about leaving something because, you know, so initially, the business is not the most of it. But what we’ve done, we were doing something really unusual in and around some parent as well. So we’re going online presence as a the service course. So anybody who’s involved with the team, you know that they get a commercial return on the backend for a website for selling products or services. So that’s, you know, so we’re looking at For our own ecosystem, but then we’re also trying to help other teams or organisations as well through through what we do. You know, so, for example, with a very healthy relationship, so for example, with by race or work, we’re doing clothing for other organisations. So we’re feeding back the ecosystem or the economics of the people involved with that. Traditionally, you know, appropriation was either funded, because either somebody wanted to put some money in sold some advertising space, or the lesser level, it was oh, especially if if shops were involved, it was oh, if you buy more product, we’ll give you some free, therefore, you can run the team with that. But that’s the sales discount, right? So that that’s not particularly very healthy. If it’s done that way, but what we try and do is say, we’ll have a commercial relationship, we’ll try and get the ingredients together will try and bake a cake. And if you’ve built into taking care from it, then it’s growing in business terms. So every, every partner we got, we are growing their business in the UK, and because we’re now successful on the road, we’ve got eyes on, it’s great, we’ve got the content, and we can, you know, and we’ll we’ll work with products that we think, work for us. So, you know, we’re not taking secondary or tertiary bike manufacturers, and riding them, you know, a team at our level could get a fantastic deal with a, with a really great perhaps value for money brand, that isn’t really highly rated in terms of performance, but we won’t do that we will, you know, we will work with people that try and give us the best tools, therefore, we’re very happy in in recommending those tools. But it’s not conditioned on us purchasing or selling or whatever. So I know it’s a mixed answer. So initially, the business has not benefited. But of course, now, some parents become such a big thing we know, we’ve changed the name of the cafe to some parent cafe, you know, methodical bike chain, Rocky, but it’s, it’s more in, it’s moving more and more towards simpler and service course. Because, you know, one has got a regional footprint, and yet some parent is now going to national or international footprint. So the shift has gone from not paying, there’s a business model to becoming very successful as a business model. So hopefully, I’m answering your question. You know,

Carlton Reid 22:33
when you first started, you almost think but that’s detrimental to your business, because you’re taking so much time away from Correct, yeah, you know, brought up since 1980s. And you’re, you’re putting so much time and effort into this pot. But I guess you could also say grows cycling in general, in your part of the world. And that even though you might not be able to get an exact, you know, grip on whether that’s physically that money in the tail is coming from your team. But just if you’ve got more people cycling in general, that has got to raise, you know, all ships, isn’t it?

Ricci Pascoe 23:08
Well, you know, that’s a really great point. And sometimes you have really great relationship with the UK bike industry, it’s really strange, isn’t it where, you know, you may be an independent dealer, and this is Five in in the county. And if one dealer builds up a really strong cycling club, there’s a little bit of like, oh, that’s their cycling club. But actually, if more people are cycling friends or family cycle, you know, ultimately, you know, cycling game, you know, it’s not a brand fun bike. Such, you know, you’re right, I think the more people that the cycle that enjoy it, you know, I mean, what we need next is a, we need a political shift in this country. And that will only come about when you’ve got to back up 3 million people, you know, subscribe into one cycle entity, whether we can get British Cycling, cycling UK is just brand, you know, your site website, that’s it a bit different, different branches or sectors within it. But once you’ve got a million names, you’ve got political and economic power, you know, the organization’s become the National Trust doesn’t struggle getting some of its time campaigns or membership for grant applications truth, it’s got nearly 2 million members. It’s funny that, you know, so, you know, if anything, again, you know, we’re all in this together. It’s about I mean, I’d like to see a cohort of 20, 50 journalists together, you know, and saying, What is our tone of voice? What is our method? You know, we don’t see that, you know, whereas that, you know, something that we’re trying to maybe instigate another way and say, look, hey, guys, you know, I’m not expressing that we’re not capitalist. instal your own brand. If you’re moaning at your own industry, what we should be doing is don’t hang on a minute. We’re diverse challenges, but what a great, great thing we’ve got, you know, it’s a tool to start to people about, you know, you know, exercise and implementation. I know, I’m not saying, I’m an advocate, then everybody’s got a cycle. You know, no, it’s there if you want it, you know, the barriers to entry should be free, whether it’s in sport, hence us setting up our own site with comfort free delivery. Or we can cure our transport problems problem in this country very simply, with a tin of red paint.

Carlton Reid 25:26
Cycling’s famously, obviously, sustainable. Cycle racing, famously isn’t, you know, you think of the Tour de France, you think the Tour de France caravan, you know, and how many, you know, most of vehicles are actually going along the road, following the or in front of and following, you know, the men and the women on their on their bikes, racing. So what you’re trying to do with cars, you’re you’re if you go on to the same person, website, you’ve got a very in depth sustainability section. You know, it’s not just one section, there’s like, a six interlinked section. So you’re really going strong on the sustainability angle, and you said it was because of your son Lowen. Who’s now three. So So tell us about that sustainability angle. And you said why you said Lowen was the the impetus for that. But what exactly you’re doing because you launched it last year? Yeah. That like the kind of the the attempt to go Net Zero? Yeah.

Ricci Pascoe 26:27
Yeah. So listen, this is I’m very sort of strong on all of this. There’s there’s several components. And whilst I have was have limited knowledge, I’m trying to pull together more knowledge to give an example of best practice, I think we should be talking about Net Zero. How we see that these, we’ve got to do the first step. And with the last first step, I think, mostly talking about the circular economy. I think that’s the brought into as well. I think we should also be saying, yes, whilst the Tour de France, for example, with his vehicles, he’s driving his vehicles out, can it be? Not, there was the thought what you can do is say, Look, we can use an event to showcase what we’re talking about. And by the way, we’ll take the step on vehicles, let’s move from, you know, from diesel, to hybrid to to whatever, and that needs a step change in terms of infrastructure, as you well know. So it’s all about, you know, infrastructure, think vehicles sometimes can be used as a as a clickbait point, because, you know, the circular economy would say, well, actually, shall we repair a 20 year old Landrover defender, for example, it’s already been made, you know, there’s no more cost to the to the ecosystem, and less people on the road is a very strong argument that producing you know, a brand new electric lithium factoring car, then I think we included a little bit of digging yourself for all of us can learn a little bit about part of the the the inputs required, or the cost to us as a society, the sustainability kind of offers, I think those are sort of questions, that raises a few challenges. And our main points that moment for us. In all of this pesky cafe, life’s getting busy. You know, the main point in this is that we must ask the questions goal, whether we like the answers or not. So the first process was, for us a small steps in terms of look, we will look at every aspect of our organisation. So with the extra University, what a carbon footprint looks like recycling, you know, and it was quite horrifying, really about where our responsibilities lie. But, you know, we wanted to put our ourselves in the firing line. So you know, what are we doing? What are the mistakes we make? What belief does? So the first thing was research. So our first phase is research. And course we’re doing positive changes to McAfee even reusable cups and, you know, the black pill or rubbish or recycling and, you know, we’re trying to do lots of things, that educational programmes with our writers and our staff, around usage of the team and everything from collecting rubbish at races and bringing it home, and so on and so forth. So the first thing is we’re looking at, we’re looking hard at what we do, and bring it into initiative to the point and again, we paid for it took round a sustainability officer Orion for Brian Tracy followed us on a team. We’ve paid 2000 pounds for that budget. I’ve been ill afford for to look at every practice that we’re doing whilst on tour. Now,

Carlton Reid 29:44
when you haven’t gotten the report yet, that comes a while. Yeah,

Ricci Pascoe 29:49
but we don’t want it really didn’t we can’t, we don’t want it. You’re the first journalist to dig into this. And we don’t want the report because obviously, it’s gonna say hey, you’re using too many towels or you know what Lesson. But that’s the key, we need to know where we’re going wrong. So we’re the first team, that’s going to highlight some very difficult to answer questions. But unless we ask a question out, we’re gonna get floofy

Carlton Reid 30:14
daft question. I know, but do you then get ever going to get teams on steel bikes just because carbon? You know, carbon composites are an incredibly non sustainable form of, of manufacturing a bicycle. So how can you cut? How can you can you recycle carbon? What what are you doing in that kind of area? Yeah,

Ricci Pascoe 30:34
so we’re looking at about two big areas, or three big areas we’re looking at. So we’re doing a lot of the obvious stuff. So we’re bringing the tires back, you know, we’ll turn them into belts, or whatever. So we got a little we got a, we got an industry around, you know, cassettes that have been turned into clock faces. And you know, so we’re actually, you know, and yeah, you’re not gonna get rich on it. But we’re already reusing everything around that sort of space. And we are started looking at cars, then what we’re doing as a team, every item of clothing that we get this year, and it’s given back at the year end. And it’s December, can we wash it? Can it go further into our ecosystem, young riders will develop carbon, we’ve got a whole Project Grant Cardone, we’ve got all our carbon back. And yes, you can recycle carbon. Okay. So we want it all back. We want to know, what are best practices around it. So again, another question that we’re asking ourselves. And the reports we’re doing are very, very scientific. So again, you know, the unit cost us a question primarily Exeter University are leading on this front. And that’s why we’ve invited them around on the Tour of Britain, you know, and it was, it was painful because you know, we were collecting rubbish that we would normally put in a bin so that you can analyse, you know, what are we throwing away? You can imagine a mechanical 14 hour day and we’re sitting there, you got to collect the rubbish, while we’re titled space in the van. Yeah, we want it bagged up. She’s gonna go through your rabbit. And we’re like, you know, it’s it’s mind blowing what we’ve done in order to challenge ourselves to talk about these issues. All right. and

Carlton Reid 32:10
Britain have already got a having to Britain already got like a gel packet recycling programme, they kind of collect every gel wrapper and stuff.

Ricci Pascoe 32:20
Yeah, that’s absolutely bang on that we like it. I mean, to the point that we’ve gone into business, some parent have set up a business with a with a bottle manufacturer. So the three way partnership though, whereby it’s a bottle, it’s available on our website, got a plug for an advert whereby gels go inside the bottle. So currently, Brian is pleasing. So you put your gel inside the bottle, and then liquid around it. Now at the moment, it’s very much leisure use, because the UCI have certain criteria around bottle design. So we have to get injection moulded bottles made in a particular design way. We don’t get gels inside bottles, that means you don’t undo a wrapper, while racing, there’s no risk of you then swelling that little bit of the top of the gel pack down your throat, you know, it’s like you bite it. You know, and I have no, you know, erotics back in the throat. shouldn’t say that. But you know, it’s been done. Obviously, in a race situation, you know, you know, the rule is not thrown away, but if there’s a jam session on and you drop it, no, so you probably think right and we think we’ve got a solution with our squeezy bottle. Again, to drive games, we want to take this back to the UCI to adopt them as a phrase marketer Payton around bottle usage. So we suddenly care. One of the problems in the peloton, is we’re trying to build some commercial reality around this space. As well as just trying to provide solutions that are politically great. We want to come up with solutions that are an economic driver to them that provide further employment, you know, and conversations around economics and sustainability.

Carlton Reid 34:02
We’ll leave there for a second and go across to my colleague David in America.

David Bernstein 34:08
This podcast is brought to you by Tern bicycles. The good people that Tern understand that while a large cargo bike can carry oodles of stuff, many of us prefer something a little more manageable. That’s why they’ve come up with the HSD e cargo bike for folks with big aspirations to go car free, delivered in a compact size, with its rear shock, 280 kilos and a combined hauling capacity of 180 kilos. The robust new HSD is stable and easy to manoeuvre, even when under load. And with its Bosch eBIKE SYSTEM tested and certified to meet the highest UL standards for electric and fire safety you will be able to share many worryfree adventures with a loved one, whether it’s your kiddo or nan. Visit www.ternbicycles. That’s te r n to learn more.

Carlton Reid 35:08
Thanks, David. And let’s get back to me asking Ricci a question about net zero. So when when do you think you might be able to get to net zero as a team?

Ricci Pascoe 35:20
You know, will we ever get to that, you know, it frightens me the questions we bring up, but and I think we need to be doing a lot of offsetting as well, then if, if we’re never gonna get there with the car. So you know, if it moves, you know, okay, we still got an electric car, you know, and the customers use that is x, y, or Zed, and over the life of the car, we’re never going to reduce that we need to be in a lot more as an organisation, then to start thinking, Okay, we need to offset that, you know, do we send our riders into schools and kids, you know, in that coaching process there donate riding the bike, and they got, they got to do more exercise a lot of burden on the end of the jack. So then it’s not, you don’t have to manufacture more machines, or drugged or whatever, keep that property together, I think we’ve got to look at the wider issues here, as well as the individuals, but let’s look at the wider impact that the bike can actually do. If you start saying, here’s an offset, I mean, you you will know this better than I do. I think if if someone takes a car, for example, which is a cycle event, you know, there’s X amount of expenditure, both financially and physically done. But if you ride to somewhere, you know, exponentially, there’s a benefit to the economy. There’s providers within reach or an easy transport system, there’s not too far away. So think, you know, switching between various forms of transport is important. But, you know, I mean, it’s been an expert in the university, and I will put this over the podcast over wherever you bought it, if we can just cut our speed, from say, 75 mile an hour, 60 mile an hour, we would reach our our carbon targets set by government. So I think if we suddenly go, Well, hang on a minute one fails, one measure suddenly achieves them, suddenly, he’s what we’re looking for. Done. I think that should be our focus, along with the drive the net zero. I don’t know what you feel about that. But I think it’s a combination for age. I mean, I’d like to think by a certain timescale, we’ll have got much of our major items, question tackled or actions,

Carlton Reid 37:31
what are your goals for the team away from net zero, your professional goals for the st. paren? Team, say the next five years?

Ricci Pascoe 37:41
So we’re back to the drawing board? Again, after the success this week is a stellar success, that Zeb sic plays on PC? Um, you know, absolutely amazing. You know, that all means if you work on a process or a writer development, we can achieve that. So, back to the drawing board, what’s next five years look like if I had a plan for a business that they want to be in the Tour de France for five years, we could probably put one in there. So my personal thought process, we try and stay on a conti licence. But we ride pro con, or what? Pro Series races. So like for Britain for a Norway? Well, we are racing against World War Two. So we have three or four races like that. And the cool point one pros are again, we’re racing against World Tour teams in in one day events A bit like the PP, that will only today, then we can expose our riders to the highest level racing without them racing seven times a year because I think if you do that you’re being disingenuous to your riders, you’re caught up in the world of pro cycling, which puts riders on a treadmill. Because after going to races, the organisers plan a bit of a start money and it’s part of the series, you know, I want to pick and choose if we can, that keeps our riders at the centre of our vision, gonna be hard to do, very hard to do, you know, for rider centric, but that’s the key component for me, the second peak, but the second one is about how we keep amplifying our message around our family values we already do never forget where you’ve come from, make sure that the most you know, temperate with really great physical and mental well being and, hopefully use what we’ve got as a window or a palette talk about if we’re not sustainable as a team or a planet you know, the both go hand in hand there won’t be any bike racing. So you know, and we love it when we we love it when bike racing is going well don’t we because when it’s going well and we can see all the effort people making and you know, it’s just so pleasing isn’t it? You know, you know romantically imagine, you know, we represent Team TV in France in five years is love and riding a bike A good question, no one’s going to join. So he’s very tall. Most people think he’s fine. Obviously, it’s his height for me. He’s running a balanced bike, you know, I’m very conscious not to be a pushy parent, you know, I’ve seen so much in cycling. You know, if I’ve run clubs, academys, pro teams, I’ve just seen it. It’s not healthy. Yeah, it’s not healthy, really, to be pushy.

Carlton Reid 40:28
But but, you know, a balance bike is just a natural thing for a kid to get on. And just, I mean, I’ve, I have coached kids on balance bikes in primary schools and stuff, it’s just they love it. It’s not You’re not being a pushy parent, it’s just like, kids naturally want to use their Yeah,

Ricci Pascoe 40:43
I suppose. I agree, I suppose the thing is, they all do this next to that next, and all of a sudden, look, I love it, what’s the first independent thing that we sell for you or a child does put you in might swim, but get on a bike is that, you know, that smile, is so bankable, isn’t it, that’s smile that comes about independence. You know, in fact, we’re, we’re partnering up with bikeability, in the next few months, and we want to show the great work that they do, we want to throw hate to what’s great about cycling and trying to take the whole storyline from, you know, being two, three years of age, through, you know, through their sort of bike printing school, you know, and bikeability adult, the adult training as well, I’m cycling, so we want to try and bring together, you know, that elite four element, you know, take it all back through, you know, through through performance cycling, through legislating, back back through to you know, that the, the ability to ride a bike, you know, and, you know, we want to bring that back that story to everybody else, we’re gonna lend our voice to, you know, they’ve got sort of like, we’ve grown up in schools to focus the week coming up at the end of September, and we’re going to showcase in that we want to start showcasing some really good things that are not necessarily centred around ourselves. But we believe the, you know, a really good thing.

Carlton Reid 42:08
You’re really covering the whole gamut of cycling there, aren’t you? You know, you’re not, you know, you’re I’m talking to you here, you know, came, started talking about a team, you know, a payment dinner team with a payment structure where your development team, a women’s team, a men’s, you know, usually continental team, but you’re also talking about kids in schools. So you’re, you’re doing the whole thing to, to basically create new new people on bikes.

Ricci Pascoe 42:34
Yeah. So we set up a CIC Community Interest Company, and if you pop on our website, I mean, it’s, it’s under community engagement. So, you know, we we got a we got a grant from the Heritage minister, we bought her a rundown property and in a town centre, and on bank building, you know, put some imagination around, you’ll be combination at top and maybe tapping it underneath and have access to some bikes, wanting to know that your bikes or whatever, so, you know, with the whole with the whole Rubik’s Cube, you know, any subject you would like to talk to me about, and you know, an awful lot about this industry, you know, we can talk to you about we’re looking at social prescribing, which we do we’re looking at doing that to the CSD. You know, we’re looking at working with, you know, government agencies to amplify and inspire and within, you know, and yet we’re great believers in in, in campaign it’s not complaining that things are showcasing what for the greater in and around.

Carlton Reid 43:32
Thanks, to Ricci Pascoe there and thanks to you for listening to Episode 339 of the Spokesmen podcast brought to you in association with Tern Bicycles. Show Notes and more can be found at The next episode will be out next month but meanwhile, get out there and ride …

January 27, 2024 / / Blog

27th January 2024

The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast

EPISODE 345: 24 hour racing with Josh Reid on Scotland’s Strathpuffer

SPONSOR: Tern Bicycles

HOST: Carlton Reid

GUESTS: Josh Reid, Alfie Marsh

TOPICS: Hiring a Range Rover from Turo to schlepp up to Strathpeffer in the Scottish Highlands for Giant Bicycles ambassador Josh Reid to ride the Strathpuffer 24 MTB race.


Carlton Reid 0:13
Welcome to Episode 345 of the Spokesmen cycling podcast. This show was engineered on Saturday 27th of January 2024.

David Bernstein 0:29
The Spokesmen cycling roundtable podcast is brought to you by Tern bicycles. The good people at Tern are committed to building bikes that are useful enough to ride every day and dependable enough to carry the people you love. In other words, they make the kind of bikes that they want to ride. Tern has e-bikes for every type of rider. Whether you’re commuting, taking your kids to school or even carrying another adult, visit That’s t e r n to learn more.

Carlton Reid 1:04
I’m Carlton Reid. And on today’s episode we follow my son Josh with 24 hours 24 hours of mountain bike racing on the hills above Strathpeffer in the freezing Scottish Highlands, I was support crew handing Josh his food, water and bubble-free Red Bulls from a rental Range Rover at the side of a fire road climb right on the Strathpuffer course. You’ll hear audio recorded during the day when Josh was chipper, and then through the 17 hours of darkness when he was well — spoiler alert — suffering. He managed 20 laps of what’s affectionately known as the Puffer. And that’s quite some achievement for him because …

Josh Reid 1:57
it’s very technical. …

Carlton Reid 1:59
… because he’s more of a roadie/gravel rider. And that snippet of information yelled at me as Josh came past on his first lap told me he’d likely lose a bunch of time on the technical descents. Let’s get rolling, beginning with some audio of me clipped from a video recorded on the long drive up to Scotland. We stopped in Glasgow to pick up filmmaker Alfie Marsh who helped Josh produce a stunning film of the event, the YouTube link for which is on the show notes at the hyphen I’m not gonna look at you, by the way, I’m going to be keeping my eyes completely focused on the road. So I do not normally drive an internal combustion engine car and certainly not one as mental as this Range Rover that I’ve got. But Josh needs to go to this event, we’re driving on the A9 up towards Inverness, and we’re gonna go to Strathpeffer — Josh can tell you exactly what the event we’re doing, but clue’s in the name, I guess. But to get out there to get all the kit, and to make sure we’re kind of comfortable. So we have hired this car. And it’s from a company called Turo. So I last time I hired a Turo in America in 2015 when I actually got a Tesla. But here, they’ve been in the last couple of years. It’s basically Airbnb of car hire. So basically rented it off somebody into his personal so it’s Gurinder’s personal Range Rover. And obviously looking after it’s not, you know, it’s a rental so don’t be gentle, no that you can look after the car. And we’re going to be stopping shortly. For coffee breaks, beautiful day here in the Scottish Highlands. And Josh exactly what are we going to so Strathpeffer, what’s the event that we’re actually physically going to be doing? You’re gonna be doing not me. So we’re

So we’re going to Strathpeffer, but the event is Strathpuffer, or people call it the Puffer. And it’s a 24 hour mountain bike event going round a 12 kilometre circuit. And as you can see, I’ve got laden with bikes in the back here. So I’ve got my gravel bike and full-suss mountain bike. And basically the aim is to just ride around a circuit for 24 hours and not to stop at all and see if I can get on the podium. We’re in just outside of Contin. Lots of big setups here. We’re in a small, relatively small setup, just the three of us. And we’re gonna be riding for 24 hours. And how are you feeling? Yeah, all right. Ready to get going?

It was a Le Mans start so all the riderss had to run to get to there

Josh Reid 5:16
just in the two hours in on the third lap, and just keep on pushing. Make use of the up hill was very slow on the downhills.

I’ve lost track of the number of laps I’ve done. I think I’m on lap five just under four hours completed. That means there’s 20 to go Yeah, it’s starting to feel like a grind going up this hill.

Carlton Reid 5:55
Coming back fast.

Alfie Marsh 5:56
I can see on the tracker. Josh is literally is just around the corner. There he is. Yes.

Josh Reid 6:08
Yes, my four and a half hours in probably about 20 to go.

Alfie Marsh 6:16
What’s been going on with you so far?

Josh Reid 6:18
I feel a bit sick right now. I was like stuffing a wrap with peanut butter and jam in. And then like all the way up to last climb. Got it down on me. But like, coming down I was just like

Alfie Marsh
How’s the riding? good.

Josh Reid
Oh, it’s just really good. Yeah, so much fun like the top it’s really tacky, which is quite difficult, considering I’m a roadie. And then the bottom is really like flowy it’s very nice. I guess I’m just Yeah, keep keep on plugging away. Yeah, I think last lap I was fifth place. Yeah, last I think I might have missed out a few places. I think last time I looked through a seven Okay, which is about half an hour ago.

Alfie Marsh
Yeah that’s pretty damn good though. Yeah, you’re happy with that?

Josh Reid
Yeah, just keep on going. Yeah, you never know when anyone else is gonna stop please raise your own race. You’re gonna pass people you don’t know where they are. You have a clue where

Carlton Reid 7:13
the music is by Sonder, they’re next to us, and will they play music all night long? dDon’t suppose so — their batteries will run out.

Sonder fella
we can always make you on Thank you. Yeah, just coffee or tea or because that’d be nice yeah, yeah.

Carlton Reid
Thank you. Yeah, I just want to transfer any food you want to wrap? No,

Josh Reid 7:57
can’t eat it You’re good. You’re good

Carlton Reid 8:05
to what you want and then next lap right you’re still back there

Josh Reid
thank you

Carlton Reid
you need more food and there’s just more and

Josh Reid 8:27
more and you just stopped doing my pocket here? I don’t hear this okay. Thank you very much.

Carlton Reid 8:39
Next lap wrap

Josh Reid 8:50
my head was going coming down this last year but see it’s nice to see familiar tactics for the next stage. They will more often then take our sunglasses off as it’s getting darker ready. Ready for 17 hours of darkness oh good and bad camera wrap.

Carlton Reid
Wrap is here.

Josh Reid I just need some water. Did you find the tablets?

Carlton Reid
No, I haven’t

Carlton Reid 9:28
what do they look like?

Josh Reid
Make it okay. All right. Cool. Thank you guys so much. Pasta.

Josh Reid 9:48
Pasta and yoghurt.

Carlton Reid 9:51

Josh Reid 9:55
For more much more apricot?

Carlton Reid 9:57

Alfie Marsh 9:59
How’s it feeling in the

Josh Reid
It was amazing to start with my first taste it was really good to start with just like fresh air it felt like a new ride. But I started to drag on now keep on plugging away I think I’ve stopped for about 10 minutes so far. We’re about 10 hours two more to halfway to

Carlton Reid 10:30
our next one I’m doing now how’s it doing? Nothing we’re doing okay now that we’re found Josh’s salts and he’s had a look at that. So that is beautiful as pasta that we cooked yesterday or today. When did we cook that pasta last night and it’s now got lovely, lovely Strathpeffer mud on it. And he’s ingesting that. She’s getting extra proteins no doubt from that nice mud. Right so that’s his next one that’s got salt in and I may as well do his next one as well. After that. I don’t he might want to Red Bull while after that lightly. We’re going to leave Josh in the mud for a moment and cut to an ad break with my colleague David in the US.

Josh Reid 11:23
This podcast is brought to you by Tern bicycles. The good people at Tern understand that while a large cargo bike can carry oodles of stuff, many of us prefer something a little more manageable. That’s why they’ve come up with the HSD e-cargobike for folks with big aspirations to go car free, delivered in a compact size, with its rear shock, 280 kilos, and a combined hauling capacity of 180 kilos. The robust new HSD is stable and easy to manoeuvre, even when under load. And with its Bosch eBIKE SYSTEM tested and certified to meet the highest UL standards for electric and fire safety you’ll be able to share many worryfree adventures with a loved one whether it’s your kiddo or Nan. Visit www.ternbicycles. That’s te r n turn to learn more

Carlton Reid 12:24
Thanks, David. And were back in the dark supporting Giant Bicycles ambassador Josh Reid on his first stab at the Strathpuffer 24 hour mountain bike race in Strathpeffer in the Highlands of Scotland. Right here.

Josh Reid 12:41
What I’ve learned I’ve got just chop that up. Yeah, no, he’s got that one. Yep. Thank you.

Carlton Reid 12:51
So you’re sick. And you’re not far away from the the four and five and six, you’re all close together rallied about like 30 minutes. At the moment. Top Five is a possibility.

Josh Reid 13:09
Can you get my Camelbak ready for the next lap? Yeah,

Carlton Reid 13:12
it’s there with the batteries the battery thing and what battery

Josh Reid 13:17
does an Exposure battery thing in the yellow bag? But no worries are not okay. Okay, I

Carlton Reid 13:22
got it the … okay

Carlton Reid 13:26
what do you want? Okay.

Josh Reid 13:30
It’s getting harder and harder to get do the techie section. Just like tiredness yes of course change and much with the place to get where bits are. I’ll finish that Red Bull next lap somewhere. Yeah, for sure. For sure. Appreciate it.

Alfie Marsh
You got this you got this.

Josh Reid
Want to sub in for me?

Alfie Marsh
I’d love to I’d love to have a good one, man.

Carlton Reid 13:56
Up you know for a while.

Alfie Marsh 13:58
What are time are we on now, Josh?

Josh Reid
that past 11 o’clock. 11.30 maybe?

Alfie Marsh
Do you know what lap you’re on?

Josh Reid
lost count on ap four

Alfie Marsh
Do you know what place you are?

Josh Reid
No. Do you know?

Alfie Marsh
I actually don’t right now. How are you feeling now?

Josh Reid
Good. It’s good to be past halfway not hopefully I’ll get easier and easier. This is gonna be the hardest bit I think. next little bit

Carlton Reid 14:32
to three o’clock. Tough one.

Josh Reid 14:36
The laps are taking me like an hour and a half now. Yeah. Whereas it would take me under an hour before.

Alfie Marsh
Yeah. You guys Yeah.

Carlton Reid 14:48
Right, do you want some pasta?

Josh Reid
Can do.

Carlton Reid
There’s some sandwiches We’re getting

Josh Reid 15:03
it’s almost 6am Probably another two hours before light. pretty cooked, just started to snow

How are you want to stop this keep on plugging away this take it easy and just keep those legs spinning two more hours and then I can stop

Josh Reid 15:39
I’ve want some of this return yet I

Carlton Reid 15:45
can’t toast it for you…top 10 Josh keep it up how you doing the lights? I’m

Josh Reid 16:03
fine six

Carlton Reid 16:04
I mean six hours

Josh Reid 16:06
yeah but I don’t I only use it on low for what about yeah I lost about one on profit

Carlton Reid 16:13
I haven’t really helmet like

Josh Reid
It’s OK I’m going slow.

Carlton Reid
How about one of you?

Josh Reid 16:24
I can’t get it on. Can you get it on? I’m just gonna go

Carlton Reid 16:34
That flapjack was really nice. So just chomp on that it’s really soft

Josh Reid 16:41
Should be light by the next time I come around ish. What? Six there’ll be eight o’clock ish yeah all right

Carlton Reid 16:58
there’s one more can of Red Bull Yep,

Josh Reid 17:02
I’m gonna have I drank three so far

Carlton Reid 17:28
do want to establish take around with you Josh. What about more flapjack? That’s quite nice. It’s nice flapjack.

Josh Reid 17:39

Carlton Reid 17:43
Babybel here next time. Next time what else next time. You haven’t had an apple?

Josh Reid 17:59
I know one apple a horrible hurry. Okay.

Carlton Reid 18:03
Any pasta right she got some more sandwiches? Yeah, yeah. To eat more apricot. Well, pasta I mean you first sandwiches How are you doing your water? Full full. Full. Okay. That’s cool. You don’t drink much water

okay. Daily, they say.

Josh Reid 18:42
Now in the second half of the last lap 10 minutes to 10 which would be 24 hours. We have till 11 To finish the loop. So really excited to be done.

Carlton Reid 18:57
Been a long night. It was a long 24 hours never mine a long night, Josh. And he came in at just before 10 o’clock. And he was 10th, well done Josh.

Josh Reid 19:30
What’s going on? That was so much fun. The smell of it. Yeah. Just like knowing now it’s done. Well, like I was in pain on my last lap. My hands I couldn’t like because all the bumps just came to me properly. I’ve been awake for 25 hours.

Carlton Reid 19:53
When Josh was little when he’s about 5, 6, 7 I used to do 24-hour mountain bike events. So really pleased to see Josh is carrying on the family tradition — there has been quite a big gap since the time I was riding 24 hour solos, but they are good events to do. I’ve never done the Strathpeffer. That was actually after my time when I was riding, but maybeI’ll do it next. Yeah, maybe, maybe. It was certainly fun to be there supporting Josh. So well done to him for the 10th place. So many thanks to Alfie Marsh who was doing some of the recording there. And of course, all of the filming, which I grabbed some of the audio from from his footage. And thanks also to Turo for helping out with the the rental Range Rover and of course, to the sponsor of this podcast every single show which is Tern Bicycles. The next show will be out next month, but meanwhile, get out there and ride …

December 28, 2023 / / Blog

28th December 2023

The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast

EPISODE 344: First Ever Computer Modelling of How Cyclists (And Motorists) Hit Potholes 

SPONSOR: Tern Bicycles

HOST: Carlton Reid

GUEST: Kara Laing

TOPICS: Automotive engineering analyst Kara Laing, an everyday cyclist, explains her new work on the modelling of hitting potholes.


Carlton Reid 0:13
Welcome to Episode 344 of the spokesmen cycling podcast. This show was engineered on Thursday, the 28th of December 2023.

David Bernstein 0:29
The Spokesmen cycling roundtable podcast is brought to you by Tern bicycles. The good people at Tern are committed to building bikes that are useful enough to ride every day and dependable enough to carry the people you love. In other words, they make the kind of bikes that they want to ride. Tern has e-bikes for every type of rider. Whether you’re commuting, taking your kids to school or even carrying another adult, visit That’s t e r n to learn more.

Carlton Reid 1:02
In this last episode of 2023, I talk with automotive engineering analyst Cara Lang, who explains her new work on the modelling of hitting potholes. She describes how she recently spent 600 pounds for a pothole dinged car wheel, but goes on to explain that hitting the same pothole on her bike could have cost her her life. I’m Carlton Reid. And this episode could be literally and certainly figuratively, the most impactful in the show’s 17 year history. All right, you you direct message me with the fascinating piece of research, which we will talk about, and hopefully at length, and you will very quickly discover how little science I know. Tell me first of all, because you’re an engineer, [yes, I am]. Your background. So give me your trajectory in life. Before we even get on to cycling. Just tell me how you got into engineering. And then segue into what you’re doing now.

Kara Laing 2:13
I went the long way round into engineering. I’m a mathematician by education. And when I finished I finished a PhD. And I decided I wanted to do something to make the world a little bit safer. So I decided that I was I wanted to work on car safety. Didn’t know how I was going to do this. It turns out that just at that time, about 20 something years ago, finite element modelling was becoming the next big thing in car safety. So what car companies were starting to do and is now established practice is that they would take their car design, and they would build a computer model of it. And then instead of running car crashes on actual cars, they would run it on in the computer model. The way we build the model is you take your your different parts of the vehicles and instead of being one large, complicated shape, we turn them into lots of little little pieces that we called finite elements. And it’s quite simple to work out the physics for what’s happening when you when you squash something you know how much it’s going to resist, and how much it’s going to push the next element in the chain. But you just have to do it about 2 billion times two model a car crash. I went into that. And I’ve been working on that now for 23 years coming up for 24 years. I started off working in full vehicle crash modelling. And then I started working on a company for a company my current employer Vectayn where we do a lot of what happens to people inside vehicles. So that’s my job. And I’m a technical specialist there. Really enjoy it. love talking about it can talk about it for hours. But it means that I look at the world in a way of okay, how can I look at that as a model? How can I understand what’s going on why it feels like that? Or why it looks like that or why something is reacting like

Carlton Reid 4:27
It’s a tough one to throw this on you because not not your fault. But automotive crash test things in general. Clearly focus as you were saying before about the people inside the car that’s quite natural. You want to you want to protect your customer, the person who’s physically buying that you want to protect them you’re not really that fussed about the people outside because they’re not buying your car. So do you also work on protecting people that are not inside the car? Well,

Kara Laing 4:57
this is interesting that about 2010 Euro Ncap, European new car assessment programme, started looking at what happens to pedestrians outside the vehicle. And that was the first time that that requirement had come into place. There’s now also a legal requirement for cars in Europe for an A, to some extent in the States for what happens if you interact heavily with somebody outside the vehicle, shall we say? It’s actually the sort of modelling that I really enjoyed doing. For the reasons that it’s it’s more socially supportive. I’m trying to think of the right words there. It is good for people outside the vehicle is not just a marketing thing of how safe Can you keep your family, but how well can you carry out this responsibility to the people around your vehicle,

Carlton Reid 5:52
and how well they’ve had to meet the standards. So how well do you think companies are doing?

Kara Laing 5:58
They are doing better. But fundamentally, if you will, the regulations have now changed that, or sorry, the euro in cap assessment has now changed. So that it now model vulnerable road users. So it looks at cyclists as well. It’s I think it’s it’s been significant, it’s now standard to consider that standard. Consider that in how vehicles are designed. And you can actually see that so that they are more vulnerable road user friendly. Yeah, so it’s improved, it’s still not as safe as the occupant.

Carlton Reid 6:38
Because there’s theTesla cybertruck. You know, that’s clearly never gonna pass any European regulations. It’s just it’s a death machine on wheels for people outside the vehicle. I’m sure it’s incredibly safe for people inside. But outside, that’s just a death machine. And we don’t want to see those kinds of things coming across to me, we’ve got another SUVs, so

Kara Laing 7:02
don’t get me started on SUVs. I have to be a little careful what I say, yeah, I, I was passed by a Humvee the other day, I was cycling down a single track lane, on my way home from work, and I pulled into a parking space and this thing went past me and I don’t even know if they knew I was there. It was enormous. If it had helped me, I don’t think they’d have noticed. And yet, the cyber truck, I don’t know whether there will be any publicly accessible results from testing. I’d be very interested to see how it performs. It’s a truck. So it’s quite possible it won’t even need to pass through any Europe any federal requirements. I don’t know how it’s going to be sold here.

Carlton Reid 7:54
I’ve not I think it’s really easy answer that one for a very long time. And if it changes by EOB, yes, the illustration on the Vectayn website is of a kind of like an estate car with probably quite big, wide, you know, nice crumple zones. And if you you know, you get hit by that you get thrown up, I’m assuming and then shove to one side kind of thing, whereas an SUV hits you and you just get your splattered with an SUV hitting you like getting

Kara Laing 8:21
better. But I wouldn’t want to be a six year old kid standing in front of one.

Carlton Reid 8:25
No. So you mentioned cycling from work there. So what kind of cycling apart from cycling to and from work? Is it something that you’ve always done? Why do you get into it late? We’re kind of you’re

Kara Laing 8:37
My cycling trajectory. When I was a student, I couldn’t afford the bus pass. So I bought a bike. And it turns out, I actually really enjoyed it even though that bike was so terrible that somebody burgled our shed and stepped over my bike to take all the others. Cycling is part of my happy space. It’s how I get to and from work as much as I can. It’s cheaper than the gym. I cycled for leisure whenever I get the chance. It’s something I do with I’ve got a cycling buddy. I tried to cycle with my family. But of course, it’s never enough cycling. And cycling to and from work is just my way of fitting a little bit in and getting a little bit fitter and reducing my carbon footprint. It’s a win win win win scenario for me.

Carlton Reid 9:28
So since that previous bike that the thief stepped over, you’ve invested in something nicer.

Kara Laing 9:35
Yes, yes. Yeah, I it turns out I now have a winter bike and a summer bike. Mainly so that in the winter, a lot of my route. I take country lanes because it’s quieter and it feels safer. But they’re unlit and you can’t see the potholes,

Carlton Reid 9:55
which is a great segue into yours So, you contacted me? Yes. I was writing, basically about the transport minister. You’re ignoring cyclists in this announcement about London’s roads and a bit of cash that’s going to be pumped into into road resurfacing in London and you just eat basically just and in fact, the press reserves to plan for transport press release, pretty much 99.9% of it was motorists motorists known as like, oh yen and it kind of like maybe potholes affect cyclists as well. It was just like a throwaway line right then. But then your research your research shows that is completely the opposite. Absolute. So describe. I mean, yeah, I could describe this but let you describe your graph to me, which shows this in absolute me I don’t be a scientist to realise Oh, that particular curve means that hurt compared to that particular Bob little line, which is the motorists line. Yeah, might might scratch a hubcap, they ain’t gonna die. So describe your graph. Okay,

Kara Laing 11:03
well, what I did is I went around mid I carried a tape measure around for a couple of weeks measuring everything I could I have built a computer model of five different types of wheel I’ve my first question was wider potholes hurt more when I’m riding my road bike than when I’m riding my mountain bike type bike. It’s got fatter tires, there’s a lot more air in there the rubbers thicker and so on. And then I thought but what’s it like for other road users as well? So I’ve I had a conversation with a friend where I said can I please measure the wheels on your chair, I measured my my bike I found an online model I found a paper describing the modelling of a car tire. And we’ve there’s there are a couple of open source car models out there. And I also modelled a an E scooter by finding one of those we’ve got higher scooters in the city I live in So there’s me standing there with my tape measure measuring it okay the diameter is this how have how squiddy does that feel trying to find out a little bit about the E scooter tire. And what I originally did is I dropped them all with an appropriate weight on them which is the equivalent of riding off a 50 mil curb off into a 50 mil deep pothole. I’ll go back to 50 mil in a moment. And I looked at the amount of debris that the person or the top of the shock tower for the car would experience from dropping into that pothole. And basically a car experiences about a third of the amount of acceleration that a road bike does so it explains why when I when I drop into a pothole it hurts I’ve since run the what happens when you ride out of the pothole. And it’s even more stock that cars are designed to drive over curbs and bikes, scooters and wheelchairs really aren’t that the amount of force that somebody riding a bike has to be able to control with their hands is we’re talking about 300 somebody’s giving you 300 kilogrammes to hold suddenly and yeah and that explains why it’s quite difficult to ride into an outdoor pothole

Carlton Reid 13:48
you mentioned shock tower before Yeah. That’s on the car that I mean I’m assuming that says the suspension system is that your definition of a shock tower

Kara Laing 13:56
Yeah, the top of the suspension system I think I sent you some images I’ve taken as little as I can of the car model because my my work of happy to let me do this but I need to kind of sneak it through when we’re not running big crash models of something else.

Carlton Reid 14:16
I do recommend people I’m gonna I’m gonna post this high res version of the graph that you did posted on Twitter when you sent me this this high res version I will post that on on the show website so people can go and scare themselves silly basically by looking at this and and probably it will go semi viral in that when anybody comes and says oh look my you know my car was you know hubcap was dented by this this pothole, just show this graph. Yeah, but look what it happens, you know, with cyclists die, they don’t and they go into your, your, your, your modelling here. So the shock tower, we we’ve kind of got that definition. So the MTB, the mountain bike, one that again that was that’s a suspended product. You’re talking About a suspended mountain bike bike with front suspension or what

Kara Laing 15:04
I just took that That one’s nice and simple. I just took it from the middle of the wheel. I didn’t I didn’t have any model for a mountain bike suspension. So I took so there would be a little bit of extra give in the system. Yeah, so mountain bike is is an optimist is sorry, is a pessimistic curve, and suspend it shows how suspension would help. But this brings me back to to one of my initial questions when I cycling along and I thought I wonder about that. The next lunchtime i I logged on to my institutions library and started looking for information about what people had already done looking at the amount of the amount of force that is experienced through a cycle, hitting an obstacle or dropping into a pothole. And there was nothing. Nobody has done this work as far as I can find. I haven’t spent hours and hours going through the literature search but there really isn’t anything out there. And that’s quite shocking. It’s I’m also going to bring it back if I may Colton to the 50 mil. I chose 50 mil most councils in the country assess their potholes by they’ve they’ve moved over to a risk based assessment of potholes. And they it has to be 40 mil deep and however big it needs to be the county I live in. They don’t count unless they’re 50 mil deep

Carlton Reid 16:41
as the No there’s no government regulators. It has to be this deep. This is a each council does each different. Oh, okay. Yeah.

Kara Laing 16:47
So in? Well, I’m in Essex, and in Essex unless it is big enough for a car wheel to fall into. And unless it is at least 50 mil deep. It doesn’t count as a risk. So I actually I sent the initial graphs that I sent to you initially sent to my counsel, I’ve never heard anything back.

Carlton Reid 17:11
Yeah, cuz there’s all this like, Well, yeah, of course that’s gonna hurt a cyclist. What’s the way you tell us something we didn’t know. I mean, that’s that’s part of, you know, the kind of the cynical thing here is like, well, of course. Yeah. But, but that isn’t how the Ministry of Transport press release. showed it at all. It really was. This is hurting motorists. Yeah, it was like in Cyprus, just we’re just not in the equation here. But at this point, Kira was called away. So that’s a great spot to cut away to my colleague, David for a quick ad break.

David Bernstein 17:45
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Carlton Reid 18:45
Thanks, David. And we are back with Kara Laing and her work on the computer modelling of dropping into potholes. So your work all right with with with this, this is a very graphic thing that you could show the powers that be and that’s something that’s like quite physical compared to you know, here is this cyclist who died from this which you would think would actually be more powerful in many respects, but often isn’t. Whereas this is something that anybody can look at and go oh, yeah, we need to fix those potholes. Because look at that, but what cyclists when they when they when they sadly die from hitting potholes. It generally isn’t the pothole that’s killed them it’s generally I’d have to again do a literature research on this and find out exactly but it tends to be hit pothole you know, wobble and then fall into moving motor traffic that’s falling behind that aren’t breaking quickly and and they get squished unfortunately from that what’s happening base that 300 gramme await you suddenly got that makes you wobbles you’re not you’re not gonna die from the there’s no other vehicles around you’re probably okay it’s the other vehicles are Round that’s gonna kill you.

Kara Laing 20:01
Yeah, I cycling off a pothole like that I don’t think I’ve got the strength or the reactions to control it, I don’t have the skill to control it. It would be that is the kind of thing that would take somebody off their bike. We also have potholes around here that because they are wedge shaped, you can find yourself with a wheel completely trapped and no way of getting out of it. So yeah, that are a real risk for cyclists in a way. In a car. It’s uncomfortable. I mean, I recently had to pay 600 quid for a new wheel after a pothole on a country lane. But I’d far rather be paying 600 pound and having bits of me put back together or be paying or having my family paid for my funeral.

Carlton Reid 20:51
Yes, yes, that again, that is the reality behind your your graph, Bear. So tell me that the practical applications of your graph, what could activists do with your graph? What could you do with that graph?

Kara Laing 21:05
I had do some more on this on my to do list. Since this was work that I did during furlough, I sort of had to do more with this. One of the questions that somebody asked on your Twitter thread is what is the difference between a 50 mil curve and a 40 mil curve? And my plan is to run that and find out that to quantify what the increase in I’m not going to say perception what the increases of experience, because I think that minimising that acceleration pulse that is felt through the arms through the bike through the wheelchair, that’s got to be a good thing. It needs to be reduced. So that I mean, if we say if councils are saying that a car that a pothole needs to be repaired, when a car experiences that kind of Jolt, then we need to reduce the standard so that when a cyclist or a wheelchair user or a scooter user experiences that kind of Jolt, how do we need to change the requirements so that the risk level is the same for all road users? So

Carlton Reid 22:17
how do you do say effective dropping into a 10 Min millimetre pothole 20 3040 5060 isn’t going up. And then you did plot that out? As look, if it’s this level, this is what’s going to happen. So you really ought to be doing potholed at, say 30 millimetres? Is that what you can do with your, your research, you can actually plot all these things out and think, look, if it hits this depth, you got to do something about it? I think

Kara Laing 22:42
so. But what I am aware is that, for example, my estimate of the E scooter wheel is wrong. I know it’s wrong. When you look at the animations, it’s a bit squishy. It just doesn’t look right. So I would welcome any input from anybody who’s ever stuck an accelerometer on their bike and gone through a pothole, to find out what actually happens in the real world. This is, from my point of view, an initial model. And it’s as good as I can make with the data I’ve got. But I don’t have all the data I would like.

Carlton Reid 23:17
See, there’s two answers to that. That was the two things can pop pop in my mind. The last show, in fact, with Mr. And Mrs. McAleese, who have now moved to Australia, their tech, which is the you know, the See.Sense lights, well, that has an accelerometer, and that does track events, you know, pothole events. And then, you know, plot on maps when it’s linked to a link to the iPhone when when you can opt in, basically to, to, so the data is shared, anonymized but shared. So potentially See.Sense would have some of that data. So I’ll put you in touch with with them because I’m, I’m sure I’m sure they would love it right. Please do. Like it’s sort of a joke here, but also real right up the street. This, this kind of modelling will be to them, put it that way. But also just iPhones and and Google Pixel phone and smartphones, gentlemen, they do have accelerometers. So presumably you could get an app could be created to measure this either. In the CCENT terms, it’s like it’s just happening all the time. You just fit the light and you just you forget it, or you could genuinely go over. You know, a stunt stunt doubles could go over potholes and see if your graph is the real world. Yes,

Kara Laing 24:45
absolutely. We, we we just compare information. I mean, I’ve got a model of, of different sizes of wheels. I can make more models. I’d love to see it I’d also be really interested to see to understand from Wheelchair users point of view, how it affects them? Because I’ve modelled what happens at the wheel? But how does that affect the wheelchair user?

Carlton Reid 25:10
So this the model that you’ve got here, have you hit the lip of the pothole, then you go down into the pothole as a wheelchair user scooter user cycle user, you’re probably going to hardly notice it in a car. We’ve all kind of we’ve kind of established that. But then what you said before was, it’s actually coming out. That is potentially and that’s the work you’re still doing or you need to do more work on. It’s the coming out. That is potentially the worst bit. Yeah,

Kara Laing 25:37
it appears to be where I’m getting much more sharp pulses. They’re called pulses, the curves, I’m getting much sharper pulses. And the the issue is, it appears to be that the rubber does everything it can but if the pothole is too deep, then the rim of the metal hits the rim of the wheel and then hits the structure. And on a car tire because you have got 100 200 mil of space before you risk bottoming out that’s why it’s not anywhere near as much an issue on a car as it is on a road bike wheels are really thin, it makes

Carlton Reid 26:18
sort of sense that it is going to hurt hitting the second lip. Because the first lip is you’re dropping it down you can imagine your your tire and perhaps any suspension you’ve got will maybe cope with that. But if you’re then travelling when some of these potholes are pretty big, and you might travel perhaps half a metre or metre before you hit the lip but it is that second bit where you’ve got to be very careful of what’s happening coming out. So just that appreciation alone can be like a lifesaver.

Kara Laing 26:52
Yes, absolutely. And also what if you don’t hit the edge the the exiting edge straight? What if you hit it one key How can you I haven’t modelled that but I can it’s something that we can the models can become as complicated as we want them. How much strength do you need in your arms to be able to control that Yank of the wheel

Carlton Reid 27:16
here in Northumberland I’m gonna have you said this bad message in Northumberland we have cavernas almost literally caverns you down and hardly be seen by anybody Yeah, they’re pretty deep so Northumberland is notoriously bad for potholes and I’m maybe Essex is is the same but councils need to be shamed I know there’s Cyclists’ Touring Club as of bold you know we asked cycling cycling UK of today they were pretty big on potholes previously and I’ve been looking just recently when I’m when we’re doing this as an all women’s their pothole stuff and they haven’t done anything for a while but haven’t really resurrected their campaign they had an app you know fill that pothole, they had all this sort of like campaigning materials built around potholes, and the prevention of and the filling in of and they seem to have died away again. Hopefully this research can actually help them with statistics and with with graphs, literally with graphs, actually resurrect that campaign. So councils, Northumberland, Essex, wherever you live, can be shamed into filling these things in

Kara Laing 28:31
that will be wonderful. And I’m happy to talk to anybody. I mean, fundamentally, my issue is I dislike potholes as a cyclist. And I’d like them to all go away please. Anything I can do to encourage appropriate repair of potholes with round the corner from me. They’ve recently filled a load of potholes in that our wheel size, but then they’ve chosen not to fill in the ones that are cycled tire size around the corner. Anything that encourages a wider acceptance of who road uses quite might be.

Carlton Reid 29:11
And that’s good for putting the wheelchair in as well. Is that like a standard wheelchair with solid tires? Is that what kind of wheelchair was that? Or is that like a road cycling type wheelchair?

Kara Laing 29:26
This was can I find any wheelchair tires online to get any dimensions out of them? It’s an airfield we’ll talk airfield tire I’d quite like to do a rubber one but I’ve not been in not being in this position to take somebody’s wheelchair well apart and have a look at what it’s made off. Because

Carlton Reid 29:46
that thing literally saves us in that the air do pneumatics in a tire literally saves us it doesn’t just make more comfortable we can hopefully hit a pothole and survive as long as we don’t hit that wobble and then get hit from behind. Yes Speaking

Kara Laing 30:00
at speaking as an engineer, this has actually been really interesting looking at how the tire works, looking at how it stretches and how it boulders and how it recovers to carry on doing its normal job of just going round.

Carlton Reid 30:13
So you’re using … Vectayn is allowing you to use their finite element modelling computers to do this. But is this your Is this a spare time thing? So this is like a lunch break or something? And they’re not expecting you to guess, come up with anything practical for their business? Or, oh, might you be able to?

Kara Laing 30:33
I think, I think there is plenty of scope here. Unfortunately, I can’t afford to become a customer of my own company. So if anyone is out there and wants, once the modelling done, the groundwork is already there, it would be really affordable. And I’d love to do it for you. At present, it isn’t. We don’t have a client for this. If anyone if anybody is interested in this, if any councils are interested in this in a more well defined assessment of what risk based pothole repairs should look like. I’m, I’m definitely you’re definitely the analyst you need to talk to. We’re

Carlton Reid 31:16
on that note correct. And it has been fascinating. And as you said before, you could talk for hours about your day job. Or we could talk for hours about deformation of tires going into into potholes. But we can’t speak for hours and hours and hours. So we got to stop at some point. So this is a perfect juncture, I guess to say, who you are and how people can contact you. Okay,

Kara Laing 31:38
well, the best. The most detail on this is on my LinkedIn profile. My name is pretty there’s not many of us. It’s pretty obvious who I am. If you look for me,

Carlton Reid 31:49
and the Laing is L A I N G Yes.

Unknown Speaker 31:54
And it’s Kara with a K.

Carlton Reid 31:57
It’s been fascinating talk to you. I’m going to go away and I’m going to try and link you up with interested parties here. Season please. Cycling UK, they should be doing something on this because it’s absolutely essential work. You’re doing that and it’s working I didn’t even know hadn’t been done. So that’s, that’s pretty scary.

Kara Laing 32:18
Exactly. Exactly. That’s what shocked me most about this. Fundamentally, really selfishly, I’d like to get this published somehow in some format in a journal would be great, but in a magazine would be great. And then I can put it in front of my council and say, Look, you’re 50 mil assessment for curb decks. For for pothole that is inadequate, you need to reduce it, or you need to think about where you apply that and make it genuinely risk based and not just motor normativity risk based.

Carlton Reid 32:53
Thanks to Kara Laing there and thanks to you for listening to episode 344 of the Spokesmen podcast, brought to you in association with Tern Bicycles. Show notes and more can be found at The next episode will be out next year — dad joke there — but meanwhile get out there and ride.

November 21, 2023 / / Blog

21st November 2023

The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast

EPISODE 343: Mr & Mrs McAleese moving to Oz 

SPONSOR: Tern Bicycles

HOST: Carlton Reid

GUESTS: Philip and Irene McAleese of See-sense

TOPICS: Philip and Irene McAleese of See-sense, the Northern Irish bike lights and data company, are upping sticks and moving down under. We also talk V2X beacons, Cycling Industries Europe, Kevin Mayne, Jon Parkin, Velo-city and Geordie accents.


[00:00:00] Carlton Reid: Welcome to episode 343 of the Spokesman Cycling Podcast. This show was recorded on Tuesday, 21st of November, 2023.

[00:00:29] David Bernstein: The Spokesmen cycling roundtable podcast is brought to you by Tern bicycles. The good people at Tern are committed to building bikes that are useful enough to ride every day and dependable enough to carry the people you love. In other words, they make the kind of bikes that they want to ride. Tern has e-bikes for every type of rider. Whether you’re commuting, taking your kids to school or even carrying another adult, visit That’s t e r n to learn more.

[00:01:04] Carlton: the last episode, I said this show would be an interview with Komoot of Germany, but then an Australian angle intervened. Philip and Irene McAleese of See.sense, the Northern Irish Bike Lights and Data/data? Company, are upping sticks and moving down under. I’m Carlton Reid and regular listeners will know that Philip and Irene have been on the show multiple times, so it’s only fitting that I invited them for a wee chat before they depart at the beginning of December.

[00:01:40] Carlton: So what convinced you to exchange the reign of Northern Ireland For the sunshine of Brisbane.

[00:01:48] Irene McAleese: Oh, well. Really a mixture of things. Obviously, you know, I’m Australian. I’ve been away now for 20 years. Next, in April of next year, I’m coming up to 20 years. [00:02:00] Um, and I think it was actually when I was back home, um, last year, my, my dad wasn’t well and I went back, um, for that.

[00:02:08] Irene McAleese: Um, but it just sort of, I don’t know, something just sort of, um, In my mind just thought I wanted to be back, I wanted to be closer to my family, but also we were really impressed with What’s happening in Australia? It seems to be sort of post COVID. There’s a lot of energy around Active travel, there’s a lot going in in terms of investment They seem to have more funding pots available for this kind of stuff And yeah, we like the, you know, we liked what What’s happening in the energy of the, the, um, in Australia at the moment and the, um, you know, the economic potential as well.

[00:02:46] Irene McAleese: So yes, weather is certainly a, a factor, but, um, we do see opportunity to expand CSense in the Australian market.

[00:02:55] Carlton: Yeah. I’d like to get into that in a, in a, in a bit, because that’s clearly going to be [00:03:00] a phenomenal, uh, task ahead of you. And you can tell me about exactly the structures you’ve put in place, but first of all, uh, A bit more personal, really, in that, you’ve clearly, you’ve, you’ve, you’ve visited Irene every couple of years.

[00:03:15] Carlton: Is that, is that right? Like, to go and see your family and, and, you know, pandemic withstanding, you’ve kind of, you’ve been there regularly. So I’m assuming your kids, it’s not going to be like totally alien for them. They’ve also seen Australia. And, and, and what is, is in their future.

[00:03:33] Irene McAleese: Yes. However, I am trying to kind of get across that, you know, every time we’ve been back for holidays, it’s…

[00:03:39] Irene McAleese: It’s the beach, it’s barbecues, it’s social events, it’s family. They have this very rose tinted view of what life in Australia would be like. So I’m trying to get across that there’s actually going to be a lot of grunge stuff as well. Like, you will have to go to school.

[00:03:55] Carlton: You

[00:03:55] Irene McAleese: will still need to do homework.[00:04:00]

[00:04:00] Irene McAleese: So, you know, um, yes, I, I think that, I think that they are excited, but yeah, I mean, as with anywhere you live, you make the best of where you are. And I’ve actually really enjoyed everywhere I’ve lived. I’ve lived in Northern Ireland for 11 years. I’ve lived in Singapore. I’ve lived in London. Um, I really, you know, I, I always think that you can make the best of wherever you are.

[00:04:24] Irene McAleese: And it’s very much about your attitude and also just being around good people. So how old are your kids? Our kids, well we have, our youngest is actually turning 12 this week, and our eldest is 14. So part of the reason of, I guess, wanting to go now is to get them into the school, for the, get them a little bit embedded into the school before they get too senior, um, and start to get into the later years, so.

[00:04:52] Irene McAleese: I guess in an ideal world, we might have liked another a year or two to sort of, um, um, [00:05:00] prepare for the move, but really once the decision was made, we ripped the bandaid off quickly, um, and decided to do it.

[00:05:08] Carlton: And Philip, talk, talk to me about this. So, I mean, you know, Irene’s obviously spent 20 years away from Australia.

[00:05:16] Carlton: Is this like a quid pro quo thing? You know, you’ve spent 20 years away. All right, let’s go and spend 20 years in Australia. How have you, how have you negotiated this as, as part of your, your marriage kind of contract?

[00:05:29] Philip McAleese: Yeah, so we were living in Singapore and obviously we had to make the decision between Northern Ireland and Australia when we decided we wanted a bit more family support.

[00:05:36] Philip McAleese: Um, my family are all quite local to where we are here. Um, whereas Irene’s family were dispersed around Australia, uh, which is a really, really, uh, unfathomably big place for Europeans. And, um, so it made sense to come here first. We always said that we would retire in Australia. Um, we’re, we’re just going a little bit sooner than we expected.

[00:05:57] Philip McAleese: Um, just to fit in really with. It’s the equivalent [00:06:00] of GCSEs A levels and not disturbing schooling too much. Um, and, and plus I’m really excited about it. I mean, there’s a lot of opportunity for us down there. Um, and you know, some of our bigger, biggest projects are happening right there at the moment. And so it’ll be really good to go down, um, and to be there, to be able to accelerate and leverage.

[00:06:20] Philip McAleese: Um, all of that goodwill we have already. So

[00:06:22] Carlton: is that project the one that you’re doing with, uh, Victoria’s TAC, Transport Accident Commission, the Light Insight Trial? Is it that one? Yes, it’s

[00:06:30] Philip McAleese: actually an extension of that trial. So that trial wrapped up, um, last year. Um, but we were delighted that they chose to extend the project working directly with TAC.

[00:06:39] Philip McAleese: Um, and now we’re working with, uh, the first LGA, local government authority, um, called Surf Coast. Um, who are just a little bit, um, south of Melbourne. Um, they’ve got some infrastructure going in and they’re very interested in understanding the before and after and seeing what impact of change they can have.

[00:06:58] Philip McAleese: Um, they’re really [00:07:00] interested in community engagement and lots of the great things that our data can really help to, um, facilitate and help them do. Um, and that should lead on to projects with other, um, LGAs as well. There are a number of them interested and I’m talking to the TAC at the moment, um, and it would be fantastic to see, um, what we can do to help them

[00:07:18] Carlton: as well.

[00:07:18] Carlton: Because Australia, from, from this side of the, the kind of the antipodes, it’s always seemed a bit backward in, in cycling in that, you know, certainly Europe, continental Europe, and even the UK for a few years. Seem to be far in advance of Australia and Australia seemed to be going backwards on active travel But what you’re saying or what what what I was saying a few seconds ago was maybe that’s changing.

[00:07:43] Carlton: Yeah,

[00:07:44] Irene McAleese: we’re seeing I definitely think that there is There does exist in Australia this Us and them, you know attitude of cycling. I mean it does exist Um, I’m not sure if that’s something that’s going [00:08:00] to be introduced here as well to an extent. But, um, that’s what I was saying though, Carlton. I think that I sense that the attitudes are changing.

[00:08:07] Irene McAleese: There’s definitely a lot more investment in infrastructure that has gone in. Melbourne and Sydney, but also in Brisbane in my hometown, I was really impressed to see even in some, even in, uh, you know, there’s urban investment in urban areas, but also rail trails, they call them, which are like the Greenway investment for tourism and things like this.

[00:08:33] Irene McAleese: Um, yeah, it’s, it’s, it’s really, um, it’s. It has really taken off in the last few years. I think particularly since COVID, there’s been, there’s been a big uptake. They, um, they still have a long way to go. Um, but I’m seeing that there’s a lot more appetite. Um, and I’ve been speaking with other Australians at the, it was a large contingent of Aussies at the VeloCity in Leipzig this [00:09:00] year, there was a really active, um, um, advocacy groups there, um, the Amy Gillett Foundation and, and WeRide and the Bicycle Network, they’re all doing fantastic work, um, there’s, there seems to be.

[00:09:14] Irene McAleese: You know, the likes of the people that we have been engaging with at the Transport Accident Commission and the iMove project. I mean, we work with people on projects around the world and some of the people we’re working with there we really think have great minds and a real appetite for innovation. Um, so.

[00:09:33] Irene McAleese: Yeah, we’re really happy to, to explore that and see what we can do, um, to help push.

[00:09:40] Carlton: And how much of the, this may be this expansion of interest in active travel, how much of it is perhaps due to climate change? Because again, from the perspective from this side of the Antipodes is certainly the, the previous crop of Australian politicians have been all dinosaurs.

[00:09:57] Carlton: They were all just totally denied the fact that [00:10:00] man made climate change. Uh, is happening at all? Are the current crop

[00:10:04] Irene McAleese: better? Yeah, they’re, I mean… Well, I think that the current Prime Minister has acknowledged that climate change is a thing, so that’s, that’s definitely a start. I think that, yeah, there’s definitely an awareness in Australia now more so than in previous years about the need to make change and to do it, do it rapidly.

[00:10:24] Irene McAleese: Um, so I think that definitely could be, could be a factor. Um, I think there was a report actually that came out, um, just this week about, about the cycling industry and its contribution to the economy. So it was, it was really interesting that one of the questions that they asked people as to why they’re riding their bike, um, the reason why.

[00:10:49] Irene McAleese: My highest reason was for their own fitness and well being, but one of the second highest reasons I think was about concern for the environment. So it must be playing [00:11:00] on people’s minds.

[00:11:01] Carlton: And then logistically, your business, I mean, let’s just, you’re not closing your business down. You are operating it as a satellite.

[00:11:11] Carlton: So you’re going to be opening a sales office in Brisbane. And expanding in Australia, because what currently do you have in Australia? Is there anything at all in Australia or do you just sell your products and your services there? And that’s it, and you do that from the Northern Ireland? Yeah, um, we

[00:11:26] Philip McAleese: do exactly what you say.

[00:11:27] Philip McAleese: So we’re setting up a sales office there. Um, all of our projects are, uh, have been run and executed really from, from here. Um, we did visit, um, the Transport Action Commission in Melbourne. Um, and we spent the day with them on our last personal visit to Australia. Um, and we found that to be incredibly useful and really, really rewarding.

[00:11:48] Philip McAleese: Um, and so we realized that it was a good opportunity to do a lot more of

[00:11:52] Carlton: that. Previously I’ve asked this, this, this question, and maybe it changes every few months anyway. Because you started as a light [00:12:00] company, and yes, it was a clever light, but it was a light company. And then each time we talk, it’s the data, data thing, uh, with Irene and with you, the different ways of pronouncing it.

[00:12:09] Carlton: Um, you seem to be becoming much more of a, a, a, data company. Has that accelerated even just in the last, you know, six months since we last talked? Um,

[00:12:18] Philip McAleese: I think we, we’ve not really changed our focus. I think probably what has changed is that, um, you know, with projects like, uh, in Denver and in Australia, um, and in Essex, we’re seeing real infrastructure changes be put in.

[00:12:33] cPhilip McAleese: So I think we finally got to the point where, um, you know, appetite and willingness and I guess understanding of data, um, has advanced to the point where it is now being actively used, which we’re super excited

[00:12:46] Carlton: about. When you are in Australia in your new sales office, you are selling lights or data?

[00:12:51] Philip McAleese: Oh, very much data.

[00:12:52] Philip McAleese: Yeah. So, I mean, the lights are fantastic. They’re really good at a personal level. We think for helping to make you more visible, [00:13:00] um, as you ride around, which should hopefully lead to a better riding experience. Um, but ultimately the bigger benefit we can have is around understanding, um, the, the greater pool of cycling.

[00:13:11] Philip McAleese: So, you know, where is the infrastructure working well and where can we help the cities to understand where it can be improved? Um, and we’re starting to look at other things, you know, there’s a lot of initiatives going on with things like green waves. Where, um, you know, they put beacons or transponders on the bikes and allow them to have green traffic lights all the way through their destination.

[00:13:31] Philip McAleese: Um, we like that idea in principle, but of course you can’t have a beacon on every bike. And so it doesn’t really provide, um, you know, a fair experience to everyone. Whereas when we look at our data, we only need a sample of cyclists in order to be able to model, to understand. Where the bunching of cyclists occurs, where the biggest delays and the highest probabilities are of being stopped at a set of traffic lights.

[00:13:55] Philip McAleese: And then through that modeling, we have the city to understand, you know, what, [00:14:00] what changes need to be made to traffic phasing to allow for these bunches or groups of cyclists that have naturally formed in the environment to get collectively a green wave all the way through. without having to have any additional sensors on the bikes themselves.

[00:14:14] Carlton: All right, Philip’s brought up beacons there. I, I wasn’t going to bring it up, even though you know that I probably was going to. Um, so, so, so beacons was mentioned at a certain safety conference you were at in, was in the Hague just recently. And it was, it was, it was Gazella. So it was like somebody from Gazella basically saying cyclists of the future are going to have force fields.

[00:14:36] Carlton: Um, you know, this, this, this. This, this, you know, beaconization program, uh, was it, was it swallowed whole by the audience or was it quite, was there groans when even Gazelle, alike, seemed to have, uh, swallowed the Kool Aid? Well,

[00:14:52] Irene McAleese: I, I would say that it was, you know, this is an academic audience who, um, you know, this is the international [00:15:00] Cycling safety conference.

[00:15:01] Irene McAleese: Um, the audience, um, primarily academics who are focused on research and they like the idea of testing out ideas. I think one of the things that, you know, one of the key things that the audience really noticed straight away was that the coalition for safety, I think it’s called the organization which has been set up, didn’t have any.

[00:15:25] Irene McAleese: Um, voices on that coalition from the academic world. Um, so that was, I think, the number one point of view. Now, to be fair, Gazelle did say, well, we would like to invite those voices on now, but it had originally come from being an industry driven thing. So I think that was the first point of, you know, why are you developing this in isolation without taking on the, the ideas, the insights and, you know, Perspectives the academic, um, world could potentially offer, [00:16:00] um, in helping to shape or steer the solution.

[00:16:03] Irene McAleese: Um, and there were other also other questions that that came up about. Um, why, you know, um, would this give a cyclist a sort of sense of false sense of security that they felt that they were riding in a bubble? I think that was actually the picture on the first slide. There was a picture of a cyclist enclosed by this, by this bubble of safety.

[00:16:31] Irene McAleese: Um, that, um, you know, and I think there was immediately some reaction to that. Um. And your ears must have been burning, Carlton, because yours truly did put up my hand and say, Have you read Carlton’s fantastic piece in the Forbes about this? You know, I think that there’s, you know, there are some valid points here around equity.

[00:16:52] Irene McAleese: Um, but yeah, there were actually a couple of people in the audience as well that, that, you know, didn’t seem opposed to it. Seemed, [00:17:00] you know, open to it, but wanting to test and validate that actually this could. Does this work? And I guess that’s coming from the researcher point of view, you know, appetite to validate or test things without sort of completely ruling it out.

[00:17:15] Irene McAleese: And I think that, um, to be fair to Gazelle, they acknowledge that there’s definitely a lot more work to do to be able to validate. If this does actually bring benefit, and it was kind of presented as very much a work in progress. I

[00:17:31] Carlton: mean, I welcome technology. I’m talking to people here who are right, the cutting edge of bicycle technology in data and in digital diagnostics, so I’m not against this.

[00:17:45] Carlton: But I’ve got a bikes that sometimes have the Garmin radar. And you very quickly get used to that and, and you almost stop looking behind and you just rely on, on [00:18:00] your, your dashboard to tell you how many cars are coming, which is great when you’re on that bike. But then if you’ve got like a few bikes, which, which I have, I’m lucky enough to have quite a few bikes, you switch to a different bike and you’re still in that kind of, I’m going to rely on the technology mode.

[00:18:17] Carlton: And then all of a sudden it’s like, yeah, but you’re not on that technological bike anymore. You’re on a naked bike all of a sudden. So you’ve got to go back to the old ways. So it’s, it’s almost like the, the, you know, self driving cars. If you have, you know, 10 years of sitting in a car and you’re not having to touch anything, all of a sudden you have to use, you know, your driving skills.

[00:18:39] Carlton: It’s just a little atrophied. And it’s the same with, with, with, with technology. If we start relying on technology. on bicycles too much, like the, the Garmin Varia radar, all of a sudden you’ve lost all of those actually pretty good skills. And that’s not even, as you mentioned, equity there. You’ve got a whole bunch of, you [00:19:00] know, 99.

[00:19:01] Carlton: 9 percent of the population ain’t going to have this technology. It’s for the rich people will have this technology. And why should we sacrifice, why should the rich people be protected and, and everybody else not be protected? So there are huge, the academics, if you’re, you know, talking about academics, I would quite like there to be some historians, not just tech academics, but historians there, social historians, you know, people, academics who are specialists in, in, in genuine.

[00:19:31] Carlton: equity to bring all of these perspectives because that’s that is up from what I can see is totally being ignored.

[00:19:37] Irene McAleese: And yeah, they’re currently not on the coalition for safety. Panel at all so that that perspective has not been brought in which is a real miss That’s definitely something that the audience caught out The other thing that they also said is how would this work in the Netherlands with you?

[00:19:53] Irene McAleese: Detecting bikes and there’s thousands of bikes Um, anyway, Philip, you were going to [00:20:00] say something. Yeah, I

[00:20:01] Philip McAleese: think it’s interesting as well, because if you look at sort of the agenda, who’s driving it, um, obviously there’s both, you know, car and bicycle companies, um, promoting this as an idea. Um, but really when you look at it, um, at the technologies that they’re using and trialing and evaluating.

[00:20:17] Philip McAleese: Um, it’s largely based around car based systems of V2X. And so a lot of those are by companies like Qualcomm, um, who will be not just in one manufacturer, but will be in multiple cars. And the argument is that, you know, because it’s in multiple cars, um, it can be upgraded over the air in the future to allow the cars to detect.

[00:20:37] Philip McAleese: other things that have V2X on them. Um, but it’s fundamentally, um, I think they’re trying to retrofit a technology which is too expensive for bikes. Um, and as you say, we’ll end up only in the most expensive bikes because it’s, uh, it’s an expensive chipset. It requires a lot of energy, which in turn needs a big battery.

[00:20:54] Philip McAleese: Um, and so it’ll tend towards high end e bikes and that sort of thing. And, [00:21:00] you know, there are cheaper technologies out there, but it would require more More money being invested into the car, which again, changes the economic value. So the thing that I think is quite good, and I’m actually reasonably excited about is, um, the likes of Euro end cap and the Australian equivalent end cap.

[00:21:18] Philip McAleese: And since 2010. Sorry, 2020. Um, they’ve had tests around autonomous braking and detection of cyclists. Um, most recently in 2023, both of them have announced that, um, dooring or prevention of dooring is part of their scoring system as well. Um, and that’s kind of interesting because although these tests are, you know, independent of the car manufacturer, um, they do kind of.

[00:21:45] Philip McAleese: Uh, reactor, or I guess we’re set up as a result of things that are present in the cars. So, for example, the dooring, um, one of the first cars that was available to do that was the idea for back in 2016. So, you know, getting on for 7 year old technology. [00:22:00] And indeed, I believe that uses very similar technology to the Garmin Varia.

[00:22:04] Philip McAleese: Um, of a radar based system looking behind to look for bicycles. So it is possible to do this stuff without needing, um, you know, really expensive V2X technologies that is being, um, proposed. Um, I guess on the flip side to, to be fully, um, I guess cognizant of all the different factors, um, you could argue that.

[00:22:25] Philip McAleese: Um, how well do these systems work in the real world, the, you know, they certainly work well in testing and a lot of cars do pass, um, the standards for the test. Um, but we know from emissions regulations in the past that it is possible to set up a car to do a very specific thing and the real world, it might not behave exactly the same way.

[00:22:45] Philip McAleese: So given that the car manufacturer is saying it’s really hard to detect a bike, but the cars are passing these Euro NCAP standards. Um, I think we probably need something more, more like we have an air traffic control. So my, my first job was an ATC. [00:23:00] And if there’s a crash with an aircraft, it gets independently investigated, um, a report is published and everybody learns from that.

[00:23:07] Philip McAleese: Um, of course, that doesn’t happen with cars. And, you know, if a car has a collision. Uh, I should say if a car, if there’s a collision, not necessarily the car’s fault, unless it’s self driving, of course. Um, but where does that information go, you know, at best back to the manufacturer to improve their own system.

[00:23:23] Philip McAleese: So, um, you know, how do we get some of that knowledge and spread it around the car industry so that everybody can learn from it as

[00:23:29] Carlton: well? We’ll talk about data here. And if you’ve got a company that. Is now more data than it is just pure, just, uh, physical product lights. Um, even though your chips are being used, presumably that means it’s been easier for you to make this decision to move you and your family, uh, and set up a sales office in Australia.

[00:23:53] Carlton: Because you’re not really doing physical distribution of products if you’re doing data. We,

[00:23:59] Philip McAleese: [00:24:00] we do still have a reliance on the technology. So, um, a lot of what we do and our secret sauce is around the processing we do on the devices, um, which is unique to us and give us so much data, much deeper, richer insights than would otherwise be available.

[00:24:14] Philip McAleese: Um, The, the fortunate thing, I guess, with our technology is it is relatively small. Um, you know, we can take a box of 100 or 200 lights and send them to wherever we need to, anywhere in the world. Um, we’re very fortunate as well that because it tends to be viewed as safety technology, it tends to be free from, um, duty and import taxes, which, um, slow things down and complicate the processes.

[00:24:36] Philip McAleese: So actually we’ve, well, we do have a reliance on some logistics. Um, it’s perhaps not as challenging as some other companies. It allows us to, to work around it relatively

[00:24:45] Carlton: easily. So after, I’m going to cut to a commercial break now with my colleague, David, but after the break, I’d very much like to, uh, talk about logistically, how you’re going to do it.

[00:24:54] Carlton: And then I’d like to bring Irene again and, and, and, and talk about, um, her role [00:25:00] in the industry and, and how maybe she’s going to replicate that in Australia. But first of all, let’s go across to David in America.

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[00:26:09] Carlton: So, thanks David, uh, in America there, but we’re not talking about America. We’re talking about Australia with Irene and, uh, Philip McAleese.

[00:26:19] Carlton: So, tell me exactly how you’ve embedded yourself, very successfully, In the industry across here in, in, in Europe, um, specifically cycling industries, Europe. So tell me about the role. on, on, on the board. Maybe start by telling us what Cycling Industries Europe is.

[00:26:37] Irene McAleese: So, Cycling Industries Europe is, is the industry group which is being set up to, um, advocate for industry, but also really recognising that, um, you know, there’s a lot of work actually done to sort of advocate for investment in cycling infrastructure because most of the cycling [00:27:00] brands recognize that more investment in that helps to get more people on bikes, which ultimately helps all of the brands.

[00:27:08] Irene McAleese: So it’s not just bike brands actually over the years. It’s, it’s, it’s sort of broadened out. So the whole remit of the cycling industry is company like ours, which are offering. You know, um, accessories and data and services. There’s also other companies looking at maintenance, a whole range of different kind of support industries as well.

[00:27:28] Irene McAleese: Let’s do it around the main bike sales. Um, it’s actually an offshoot of the European. Cycling Federation, ECF. So years ago, it was part of that and then it sort of split out from that, but actually provides a lot of funding and support back to the ECF. Um, I did, uh, we were actually proud to be a member of the ECF or the, um, the CIE back when it was still part of the ECF actually.[00:28:00]

[00:28:00] Irene McAleese: And, um, one of the reasons I joined at the time was because I came across Kevin Mayne. Actually, it was through one of the articles that you had written, Carlton, where I’d seen that. Um, and when I met Kevin, I, I met Kevin at the first, It’s the first VeloCity I attended in Taipei and I was blown away because he, he was such an inspiring guy and he really understood when I said to him, you know, this is back in 2016, I think it was that we were looking at cycling data.

[00:28:32] Irene McAleese: We wanted to, um, look at shaping cities with data. I mean, I think in a lot of. Areas of the cycling world and we might have seemed a little bit alien, um, and a little maybe ahead of our time in some ways, but Kevin, he really saw, he actually had that vision as well. He really saw that the data was going to become more and more important and digitalization of the cycling industry would be more and more important.

[00:28:59] Irene McAleese: Um, the [00:29:00] main thing that he saw, and I think he’s completely right, was that. You know, cities are using data anyway. They use data from cars. They use data from other modes. And cycling had really been the kind of Cinderella in the ball. There was little data coming from cycling. And therefore, if cities don’t have much data, how do they design their cities to accommodate it?

[00:29:21] Irene McAleese: So he really saw that.

[00:29:22] Carlton: You treasure what you measure, basically.

[00:29:24] Irene McAleese: Yes, yes, exactly. So, um, uh, Yeah, I, I really found it great to, to work with CIE at that point because they, they helped us, um, you know, um, shape some of our vision as well as we went along with very, um, collaborative kind of company. I’ve learned a lot from talking with them and, um, they also set up within their organization, uh, a cycling, um, Connected Cycling and ITS Network Group, so other like minded companies can come together and we can work on things for the industry such [00:30:00] as standards and and things like that which which help to you know, it’s a little bit of grunge work really behind the scenes to to try to Facilitate things and make sure that we can put in place things that are actually going to help grow the market for everyone Then I was invited to Participate in the board.

[00:30:21] Irene McAleese: They put out a call actually because the CIE’s board had been all male. Um, and they put out a call saying that they wanted to invite more women onto the board. And, um, I decided to throw my hat in the ring for that and I was very pleased to be. Selected I did a two year stint on the board. I think it was just over two years once Brexit came along I did sort of kind of step back a little bit because a part of the reason of CIE is really about advocating for funding at the EU level Um, so, and they’ve been tremendously successful at that [00:31:00] actually in things like the Green Deal and getting the European Cycling Declaration signed off recently.

[00:31:06] Irene McAleese: Um, of course, unfortunately here in Northern Ireland as part of the UK, that funding pot doesn’t trickle down to us anymore. Um, so I, I couldn’t justify, you know, so much of my time going to CIE and, and actually the flight or the trip to Brussels is actually quite, uh, quite a long journey here from Northern Ireland.

[00:31:27] Irene McAleese: So it would take quite a lot of time, but I, I am still quite involved in the, the cycling expert groups online and participating more in the working. Hands on stuff. So I learned a lot actually by being the only woman on the board. They’re really big companies there track Excel At the time they had Sort of Uber with their bikes, share fleets, and different companies like this on the board.

[00:31:54] Irene McAleese: So we, I guess we’re a little bit different. A, we’re a small company. B, [00:32:00] we were a company working at the edge of innovation on data and technology, and C, being a woman. So I definitely brought in a perspective, a different perspective across all three of those areas. But yeah, fantastic experience. Um, There

[00:32:17] Carlton: is a, there is also a slight link with Kevin in that he’s from New Zealand originally.

[00:32:22] Carlton: Yes. So during that, some of that get up and go, you’re talking about some of that awareness of other issues potentially came from the fact that he wasn’t born and bred. Uh, in Europe, he had maybe a different skill set, a different perspective, because he did come from, from New Zealand.

[00:32:42] Irene McAleese: I thought he was actually English and his wife is from New Zealand.

[00:32:45] Irene McAleese: I could be wrong. Really? Oh. I will, I

[00:32:49] Carlton: will. Carry on talking. I’ll Google that, because I’m, I’m, I’m pretty sure he’s New Zealand, but carry on. Let’s, let’s, let’s talk about different things while I, while I, while I Google that in the meantime. [00:33:00] Okay. I could be wrong. You could be right. I mean, I could be like.

[00:33:03] Carlton: I could be giving him an international perspective there where there is… Yeah, I know, I

[00:33:07] Irene McAleese: know he met, I know he met his wife in, when he went on a trip to Australia, I think, and for work, because he used to work for a, uh, was it a drinks company, some sort of drinks company or something. Um, yeah, you might have to slice this bit out, Kevin Carlton, but yeah, I think, I think he’s English.

[00:33:32] Irene McAleese: I think I’ve spoken to him and he was English, but… Um, but yeah, he does have a lot of get up and go and actually, um, you know, I’ve always thought that, um, he, you know, it’s kind of funny to have Kevin who I thought was from the UK heading up, you know, he was obviously cycling UK’s, um, CEO at one point, um, and then he’s there.

[00:33:55] Irene McAleese: Um, heavily involved in the whole European cycling context, um, who would be [00:34:00] more traditionally known for cycling. So it’s good to have fresh voices around, around the table.

[00:34:05] Carlton: Well, he lives in Brussels now, of course. And, uh, I mean, Brussels, we were talking about Brexit and, and the fact that you had to like, maybe come out a little bit and, and I, I, I’m kind of.

[00:34:16] Carlton: I’ve done the same thing, even though I try to be as much as a good European as possible. But when I get the press releases from the European Cyclist Federation, you know, about the Green New Deal and about, you know, all of these things, it’s like, it’s wonderful. But what does it really? Mean to yeah, well to us

[00:34:35] Irene McAleese: in the UK the day that the European Cycling declaration was announced the same day was announced in the UK.

[00:34:46] Irene McAleese: The plan for driving was announced

[00:34:51] Irene McAleese: So, you know the disparity between those two Situations is so stark and it’s at this point. I actually joined, you know, I’ve joined now the [00:35:00] bicycle Association Here in the uk. Um, and I’ve also joined the board. Um, they’ve as a, as a board advisor for diversity, um, for the bicycle association here. So I’ve really been trying to sort of, um, impact that way, um, more locally here over the last year, which I’ve really enjoyed.

[00:35:20] Irene McAleese: And then actually the bicycle Association are doing some really great work now. Um, looking at. I think they’ve really evolved and are really much more, uh, you know, they’re getting really into advocacy, you know, lobbying the government for funds and investment to fill some of the gaps that have been left, I think, from, um, the, the exit from the EU.

[00:35:43] Irene McAleese: So, um, and you know, So I’m, I’m excited to see where they go with that.

[00:35:50] Carlton: Technically, if, if you are to believe the Brexit crowd, we’re actually going to be having closer ties with Australia and we’re certainly gonna be having the [00:36:00] beef and stuff, um, from the antipodes. So do you envisage actually potentially some benefits to Brexit?

[00:36:07] Carlton: Could we, could we have found some benefits that you might actually find that operating a business in Australia and having it in, you know, the other part of it in being in now?

[00:36:18] Irene McAleese: Yeah, there is a free trade agreement in place, but I think as Philip said, we were already exempt, um, for, um, the, the tariff for importing of the bike lights.

[00:36:30] Irene McAleese: Um, but one, I mean, one thing will be useful is ensuring, um, parity on the, um, data privacy work. So at the moment. You know, historically we’ve been part of GDPR and you want, which is at the European level. And we, we don’t want the UK to diverge too much from that because it’s really seen as the gold standard, um, worldwide around data privacy.

[00:36:58] Irene McAleese: And we’ve worked really hard to [00:37:00] ensure we’re compliant with that. Um, but I think as well, if we, if we have Australia and the UK, Um, broadly aligned with those in that perspective, I think that will be really useful. Um, and we have good dialogue around that. Um, but yeah, I mean, there’s, there’s obviously a, um, a historical link between the two, the two countries and, um, yeah, there is the free trade agreement.

[00:37:29] Irene McAleese: I guess we need to get to Australia and explore a little more about what that would actually mean for us. Um, at this point,

[00:37:39] Carlton: but I’ve just been searching for, for Kevin. I can’t see anything from his background, but I’m pretty sure he’s, uh, he’s from New Zealand. And even though I can’t find that, I’m, I’m pretty sure, but looking at the board of directors for cycling in Europe, there’s now three women on, on the board.

[00:37:53] Carlton: So you, you, you basically. You pioneered that. There are now three women. So April [00:38:00] Marsh, Anna Bookman and Isabel Eberlein. So that’s you. You’ve opened the door. You broke through that glass ceiling.

[00:38:07] Irene McAleese: Yes. Yeah. And it’s really fantastic to see. In fact, I think that they had this year a competitive, very competitive, um, selection because there were even some more women that wanted to.

[00:38:20] Irene McAleese: that were in the final list. Oh, I think they had, you know, just overall the board was very competitive in terms of getting in this year. So it’s really great to see those women were selected on their merit and brought in on that basis. And it’s no

[00:38:34] Carlton: longer the organization, when it started, it was almost just Kevin and himself.

[00:38:38] Carlton: It is now quite a few people beneath it. So it’s a growing organization, Cycling Industries Europe. Yeah, I think they’re

[00:38:44] Irene McAleese: doing really well. Um, um, you know, there are all these, I think that one of the keys has been the working groups. Um, because something that Kevin said is This really gives a lot of, um, credence [00:39:00] to the EU when they talk about how they actively engage all of the different industry players, um, members, um, through You Through these working groups and how you know different suggestions and things that brought forward it has it does carry more weight So I think that it’s been a clever strategy on the part of the CIE to to have you know Such great engagement with the members and then also To have a really good team like Laura who’s in the team She’s fantastic in being able to you know her understanding of how the whole EU kind of lobbying Machinations work is phenomenal and that’s really needed because you look at You know, she was telling me, like, you think about the car industry and other industries.

[00:39:53] Irene McAleese: They have just whole teams of people that are a hundred percent devoted to lobbying, [00:40:00] you know, the EU get through their agenda. Um, and they are really awake to that. Um, and they, you know, they see the opportunity for really talking up things like, you know, the impact on the economy. That’s been the key.

[00:40:16] Irene McAleese: We’re providing jobs. We’re providing, you know, we it’s a green growth industry and really getting that that message across is, I think, being, you know, one of their strengths, um, and getting cycling seen as another form of transport, not just a lesson for, you know, really bringing it up to the table.

[00:40:37] Irene McAleese: That’s what part of that. EU cycling declaration is about, um, but yeah, combination of good understanding of lobbying and better than conversely really working well with the industry members and, and bringing forward to the table ideas that have been shaped by the community. Um, so I think that’s how they’re doing it.

[00:40:59] Irene McAleese: So [00:41:00] I think, yeah, Kevin is a really great leader in that respect for pulling it together, but he does have a good team behind him. How are you going to

[00:41:07] Carlton: be organizing The team that’s going to be operating your business in, in Northern Ireland and, and how you’re going to be doing it remotely perhaps, or, or, or not, maybe it’s all going to be completely self running.

[00:41:22] Carlton: So, so logistically, how are you going to have a, how you run a business from Australia? Yeah, that’s a great

[00:41:28] Philip McAleese: question. I mean, um, I, I worked in Singapore for a period and so I was very used to the, um, the routine of being, um, you know, comparatively quiet and able to get some strategic work done in the morning.

[00:41:40] Philip McAleese: Um, and then London’s, um, start of day happening and coming online and creating a busy afternoon. So it’s kind of an extension of that where, um, I guess COVID was a good trial for our processes to begin with. We all had laptops. Um, all of our work is done in the cloud with very secure [00:42:00] storage. Um, and so we were able to disperse our various homes and continue to work in a relatively straightforward and easy way.

[00:42:06] Philip McAleese: So we’ve only really come back to a hybrid working model where people are in the office, typically one day per week, um, and it varies depending on the individual. Um, and so we’re already operating in a, in an environment where we’re not seeing everybody face to face every day. So I think. Whether or not we’re in a, uh, our home, we’re in a coffee shop in Brisbane, um, or indeed at home, a coffee shop in Newton Arms or in our office at Newton Arms will make comparatively little difference to the overall operation of the business.

[00:42:35] Philip McAleese: Um, obviously the time zones are a bit of a challenge. We will definitely be doing, uh, meetings early in the morning, late at night, um, more than we perhaps would like to, but that, that’s the, I guess, the cost of doing it. Um, we’ve got a very strong team here, so we’re very confident that, um, they’ll continue to operate very effectively.

[00:42:51] Philip McAleese: Um, without having us to, to be in the same time zone as them.

[00:42:56] Irene McAleese: And Carlton, we have really, you know, my previous life now, which [00:43:00] is now quite a while ago, um, that was really, my, my background was actually human resource management, change management, um, change management, um, advisor. Um, And so what some of the, some of the things that I learned from that experience, we’ve tried to bring into CSense.

[00:43:17] Irene McAleese: So we do, we run, we run CSense in a, in a way where we’re very values led. Um, so we do invest in really as much as we can with our people trying to help them. Starting from the top is, you know, our mission and our vision, what we’re trying to achieve and helping people see what they do on a day to day.

[00:43:38] Irene McAleese: basis really aligns with that. So that comes through from how we recruit people to how we do our performance management development. We have like quarterly team events, which we’ll continue to do where we get everyone together face to face and we have like bottom up and get, you know. Bottom up engagement in developing our OKRs, [00:44:00] Objectives and Key Results for the next quarter.

[00:44:02] Irene McAleese: So we’ve got some really nice kind of processes in place that help people feel engaged and part of the process and that they’ve got, you know, good mechanisms for communication and that kind of stuff as well. So. It’s not just, you know, you’ve got your laptop and you’re on your own. You know, we really do put a lot of work into managing all of the glue that brings people together.

[00:44:27] Irene McAleese: It’s going to be a challenge, absolutely. I’m sure we’ll have some teething issues as we land in Australia, working it out. But I genuinely think it’s not insurmountable. We’ve got a couple of team members at the moment. One, one based in Wales, actually, our new BizDev manager, Craig Brew, and we have Becky, um, Marsden in, in Birmingham.

[00:44:50] Irene McAleese: Um, the rest of the team here in Northern Ireland are actually a bit dispersed over Northern Ireland. Some in, in, in Derry, one’s in, in Enniskillen, [00:45:00] a couple of them down in Enniskillen actually. So we’re kind of a bit dispersed anyway, and it’s, it’s working. Sorry, it’s just getting a bit more extreme in the disbursement.

[00:45:12] Carlton: Yeah. Yeah. So you’re not just 20 miles apart, you’re going to be quite a few thousand miles apart. But yeah, that’s right. I mean, you can run a business. Uh, from wherever you are in the world, I guess the way we have now seem to have landed after COVID in, in, in everybody now knows how to use teams or most people knows how to use teams and all the different sharing platforms.

[00:45:38] Carlton: So you’ve kind of, we kind of. When I used to these things, you can now run a business. Nobody will think it completely odd. Remember 10 years ago, that would have been completely alien. Now it’s like, of course you can run a business from Australia. You’re just on Skype all the time. Or there’s Skype equivalents now.

[00:45:55] Carlton: I

[00:45:56] Irene McAleese: do worry though, because you know I’ve been, well, the last, the last fortnight [00:46:00] I’ve kind of done this really Condensed. Almost it feels like my swan song. I’ve been to all these conferences trying to see people face to face taking selfies with them and stuff because there is something really wonderful about that face to face experience.

[00:46:17] Irene McAleese: Um, and seeing, you know, I, you know, I think that that is really important and I worry a bit about that. Obviously not going to be able to do that as much. Having said that, there’s some key events. I would likely see, I would try to make things like the VeloCity, for example, where lots of like minded people come together.

[00:46:39] Irene McAleese: I think next year’s in Bruges. Ghent. Yeah, Ghent. So, yes, Ghent. So, um, it’s sort of, that, that would be definitely penciled in and, um, we, we have Phil’s, um, family’s still here in Northern Ireland, so we expect to be back for that, um, as well Christmas time. So we, we, you know, we will try to, [00:47:00] um, make the most of any trip that we have back and, and connect with people face to face where we can, um, because it’s really important.

[00:47:08] Irene McAleese: Actually, I haven’t seen you face to face for a while, Carlton, so maybe the next VeloCity.

[00:47:14] Carlton: Yes, yes, because VeloCity does travel the world. So, you know, it has been in, in, in Australia before. And as you mentioned before, you know, it’s been in Taipei. There was a, there was a, there was a version across there.

[00:47:27] Carlton: So you just got to wait for it to come to Australia again.

[00:47:30] Irene McAleese: Yeah, I heard that they were, I heard they were trying to, or they were thinking about getting one in Australia soon, but I don’t know if that’s going to come off.

[00:47:39] Carlton: Well, it’s been fascinating to talk to you. Thank you very much for, for, for taking the time, Philip and Irene.

[00:47:44] Carlton: I wish you all the best. How long have you got left in the UK? And are you finished? Are you like, are you wrapped up with things?

[00:47:52] Irene McAleese: Oh my god, no. We are literally working right up until the day we go, Carlton. Fourth of [00:48:00] December is the day we get on the plane. I’m actually going to London this afternoon, I’ve got a really exciting workshop we’re doing in London tomorrow, where we’re getting all of our, not all, but many of our key clients together, plus some very interesting thought leaders, Professor John Parkin being one of them, uh, we’re going to be brainstorming together how we can use AI and machine learning on CSense data to Um, Um, develop out in the next phase of our dashboard, which is a super exciting project.

[00:48:36] Irene McAleese: Um, so that’s happening, that’s happening tomorrow in London. Um, and then, um, there’s, there’s lots of stuff really going on right up until we go. Um. So yeah, never, never a dull moment.

[00:48:50] Carlton: No. Uh, well, I wish you all the best, both of you, and I can pretty much guarantee I will be still talking to you. And we don’t have to meet in the [00:49:00] flesh for us to, for us to talk because we, you know, I think it was at the, the, the London move conference when we talked to you last, but that was only.

[00:49:09] Carlton: That was only February, wasn’t it? So that wasn’t that long ago. Oh, that was just Philip, actually. I think that was just Philip, wasn’t it, Irene? You weren’t there at that one. I saw Philip. Right, so, so, so best of British. Best of luck across in Australia. And I will be talking to you when you’re in Australia.

[00:49:27] Carlton: We’ll just be on a different time zone, that’s all. Thanks to Mr. and Mrs. McAleese there and thanks to you for listening to episode 343 of the spokesman podcast brought to you in association as always with Turn Bicycles Shownotes and more can be found at the hyphen spokesman dot com the next episode Should be the fourth dedicated to cycle navigation out As I talk to Cammo, that show will be out next month, [00:50:00] but meanwhile, get out there

[00:50:04] Irene McAleese: and ride.

[00:50:45] Irene McAleese: Yeah, and I wonder, Carlton, if my accent is going to change. Philip says it changes as soon as I hit the, hit the tarmac and then I go full Aussie. So you will be able to tell me if I get better at using [00:51:00] data, data. Well, you’ve been

[00:51:01] Carlton: here, you’ve been here 20 years, but you haven’t lost, I mean, I’m sure people in Australia think you’ve, you’re, you’re completely Northern Irish with your accent, but we, we, I, I can certainly tell that you’re Australian, uh, with your accents.

[00:51:13] Carlton: You haven’t lost that, but yeah, I’m sure you’ll be even broader, um, once you’ve lived there for a bit. Yeah,

[00:51:19] Irene McAleese: you have scarred me though because I was presenting last week in, um, I was presenting last week in the Manchester conference and I actually heard myself say data and data in the same sentence as I was presenting, and I actually laughed and said, Oh my god, I’ve just done what Carlton Reed told me to do.

[00:51:44] Irene McAleese: Oh, yeah, so, um, So funny.

[00:51:47] Carlton: Thank you. What would be interesting is how, what Philip says. Will he change? Oh my goodness. Will you have an Australian accent, Philip?

[00:51:56] Philip McAleese: It’s a good question. I mean, I did spend ten years working in London. [00:52:00] Um, I did learn to speak a bit more clearly and a bit more slowly than the average Northern Irish person, perhaps.

[00:52:04] Philip McAleese: But, um, yeah, it’ll be interesting to

[00:52:07] Carlton: see. And your kids, what do they speak? What language do they speak? So, our…

[00:52:13] Philip McAleese: I hope they’re NI. Yeah. Yeah. They’re very good at doing accents, though, so it’ll be interesting to see, um, how quickly they morph and how that changes.

[00:52:23] Carlton: Twelve and fourteen. I should imagine pretty quick.

[00:52:27] Carlton: Yep. Pretty quick. Oh, my kids, my kids are bilingual. So, certainly, uh, one of my daughters is, uh, very broad jawed y. When she’s with her friends, but if she’s in a professional, uh, setting, can quickly switch to, to, uh, uh, the received pronunciation, shall we

[00:52:48] Irene McAleese: say. Did I see online, she, she, um, got into medicine or she graduated in medicine?

[00:52:55] Irene McAleese: That’s

[00:52:55] Carlton: my other daughter. Oh, okay. Twin daughters. You’ve got twins? And, uh, yes. [00:53:00] And, and they, uh, chalk and cheese. The doctor daughter has always spoke with an English accent only whereas my footballer daughter Uh, my fitness freak daughter, because she had footballing friends, she would then, and just when she goes to the Newcastle matches, she will speak incredibly broad Geordie with them, and then English with other people.

[00:53:30] Carlton: So yeah, your kids are going to get the best of both worlds, you’re going to be speaking probably Uh, one, one accent with one set of people at home and then very quickly a completely Aussie twang. That, that probably happens. But you know,

[00:53:46] Irene McAleese: I told you, Carlton, that my grandparents are Geordies, which were Geordies.

[00:53:50] Irene McAleese: Oh.

[00:53:51] Carlton: Yes. I think I remember.

[00:53:53] Irene McAleese: Yes. Yes. Yes. So, they they emigrated to Australia in the fifties. Um so, I grew up with the [00:54:00] Geordie accent. Um and they my my grandmother, she still had, she lived in Australia since in 1951, I think they arrived and she passed away. She she still had a twang, a little bit of the Geordie accent there.

[00:54:17] Irene McAleese: So, But it’s always, I don’t know, because it’s the accent of my grandparents, it’s etched in my brain and it’s a comforting and nice quality to it, to me.

November 19, 2023 / / Blog

November 3, 2023 / / Blog

3rd November 2023

The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast

EPISODE 342: Yorkshire Coast Gravel with Markus Stitz

SPONSOR: Tern Bicycles

HOST: Carlton Reid

GUEST: Markus Stitz

TOPICS: Two epic wet days riding in Yorkshire with gravel guru Markus Stitz

LINKS: Route YC. Bike & Boot hotel. LNER. Josh Reid’s YouTube channel.


[00:00:00] Welcome to episode 342 of the Spokesmen Cycling Podcast. This show was engineered on Friday 3rd of November, 2023.

The Spokesmen Cycling Roundtable Podcast is brought to you by Tern Bicycles. The good people at Tern are committed to building bikes that are useful enough to ride every day and dependable enough to carry the people you love. In other words, they make the kind of bikes that they want to ride. Tern has e bikes for every type of rider, whether you’re commuting, taking your kids to school, or even carrying another adult.

Visit www. ternbicycles. com [00:01:00] That’s T E R N bicycles. com to learn more. You may know Markus Stitz as Scotland’s very own German gravel guru, but I caught up with him in Yorkshire for two days of epic and rather wet riding. He’s been researching gravel and road rides for Route YC, a new brand for getting out and about on the Yorkshire coast.

I’m Carlton Reid, and I recorded audio with Markus as we rode on the cinder path between Scarborough and Whitby. This former railway line is one of the suggested rides that’ll go live on RouteYC. co. uk early next year. Also along for the ride was my endurance riding son. Josh, he’s not on the audio, that’s going to follow in a second, but he was filming beside us.

[00:02:00] So watch out for this video on his YouTube channel soon. In fact, there were three videographers on the trip, so we stopped lots. My video, short and sweet, is already on the hyphen spokesman dot com. Markus, I cannot see any whisky distilleries. I cannot see any young men in kilts. I cannot, we’re not, some puddles, but there are no lochks.

Um, what kind of part of Scotland have you brought me to here, Markus?

Um, Yorkshire.

This is a bit of a detour, literally, for you, isn’t it? Like, I mean, how come you’re in Yorkshire, Markus?

Yeah, it’s a, it’s a new, new territory for me. Um, I, I was approached by Tom Campbell, who [00:03:00] designed the North Coast 500 initially, and he was working on a project down here, and he was basically creating a number of routes down here for gravel bikes, road bikes, and touring bikes, and…

Due to the fact that I’ve done quite a bit of work of the same kind in Scotland and when I wrote Great British Travel Writer, I actually travelled a fair bit out of Scotland as well. Yeah, true. Um, yeah, it was, it was interesting to be commissioned. I think it’s, it’s been, it’s been interesting from a point of view that this has pretty much been a blank canvas for me, whereas in Scotland, most of the projects.

I had some sort of connection to the areas by either having lived there or travelled and, um, and this was, was slightly different about, but really enjoyable and it’s a beautiful part of the world. It’s [00:04:00] nice and what I loved about it is, it is very central. Yeah. It’s so much more accessible for. I better just describe what we’re going through because we are now going through quagmires, quite deep mud and it’s black mud.

Uh, and you could say it’s like cinders, because this is a cinder track. I’m just going to zip my top up here. Thank you. Thank you. So we’re going through black mud. Uh, we’re going underneath railway bridges. So clearly an old railway. Yes. Where have we come from and where are we going along this, the cinder track, Marcus?

So we’ve come from Scarborough. We joined the cinder track a little bit further on, so it starts in the town. But we went a little bit along the coast first and then joined it. And we’re heading to Whidbey on this. So, I [00:05:00] think it’s about 24 miles in total, this stretch. And, I mean, you were telling us before that it was going to be quite washed out.

Yeah. Is this as worse as it’s going to get worse than this? Um, this is possibly as, as soggy as it will get. It is. I’ve ridden this in, uh, in summer, and in summer it’s, it’s really enjoyable. Yeah, summer, it’s obviously, it’s dry. Now, they were talking about, uh, putting asphalt on the cinder track all the way, because then that would make a, you know, a Whitby to Scarborough.

But clearly they haven’t done that. I think there was a lot of protest to stop them doing that. So we did some stretches on asphalt, on tarmac, through town, but now we’re on the dirt. I mean, it’s quite okay here, but there are stretches where if you were on an everyday cycle, you wouldn’t want to go through that, and then even back further back there, [00:06:00] it was a lake.

That was, uh, something else. So this is, this is, I mean, the cinder track is like, it’s at the backbone of all your routes. Is it something that you think you’d use quite a lot to get from the variety of routes you’ve chosen? Yeah, it’s part of three routes. Um, I wouldn’t say it’s a back… Well, it’s kind of…

It’s possibly the longest continuous cycle track section along the coast. Um, but… The routes itself… It’s the road bikes that only take tarmac. If you go ahead there, Markus, I’ll catch you up. We can both carry on talking, don’t worry. Yeah, and… Thank you. Hello. Hey, uh, hi guys. Yeah, so there’s routes. Gravel bikes.

Road bikes and touring bikes. Alright, so we’re not just gravel bikes. I thought it was like, it’s only gravel. So this is, this is the whole commute then, that’s good. Yeah, so it’s, yeah. And there’s [00:07:00] also, so… The heart of the project is, uh… Went about 420 kilometres. I’ve forgotten how much that is in miles. I think 260 miles.

Um, so that’s a longer adventure route. But then there’s also a route which is shorter and suitable for riding on a weekend. Yeah. Uh, then a cycle touring route because further down south is Hull. What’s the route called? What’s the, what’s the, what are these routes? Route Yorkshire Coast. Yorkshire Coast, okay.

Um, but it does venture all of those roads, uh, routes. I think I have a nice mix of coastal riding, but also you go a little bit further inland because you’ve got the Yorkshire moors. Yep. And the vaults as well. And then, I particularly like the southern section actually, um, around Holderness. Because it’s, it’s quite flat, um, but quite interesting riding.

Like it’s not, it’s not flat riding where you get easily bored. [00:08:00] It’s um, yeah, really nice. Small villages and, um, sand dunes and, yeah, it’s just a really, I think that’s what I, what I do like about this region. It’s, there’s a huge variety of landscapes in a very, very small area if you travel through it. And how long have you been working on it, Mark?

I mean, you’ve done this, like, a lot of it in the winter. So it’s going to be a huge surprise to you in the summer, or have you been working on it so long that you’ve done the whole, you’ve done every season? So, I had initial discussions in April, and then I got commissioned in early June. Yeah. Early June.

And then ever since then, pretty much on and off, with a few other projects in between as well. Um, but, yeah, pretty much since the beginning of June. I’ve been doing this. And then we, we, we joined you last night. So I’m with, uh, we’re with Josh. So I’ve got [00:09:00] two intrepid world explorers here uh, helping me.

And actually very much helped me because I had a brake block, or a brake pad problem. And uh, the two world expeditionists just sorted me out. I didn’t have to do a thing, it was great. Uh, so I’m with Josh, my son, and with Marcus here, obviously. Riding along the cinder track, between Scarborough and Whitby.

And then we’re going to be going inland a bit. But when we met you last night, because we stayed, I mean I stayed there before with a dog. And it’s a fabulous hotel for dogs, for the same reasons it’s a fabulous hotel for cyclists actually. And that’s the Bike and Boot in Scarborough. And that was a brilliant hotel.

So just describe what it, if you’re a cyclist and you’re coming to Scarborough, What are you going to get from the bike and boot? I think, as a cyclist, it’s possibly the most important thing is you can lock your bike away securely, and you can wash it. [00:10:00] There’s a fantastic bike wash there, isn’t there?

Which is particularly good if you’ve just cycled along the coast and got your bike coated in salt water. Yeah. Um, so the bike facilities are pretty top notch. They are really nice. I, I just, I also think it’s really friendly staff and, and, and the rooms are lovely as well. I think it’s got a, it’s got a nice, I like quirky places.

I like places that have character. I mean, I’m equally happy to stay in my tent for the night. Yeah. Doesn’t have to be indoors all the time. But if I stay indoors, it’s just nice to have somewhere where you kind of feel like I’m welcomed here. Um, I’ve got a nice comfy place. I’ve got a coffee machine in the rooms as well, which I think is particularly helpful.

That, that always helps, definitely. I’m a bit of a night owl and early riser, so. Um, and actually, the thing we, we missed, because we came in late, they, they’ve got free cake at 4 o’clock as well. This is why it’s perfect for cyclists. Free cake, 4 o’clock. There you go. So far, I’ve mostly missed [00:11:00] that, because I was mainly out riding my bike at that time.

So you stayed there not just last night, you stayed there previously? Yeah, I stayed there quite a few times now, yeah. Yeah, it’s a cool hotel. Uh, now you’re, you’re not at the hotel, but you are with certain people. So tell me who you were filming with yesterday, that people will, will know from your videos.

Yeah, so Mark, Mark Beaumont, good friend of mine, and Jenny Graham. Um, we’ve… We’ve actually done quite a few projects together. We’ve done a film last year in Argyll in Scotland. And we bunched up again this year to do this. Yeah, it’s quite fun. I think it’s interesting because we are very similar in the way that we’ve, the three of us have ridden around the world.

Mark and Jenny hold world records, I don’t. Um, but I’m okay with that. I’ll cycle at a single speed so that possibly counts [00:12:00] as well. That’s a world record in itself. Come on. Going round on a single speed. Yeah. Um, so yeah, it’s been really nice just to kind of ride around. And the nice thing is, like, I guess we are, all the three of us, function really well independently.

But it’s also quite nice having the three of us together. And… It’s just, it’s the old crew really, isn’t it? It’s like, absolutely, it’s your classic. So you’ve, even though, and that’s the classic Scottish crew. Yeah. So even though people would think, oh well, you know, you’re going to be doing a route in Scotland.

You’ve actually come to Yorkshire. You’ve transplanted to, uh, uh, uh, to Yorkshire. Yeah. So describe those routes again then. What, what have, what have you got? What kind of, what’s the most challenging? And what’s the easiest? And then maybe we’ll get to the middle bit. Yeah, so the most challenging is, uh, I guess I would call it a four to five day [00:13:00] route.

Um, the adventure route. Um, we, we, possibly we give it a more distinctive name, but that’s what the working title is at the moment. Um. Which is a good point. So, would, this is not actually open yet as such? When is it launching? When is the actual… to the Yorkshire. Yeah. Roots will be launching in early 2024, so at the end, back end of January next year.

Um, just hopefully in time for people making plans to plan their holiday next year on a bike. Right, so I interrupted you there Markus, sorry, just to get, you know, exactly when this is opening. So you’re starting on the challenging, so four, five day challenging route. Yeah. Is that linking every single route up, or is that like a big circle?

What is that? It’s kind of, in a way, it is a circular route that’s, which kind of encloses all the other routes which are in there. Um, but it’s a route, a route by itself and that one is, I guess it’s designed for people who either want to get into bikepacking [00:14:00] and don’t mind having a longer route, but something which is a bit less challenging to start off with so you can ease in over the first two days.

And then once you hit the North York moors, things get a bit more remote and a bit steeper. So it starts in Scarborough, heads down the coast, beautiful coastline. Basically what we’re doing now? Is that the first part of it? That will be the last part actually, so we’re going in reverse at the moment.

Right. The last section will be coming down from Bridge Beach, Scarborough, on the cinder track. Um, but yeah, you start off on the coast, go all the way down to Spurn Point, which is a super interesting place. Um, it’s a sand pit sticking out into the Humber and then back through the inland actually. So once you’ve done the coast pit, um, you go a little bit further inland, um, and then into the

moors. So through the walls first and then into the moors and then [00:15:00] north of the River Esk to Whitby and then back down to Scarborough. Yeah. And sand pit. Yeah, there’s quite a bit of climbing in that as well. But, it’s, I guess I design routes this, I think that’s, and this is, this is, this is, I guess the result of, of having done this a number of times now.

I guess I look at surface, I look at gradients, I look at how this works together so, you know, you don’t really want to batter people continuously with one steep hill after another one. Um, a nice mix of it is welcome. Um, but it’s also looking at facilities for cyclists along the way. So, um, is there, is there accommodation?

Are there places for people to get some food? I think it’s super important to kind of look at public transport as well. So actually before I did any of the routes here, [00:16:00] I had a look at how people can get here by train. And then kind of… Because it’s really good to understand what the main routes are and how people can get here and then kind of looking at starting points.

So the reason why Scarborough, for example, is the starting point. It’s just the most accessible place if you take the train. Yes, so back in the bike and boot in the, I don’t know about your room, Marcus, but say in my room there was a poster there 1930s poster for LNER, in fact. Yeah. When, you know, they were doing holiday trips to, to Scarborough.

So it is accessible by train, very accessible. We certainly got here by, by train. So we took the LNER from Newcastle, got to York. I mean, it was challenging weather yesterday. So, you know, a lot of Scotland has been inaccessible to train just recently. And parts of Yorkshire were [00:17:00] inaccessible to train yesterday.

But we did get here, about an hour. An hour late once we got the, the train from York to, to Scarborough. Got to the bike and boot and just about made it before, uh, the chef went home for the night. So we had a couple of burgers while we got in. Now, this is a beautiful route, so we’re, we’re expecting tons of rain the next day.

But right now, we’re, we’re kind of wet underfoot, but… We’re dry, we’re dry. So we’ve got squirrels going between our wheels almost. We’ve got this amazing churned up black mud. Which is where the cinder name comes from. Um, but it is beautiful. Now what we’ve got coming up so we’re gonna, in a minute we’re gonna have we’re gonna have views in about Half an hour probably to, to Robin Hood’s Bay.

What, what, what route, what can you [00:18:00] see from the cinder track? So this, this first section is, yeah, quite enclosed in the woodland. It’s beautiful. And then once we come to Ravenscar, Um, which has a lot of interesting history behind it, because it used to be, well, supposed to be a big town, but it never went, took off.

Um, so from Ravenscar onward, you’ll get some amazing views right over the bay. over to Robin Hoods Bay. And then from Robin Hoods Bay, we would have a climb up again and then views towards Whitby and the Abbey. Ooh! Ooh! Yeah, Mark has had a bit of a slip there. I’m doing my cyclocross exercise here. Yeah. Um, I mean the track is definitely quite cut up, isn’t it?

Yeah, and then yeah, I just think Whitby is such a beautiful setting, the town. And there’s also For anyone who is super brave, possibly we shouldn’t, shouldn’t encourage people to do that. But there’s a, there’s a road called [00:19:00] Church Lane, which is a extremely steep cobbled road. Um, so there’s a… Coming down from the…

Coming down from the Abbey. The Abbey in Wembley, yeah. Past the graveyard that inspired Dracula. Yeah. Bram, Bram Stoker. Bram Stoker. Yeah. Um, yeah. We tried to ride that yesterday. I think we were all brave enough for the first bit and then did, um, kind of good production over braveness, braveness and push the bike for the last bit.

Yeah. I, I have heard that someone actually circled up there on the flat bike, so it must be doable, but I think you need five inch tires for good, for a good traction. But yeah, it’s a, this is just a really nice mix of. route and some villages and some, some really nice coastal scenery, uh, big cliffs [00:20:00] coming up soon.

Yeah. So I’ve cycled here tonnes. I’ve cycled on the cinder track tonnes and it’s a, it’s a, it’s a great route. Certainly it links into lots of the walled routes that I’m guessing you’re using quite a lot. Yeah. But right now. Yeah. Yeah. We’re going to cut to a break and we’re going to go across to my colleague David as I struggle through these big, big gaps.

Take it away, David.

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And we’re back with Marcus and with Josh somewhere behind. I’m on the cindy track still. And Marcus, before the break, you were telling us, uh, about the, the long route, the challenging route. Yeah. So, first of all, tell us what we’re doing today.

Where are we ending up? So, we’re getting to Whitby. We thought we were getting to Whitby for breakfast, but we’re not. We’re going to get breakfast, or have breakfast at a hotel, but we’re going to get to Whitby. Where are we going from Whitby? Um, there’s, I guess, kind of depends on what time of the day we get there, but roughly, we [00:22:00] head west from there.

So, we either go… Above the Asquarelle to the north, or to the Asquarelle, uh, towards Crosmont. And then to Gauffland, and I’ll be staying in Gauffland. Which is a, it’s like a proper Yorkshire Moors village, with sheep grazing the streets. Yes. I remember the first time I came there, I was just like, this is um…

This is very interesting. And it’s got, I think I, I, I get a, Um, I, I like steam railways. Yeah, I was going to say there’s a railway through there, isn’t there? Yeah. So you can actually take a railway. Can you take your bikes on that railway? Yes, I think you can. Um, they have bike spaces. Um, I haven’t, I haven’t managed to get it yet.

Just done several times of filming steam trains along the way.

I’ll [00:23:00] hold your bike.

This way. There you go. And we’re going through a nice station here. Yeah, I think that used to be a old platform. Yeah. Nice brick and a concrete topping. You can tell this was a railway and a beautiful little cottage here. That was the railway station. Yeah, it would be nice to take the train here. I think it must be an absolutely amazing journey.

Yeah. So there’s somebody just living there. That’s not B& B, it’s not a restaurant, not a cafe. That’s just somebody living there in the station. That’s cool. Yeah. Right, so we’re ending up in Gowtham. And then, if we’ve got some daylight, I’ve asked you if we can crack on and maybe go to Wealdale. Is Wealdale on one of your routes?

We’re not going off route there? It is, um… Yeah, the actual Roman road itself isn’t on it, but the road basically next [00:24:00] to it is on it, yeah. Yeah, so Weald, so that, that, well, it’s still part of your route if we go through Wealdale. Have a, a look at the, the arch… Yeah. Just to, to, to explain, I came to Gowthland and to Wealdale, in fact, Wealdale Lodge, when it was still a youth hostel, and this is 25 years ago, when I was a college student, so I did my geography coursework.

in this part of the world, so I know it well. And I know how gorgeous it is. Uh, no motorcycles on this path, says that sign. Josh is coming through, so we’ll leave the gate open. So we’re gonna go and hopefully go and see the Roman road. And then we are staying in Gotland. Yes. And then, so that’s where we’re going.

So how about, uh, How about telling us about maybe the simplest routes, the, the easiest routes you can do. Are these family friendly routes? Yes. Um, there’s, so there’s one, I, [00:25:00] just out of the top of my head, the shortest route is a, is a crabber route around Friley. So it starts in Friley and then kind of meanders through the Lettish farmland um, on the back of Friley, and then you come back to Friley.

That’s about it. I think less than 10 miles in total. Um, Um, so that’s certainly. Then there’s another one up in Whitby which is a bit more hilly, but takes you on the cinder track for a short section, and then through the Asprelli and back. I guess the cinder track if it’s, if it’s in summer. section, so I particularly recommend going from Whidbey to Robin Hoods Bay and back.

That would be a nice family friendly route because it’s flat ish. Um, and there’s some nice places to get some food in Robin Hoods Bay on Whidbey. Yeah. Um, [00:26:00] and, and the other, I think the other really interesting, which is not like a route in itself, but, um, If, one thing which feels like an adventure but you don’t really go far is to head out to Spurn Point in the south.

Um, it’s a bit pushing your bike over, over the beach for a wee while, but once you get on that tarmac road which is still there, down to the lighthouse, it’s just such a really nice place with loads of birds. So, if you’re into having a bit of wildlife on your cycling trip. That’s the place to go. Thanks to Marcus Stitz there, and thanks to you for listening to episode 342 of the Spokesman podcast, brought to you in association with Turn Bicycles.

Show notes and more can be found at the spokesman. com. The next episode will be the fourth dedicated to cycle navigation apps, as I [00:27:00] talk to Komoot. That show will be out later in the month. But meanwhile, get out there and ride.[00:28:00]

October 25, 2023 / / Blog

25th October 2023

The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast

EPISODE 341: In conversation with Carla Francome

SPONSOR: Tern Bicycles

HOST: Carlton Reid

GUEST: Carla Francome

TOPICS: The joy of cycling with commuter-to-club-cyclist Carla Francome


Carlton Reid 0:13
Welcome to Episode 341 of the Spokesmen cycling podcast. This show was engineered on Wednesday 25th of October 2023.

David Bernstein 0:24
The Spokesmen cycling roundtable podcast is brought to you by Tern bicycles. The good people at Tern are committed to building bikes that are useful enough to ride every day and dependable enough to carry the people you love. In other words, they make the kind of bikes that they want to ride. Tern has e-bikes for every type of rider. Whether you’re commuting, taking your kids to school or even carrying another adult, visit That’s t e r n to learn more.

Carlton Reid 1:03
Hi there. I’m Carlton Reid. And first off an apology. A number of listeners told me of download problems with episode 340 with theRide with GPS co founder Zack Ham, those problems have been fixed. Thanks for pointing that out. Now, today’s show is a joyful chat with Carla Francombe. We also touch on the downsides of social media. And then segue into Carla’s journey in cycling from just commuting through to becoming a club cyclist and taking part in an uphill and mountain based charity event. So Carla, it is absolutely brilliant to actually physically talk to you. I feel as though I know you.

And I’m sure that the feeling is kind of mutual in that we’ve followed each other on Twitter stroke, X, whatever, Elon Musk is going to call it next week. Yeah. So that’s how I came upon you is via social media. So it’s now good to actually talk to you. And I’ve got to say to you that the reason I wanted to talk to you and want to talk to you for a long time is because you bring a lot of joy Oh, into the world of social because social media can be an incredibly, incredibly depressing place. But here you are. You’re you’re making faces, you’re making your fun of yourself. You’re making fun of others quite legitimately. And you’re it seems to me, I don’t know, this, maybe you’re just putting on a front? I don’t know. But it seems to me you’re having a ball. And and you’re also you’ve been on a journey. Yeah. So that’s what I’d like to talk about today is about the joy that you bring to my social media feed when your tweets come up, and you’re pulling faces. I love all that stuff. But also how you’ve been on quite a journey. Yeah. In in the world of cycling. Yes. So let’s, let’s, let’s talk about that. But first of all, let’s, let’s find out about you. So so you don’t have to give me your exact address or anything, but it’s roughly where are you? And what do you do for a living?

Carla Francome 3:07
Hey, well, thank you for having me on the show, Carlton. It’s lovely to talk to you. So I live I’m a woman in her 40s, mid 40s. I live in North London in an area called bounds green. I’m a live TV producer by trade. So I make TV programmes, everything from come down with me to Current Affairs and things like that. And in my spare time, I do a lot of cycling and talk about it a lot on social media. And I do love it, I do find it such fun. And I didn’t cycle for probably about 10 years because I had kids and they were very small and they’re always in push chairs and we’re in a flat and there wasn’t room for a bike. And then I got back on it again a few years ago and I just loved it and what was amazing for me as well as

you know, being a little kid so you know, love so much, but they need you so much was just to be able to get off on the bike and feel free of everything within a minute or two and just to be able to go on an adventure and it always feels like an adventure whether you know and often it’s just a commute and it’s often the same commute. But always meet someone different or you know you see someone and they’ve got a great handbag or you know something or basically something always happens I don’t think there’s ever been a bike ride when nothing has happened. Something always happens. So always feels like an exciting adventure and I do love it.

Carlton Reid 4:18
That is cute because you are clearly very very observational. You’re very good at spotting things that maybe other people aren’t spotting and then remarking upon it and then then you take your it’ll take a photo of a hug or something. Yeah, or somebody Yes, with a nice bike and then you’ll just photograph and then you’ll kind of go you’re just kind of like a spin off on that which is really really, really cute. Now but you do let’s let’s let’s let’s be frank here. Both you and me. We also get quite a bit abuse. Yes, unfortunately. From from from whom who gives you abuse and why why would they attack Carla? Who is bringing joy to the world? Why? Why attack you Carla?

Carla Francome 4:59
controversial things, some of the things that I say and that you say. I mean, you know, sometimes people get annoyed because you’re just, you know, cycling around.

I did just exist existing. And they think the funny thing is they always this is brilliant. And I love this, that when you’re cycling, they think that you’ve slowed them down. And he always catch up with them, you always catch up with them, you always do. And I always give them a little wink at the traffic lights. And I’m like, Yeah, wasn’t that slow was i and then there’s always a moment. And actually, you can have a bit of a laugh about it, because I’m not you really didn’t need to overtake me there.

So there is that in real life, people drivers often think that you’re slowing them down, and they just have this desperate need to get past you even if you’re going to catch up with them. But, but on social media, as well. And I think people just want to the things we talk about are often controversial, low traffic neighbourhoods are controversial. And, you know, these aren’t easy things, you know, low traffic, neighbourhoods have a lot of benefits. But I think it’s fair to say that they for some people have disadvantages. And that’s just part of how it works. Now, that isn’t right. These aren’t perfect, but they’re a starting point, I think. And so I think that there can be real frustration there. And I think it’s just really important for me on a serious note to actually listen to how other people feel. And some people might have more traffic on their roads, or it might be really frustrating for them for various reasons. And I just think that’s really important to say, Okay, this isn’t perfect. How can we work with this as a starting point? So yes, sorry, that was a bit of a serious answer, wasn’t it that?

Carlton Reid 6:28
Well, I’m going to keep on the serious theme in that. How do you how do you obviously physically cope, but as long as mentally How do you mentally cope with the abuse? Because you are a lightning rod? I mean, I sometimes, you know, follow, go down the rabbit hole, have a look at, you know, who’s interacting with you. And it’s awful abuse. And it’s it can be quite personal. Yeah, time these these aren’t just in abstract terms people are throwing at you. They’re being very, very personally horrible. So how do you personally cope with that? And almost, why are you hanging around on social media? Because you’re getting this stuff? So yes, you’re bringing joy, and that’s wonderful. But how are you coping mentally with the abuse you get?

Carla Francome 7:11
Well, I would say that I think most of the comments are really nice. And I think so I kind of pay more attention to that and most people are really positive and supportive. So and I’m a bit of an attention seeker Carlton. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, and I do love the positive attention. My dad’s a clown. My mum was a clown. I used to clown shows with my with my with my mum.

Carlton Reid 7:29
I mean, do you mean literally literally clown. Just he makes you laugh?

Carla Francome 7:33
Yeah. Okay. Okay, so my dad. I mean, maybe we’ll talk more about him but he was very big figure really, he he used to call me stop actually, this quite used to juggle the London Marathon Colton used to juggle marathons with clubs. He was actually the first person we think to juggle a marathon. He did Moscow. He did Swindon. He was you know, he’s in a Mazar but he’s a big character. And

so he’s an extrovert he was brought Butlins redcoat. So as my mum, and I’ve always thought that if you get to Butlins Red Coats, they should not be allowed to breed because they’re basically massive extroverts. And both of my parents do, you know, folk singers, entertainers. So they then produce me and of course, I’m going to become this loud, you know, extrovert person who basically just never shuts up. So yeah, I’ve got the genes of both of them, and it just they just shouldn’t have been allowed to breed.

Carlton Reid 8:25
This explains. So this explains everything.

Carla Francome 8:30
Okay, so yes, so yeah, they’re both clowns. Yeah, just be characters. So I think I just, you know, love attention. And I find everything funny, mainly. But yeah, the appears to be splits in different bits. I mean, there’s a lot about my weight. I’m not thin. I’m a size, I mean, UK size 16, which is average. But when you cycle people seem to think that you’re somehow going to become this whip it, but it doesn’t actually always work like that. And I’m very fit and pure fit and healthy. But I’m not thin. And apparently that was surprising to some people. And sometimes the comments are horrible. I was out the other morning at 7am. And I was going on a long bike ride. And and I posted something and somebody said you are too obese to cycle. And someone else called me lazy. And that actually really annoyed me. I was just like, Screw you, mister. You know, and so I get a lot of comments about my Wait, wait, I’ve been called an ogre.

And yeah, just a lot. But somebody Yeah, all that sort of stuff. So that does annoy me sometimes. But I try and talk about it. And one person wrote to me once actually, and they said, look, the way you deal with this is actually impacting other people. They said, I know someone who’s reading this and it’s making them feel they can cope with it. And I thought that’s really good actually. Because if other people are getting abused like this anywhere in their life, or that ever been told that they’re a bit fat or a bit this if they can see me talk about it, laugh it off, and you know, then then they might feel better about it. So that’s why I do it really.

Because there’s clearly a whole tonne of misogyny going on here because, yeah, I get abuse. I tend I’ve got very little physical abuse. So the odd one, maybe one

Carlton Reid 10:00
Somebody six months might comment upon the lack of hair on my head. But generally the abuse I get is is intellectual abuse. So it’ll be my ideas people are not they’re not attacking me for what I look like, mainly because I’m a I’m an adult. I’m very upset that I haven’t been, you know, one of callers. However, you can do that at the end of the show, you know, you can say, Oh, by the way, exactly. Thank you. saucepot. I want to be I want to call it Sourcepoint. Exactly. But that’s mainly because we haven’t met Oh.

Yeah, exactly. So we’ve got that got that settled, we know that. But people generally are not, you know, abusing me physically. So the misogyny is clearly there. They’re attacking you. You’re using physical attributes, which is that basically being

Carla Francome 10:52
British. That’s it, that’s really interesting. I’ve not thought of that. So you don’t get the physical abuse. Whereas I guess then as a woman, you’re expected to look a certain way and look a certain way to impress men if you’re heterosexual, you know, so you’re supposed to be thin, and you’re supposed to be extremely pretty. And you’re supposed to be like this. And that, well, I’m not always like that. And normal, a lot of other people and that should be fine. So yeah, that’s really interesting. Actually, the the amount, and it was often men, some lot of men are totally, and it is not about my weight. And I think it’s because it’s something easy that they that people can see, I guess is that I’m not skinny. The funny thing was, I didn’t ever really think I was that big. And people talk people started going on about it a lot on Twitter, and I was like, Really, but um, but I really try and turn it around a bit. So recently, there was a there was a day of protests, organised by initially by some amazing people in Birmingham safe streets now, they called it and I thought, You know what, and I was doing a cycle ride. In the afternoon, I was cycling up swains lane. It was a bike ride,

Carla Francome 11:52
the urban hill climb, and I thought I really wanted to have a poster or something that said safe streets now. But I couldn’t carry anything on my bike, really. And then I thought, I know I’m right on my stomach, because everyone’s always going on about my stomach. So it could be a useful billboard, have never got it out before. I mean, listen, listen, this is not a midwife that you would want to display. So I wrote. So my daughter wrote safestreets Now in black mark on my stomach, and actually, it felt quite profound because she, you know, she was born in my stomach, you know, when she came out there. And so I wrote safestreets Now, and oh, my God, I mean, really, I put it up there. And the comment, somebody said, you should not be allowed to cycle up the hill when you’re that pregnant. That’s what actually someone said, as if I was like, seven months pregnant. I was like, Look, I’m at the family most three months pregnant looking. I’m not eight months pregnant looking people. And then other people, someone called me an ogre. They all said, but you know what, it got loads of people talking about safe streets now. So I was like, well, there you go. It’s worked. You all you fools are fooled into a trap. So So you know, I just think you’ve got to kind of try and turn it to your to make a joke out of it or something. But But obviously, there is something there of it does seem to be of men thinking that you have to look as a woman a certain way. And that needs to change because that’s not fair. We don’t all look like we’re trying to hurt colour.

Carlton Reid
They’re all they are trying to hurt you. And there’s they’re assuming I am assuming what they’re assuming I am assuming that they are assuming that a physical Bob will hurt you more than any other insult and that’s that’s they’re trying to niggle you they’re trying to get it right. And they’re doing that by using physical.

Carlton Reid 13:35
Being awful about you. Yes, you know, so I’m assuming that’s what that they’re trying to do. And that’s why I don’t get those attacks, because they must assume that well, a man will not be bothered. If we quote you know, these bold

many men. Do you think that’s what it is that men think women care more about what people think about them? Yes. And they’re trying that they’re having right, what’s the I don’t like Carla? I don’t like the fact that she likes bikes. I don’t like the fact she’s trying to get cars off the street. I am going to attack her what she looks like, because that’s what I think will hurt her.

Carla Francome
That’s interesting. I’ve not thought of that. So that and then they they hope that I’m going to pipe down and as a result, which is extremely unlikely. Unfortunately for them, the chances that I’m going to pipe down

Carlton Reid
Yeah, Far be it for me to to a point on this because I’m not a woman. But when you look at you know the people who the women on social media who do get attacked a lot. I think that is what they’re trying but the misogynist are trying to achieve, get women to shut up. You should not be talking in the public space, the public space, it’s for men. It’s an unbelievable 1950s mentality these people have got and they are trying to silence who they believe should not be talking in public. It’s clearly you know, from the past this is not something you know, a modern person should really be attacking you shouldn’t be using this plague.
add stuff to use, you know, physical attributes, it’s just you almost think, well, if they’re going on that they really haven’t got any intellectual yes, they’re just purely going straight into this.

Carla Francome 15:13
I’m going to do that. And you know, and it sticks and stones can see, that’s interesting cuz it makes me think maybe I’m not actually that fat,

Carlton Reid
then they’re just looking for something or they go for a physical thing. Because they think that as a woman, that’s what bothers you. And so they’re going to try and hit you where it hurts, right? Whereas it’d be your hair, it would be, you know, lack of makeup or too much, it’d be something else. If it wasn’t that, yes, it would be something else to niggle you. That’s what they’re trying to do. They’re trying to upset. Yeah, they’re trying to Yeah. And they think, and that’s, you know, that they’re trying to stop you talking, they’re trying to stop this public discourse from people they do not believe should be in the public realm. It

Carla Francome
Well, that’s really interesting. And also, I think it’s interesting, because maybe it’s not as important to women, what they look like, as what these people think I’m not so bothered, like, you know, I’m in my 30s. Now, this is, you know, this is who I am. And also, I was never like the prettiest girl of my friends in school. You know, like, I had absolutely stunning friends. But I was the funny one. And I made people laugh. So that was always what I, you know, liked about myself. So I’ve never been like this kind of beautiful thing. So if somebody says something about my appearance, I don’t really care. So I think, you know, a lot of women don’t really might not really care, their value is not what they look like, you know, it’s great. If you look great. And it’s nice to try and look great. But it’s not exactly as if that’s all women are. And maybe that’s what annoys them, actually, is that actually there’s a lot of women talking, it’s saying their opinion, no, they hate your opinion, as well. But they’re not. They’re not, they’re not attacking you really on your opinions. They attack me on my opinions, or my ideology, if they believe one, but they attack you on physical trait that is so very telling very interesting, and there was a great one. And I must just tell you quickly, which was a guy over took me very quickly in his car, and it was scary. And I pulled up to him. And I said what you did there was actually it scared me, I felt frightened. And he said, I don’t care. You shouldn’t be on the road. And I said, Look, people have died on their bikes, you know, this is a big thing. And he said, again, I don’t care. And we started having this argument. And that’s when he looked at me and when you chunky bitch, and I was just like, Oh, wow. And also, of course, he was sitting in his car covered in crumbs and wasn’t thin. So it was like, hang on a minute, you know. So I cycled off, but then I came back and and I didn’t know that we had another altercation. But But yeah, so it happens in the street as well. The very funny thing about that one was though, is I went and talked to all these people at a bus stop, I was a bit shocked. And I said, This man has just called me a chunky bitch. And I kind of went off on one. And they all looked really engaged. And they’re all staring at me. And I thought these people really cared. But it just turned out that I was actually holding up the bus that was behind. And they just looked at me when the bus is behind you. And they didn’t care at all. I just didn’t keep it. But that’s very interesting. So women get a lot more on their appearance then so women must be Yeah, that’s very interesting.

Carlton Reid 18:07
So a few seconds ago, no minutes, probably actually. You mentioned that hillclimb. Yeah, but you did. So let’s talk about the journey because you came into this as a commuter cyclist, and now you’re doing events, you’re going on long distance tours, you know, I’m expecting, you know, the Carla Francombe. Going round the world.

cycling around the world kind of plans bubbling up here. You’ve been on quite a trajectory talk, talk me through that trajectory.

Carla Francome
And I’m very slow. I’m not like your son, I think is a very fast cyclist is me or Josh. He’s done very well.

Carla Francome 18:42
So the weeds Yeah, so I’m just a commuter cyclist. The reason this came up is I’ve got a dear friend called Manny, who had breast cancer over 10 years ago. We’re in our early 30s. And it was a huge, huge shock. And she was treated very well at the Royal Marsden. And she saw this particular professor and got this particular combination of drugs that potentially saved her life. And she set up a ride to charity as a result with some friends called look your difference. And it’s a brilliant thing that happens every year. And they’ve raised over two point, I think it’s I think they’ve now raised 2.5 million pounds. So they raise money for research for fellowships at the World milestone, and this is what this money goes towards. So So my friend Manny was involved with setting this up. And she asked me this year in April, she said, Do you want to do the Cure de France this year as a 10 year anniversary? And she’d mentioned it a few times, and I’ve never been too busy, but that was like gone, then why not manage? She was like, what do you really do it? And I was like, Yeah, brilliant, and it’s brilliant. You’ve done this, and you’ve already so much money and it’s so amazing. But the funny thing was, is that I was so naive, I didn’t even realise what it was I was planning to do. I was like, Oh, how how could it be cycling through the mountains? I was kind of imagining it would be a little bit like the sound of music.

Carla Francome 19:56
So I started training but the funny thing was, the more I train

Carla Francome 20:00
The more I realised how hard this was going to be. So at the beginning, I was kind of like really naive, late, naively ignorant thinking, oh, sorry, I should tell you a bit more about this, this ride. So it’s a four day ride in the Alps. In August, that happens every year. And it’s based on previous bits of the Tour de France. So roots of the Tour de France, and about 60 people do it every year. And it is hard. So every day is about 100 kilometres and about 2000 metres of climbing, which is to Snowdens. So it’s quite a so it’s basically cycling. And you basically just cycle around each mountain going up gradually or sneaking up beside. So it’s not always very steep, but it’s just a long is long, it’s you could be climbing. So you could be cycling uphill for three or four hours, basically at a time. And that’s cycling up all the time. So I didn’t quite realise what was involved when I signed up for it. But I did do a lot of training.

Carla Francome 20:57
So I signed up to a cycling club, and just cycled up as many hills as I could find. So I signed up in about May, and it happened in August.

Carla Francome 21:06

Carla Francome 21:08
so yeah. And, and so yeah, I mean, I did as much cycling as I could, I didn’t have the best bike, I kind of ran out of money, I should have had a light road bike, and I should have had cleats. But I did do a lot of training. I cycled up with Islington cycle club. So I went out with them a lot. And yeah, it was amazing. It was hard. It was basically four days of yeah, just going out and just cycling up, just cycling up and up and up. And you just couldn’t. And also what was so funny about it, sometimes it didn’t even look that steep. And you were like, Why is it so hard? But it was because it was just a bit of a climb, but for hours. But the people were amazing. And the scenery was beautiful. I’ve never been to the Alps before. And it was just stunning. I don’t know if you’ve been Carleton, have you been?

Carla Francome 21:56
It’s amazing, right? So it was just so stunning. So the first day it was it was just so crazy hot, though. So it was it ended up being up to 4547 degrees. And that we did this main mountain called a call and I was just finding it so hard. I couldn’t even tell you why it was hard. It turned out it was just roasting hot, and we had to be taken up in the van. And I was really gutted. I was like, oh my god, maybe I’m just gonna have to go up in a van up all these mountains. But the next day we set off really early, we set off at like seven or 8am. And the first mountain was kind of a three and a half hour climb. I think it was 20 kilometres. And it was around a maybe 1300 metres and I rode with this lovely guy called James. And he stayed with me the whole way. And we just went up and up and up and we got to the top and it was an amazing feeling to just get to the top of the mountain, especially given the day before you know being taken up in the in the van. So got the tarp made it up. And that felt so happy. But then it was another one it was two in a day. So we went down, down, down and then we went up another one. And there was a point when I started to feel really bad. So this was the second day probably about four or five, it was hot again, it was really hot. And oh, everything hurt. I had pain. I had fabric pains in my nether regions and I just thought can I do this and my heart rate kept kind of going up. And I just thought I’m gonna do it. I’m gonna do it. And what was funny was we had this, these lovely folks in the in kind of a van like, and and they were saying she wanted to she wanted to kip in the fan. Come on, you know, you’ve done enough for today. And I was like, No, don’t ask me again. and lovely. James stayed with me. And there was a good hour where in my head. I’ve never had this before. But my head was kind of like playing this same loop of thoughts of like, Can I do this? I don’t know if I can do this. Am I gonna get to the top? I honestly felt like I was going mad. It hurts. Everything hurts. Can I do that? Like so. But basically, we got past that. And there was just a moment where it got cooler. And there was some shade. And the last kind of half hour was was okay. And we’ve got to the top and and funnily enough, someone had just passed me earlier. And I said I think I’m at the back and they said to me, don’t worry, Carla, there’ll be a bigger welcoming party for you at the top. And, and I kind of didn’t think anyone would even be at the top. I thought they’d have all gone off but they’d all waited and we got to the top and they all cheered. And me and this lovely James guy moved. We just kind of put our arms in the air and they all cheered. And it felt so amazing. And I’ve not had that before of feeling where I’ve kind of achieved something physically like that. And then I looked at my Strava on my watch and it had been over I think it was over 2200 metres. And someone said to me, you’ve climbed to stoke Snowdonia, today, and I was like, wow. And I was so the reaction from people like this guy called Graham. He came he just gave me this big bear hug and he was crying. And my other friend Tony, who set up the Cure de France with Manny and amazing guy, he was like, hugging me and crying as well and he was like it’s the spirit of the Cure do France.

Carla Francome 25:00
And it was just such an amazing feeling. And I guess what’s so nice for me is I’m not an athlete, I’m not thin, I’m not fast. But actually, for me, I’d achieved something that I didn’t think I could do. And, and it made me think all of us, it doesn’t matter if you’re not an a, you know, an Olympian, it’s about kind of like exceeding your own expectations of what you can do for all of us. And it’s an amazing feeling.

Carla Francome 25:24
So that was the second day and then overall, like so over the four days.

Carla Francome 25:29
Other people differ than me, but I cycled three quarters of the height of Everest. So three quarters of an Everest man, I can’t remember how many. I think it was. Yeah, I think I cycled as high as Kilimanjaro over four days.

Carla Francome 25:43
So it was like over 4000 metres. So it was just amazing. Coming back and thinking, wow, I never thought I’d achieve that. And it made me think for all of us, it’s not about what you can do compared to others. It’s about what you can do for yourself and pushing yourself. I’m glad you had that experience. Because as you saying before, it’s it was just up and

Carlton Reid 26:03
up. And that’s that is tough. And especially in that kind of weather. I mean, the last summer was was roasting hot, you know, you can do those kind of climbs, anybody would suffer in the heat on those kinds of climbs. It’s incredibly tough. So kudos for you for doing I remember, you know, reading some of the social media from back in time as well. Very inspiring stuff. Thanks. You know, if people want to do this, and they should do it, they shouldn’t be put.

Carla Francome 26:35
I know it’d be support definitely, always be support that you’re not true. And you know what, when I said I was doing this, and obviously at that point, not quite realistic. What I’d signed up for people were so nice that loads of people wrote to me and said, Look, I can give you some coaching, training and lovely Kate who’s a bike fitter, she she who lives in Hackney, she said she would do it with me. So she’s, she’s become a friend. But I didn’t know her before this. So she was a bike lady who fits people to their bikes and gets, you know, the measurements, right. And she did it and and just so many people helped along the way. And it really made me realise that if you do something that is a bit out of your comfort zone, people do come forward and offer to help. And that was an amazing thing. And people rode with me, even though I was much slower. And so that was really inspiring as well. And I just thought afterwards, I got by with a little help from my friends. And I did, there’s no way I could have done it without all the support I had. And so that was really special as well.

Carlton Reid
So we started by talking about the downsides of social media. But you’ve very much you know, mentioned there basically some of the upsides because the people who came to I do want to carry on talking with you, Carla, and I will come back to you. And we can talk about you at that cycling club and and how you found that experience because that can be quite trying at times. But first of all, let’s go across to my colleague David who will take us into a short ad break.

David Bernstein 27:57
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Carlton Reid 28:57
Thanks, David and we are with Carla Carla Francome have bad I don’t know where. But it’s both London. Not and apparently so I’ll have to look that up on the map and find out exactly where that is and how far you from Swain was at swains.

Lane. Change lane. So how far you have now 25 minutes cycle ride so that’s a very steep hill, huh? Yes. Yeah, that’s where they have all the hills. Remember how steep it is? Maybe it’s 14% is actually not very long. But though there is a bit of it where sometimes the front tire can jump up a little bit. So it’s a bit steep. So yeah, that’s high right now. And right now is Hill Climb season. So we’re coming into that season again, where were the hill climbs certainly in the Northeast.

Start now and they are up and up and up and they hurt. They’re short, but they they definitely yeah hurt. Now you were talking before about joining the Islington cycling club. Now I’m not familiar with that club, but I am familiar

With, with cycling clubs which can sometimes upset because some clubs are not very welcoming of newcomers, others are incredibly welcoming. You know, there’s some sometimes it’s the ethos of the club, you know, we’ll either sink or swim because some clubs, you know, they’ll go out with people and they will drop you. And you know, you’re in the middle of God know, for your from your point of view where you would get to a club, right? But say in where my neck of the woods, then you go out of the club, and you’ll find you’re in the middle of nowhere and you’ve been dropped and you think, Well, hang on, I came out with this club, and they’ve dropped the ball left me. So that’s the ethos, it comes down to the ride captains and the ride leaders about how they cope with it. How have you found your experience with cycling clubs? And what ethos does does the Islington cycle?

Carla Francome
Yeah, these are all really good points. And I think clubs can be intimidating. And I guess it’s finding one that is right for you and having a chat to them first. So I’d actually seen Islington in Regent’s Park, whizzing around, doing laps and seeing their lovely shirts. I mean, to be honest, they also have a nice shirt with a nice green screen stripe, which I thought would look good with a red lipstick. So that’s obviously mainly up to them. I thought I quite liked the look of that jersey, quite fancy that. So so I’d heard a bit about them. And I just knew they had a lot of women. And I’d met them in swains lane, I don’t know go to swains lane on a Wednesday morning, kind of at 630 till 730 and try and do six hills. And they were there then. And they were all really friendly. And they looked lovely. So I kind of had a really good vibe from them. And it turned out that they do no job brides. So they’ll basically particularly on hills, they’ll go up the hill, but then they wait for everyone at the top. So I really liked that love the number of women, one in four of the club writers of women, Islington, and have a lot of riders. So I went along to kind of you have to go along to kind of a trial ride when they give you a chat first and explain how it all works. And a friend Rachel actually who lives nearby is an amazing rider for them. And I knew her and she was doing the intro. So that felt good. So I think I mean, I think funnily enough, I turned up a bit full of myself because I’ve done quite a bit of training lately, I was thinking I’m in great shape, I’m gonna just fly off. So I actually had a bit of a baptism of fire, because I was actually not very fast compared to these other riders. And, and I think probably on our intro ride, we should have split into groups a bit more, but no one really knew you know how fast we were compared to everyone else. And I was in a group with these two, they were 20 Something triathlete women. They were Whippet thin, they had these light bikes and a heist, I had quite a heavy bike and a pannier on it with a with a D lock on just in case.

Carla Francome 32:45
basically shut off. And there were six men, these two women in me and they were just faster than me and I just got a big shock because I was like, Okay, wow, I quite slow compared to these great riders. But they were very sweet because they kind of felt a bit sorry for me, for some of us surely give me sweets. And my watch was beeping and they were like your heart rate, okay. And afterwards, we went to the pub and everyone took the mickey out of me because I had they called me Mary Poppins because I had this pannier and I was pulling all this stuff up by Bernie and I had like a notebook in there. And I had a wallet with loads of receipts and coins. They were like Bochy, doing so. So it was a bit of a shock. But also, it was really amazing to ride with other people and have the routes planned. So it’s very easy, I think, to after an experience like that, where you feel a bit embarrassed, because there were points when they were waiting for me. And I thought, Oh, God, I’m slowing them all down. But you know, I did do it, oh, it’s just a bit slower. And they waited for me at various points. And it would be really easy then to go. Do you know what I’m embarrassed, I’m not going to do that again. But I also thought, well, you know, this, keep going and see how it feels in a month. And people were really nice to me actually on social media. And they said, look, it’s always hard when you join a club, but it’s the best way to improve. So I started going out with a green route group on Sunday mornings. And I did see that we it was amazing. I did a 90 kilometre ride in it, and it was really hard. And two weeks later, I did the same ride. And I felt like a different person. And in fact, it was 110 kilometres. And in two weeks it suddenly I could just do it. And so it was amazing. Because now I can go out on a Sunday morning, and it’s a lovely group and you always chat to all different people. And you’ll go somewhere never go like never think of cycling to say, you know, I don’t know Cambridge or something. But because there’s someone lovely who’s planned the trip for you, you can just go and so it’s a brilliant way to just really improve your fitness and I think it’s tricky at first. But also I thought well by the time I’m up to the green group level, which is the sorry, the slowest group. Now on there and now I’m only going to get faster and get better. So I do really say to people, I do really think it’s worth giving it a go. Even if you feel a bit intimidated at first because you’re only going to get faster and you will find your people.

Carla Francome 35:00
you know, so so it’s been brilliant really.

Carlton Reid 35:04
And he’s still riding with a pannier and lock?

Carla Francome 35:08
I did ditch all that and and I do need to get a lighter bike and I’ve got some cash

Carlton Reid 35:14
so what what what bike Have you got then what bike you riding all these.

Carla Francome
It’s a hybrid, it’s quite heavy, but it’s my mum’s but it’s just really comfortable and I’ve got a bad back at times. And it’s really comfy and it’s got loads of gears, and it means I can go uphill basically at the speed that people walk. So it’s got loads gears, and it’s just a hybrid track.

Carla Francome 35:36
But I do need to get a light bike and cleats. That’s the next thing.

Carlton Reid 35:42
So you’re you’re basically doing road bike events. On in effect a modified a svelte mountain bike, you’ve got flat bars, yes, flat bars, you haven’t got bars. Yeah, and other people who you’re riding with are getting into a tuck position. You know, they’re getting out of the wind, you’re getting out of the wind, you’re suffering at a real disadvantage. I mean, yes, it’s probably okay for girls, but on the flat, you’re suffering a real disadvantage there. If you can’t get down into the tuck. Are you? Are you looking to thinking about getting to a road bike? Or is this something that you’re going to stick to hybrid type bikes and and what’s your thing? Do you want to get a road bike for lightness?

Carla Francome
But I might need the flat handlebars? Just because my back’s not great. I don’t think I can get down to a drop on my chair. I might be able to if it’s quite short, you know, bike.

Carlton Reid 36:29
But you have you said you that woman was giving you a bike fit? Is that a bike fit for a hybrid or bike fit for you potentially?

Carla Francome
It was it’s kind of experimental. So yeah, I could get a road bike. I just have to get the right measurements. Basically, it was just that I ran out of money to be honest. Like it cost me quite a lot the cure to it. I’m definitely looking to get a road bike, a light, but basically its lightness. That’s the most important thing. I think for me. If I can get down to the handlebars, great, but it’s mainly a weight thing. Like I weigh 85 kilogrammes. My bike was like 14 kilogramme. So that’s 100 kilogrammes, I’m hearing appeals and I said to my stepdad I was like my bikes a bit heavy and he looked at me when no offence or anything but most of that weight that you’re getting up in the mountains is you and he’s right you know and and so

Carla Francome 37:15
in a lovely way so what I want to do this year is lose some weight actually not and this is funny because I’m kind of with the chills having a go at my way I almost don’t want to lose weight because I’m like Screw you guys you know, but actually, I want to lose weight so I could get up hills quicker and then I want to get a light bike to get really fit this year and hopefully tackle a cure again next year.

Carla Francome 37:38
Where hopefully it’ll just be a bit easier to keep up with people that’s why one now then let me ask you did you get a jersey that looks good with your red lip? I did I finally got my Easington jersey and this is a fun story actually, I’ve got time I have a lot of time for a funny story because you’ve got as much time as my essence in Jersey right and the funny thing was is it took three months for the isn’t and cycle club journey to live and it was funny because by then I actually felt like I deserved it. So I quite liked that it took a while and I put it on and it was my first day going out on a ride and and I had the red lipstick on and it’s a good one at Carlton it stays on it is even there the next day the lippy I will recommend it to you, and maybe you might not need it. So anyway, I went out and we got 60 kilometres away in about by about 11am. And we were in the countryside and I felt so excited, felt so proud of myself and I just jotted into this cafe with my new jersey on and there were these two chaps there. And I said, Can you believe it? We’ve cycled all the way from London. And he looked at me one of the guys and he went Islington. They’re all in a bubble, aren’t they? The extinction bubble? He just got me dead. And I was like, Well, I deserved it. To be honest. I was so cocky that day. I didn’t need to be taken down. So I think that’s the problem. It turns out there are a lot of people who come down from London and a very annoying to other people. So I’ve learned to kind of rein that in a bit. So isn’t in cycling club. It’s a nice jersey. Is it a women’s jersey? Is it just as a unisex jersey? What’s Oh, I think it’s just a unisex jersey. Does it fit? Yes, it fits. Well. It fits well. Not like the Rafa one that I want. Can I tell you about the Rapha one?

Carlton Reid 39:13
Exactly. That’s where I was going with that one. Yeah. That was that was that was a funny episode that you had but yeah, but people who didn’t weren’t there at the time and weren’t.

Carla Francome 39:24
So basically I was supposed to be doing this Rapha women’s ride. And in fact, I didn’t I ended up not being able to do it that day as well. But basically, I’ve really wanted a Rapha jersey. And they’re really expensive. So I found on ebay and it looked a bit clowny. I thought that’s not bad. It had some red and strong red and black stripes, maybe in a green stripe, found it on eBay. And I was very excited to win it on an auction. And it turned up and I wore it out and about and I thought this is good. I’d submit the view on myself in a shop window. And it honestly looked it was a men’s jersey and it had these stripes and it honestly looked like I was wearing a cream bandage around my chest area or a cream boob tube

Carla Francome 40:00
And I was like, oh my God and I hadn’t realised. So I was cycling through the heath and I said to this couple Excuse me, would you mind taking a photo of me and I called them this random people to take this photo? And I said to them, Do you think do you think it looks a bit like a wearing cream boob tube? And they will they were really laughing and they’ll go, no, no, it doesn’t. It doesn’t. It did. So anyway, put the photos on social media, and people have been talking about bobb tubes ever since. So you’ve got to be careful. As a woman, it turns out when you’re wearing men’s cycling jerseys, because they obviously haven’t designed them with knockers in mind, to be honest, I don’t know how else to say that.

Carla Francome 40:35
I’ve tried other ones when people started sending ones where think they had like Googly, googly eyes in the wrong place and things. So designers, you know, make unisex jerseys for women too. And I do love I’ve got to just say I wear a lot of jerseys by Fat Lad at the Back, and I love their stuff. It’s really comfy. And, and it’s goes up and down in sizes, it’s got all sizes, and and they know that women have knockers.

Carlton Reid
So which is a great thing for the Americans who are listening to this who don’t know what knockers is my I don’t know, how much of vernacular kind of gets across to, but but knockers are breasts that say Press Yes, yes. No, it’s okay to use not because that’s great.

Carlton Reid 41:18
We have an international audience here, callers so so whenever we have bits that might not translate, it’s to say, to have like an agenda and of whatnot, because I’m sure that in the context, realised whatnot, as well. But anyway, I think that’s probably the first time in the history of this podcast that the word knockers. I’m so pleased. So it, it’s, it’s good to have you on the show.

Great to be here. And for you to expand our, our smutty vocabulary Thank you very much. And so you’ve got to you’ve got a top that fits you It goes well with your your lipstick, we’re all pleased to hear that it sounds as though you’re going to be increasing your cycling, you’ve been using kilometres a lot. So your cycling club range, your cycling mileage, you’re doing that so you’re you’re clearly on a trajectory where you are increasing the amount of cycling you are doing 100 kilometres is no longer phasing you which I’m guessing five years ago, that would have been

almost literally impossible. You might have thought. And now it’s not impossible. So what are your colour? What are your plans? Apart from wanting a road bike and getting it? What do you have anything goals this year of events, mileage? You know, what, what challenges are you going to set?

Carla Francome
Well, what I want to do is ride out with this Islington cycle club every other Sunday. That’s the main plan. And it’s quite tricky. What you know, if you’ve got little kids and you’re working a lot, but I kind of figured I’ll do that as my plan and every other two, so every fortnight do a big ride. And I hopefully have 100 kilometres. There’s a lovely guy, Matthew there who arranges it. So that’s my plan. And to just keep things ticking over, I want to lose some weight. And then I hope to do the Cure again next August. That’s the main thing. I’ve been thinking about doing triathlons, but actually my knees aren’t good for running.

Carlton Reid 43:11
Or so that you’re really,

Carlton Reid 43:15
really going for

Carla Francome
Yeah, so I did some other things. But actually, to be honest, I’ve kind of missed at the moment having that having that goal and what I realised was the cures or that it was actually amazing to have a goal where you’ve been trained for because I was you know, often getting up at five and I would have cycled you know, a lot of hills in the morning or I’d go out in the evening. And I’d for two hours I’d cycle up every hill I could find locally. And I’ve kind of missed having that because it really makes you up Sure. It’s funny when you have the fear of God about something like that you just worked so hard. And so now I feel like oh, I need that again. So the question is what is that going to be and that is I think I’ll just take a while well just cycle with Islington every fortnight but I do feel like I need another challenge actually as well because it does really make you work hard and I lost a stone for me I just felt great you know and I felt I just felt it was just really good to do something like that so do recommend that whatever it is and it might not be you know cycling in the house for someone it might be something quite simple but I do think it’s really good to have a challenge like that to train for.

Carlton Reid
I’m going to close it there because we could obviously talk for hours and hours and hours

Carlton Reid 44:22
but we have got to close it at some point so I it’s been fascinating and and entertaining as kind of I expected I wouldn’t really have expected this to go any other way. Considering from from from monitoring your social media feed. I kind of knew what but tell me tell me what people who don’t follow you who I’m sure will absolutely now follow you. Where can they find you on social media?

Carla Francome
on Twitter now called X and my Twitter handle is just Carlafrancombe

Carla Francome 45:00
I just say formally Carlton, I’d like to say that you are a saucepot.

Carlton Reid 45:06
Thanks to Carla Francome there and thanks to you for listening to episode 341 of the Spokesmen podcast, brought to you in association with Tern Bicycles.

Show notes and more can be found at

The next episode will be a rolling interview with gravel riding author and route developer Markus Stitz, but we’re not in Scotland as you might expect. That show will be out early next month but meanwhile get out there and ride.

Carlton Reid 46:17
I’m recording again, you are welcome to give me a bit of a saucepot story.

Carla Francome
I must tell you one thing, Carlton, which is that I met this lovely chap who was cycling around up up up up hills locally and I said I would do like your socks. And he said thank you. And I said Would you mind if I take some photos? And he had great cycling gear on socks and all sorts stripey socks. So I took some photos of him and asked for his Twitter handle and posted on Twitter and x and said look at this source pot today, guys. And I must just say a call everyone’s saucepots. There’s nothing in it. But anyway, I said, I called this guy saucepots. But anyway, that evening, there’s a local Facebook group of about 100,000 people on it for local families. And this lady posts and she said, please be careful if your husbands are out cycling in the area because it’s possible that Carla Francome might find them and put them on social media and call them a saucepot. And I was like, oh, all the colour just drained from my face. And actually, this woman was very funny about it. I do know her a bit and I wrote her and I was like, oh my god, I’m so sorry. I just like to say I did call your husband saucepots in very much a platonic fashion. And she said it was actually hilarious because her husband had walked through the door that evening. His head was apparently the big the size of a small planet. And he said that he’d been called a saucepot that day. She said that the reason it was actually really annoying was because he spends all his money on cycling gear. And now he felt like he wanted to spend even more money on cycling gear. That was what I thought she was annoyed about. She wasn’t worried that you know, we’re gonna run off into the sunset. She was just annoyed about the money he was spending. So bikes I’m not gonna say more money on a bike. So she said, Oh, God, she said you’ve done no, she said his head was big enough before, so I had to apologise but I’m now a bit more careful. I must say when I call people saucepout on social media. Okay, so annoy the lovely wives.

October 20, 2023 / / Blog

20th October 2023

The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast

EPISODE 340: In conversation with Zack Hamm of Ride with GPS

SPONSOR: Tern Bicycles

HOST: Carlton Reid

GUEST: Zack Ham

TOPICS: I’ve featured folks from Bike Map and Cycle.Travel and now in this third episode about cycle navigation apps I talk with Zak Ham, co-founder of Ride with GPS


Carlton Reid 0:12
Welcome to Episode 340 of the spokesmen cycling podcast. This show was engineered on Friday 20th of October 2023.

David Bernstein 0:29
The Spokesmen cycling roundtable podcast is brought to you by Tern bicycles. The good people at Tern are committed to building bikes that are useful enough to ride every day and dependable enough to carry the people you love. In other words, they make the kind of bikes that they want to ride. Tern has e-bikes for every type of rider. Whether you’re commuting, taking your kids to school or even carrying another adult, visit That’s t e r n to learn more.

Carlton Reid 1:04
I’ve featured folks from bikemap and And now in this third episode about cycle navigation apps, I talk with Zack Ham, co founder of Ride with GPS. I’m Carlton Reid, and I recorded this chat remotely. Zack did have a great mic, but he didn’t have a pop filter. So there are a few slight plosives in the first half of the show. But we did cure that in the second half. Now tell me that you live in Eugene, but then go to work in Portland. Is that kind of right?

Zack Ham 1:43
Oh, no, that would be that’s they’re about 100 miles apart. I lived in Eugene for about nine years. That’s where I met my wife. And that’s where we started the company. But I moved to Portland, about 10 years ago. So I’m in Portland now.

Carlton Reid 1:56
So I noticed there was there was there was definitely two centres. You know, the original route was in Eugene. But clearly you’ve kind of said My question was going to be really is the fact that it’s now in Portland or even then in Portland? Is that the reason there is a bicycle app? Because Portland clearly is is in certainly in North American terms. chocker with bicycles.

Zack Ham 2:24
You know, it’s it’s funny, that’s a question that we get all the time for, like, oh, Portland must be a great, great place to have an app for recycling because there’s so many cyclists there. But the truth is, my partner and I both grew up in the Portland area. It’s just kind of coincidental. And most, you know, we have a great audience of people that use our stuff and in the Portland area, but it’s not it’s like maybe in the top six cities in the US for us. So it’s really not central to the business.

Carlton Reid 2:52
Interesting. And your bit your partner that is Cullen Cullen

Zack Ham 2:55
King. Yes, exactly. And he he went to college in Corvallis, which is about 30 miles north of Eugene. So we actually started we started riding motorcycles together in high school. And so the very, very early days of, of the product, we were just programmers, we like to working on software projects. That was really the impetus. And we did our first testing on motorcycles and we still have a contingent of, you know, dual sport and adventure riders who swear by our product, you know, 15 years later, and some of them have no idea that it’s that it’s really focused on cycling.

Carlton Reid 3:31
Because I’m a motorcyclist cyclist, you can have very similar routing needs.

Zack Ham 3:37
Sure, it’s not about going from A to B, oftentimes, you end where you start, you’re just trying to go out on you know, scenic, beautiful roads where there’s not a lot of traffic. On the motorcycle, you don’t really care if you’re going up or down hills, but you like you like a curvy road. And the only reason to make a curvy road is typically because you’re going up or down hills. So it ends up being very similar from the routing front.

Carlton Reid 4:00
Hmm. So 2007 was when you and these two motorcyclists fresh out, were you fresh out of college? Are you still doing it in college?

Zack Ham 4:10
Oh, no, I was a I was a sophomore in college at the time. And actually, we we started it in two late 2006. So yeah, quite quite a while back.

Carlton Reid 4:18
So that’s the same age as this podcast.

Zack Ham 4:20
So you know how you know it feels?

Carlton Reid 4:24
Yes, that’s how long your product has been out there because this this podcast is a dinosaur in podcast terms. So 2006 2007 ish, when it comes out. So why are you doing what what’s the what’s the landscape here? Literally the kind of digital landscape and what why are you creating this? Why is there nothing like this out there?

Zack Ham 4:46
You know, 2006 and seven was just a different time on the internet. And perhaps I was just a different age. So I was, you know, young and naive and had that kind of ignorant confidence that you have then which is See, which is really a powerful tool because I had a boss who was a coach of a women’s cycling team and Eugene and he had been trying to get me into cycling and telling me how cool it is, I should stop riding my motorcycle and just, you know, get some exercise. And I finally took him up on the offer one day went out on a pretty tough 30 mile ride, which for me was was crazy. And, you know, I came back and I’m like, wow, that was incredible. But the thing that really stuck with me was he took this GPS unit, he had a Garmin 705 At the time, took it off his bike, plugged it into his computer, and showed me the data that he had. And it was like, there was a line on a map show he had a barometric altimeter, he had a power metre at the time, which was pretty advanced, you know, speed and cadence sensor, heart rate strap, he had all the technology at the time. And I saw the software and I’m like, this software could be so much better, and what other sport in the world other than like Formula One racing collects this much data, like cyclists are a strange breed. And so as a programmer who was contemplating getting into riding, I was like, I have to do this because as a programmer, it’s interesting, I didn’t even care about bikes. At first, I just was really interested in all the data people were collecting. So that was really the spark. And then looking at the competitive landscape. I mean, at the time there was map, my fitness, there’s Map My ride, and then there was also a company called motion based that eventually got acquired by Garmin and turned into Garmin Connect. And looking at those, you know, being that confident sophomore in college, I just shrugged my shoulders and was like, I could build something better. Like, you know, it was that was how the Internet was back then there was just less money and everything things were less developed. And, you know, a high school or a college student could really look at the landscape and say, I could do that.

Carlton Reid 6:45
Now I’ve seen the side to research this kind of I went on on bikeportland. So that’s where I got the articles, original one from way back when Jonathan Maus has done a review, and then the later one where he’s talking about, you know, you’ve been going for 15 years. So I’ve got some other kind of biographical details. Sure. And that’s how I knew about cologne on there, all that kind of stuff. So on on on bikeportland. It was basically talking about where you’ve come from. And that was where my question was coming from. Also, by the way for for, for cycling. Could you if you’re in Portland, that’s why and I would definitely like to circle back on give us your your top cities. But on that on a coverage that Jonathan did have you, I think it’s you are saying you basically you bootstrapped this. And you always bootstrapped it all the way through in that you’re self funded. And tell me how many members of staff you have now?

Zack Ham 7:47
Yeah, we’re just about 35 people at the moment. So that’s

Carlton Reid 7:50
a lot of people to be relying on your subscriptions.

Zack Ham 7:55
Yeah. And we’re hiring right now. So yeah, we’ve been, you know, we started the company just, I don’t know that. I don’t know, maybe, maybe, Colin and I put in a couple 100 bucks or something for hosting. I don’t even remember at this point. But, uh, yeah, we started in 2009. We asked people if, you know, hey, you know, back then you’d see this more often. But we’re like, Oh, if you like what we’re doing, you’re welcome to donate to our PayPal, you know, buy us a cup of coffee, whatever. And, you know, very quickly, we’re getting about 1000 US dollars a month. And it just kind of struck us, okay, this, this is starting to look like a business. And before that it was just a hobby, you know, we worked on it together quite often. And, and then in 2011, I was able to go full time on it. And from then it was just this sort of cycle of, oh, okay, we made some more money. Should we hire somebody? Should we, you know, buy another server, and just kind of rinse and repeat. And then, you know, coming into where we’re at today, you know, we’re still customer funded, still profitable. And, yeah, we have about 35 people and hopefully bring on a handful more towards the end of this year and into next year. And I think right now, it’s kind of the most exciting time in the business yet we’re, we have a really, really strong team. You know, everybody’s into bikes, everybody’s passionate about the space, people have chosen us as an employer. For very personal reasons. It’s not just the job. And everybody kind of buys into our mission, that we’re focused on bikes, that we want people to get on a better ride, and just kind of staying really, really close to this niche that we’re in. And instead of trying to go broad and you know, be everything for everyone.

Carlton Reid 9:39
So when you when you got those first 1000 bucks with via PayPal, at that point, you must have thought, well, we need two levels here. We need a level that anybody can can use and then we need the subscription level. And is that when you start adding crazy features, or is it always Oh, wait, you need to add this feature? And then it’s like, no, hang on, we’ve got to stop, we’ve got to stop this is going to pay our wages here.

Zack Ham 10:07
Yeah, it’s, you know, it actually took us a while to launch the paid account, because we just had made everything free up to that point. And, you know, for us, it was really, we were never really focused on the business, or the sales, or the conversion funnel, or all the kinds of traditional software as a service, stuff that, that you should be worried about, frankly, for us, we just had all these people using our site, and then they would email us and be like, Hey, I have a Garmin 605, and I got this error. And that would be kind of our dopamine hit, we’d be like, yes, we’re going to solve this problem for this person. And then they’d come back and say, I want an awesome bike ride. Thanks. And that was really what drove us and still drives us today. And then in terms of the money side, you know, we we identified some features that we’re speculative, these kind of this advanced analysis studio feature, and a few other a few other convenience things. And we’re like, Yeah, let’s, let’s launch a paid account. And we’ll we’ll have like, you know, syncing with the there’s a wait an app plus weight scale, and it’s like, this is obscure enough, we’ll make this paid. And since then, we’ve gotten a little bit more refined. But we still like to have a product that’s really useful if you don’t pay us. Because ultimately, the people, whether you pay us or not, you’re you’re part of our community, you’re contributing back. You know, if you go on a ride, then you could submit a review of the route that you did that’s going to help somebody else. Or you can seek your rides and help build out our global heat map and help people understand what roads are safe and popular to ride on. So it’s not just about collecting money from people, there’s also opportunity for you to contribute value back just by participating.

Carlton Reid 11:49
So tell me, you’ve kind of like touched on a few bits of paid for too. But tell me what what do you if that if I go on via the app, or I’m presuming on online as well, on the on the on the browser based version as well? What do I get as a as a fully paid up member? And how much? And Are there levels?

Zack Ham 12:10
Yes. So there’s, there’s two levels that would apply to you as a consumer. And then we also have, we have a programme for organisations like bike clubs, event operators, tour operators, that’s, that’s a separate side of the business. But on the consumer side, we have two levels. And we’ve tried to simplify this. But basically, if all you need or want are the features of the mobile app, which for us is our mobile route planner, mobile navigation, offline maps, live tracking, and then a few other a few other bits. But those are the main ones. It’s really all about offline maps and navigation. That’s what people that really seems to drive purchases on the mobile app, then that 60 US dollars a year, you know, kind of in the middle and comparable to some of the other competitors. And then if you also want to unlock the website, which is advanced route planning, some advanced analysis tools, but ultimately, it’s really about that, that route planner on the web, then it’s $80 a year. And that gives you the mobile app and the web. So so it’s for people who just care about the mobile app, 60 bucks for people that want everything and really want to open up their computer and it kind of use the Photoshop of Route planners as we like to think of it, then it’s that $80 level and we call that premium.

Carlton Reid 13:33
Okay, now, that way, I I’m gonna open up my phone to see where the app is on on my phone. And you can hear my my dog in the background, there probably is a ride that I did in in Sardinia 2002. In fact, it’s only just come out in the Daily Mail that I put out, I think I sent you the link so I put ride with GPS as a mention in that piece. That came out yesterday. But that was basically a tour company in this case, Turismo of Italy had paid for a group subscription, and then all the members of that, of that that particular bike tour, could then be fed information, be fed all the routes and have everything on their smartphone, for that particular bike tour. So that’s how I’ve got it on my my phone already. Is from that that tour? So how much does it cost? A bike tour company, a club on organisation, what are they paying? What are they getting?

Zack Ham 14:42
You know, so that’s, that’s a part of the business that’s that I’ve always been really proud of and happy with. When we launched our what we call our organisations programme. Originally it was just the Club account back in 2015. We were trying to find we didn’t want to charge nothing for it because we knew that If we charged nothing, then the incentives wouldn’t be aligned, we wouldn’t want to provide as much support or we wouldn’t be able to justify it. But we also didn’t want to charge very much, because we wanted it to be utilised as much as possible. Because the ultimate goal, this is what we do, instead of marketing, instead of spending money on banner ads, or what have you, or paying for Google AdWords, we take the money that we might spend there, and we invest it into this organisations programme, so that somebody like you ends up with our app on on their phone, and, you know, some percentage of you afterwards would be like, Oh, that was kind of cool, that navigation worked well. And hopefully, we can let you understand you can also use this in your personal life. So it’s this sort of like marketing channel. But really, it’s this partnership with organisations, so they pay us the base price is $250 a year, which, again, for the value that they get is pretty inexpensive. And so as a result, you know, we have nearly 2000 organisations in that programme, you know, 1000 of which are bike clubs. And, you know, we just have tools that nobody else wants to build. It’s a, it’s frankly, kind of an an unsexy area on the software front, especially if you’re a consumer focused company. Because, you know, what’s the bike club need, like we have, we have bike clubs that have 5000 routes, and, you know, you need, you basically need to build like a spreadsheet tool for them to manage this bulk operations, tags, all this kind of boring b2b stuff that I think a consumer focused company really doesn’t want to build. And so we’ve kind of tackled those problems. And as a result, if you go on tour with a company like turismo, then they’re gonna say, hey, please instal this driver GPS app. And you’ll have this really slick experience where you can scan a QR code, you get into this branded portal for them, all you see are the routes you’re going to do on your tour, you get to use navigation. And then in the end, we say, Hey, you can also use this app in your personal life.

Carlton Reid 16:56
Yeah. So that’s why I’ve got it on there now is I’m going to, we’re going to cut for a break. But before we do that, I do want to come back to you. And actually, I want to put your microphone out because there’s a few pops. So hopefully in the ad break, we can actually sort that out so there’s not so many pops afterwards. So we’ll be right back.

David Bernstein 17:14
This podcast is brought to you by Tern bicycles. The good people at Tern understand that while a large cargo bike can carry oodles of stuff, many of us prefer something a little more manageable. That’s why they’ve come up with the HSD e-cargobike for folks with big aspirations to go car free, delivered in a compact size, with its rear shock, 280 kilos, and a combined hauling capacity of 180 kilos. The robust new HSD is stable and easy to manoeuvre, even when under load. And with its Bosch eBIKE SYSTEM tested and certified to meet the highest UL standards for electric and fire safety you’ll be able to share many worryfree adventures with a loved one whether it’s your kiddo or Nan. Visit www.ternbicycles. That’s te r n turn to learn more

Carlton Reid 18:14
Thanks, David and we are back with with Zack Zack ham of ride with GPS and we had a wee chat there. And we’ve hopefully got Peters pickled peppers won’t be such a problem going forward. I didn’t want to stop Zach initially, because it wasn’t all the time. And it was just you know, the little thing and most of the audio was absolutely fantastic. But it’s just the audio pops. Anyway, I think we’ve sorted that. So Zack, when I go back, I when you came in, when we started the recording, you were telling me that Portland and this was surprising. This is very surprising. But maybe this is indicative of something so so let’s let’s dig into that. Portland was not your city, was it your sixth highest? It’s not your it’s not the biggest or not even the second or third biggest use where your heat map is in bringing up routes routes in the US. So a How come? Is that a surprise? Or is that like indicative because when you read Jonathan Maus’ articles, you realise that, you know Portland, Oregon was fantastic maybe 1015 years ago, and has since gone downhill in many respects since then. So is it indicative of that? Or would you think it’d always have been at that level?

Zack Ham 19:37
No, that’s kind of how it’s been the whole time. And, you know, it’s not it’s not really an indictment of Portland as a great place for cycling because on a percentage basis, it’s it’s a very high performing city for us. So in terms of how you know of our registered users, how many of them are active and engaged how many of them have found enough value to pay us Portland perform EMS very, very well. But just as a population centre, it’s simply not as big, as you know, Seattle, Boston, the New York area, the LA area. So it’s really that perspective of, you know, if we’re going to be thinking of regional centres to, to be kind of focused on have on our radar to be engaging with sort of the influential clubs and organisations in those areas, then, you know, Portland, yes, it’s important, it’s on the list. It’s where we live as well, which makes it especially kind of near and dear to our hearts. But, you know, it’s not one of the biggest cities in the country. It’s really a mid sized city. And we have many of those in the US. And in terms of you know, how it’s changed over time. It’s obviously been in Portland, we, because of all the news, especially since, you know, since since COVID, since 2020, the reputation of Portland has really gone downhill. You know, I don’t know if you ever were exposed over there to the show Portlandia. But that kind of input? Oh, yeah, I kind of put Portland on the map as being this quirky, weird, fun, safe place. And, and the reality is, has always been a little bit different from that. And so, you know, people that live here, I think, are now a little bit on the defensive, because, you know, they go to Thanksgiving dinner, to the east coast to go back with their family. And all they have to do is kind of fend off this barrage of, you know, I hear Portland’s on fire, it’s terrible. And it’s like, yeah, Portland has a lot of problems in there. And they’re very serious. A lot of the West Coast cities do. But at its core, you know, I can still ride my bike to work, we still have our bike infrastructure. And for the most part, it’s, it’s a wonderful time over here. It’s just, yeah, it could it seen better days. And I hope that, you know, the city gets its act together and sorts sorts things out in a humane and fair manner. But Portland still a great place,

Carlton Reid 21:53
basically, that it’s the demographics size, rather than the number of hardcore cyclists. So you just got to get more people in a bigger place. Be sure that’s, that’s where your top cities then?

Zack Ham 22:07
Yeah, so I mean, Portland punches above its weight class, I think it’s another minute to think of okay, but yeah, for us, you know, Seattle, Boston, you know, the LA area, the New York area, those are all those are all really big, it’s kind of even the Chicago area, although, as we head into winter, that’ll that’ll go down quite a bit. So it’s kind of the obvious places just by population, as long as people ride bikes there, then in the US, we’re really well known, we’re really strong, we have a presence. In most places, we’re kind of the default, like the expected app to be used by event organisers or by bike clubs. And consequently, we’ve kind of gotten our way into the cycling community throughout the US. And then, you know, when you go outside of the US, you have different experiences, right? In some some countries, or some areas, were really not that popular. And then in some areas, there’s these pockets where everybody’s using us. So that’s kind of the the emerging story for for our opportunity, when

Carlton Reid 23:11
you pay that 60 bucks, or 80 bucks, if you want, like the getting behind the scenes on the on the browser based version. And you’re getting all the bells and whistles, you’ve got to be pretty hardcore. To be going into that, that kind of depth. So can you see which of your users are writing so much, or updating, you know, their app so much? And you classify them as hardcore? Probably athletes? Maybe if they’re writing that much? And how many are more recreational say they’ll just do something like at the weekend? And do you classify? Do do you have a? I mean, I’m asking you a question here that maybe you wouldn’t want to answer just how much of the data you do dig into. But if it’s if it’s if it’s anonymized data, then it’s it surely isn’t a problem? are you digging into the data to find out who your users is? What is my question? I guess.

Zack Ham 24:10
Yes. And, and no, like, honestly, the question that you just asked, I think a lot of this information would be incredibly valuable to us to tell you what routes you might want to ride. So for us on a product basis, being able to give you your next great bike ride, or at the very least make sure that your next ride is better, and you ride a little more often. That’s really our job. And we would be able to do that much better, the more that we know about your riding. So I certainly have no qualms about thinking in terms of like wanting to know more about you as a cyclist, because I think that’s in your best interest. But in terms of you know, what data we’re collecting and how we’re sort of partitioning our users. It’s really not as sophisticated as it It would be, frankly, because the, for the most part, for the most of the company’s history, we’ve really been focused on talking to our users, we have like a really, really well known and renowned customer support team. We’ve invested in that side of the business, especially since we worked with all these organisations, we’re on the phone a lot. We answer many, many, many support tickets very, very quickly, and very knowledgeably. And so we bring all of that qualitative information to bear when we’re developing the product. And then, of course, we watch usage of the product, you know, in a broad fashion to say, okay, you know, how much are these features being used versus other features, just to calibrate our intuition. But, you know, really to answer your question, I wish we knew a lot more than we do. And we’re going to kind of move in a direction where it’s not just serving our interests, so that we can be behind the scenes and tinkering and kind of managing all of your data, it’s really going to be more of this cooperative and upfront thing, where we’re asking you what type of riding Do you want to do, because it’s not just about your behaviour that we’re observing, it’s also about your aspiration, because maybe you really want to get into gravel riding. But you haven’t done it before, because you didn’t have anybody to do it with and you don’t know what a safe and reasonable route is. And so we should probably be giving you recommendations about your aspirations and not just your past.

Carlton Reid 26:20
And you do have a turn by turn, turn by turn is in the paid version. Yeah. Is in the subscriber level?

Zack Ham 26:29
Yes, correct. Yeah, you get voice voice turn by turn navigation. And it’s funny this started out because we got so frustrated with Garmin units. And we and we love Garmin, we love we love their units. Same with Wahoo, they make incredible head unit. So I have nothing bad to say about any of them. But at least a long time ago, with a Garmin unit, you would set a route out and it would be a loop. And maybe it was like a lollipop. So the the first section you would come back on. And frequently, it would just shortcut the whole thing. And then it would say route complete. And you’d have to go and restart navigation, we thought that was so silly. It’s like my goal isn’t to get to the finish line, it’s to do the whole route. And that really was one of the things that inspired our navigation. So, you know, for us, we make sure if you go and say I wanted to go and do for loops of this section of the route, we make sure you do four loops of it. But if you do three loops, and you cut off early, then we recognise that and we’ll move you forward on the route. But it’s it’s a very specific and nuanced take on navigation, where we recognise that people actually want to do the route that they planned, even if there are shorter and more efficient ways to get to the finish line.

Carlton Reid 27:44
And then that’s an athlete user.

Zack Ham 27:48
We don’t Yeah, we don’t think in terms of I guess I didn’t come my partner and I didn’t come from the competitive cycling world. And so for us, I don’t know, we don’t think of ourselves as athletes. And yeah, there’s certainly members of the team and members of our audience that do consider themselves athletes. So I’m not disparaging that, but no, I mean, I can go out and ride 100 miles, but I don’t think of myself as an athlete. For me, I just, I think bikes are something special, you know, you can combine really cool endurance, exercise performance, all that stuff with a really great social setting, enjoy nature, have a little adventure, get a little adrenaline rush on the downhill. And like that whole experience is really what we’re focused on. So the people that use our product, kind of our best, our favourite user, the person who is really, really digging into all the details, and the nooks and crannies and using it every day are really more on the adventurous side where they appreciate novelty, you know, they don’t want to just go a lot of athletes might go and do the same loop every weekend or, you know, the same training ride. And frankly, for them, maybe maybe training peaks or Strava is a better a better use of of their of their time or their money because if they’d already know exactly where they’re going, we don’t necessarily have a lot of differentiating things to offer them. But for us, if you want to go in a new ride, a more interesting ride, you want to mix it up, you want to travel somewhere and go on to the best possible ride with the time you have. That’s really our sweet spot.

Carlton Reid 29:16
So if I land in Paris, for instance, I get up one of the train stations, and I’ve got to get across town. And I don’t know my way about am I going to be using a rider’s GPS Am I gonna be firing up your app on my phone?

Zack Ham 29:32
Yeah, absolutely. And I And I’ve done exactly that. Yeah, that’s a that’s a great use of it. I use it every time I travel and and when I’m travelling with my wife, my goal is not to you know she’ll my own product to my significant other like that’s not my objective. My objective is to make sure that she still likes bikes afterwards. And I always do rely on our product and then I come back and I report a bug or two and, and frankly I rave to the team about like how awesome it was that I was able to go there and ride like a lot Local, with very minimal effort, go on this wonderful bike ride that I just couldn’t have done without a piece of software like ours.

Carlton Reid 30:07
So rod like a local. So that’s good. So you basically this the heat map shows you that, or the curators ride shows you that just this is where a local would ride, they probably wouldn’t go this route, even though that looks like a sensible route on a map. So you bring up on a map and you think well, that’s that’s probably the way to go. And then you kind of refer to yours like, well, actually, most people are going that route. Is that Is that how you describe it, that’s how people are using it.

Zack Ham 30:35
That’s, that’s one piece of it. And the heat map, I feel that the heat map is, is a tool you can use to kind of get a baseline, you know, hey, I’m not writing, I’m not writing like I don’t know anything. But you know, the most popular roads aren’t necessarily the way to go all the time, because you might have a commuting corridor, where it’s a fine place to ride. But perhaps if you’re doing a recreational ride, you really don’t want to be on there, you want to be on this less popular section that goes out of town and does this nice big loop. Maybe it’s more scenic, maybe there’s a hill and the commuting one doesn’t have a hill, there’s a lot of reasons why you don’t just want to follow the most heat on a heat map. And for us, you know, we don’t think that, you know, we can be like the smart people behind the scenes with the algorithms in the software, and just come into your community and say these are the best rides like we’ve never believed that we know more than people on the ground, especially working with the most knowledgeable route planners in an area all these people that run bike clubs or run bike tours. So for us, we want to build software to support those people and build build these advocates that have the authority locally. So that they can go out and say, Hey, these are the best routes, this is the best way to string these things together. So instead of here’s just another map, you know, sure it’s a heat map, but it’s just another map, choose your own adventure, you can come and use our tools to look at a map and say, Oh, here’s, if I pick any of these five routes, like I’m good, this is going to be a great time on a bike, it’ll be a varied experience, you know, I’m going to start at a coffee shop and see a nice local cycling friendly business, get out of town, have a nice viewpoint have a nice challenging climb, or whatever. And you can select your filters on do I want, you know, all paved or some unpaved do I want a lot of climbing do I want to be short or long. And our goal is to just give you instead of 10,000 routes in a heat map of a million options, we want to give you just a few options. So that you have a little bit of variation, but ultimately, like just like a friend would do. So they say Hey, this is the route you want to do. You know, I’m not gonna give you 25 ideas. I’m just gonna tell you go do this one.

Carlton Reid 32:54
Here and then and you’re maybe it’s very different in America. I mean, it’s only in the UK when we begin to audit seven maps. But they were never kept as actually as up to date as the map I’m going to mention which is Open Street Map, which which powered literally powered loads and loads of navigation businesses was open street map that important to you to begin with. I mean, how important was it? I’m right in thinking it’s always been generally more important in Europe than in North America. It’s certainly been more more updated in Europe than in in North America like in Germany, you down to you know, streetlamps, you know, individual street lamps are on OpenStreetMap. Just crazy amounts of detail from from techy people just volunteering. So how important back in the day was OpenStreetMap to you? And how important is it to you now?

Zack Ham 33:49
Yeah, originally OpenStreetMap just wasn’t, like you said it just wasn’t there in in the US. We were, you know, on the sidelines, cheering it on. And we’re really excited about it. We love. We love those kinds of open source style projects. And yeah, we’re, we’re big fans of OpenStreetMap since the very, very early days, even though it didn’t make for the best product for us. And so we’ve always believed in just using the best tool for the job at the time and being open to changing that. So when we first had the route planner out, JavaScript was too slow and web browser. So it was flash based for the members of your audience that remember, you know, flash on the web, it’s gone now. But so we’ve gone through many, you know, technology cycles, and also these these cycles of data where originally it was Google Maps was kind of the only provider that could do the job. And then as soon as OpenStreetMap started to become useful, one of the first things that we did with it was, I don’t know if you recall, this was also a long time ago, but with the old Garmin units, you could put in a SD card, a map card to get base maps and you would buy a Garmin unit and it would not have base maps and It was a really complicated process to get the OpenStreetMaps database onto one of these map cards. And so we had some users that were asking us about this, and we started a little side business out of it, I think we had we sold, I don’t know, 1000s of these map cards from our website so that Garmin users could have base maps based on open street maps. So that was kind of our first experience with open street maps as a business. And since then, we’ve built out, you know, a bunch of servers, we host a lot of infrastructure that’s based on open street maps, we have, you know, a vector map server, and we have a server to go, you can type in like the name of a city or an address and go look it up against our servers there. And we have routing servers that are based on OpenStreetMaps with other data so that you can, you know, get your point A to point B routing. So so we, you know, we love OpenStreetMaps, and we rely on it more and more and more as time goes on.

Carlton Reid 35:53
And because one of the reason I was asking that is because OpenStreetMaps has kind of got like, sometimes if you’re using open cycle map, the version of open street map that’s for bikes, there’s a surface level, there’s a surface layer, which you can you can then you can then work out, you know, which part of your your route is is, is gravel, which is dirt, which is which is paved, etc, etc. So, you’ve got a in 2021, I see here in your, your linear progress was when you added surface types, so surface types, are they submitted by users by members? Or is that some that you’re pulling it in? You’re pulling in the data from elsewhere?

Zack Ham 36:37
We’re pulling that in from open street maps. And, you know, there’s, it’s, it’s complicated, though, because the way that things are tagged in the OpenStreetMap database, you know, in one area, something might be tagged in a way that you have to infer, okay, if if it has this tag, but that tag that it’s actually paved in the state of California, but if it has these other two tags, then well, it’s then it’s unpaved, or what have you. So, you know, similar to your conversation with with, with Richard from cycle travel, you know, the way that he was talking about how they have country by country, routing, and everything based on just different usages of the OpenStreetMap database that vary by region. You know, that’s kind of exactly how we think about surface type is just trying to understand how people are using open street maps in their community. And doing our best to simplify that down, you know, you know, in Germany, where they have every street lamp, they also differentiate between, you know, gravel, or brick, or dirt, or single track or these, you know, a grassy path. And it’s up to us to, to narrow that down to what cyclists on our platform really care about, which is, look, is it paved, or is it unpaved? And sometimes answering that question is a little a little more complicated than just this binary, yes or no.

Carlton Reid 38:07
So tell me what other maps do you have, we tell everybody what you can actually choose from when you when you go in, you can say, right, for this particular route, you might want this particular map, you know, there’s this there are times when you did want different maps for different things. That’s me, I maybe that’s just me, what maps have you got?

Zack Ham 38:26
No, it’s not not just you, we’ve always supported, you know, the maps that people are asking for. So we have our own. Our own vector map that we’ve put a lot of time into, we actually recently recently launched a new version of it, and we call it RGB GPS cycle. And, and it’s quite nice, actually, it brings all the cycling infrastructure out, you know, lets people see peaks kind of de emphasises the motorways or the the highways that people might not want to ride on. So it’s a great cycling map. And that’s our default. But then we have the suite of maps from Google their map view, their satellite view, a lot of people really like switching, you know, between our map and the Google satellite view, because it’s yeah, it’s a really good satellite view. And if you’re doing adventurer writing, you can if we don’t have surface type data, you can double check with satellite and say, oh, you know, that doesn’t look very paved. And then we also have some of the OSM once we have the OSM the standard OSM map, the OSM cycle map, OSM outdoor map that comes from Thunder forest, it’s a really great company that makes some really nice map styles. We have a topo map from Esri, which is a lot of people like because it’s really crisp and clean and has a lot of detail, especially for people that are going kind of into the back country. They appreciate those contour lines on the on the top of a map and extra information that’s on there. And then we also have maps from the US Geological Survey, which you know, aren’t as relevant over where you’re at, but in the US These are to some people sort of like how you view your Ordnance Survey maps, at least when it comes to when you get out of the populated areas. They’re they’ve been around for a long time, you know, they’re built by the government, there’s a lot of great detail in those. And we have some old scans of the raster maps that provide, you know, a certain level of detail. And then we also have their newer vector topo maps, which you know, provide a different level of detail and represented in a different way.

Carlton Reid 40:28
And they, you can toggle through them, if you’re a paid member, or if you’re that’s, that’s with the no pay subscription.

Zack Ham 40:36
Now we let we let everyone do that. And when it comes to our paid or unpaid options in the in the route planner, it’s really, you don’t really hit, you don’t run into limits, or we require a period of count until you do some of the more advanced stuff. So for us, kind of like layers in Photoshop, you can have multiple routes on the map at the same time, we call it multi route editing. And that’s a paid feature. But if you just want to go click, click, click, make yourself a nice route, save it and go ride it, you can do all that for free. Hmm. See,

Carlton Reid 41:11
I’m a historian, right? And the early days of motoring was very much like this, you’d go for pleasure rides, this is this what people are doing, they’re going for pleasure bicycle ride. And that’s what you used to do in a car used to go for pleasure. And motorcar rides. And you can imagine, you know, in the very late 1890s, certainly the early 1900s. You know, if this app was available, then the early motorists would have been all over this, but you’re not going to get a motor and maybe a motorcyclist, yes. But you’re not going to get a motorist doing this. So this, your your kind of core customers are basically doing this, they’re very geeky, probably. And they’re doing this for pleasure. Whereas if you’re downloading, you know, a sat nav app, as a motorist, you’re going to be using that for probably not actually that pleasurable in many times to drive places, whereas you’re offering a product that’s actually a very pleasurable pleasurable thing to be doing.

Zack Ham 42:11
We’d like to think so I mean, that’s, that’s why we all well, not all of us all the time. But that’s why I like to think we all come to work with a smile on our faces, because that’s when we deal with, when we deal with a customer, or anybody that’s using our product, you know, most of the time, they’re really doing something that’s cool. And we’re helping enable that, we, you know, it’s so great when we hear from people who will write in and say, you know, I just did this trans America route, and I don’t know how I would have done it without you guys, you know, without your without your software without the data that I was able to get from, from ride with GPS. So that’s, that’s why we’re doing what we’re doing. You know, we think bikes are a special thing, where you get outside, which is more and more rare these days, you know, you are with people like real human beings in real life, which we also think is more rare and a special thing, and you get some exercise, you get used to move through space, it’s a very human activity. So we hope that people, you know, we hope people cycle for for, you know, to get to work and to go get their groceries and do all that we’re big supporters of cycling in general, but really our, our focus is people who go out and want to do this recreationally, go on an adventure, have fun with friends, and, and just don’t want to have a don’t want to have an undesirable experience. You know, a lot of people do want to go out and take risks and go on that adventure where they really don’t know exactly what’s going to be around the next corner. And they love our software, too. But you all know that we’re really being successful when somebody who’s very risk averse, who really doesn’t want to get into trouble, who wants to know exactly what they’re going to do goes on a ride that they’ve never been on before, where nobody there with knows more than they do. And it’s because our software kind of gives them that confidence gives them that comfort that they can go and do something new, and know that they’re not going to run into trouble.

Carlton Reid 44:06
Hmm. Night Before we were talking about how you’re bootstrapped, and how you had 30 Plus members of staff and you’ve been profitable since since the time you you’re taking fees, basically. But then you’ve also just recently, I mean, we’re talking September is my my story here. You’ve got $3 million from an undisclosed strategic investor. So those are always things where you ask people and they won’t tell you because if it’s not on the news story, they people don’t want to tell you which is fine. Unless you do want to tell me but I My question is going to be what you’re going to do with that money. What what what features what what expansion? is that money going to be funding?

Zack Ham 44:53
You know, that’s, yeah, it’s it’s one of those funny things when I was bringing this news back to back to our team You know, because our roots are in r&b and bootstrapped, we’ve always been very proud of that. And so thinking about like, Well, I haven’t changed, my partner hasn’t changed. And we’re bringing on this new partner. So, you know, what’s, what does that what does that mean? Like, why would we have done this? Like? How do people kind of understand this? The truth is, we’ve been working with this guy since 2020. His name’s Jason Eken. Roth, he’s like a super fan of our product. He has been a paid user since 2016. And, and he’s been kind of a mentor, frankly, to me for the past three years, and he’s been wanting to get involved in the business. He’s had a successful software startup in the past. Right now, passion is his cycling, it has been for many years. He’s based in Europe, which is a market we know, we don’t know enough about, and we’re very interested in. So he’s just been like a great friend, mentor, somebody who gives a lot of professional advice. And we’ve been trying to figure out a way for him to have a seat around the table to welcome him in as a partner, so that he can spend more time with us and really help us do what we’re already doing better. And so we figured out a way to do that, where he could be a minority partner. But if you haven’t been there since the beginning, and you’re not working a full time job and getting equity, how do you become a partner, you have to buy your way in. And so, you know, it really isn’t about the money, it’s about the partner. And so it’s like, okay, well, what are you going to do with the money? Nothing, right now, we’re, we’re profitable, we were planning on hiring 10 more people, you know, toward the end of this year and early next year, before we planned on welcoming him on, and we don’t want to just blow the company up with a bunch of new staff. So we’re really not going to change our plan at this point. So maybe an opportunity will come up, and we’ll be we’ll have a little more comfort to take advantage of that, you know, have a little more courage. But that opportunity hasn’t come up yet. So we’ll see. I mean, we have the future, I think is really opportunistic. For us, there’s a lot of things we can do. So it’ll be nice to have a little more courage, but really, it’s about the guidance of, of him as an individual.

Carlton Reid 47:06
Presumably, the meetings when it’s behind around the table are like zoom meetings, if he’s in Europe,

Zack Ham 47:12
he was actually down here last week, and I’m gonna go, I’m gonna go out there and visit him here pretty soon as well. So we’ll be getting together in person, pretty frequently. And And again, that’s, you know, it wouldn’t probably wouldn’t make a whole lot of sense for that to be happening if he wasn’t an actual partner in the business. So it’s gonna be, it’s gonna be a lot of fun, I think it’s gonna be really exciting.

Carlton Reid 47:34
So how big if you got brought down a European investor? How big? Are you outside of the US? I mean, how much of a focus Have you had else, you know, outside of the US and previously made? Will that change?

Zack Ham 47:47
Well, are yes, the majority of our customer base has always been based in the US. And, you know, we actually have a quite quite a large contingent of, of users in the UK. And then other other English speaking areas, you know, so we have quite a few, quite a few users in Australia, for example, good contingent in South Africa, and whatnot, but you know, our, our penetration into like France, Italy, Germany, you know, even even the Netherlands and whatnot, is, it could be a lot better, that’s for sure. And we have quite a few users over there just by number, but in terms of compared to the opportunity, it could be a lot more. And so our focus mostly over there has been with our tour operator partners. And so really, the, honestly, a lot of the people that we’ve supported in Europe, are Americans who are going overseas on these on these week long bike tours. And so we get a lot of usage over there. It’s just usage from people who are travelling, who are having this curated experience. So that’s been most of our experience in that market. Whereas in the US, we’re very integrated into like the local cycling scene by virtue of these partnerships with bike clubs and people that are running events.

Carlton Reid 49:05
Yeah, that that saw dinner event I mentioned was was one American, know those two brands, but they were both journalists. On the on the trips, everybody else was Americans and America, it’s an Italian company. But as far as I can see, most of our clientele are, are Americans. I guess that’s why they’ve used ride with GPS, because that’s, that’s more familiar to Americans. Now, obviously, I want to end now but uh, normally I would ask people, you know, what’s the URL? Where can we get more information? But it’s kind of obvious what your URL URL is. And like, I’m sure absolutely your Instagrams the same, everything is probably exactly the same as to Yes. We really don’t have to discuss what the URL might be. Now that How about you personally? Are you on social media in your own right, or is it always going to be you’re a corporate person and that’s That’s you’ll only find Zack as as Robert GPS

Zack Ham 50:03
No, I’m, I’m you know, I don’t post much on anything but but I’m certainly out there, you know, people are welcome to email me directly that’s za CK at Robert I always welcome and I see email or you know, you can follow me on Instagram, maybe I’ll post something and I think my most recent videos of me skateboarding so you can see that I don’t just ride a bike. And that’s Zach cam as well. So yeah, I’m on LinkedIn, I’m kind of I probably have a Twitter or x account or whatever they’re calling it now that I that I don’t use but I’m reachable through all those places.

Carlton Reid 50:38
Thanks to Zach Ham there and thanks to you for listening to Episode 340 of the spokesman podcast brought to you in association with Tern bicycles, show notes and more can be found at The next episode features an upbeat chat with Carla Francome who talks candidly about her knockers. That is, her social media critics, of course, That show will be out early next week. But meanwhile, get out there and ride