Author: Carlton Reid

November 17, 2022 / / Blog

17th November 2022

The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast

EPISODE 313: Tour de Luxe — riding with legends on Ibiza with upscale Leblanq

SPONSOR: Tern Bicycles

HOST: Carlton Reid

GUESTS: Justin Clarke, Mark Cavendish, Monica Dew, Sophie Power, Jamie Criddle, Johan Museeuw, Rob Gitelis, Margaret and Joyce from Taiwan, Matias Bjork, Sean Yates.

TOPICS: Balcony views, posh food, drafting behind legends — listen up for what guests think of their luxury bike break with LeBlanq in Ibiza. Carlton Reid also interviews Mark Cavendish and Johan Museeuw while riding with them on the party island, and Leblanq cofounder Justin Clarke reveals why c-suite execs love rolling with world champions.


Carlton Reid 0:13
Welcome to Episode 313 of the Spokesmen cycling podcast. The show was engineered on Thursday 17th of November 2022.

David Bernstein 0:23
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 caring another adult, visit www.tern That’s t e r n to learn more.

Justin Clarke 1:02
LeBlanq isn’t about hero worshipping. It’s about really good people just getting to know other really good people and having a really good time. That’s it. It’s that simple.

Carlton Reid 1:11
That’s LeBlanq co founder Justin Clarke, introducing himself to guests at the company’s upscale bike break on the party island of Ibiza. LeBlanq marketing materials described the experience as joy riding and, dear listener, I bravely volunteered to discover the accuracy of that pitch. I’m Carlton Reid and I could have kicked back and relaxed on this warm weather winter cycling trip. But, no, I packed my recording equipment so you could hear what it’s like to ride with legends, legends, like Lion of Flanders with Johan Museeuw, and world champions Mark Cavendish and Óscar Freire. I interviewed Johan and Cav while we were riding along.

Mark Cavendish 2:05
Let’s go left. Yeah.

Carlton Reid 2:06
Okay. So, er, you’ve enjoyed it here?

Mark Cavendish 2:11
Yeah. Been nice. ,

Pete Tong

Carlton Reid 2:13
Also riding with us on this short break was Ibiza legend Pete Tong whose nightclub session on the final night was the highlight of the weekend for Sigma Sports coowner Ian Whittingham. I recorded the audio with Ian and other company principles, including Rob Gitelis of [Factor] bicycles, who flew from Taiwan to be on the trip. Swedish concrete magnate Matias Bjork told me what it is about LeBlanq that hooked him and you’ll also hear why former pro Monica Dew is so stoked to be a LeBlanc guide.

Monica Dew 2:51
Yeah. Loving it.

Carlton Reid 2:53
You’ll also hear more from Justin Clarke and I also talked with Jamie Criddle, manager of Chevin Cycles branch in Harrogate, who explained why he helps out on these joy rides. And as we were riding along behind Adam Blythe, ultra runner Sophie Power explained it was the inclusivity and no-drop protocols of LeBlanq that saw her back on another trip. And this was a recurring theme. Many of the riders I spoke to were on their second, third and fourth LeBlanq trips. Yes, they’re expensive. But considering you’re riding — and eating — with genuine legends of the sport, LeBlanq could easily charge three times as much for their joyrides and see no drop off in custom. Before we set off in our curated-for-speed groups, I hooked up a mic on event director sportif Sean Yates, who can be heard here discussing logistics with Justin and one of the guides.

Justin Clarke 4:00
Ranges and ratios. Everything else. So

Sean Yates 4:04
Cav’s going in the last last group.

Justin Clarke 4:06

Sean Yates 4:06
Johan’s going in the green groups. Where’s David Hesketh?

Justin Clarke 4:11
Just there.

Sean Yates 4:14
Yeah. David. So you’re you’re following the green group, following Johan?

David Hesketh 4:21
Yep, that’s right. Yep.

Sean Yates 4:23
You can get a radio which means you will be in contact with the green group.

David Hesketh 4:27

Sean Yates 4:28
So you want the 9am green, which is channel five, and it’s all lined up without without headphones.

Carlton Reid 4:38
Before we set off for the first ride from Hotel Riomar we had to pick up our bikes from the empty hotel opposite where there were mechanics on hand, including Jamie Criddle. So the bikes that we’ve got here. There’s a whole bunch of bikes different bikes here. So what we got we got like customer bikes. We’ve got people who shipped them out?

Jamie Criddle 5:02
Exactly that. We’ve got a real a real mix. We’ve got some hire bikes that have come from Mallorca and hire bikes that have come from just down down the road, a shop five minutes where we’ve got some bikes that we brought out in our vans that belong to customers. And then the rest are bikes that people have brought with themselves, however they’ve arrived.

Carlton Reid 5:22
Are there any electric road bikes here?

Jamie Criddle 5:25
So we’ve got some electric e-bikes, and we’ve got some electric mountain bikes even they’re going to be coming out on the on the ride routes, but not road bikes, not road bikes at the moment.

Carlton Reid 5:38
And where are you from?

Jamie Criddle 5:40
I’m from Harrogate.

Carlton Reid 5:43
In Yorkshire, God’s own country.

Jamie Criddle 5:46
God’s own country. Yes. Yeah, so we we helped the Grantley Hall event just outside Harrogate. And now we’re here in Ibiza enjoying the

Carlton Reid 5:59
You’re saying “we” there so what do you do in Harrogate?

Jamie Criddle 6:04
I work in in bike store Chevin Cycles. Run the store look after some bike fitting.

Carlton Reid 6:11
And are you seeing more electric bikes being sold?

Jamie Criddle 6:13
Absolutely. We have kind of very much a — we’re probably not a million miles off of a 50/50 split now. But that split is interesting that mostly mountain bike, mostly hybrid and cargo bikes.

Carlton Reid 6:28
And cargo bikes what you got?

Jamie Criddle 6:31
Well, Tern is is key brand for for us they

Carlton Reid 6:37

Jamie Criddle 6:38
Yeah, the one that I personally own.

Carlton Reid 6:41
Car killer?

Jamie Criddle 6:42
Yeah, the family love it. The kids love it. The kids refuse to go in the car now.

Carlton Reid 6:49
But not in the rain?

Jamie Criddle 6:51
In the rain.

Carlton Reid 6:52
In the rainy weather and family as in this little kids?

Jamie Criddle 6:55
Yeah. Martha is 9; Ned’s 7. They want to be on the bike all the time. Literally tell us that they feel sick whenever they get in our car. They’re all right in other people’s cars, but they feel sick in our car. So want to go on the e-bike everywhere.

Carlton Reid 7:11
So this is genuinely has been a car killer then for you?

Jamie Criddle 7:15
Yeah, we got our our bike in 2019 in the in the September. And when Mel is going to get in our car in February the battery was dead. And she genuinely didn’t feel she would use the bike that much. And was totally taken with it. It’s a big bike is a big

Tern GSD. So both kids on the back, heavy bike as all the bikes are, but it doesn’t matter because it’s got the got the motor to overcome that. And she felt she wouldn’t be able to manoeuvre and be comfortable with it. But she literally uses it every day, takes the kids to school, goes to work, does the shopping,

Carlton Reid 7:54
Right. That’s a heavy bike. That’s an electric bike, even though you’ve got the power but these bikes here and I can actually see my name on the back there. So Carlton is on the plaque on the back there. So what we’ve got here what what kind of bike is this? I’m gonna put my water bottle into this Specialized.

Jamie Criddle 8:09
And probably double the weight, specialized

Carlton Reid 8:12
water, okay.

Jamie Criddle 8:14
Seven kilo bike, built to be as light as possible, should feel like you’re gliding up the hills, even when the legs don’t want to try SRAM Force E-tap groupset. So nice, simple, straightforward shifting. Yeah, should help you enjoy

Carlton Reid 8:32
but you’re coming out as well. Jamie?

Jamie Criddle 8:33
I’m coming out as well. Leading one of the one of the groups.

Carlton Reid 8:37
But you’re not in your Lycra do I’m presuming you’ve got to rush away?

Jamie Criddle 8:41
Get my shorts and shirts off and put my jersey on and we’ll see you on the road.

Justin Clarke 8:45
We’re in the white and the turquoise. Their right leaders. There are LeBlanq ride leaders that ride with us all over the world. They’ve done multiple events, they know the drill. They are part of our core team. They have radios, they know how to connect with the rest of the riders in the group etcetera very experienced. So just keep it nice and steady. Just ride together, find that tempo and keep you sane. I just want to say welcome Sean Yates.

Sean Yates 9:12
Thank you. Thank you, Justin. So as Justin said, we’re here to obviously enjoy ourselves and stay safe on the flat sections. Try keep it real tight. Roll along tight, so you’re quite compact. There will be a following car behind on the climbs. If you feel a bit frisky then obviously you can push it a little bit you know, but don’t exaggerate. Today it’s fairly simple and straightforward. And the idea is to just roll along. Okay, tomorrow is another kettle of fish. We’ve got 2000 metres climbing on the downhills – do not at any point overtake the lead rider is for the safety Give everyone so that’s that’s about it really just go out there be sensible have fun and look after each other.

Carlton Reid 10:06
Before group went off for that first ride. I chatted to Rob Gitelis of Factor Bikes. So, Rob, we’re outside the W Hotel. Where we’re all picking up the bikes. A lot of people are getting Specialized bikes from from the organisation but you haven’t got a Specialized bike? No, why wouldn’t you ride a Specialized Rob?

Rob Gitelis 10:29
I have good taste. And I’m the owner of Factor.

Carlton Reid 10:34
Exactly. So it’s cool that you’re coming out here on a on a on a trip, you’ve come out here especially for this thing of like a round Europe trip.

Rob Gitelis 10:44
I’ve kind of connected some things together so that I could you know, charge this to the company. But this is really more about pleasure to come in here for this event.

Carlton Reid 10:53
So Factor is doing okay at the moment with some pro teams and

Rob Gitelis 10:57
Yeah, it’s um you know, we grow quite a bit every year we have a number of ladies professional teams, men’s professional teams, but coming out here I really get to meet who was our customer is, you know, I can speak to Chris Froome all day, but he’s not our customer.

Carlton Reid 11:13
Because the last time — talking about Chris Froome and his Israeli team — the last time I talked to you in the flesh was was actually at the Giro d’Italia in Jerusalem. Yes, you’ve come on for a fair bit since then.

Rob Gitelis 11:26
Yeah, you know, back when we met in Jerusalem, we were sponsoring the AG2R French team. And you know, that was very, very good start for Factor but we needed a more international team. So after taking one year out of the world tour, we came back in with Israel Premier Tech, which features Chris Froome and you know, Giacome Nizzolo and some other very fine bike racers

Carlton Reid 11:48
On the bike that you’re riding there. Now what what exactly is that?

Rob Gitelis 11:53
This is a Factor Ostro it’s pretty much the flagship bike of Factor at the moment. And it’s the one used by most of our professional teams.

Carlton Reid 12:03
So just describe what you got here because it looks pretty trick.

Rob Gitelis 12:06
Ah, yeah, it’s pretty much like the ultimate poser bike. It has a Black Inc, five spoke wheels, a new Shimano Dura Ace 12, speed group set, Black Inc handlebars, and then a few kind of like special details on it. That based on my own personality and ability to do something,

Carlton Reid 12:28
because it looks it fit me there, Rob, so if you don’t want to take it back, you know, I could just I could I could help you out there. Yeah, sure. So how much is that? How much is that?

Rob Gitelis 12:37
This bike would be about 15,000.

Carlton Reid 12:39
US dollars.

Rob Gitelis 12:41
Yeah, Euro/US.

Carlton Reid 12:43
That’s kind of okay. It’s not ridiculous.

Rob Gitelis 12:46
Yeah. I mean, some of these Specialized yes, definitely more

Carlton Reid 12:54
And then you’re not the only person from Taiwan here.

Rob Gitelis 12:56
No, these two lovely ladies are

Carlton Reid 12:58
So you come all the way from Taiwan as well, you it was the same flight from where we there’s

Rob Gitelis 13:02
Same flight but we didn’t actually know each other.

Carlton Reid 13:06
No, now, but where was the flight from? From Taipei. So let’s get your names?

Margaret 13:13
I’m Margaret.

And I’m Joyce.

Carlton Reid 13:15
Hi Joyce and Margaret. So how did you find out about this trip?

Margaret 13:27
Oh, we got through Rapha cycling club, there was a introduction there. So we thought it’d be fun.

Joyce 13:35
And yeah, we saw the picture of Ibiza. And then there’s Mark

Carlton Reid 13:40
So Mark Cavendish is a draw. It’s the rider so that is the food, it’s the place or the rider? Sounds as though it’s the rider

Margaret 13:53
It’s a combination, right.

I will say Mark was a big draw.

Joyce 13:58
And Ibiza very exotic.

Carlton Reid 14:06
So how much riding do you do in Taiwan? Because it’s a beautiful island – Formosa, the old name, means beautiful – It’s a wonderful place to ride a bike.

Margaret 14:13
Yes. So

Joyce 14:15
150 to 200.

Margaret 14:17
I do 250 a week.

Carlton Reid 14:19
Okay. Whereabouts?

Margaret 14:21
Mountains. Yeah. Because it’s a mountainous Island. Yeah. Yeah.

Joyce 14:28
Very steep mountain. So we are generally better climbers.

Margaret 14:33
Not really.

Carlton Reid 14:37
You didn’t bring your own bikes?

Margaret 14:40
We don’t all own bike companies.

Carlton Reid 14:44
So what do you ride when you’re at home?

Margaret 14:46
I have a Pinarello

Joyce 14:50
Yeah, yeah. And I ride Canyon.

Carlton Reid 14:56
So coming on to these bikes as you know, cuz you went out for the ride yesterday. Okay. Yeah,

Margaret 15:04
Yeah. My first bike was Giant. So

Carlton Reid 15:08
That’s kind of the ubiqitious bike on the island. Really, we’ve got King Liu who rides everywhere when he did. Well enjoy your ride today.

Matias Bjork 15:23
I am Matias Bjork, from Sweden. And it’s been a beautiful couple of days cycling here in Ibiza.

Carlton Reid 15:29
And because this is not your first trip, you were in Champagne as well weren’t you?

Matias Bjork 15:33
Yes, we were in Champagne last year, it was supposed to be early, it was postponed due to Covid..

Carlton Reid 15:39
Now, this is a bigger trip than that. So it’s more intimate the last one. But this kind of suggests it’s a good one for having a bigger trip, because you had the Pete Tong last night you had all these things with a small group, it would look a bit weird.

Matias Bjork 15:53
I don’t know might be fun as well. But I think if you want to have the likes of Cavendish, you need to have multiple, it’s very 120 guests. And he’s been cycling in six different groups during the weekend. So we all get to meet him. That’s amazing. And Johan and Oscar and everybody else.

Carlton Reid 16:14
So what’s the draw? Is it everything? Is that a daft question? Or is it no the riders that that that’s what sets this apart, the fact that you can ride with real genuine stars?

Matias Bjork 16:24
The biggest joy is, of course, the rider. Knowing that the hotel is good, the food is good, wine is good, and champagne is good. I think that the combination is quite unique. I don’t know if any other type of events that similar. And I’m mostly a runner, but can see doing an event like this from runners. It doesn’t really work out. For cyclists you can split up in different groups. You can have nice dinners. And it works out. You can even be hungover and go cycling. I wouldn’t do that running maybe.

Carlton Reid 16:56
Okay. And you were telling me before that you have, you sit on the board of two businesses and you have you have a concrete business in in Stockholm.

Matias Bjork 17:08
Yeah, around Sweden many different places.

Carlton Reid 17:12
And you travel a lot with that job?

Matias Bjork 17:15
No, honestly, I don’t actually. I travel maybe to the board meetings, but otherwise I don’t. Business managers do. Which is nice.

Carlton Reid 17:24
Okay. But this is a this is a typical holiday for you? Or is this usual?

Matias Bjork 17:30
No, no, I’d say it’s typical. Every time we go travelling, it’s always a question about finding good training. You go on swim camps, you go on cycling camps, you go running camps. We did one in Mallorca trail running camp only this year, which was great, but not on a level like this. This is so much higher quality, also the camaraderie of having 120 people.

Carlton Reid 17:57
And you looking it’s this kind of thing you’re gonna think right? I’m gonna be doing this twice a year, every single year. Is it sounds like right when so Justin’s just standing over there. It’s gonna be like, Justin, where are you going next? Because ‘sign me up!’

Matias Bjork 18:08
That’s the been the biggest discussion so far. It’s been okay, what’s gonna be the next year’s trip? When are you gonna go to South Africa? Are you gonna go to Italy? You’re gonna go to the US? Yeah, I think so. Looking at sort of what people doing that, and you want to do adventures, you want to experience things, but at the same time, want to stay in a nice hotel, and have good food. So the combination is perfect.

Carlton Reid 18:30
Johan, we’re here on Ibiza, riding along. This is your second LeBlanq trip because you went to Champagne. So tell me what do you think about these LeBlanq trips?

Johan Museeuw 18:44
Now my third, fourth event with the LeBlanq. Last year in the Champagne area, it was together with Eddie Merckx, legend. So this is really a luxury holiday on the bike. So it’s different than other companies. So I go a lot because this is my job what I’m doing around the world. So I’m freelance. I’ve also my own company, Museeuw Cycling Experience. But LeBlanq is different than everyone.

Carlton Reid 19:19
This is potentially are you going to be potentially having one in Flanders as well?

Johan Museeuw 19:25
Yes, last week, we are have done a reconnaissance of something to do in Flanders next year.

Carlton Reid 19:32
Very cobbly, cobbles, lots of pavé?

Johan Museeuw 19:36
Not always but if you go to Flanders, you have to do the famous hill Paterberg, Koppenberg and also some section and cobblestones. So, yeah, it will be fun next year. We start in the. No, I can’t say where we started because still a secret.

Sophie Power 19:54
I’m Sophie power.

Carlton Reid 19:56
Well, you’ve been running here because you’re normally a runner. But you’re doing incredibly well at cycling.

Sophie Power 20:02
I’m a runner enough to try and excuse my descending skills but I kept up. I kept up. I was watching Adam and his lines. Yeah, I was like right I’m gonna follow him and then kept up.

Carlton Reid 20:14
Yeah, follow somebody who knows what they’re doing

Sophie Power 20:17
in terms of like life achievement I got down hill without getting dropped.

Carlton Reid 20:24
Is that the draw for you the rider star riders is the draw for you. What’s the draw?

Sophie Power 20:31
Time away from my kids. No. That’s so this is my 40th birthday present, hubby’s a cyclist. We love Justin. We love what they do. We love food. We love enjoying cycling, like it’s great cross training for me. But I think the events are, as a cyclist I’m nervous. I’m nervous. Like, I don’t know everything. And these are the most inclusive events because no-one gets dropped. They look after your bike. They take, I think for women they take out a lot the uncertainties you have about cycling and is that you can ride your bike and met some amazing people and not so riders. Everyone else.

Ian Whittingham 21:14

Carlton Reid 21:15
Ian, that sounds like a groan of happiness, that you were finishied, a groan of happiness is age related?

Ian Whittingham 21:23
Yeah, I think I think it’s age related. And yeah. Sitting down after a very lovely, what, 50 odd miles of Ibiza lanes.

Carlton Reid 21:33
That’s Ian Whittingham the co owner, co founder of Sigma Sports, the amazing kinda London bike shop. And you’ve just shown us your Strava there. We’ve basically done half of the island. That’s a small place, but quite varied, and quite green, isn’t it?

Ian Whittingham 21:53
Very green, roads are lovely and quiet. Yeah, it’s like everyone in the group is asking ourselves, why have we not come here before cycling? It’s amazing.

Carlton Reid 22:02
Because it’s Mallorca isn’t it is where you know, people go. Yeah. And they deliberately avoiding going to Mallorca for that reason.

Ian Whittingham 22:09
Yeah. coming somewhere like that. Yeah. I came here before many years ago for a stag weekend. So my memories of Ibiza are quite different to what I’ll leave with this time round,

Carlton Reid 22:20
but the fact there was somebody there when you were 20. When you were 25. Yeah. How long ago was that was

Ian Whittingham 22:27
26 years ago.

Carlton Reid 22:28
But there was somebody there at the same time. Who’s here today as well?

Ian Whittingham 22:31
Oh, yeah. Right. So yeah, so when we were here we were treated to Pete Tong, doing doing a set at next door to Cafe Del Mar. And while we were drinking mojitos, and yeah, as you say, he’s here on this trip. Not seen him yet. Now, he has a cyclist as well as obviously a famous DJ.

Carlton Reid 22:47
You were saying he’s one of your customers.

Ian Whittingham 22:48
He is a customer of ours as well, when he’s in the UK,

Carlton Reid 22:52
will actually say you’re you are a founder of a pretty well known bike shop in the UK. Certainly if you’re in the South East of England. So

Ian Whittingham 23:02
Yeah, so so that I’m founder of Sigma Sports. So we’ve been we’ve been going now for 30 years. And I’ve been involved with with LeBlanq since its inception, actually. So it had a bit of a bit of a stalled start because of the pandemic. But yeah, I’ve been involved with Justin since the beginning. I did I went and did the Isle of Wight event last year and was just really blown away by the quality of the event. I mean, truly, these are, I think the best cycling trips I’ve I’ve been on. I’ve been doing trips

Carlton Reid 23:38
And you go on lots of industry trips.a

Ian Whittingham 23:39
Yeah, indeed. Yeah. But in terms of like, yeah, cycling events. It’s just every every detail is thought of staff are amazing. It’s yeah, it’s really fantastic.

Carlton Reid 23:49
And you told me before that you used to race with Justin.

Ian Whittingham 23:51
I did yeah. And his brother back in the day his brother, Russell. Yes. So yeah, I’ve known, Justin for well, yeah. 40 years. Sorry, 30 years.

Carlton Reid 23:59
So this is before you created the bike shop?

Ian Whittingham 24:02
Yes, just before, when I was when I was a teenager, and race racing back in the day and then I hadn’t seen Russell for years actually. And then he popped up say three years three or four years ago with this with this idea and mixing his passion for food and cycling and I think you’d really hit a sweet spot

Carlton Reid 24:19
Is it fair to say that the average or certainly some of the customers that you’re attracting in your shop are just ideal. But here because you sit let’s face it, you’re a high end shop. And these these people here are high-end consumers.

Ian Whittingham 24:37
They are it’s obviously you know, it’s not it’s not a it’s not a cheap trip to come on. But you know, it’s you can when you’re here you can see why the the hotels are great. The catering is great. But yeah, I mean, this is this is an absolute sweet spot for us in terms of the the kind of customer demographic

Carlton Reid 24:55
It’s a cross fertilisation and so you’re selling you know the trip to them. They’re selling the bike shop to them.

Ian Whittingham 25:01
Very much so. Yeah, so that’s something is one of the reasons we got involved just in the beginning was to, to, to be able to access our customers and tell them all about LeBlanq and sell a few trips for him in return for some support for their riding needs in return. So yes, it’s a great

Carlton Reid 25:18
ecosystem. Because there’s, I mean, there’s there’s an international audience I mean, there’s there’s the founder of Factor is here. Yeah, it’s kind of strange. I was talking to Rob before and then you got two Taiwanese ladies who come all the way from Taiwan.

Ian Whittingham 25:36
A ouple from Austin, Texas. Yeah, it’s a it’s a quite a diverse range of people, which is which is fantastic. And also, you know, it’s also great to see so many women cycling here as well. It’s definitely a really fast growing part of part of the sport.

Carlton Reid 25:55
I thought we’d see more electric road bikes now. How big is electric bikes in your shop?

Ian Whittingham 26:02
Yeah, the terrain here is just is made for an electric road bike. It really is, you know, up up and down all day. But yeah, I don’t think I’ve seen one yet actually. But for us as a business I let them electric bikes now make up about 30% of our bike sales. And actually, you know, we’re now appealing to different audiences we have our work we have our our heritage and history and road biking but we’ve also embraced the electric bike revolution and we’ve opened dedicated store for that in Kingston. So yeah, no doubt about it. You know, electric bikes are the kind of future of the cycling industry

Carlton Reid 26:34
Pretty much within about 10, 20 years hold of the industry and then we’ve got like legacy bikes. Yeah, he’s a legacy bikes. Riding on me every bike is going to have not not just one of the the Shimano gears and stuff that are gonna have electronics. It’s just gonna be there’s gonna be some form of propulsion on everybody.

Ian Whittingham 26:59
Yeah. Yeah. I think you’re exactly what they’ll come a day when you start talking about electric bikes are not just be bikes that happen to have some kind of a propulsion, as you say,

Carlton Reid 27:08
I mean that’s been good for the industry?

Ian Whittingham 27:11

Carlton Reid 27:12
Perception price point, you know, now apart year, of course bikes got £2500 because an electric bike costs £2500. So that brings, like, raises the whole ships and like every ship has risen with

Ian Whittingham 27:23
absolutely, it’s gonna. Yeah, it’s huge for the industry. Absolutely huge for the industry. And yeah, hence why we couldn’t, we couldn’t, you know, despite our roots, being in road biking, we couldn’t I couldn’t stand by and just watch that train leave the station, if you like, we have to, you know, want to get involved. I ride an e-bike to work myself every day.

Carlton Reid 27:44
British bicycle industry did miss it. But they certainly weren’t in that day early. There was a whole there was a whole period of time when bike shops famously didn’t have electric bikes. Really didn’t want to get in touch with them. And then you found a whole bunch of electric bike shops came out. And there was that kind of ecosystem. Has that changed? There? Was it my job said no, no, we weren’t.

Ian Whittingham 28:07
Yeah, it’s definitely changing. You are right. It was it. There was like really a handful of ebike specialists to begin with. And then a bit of hesitation about you know, is this gonna, is this going to take off? But right now? Yeah, I think most most bike shops are going to probably have at least half of their half of their bikes on the on the shop floor are going to be electric. And imagine.

Carlton Reid 28:28
Specialized famously did take a while. I mean, they’re fabulous bikes, you know, designed in Switzerland, you know, the whole whole unit. That’s Specialized got that, but it took a while to actually get into it. So was that something that bike shops waiting for? Or waiting for the big brands come in with some sweet bikes? Cos they weren’t fantastic looking bikes before.

Ian Whittingham 28:48
They weren’t. I mean, the very first e-bikes, in fact, you know, anecdotally on the street, where are our store is in Hampton Wick? We had two e-bike stores on that street 10 years ago, but both were just ahead of … They were before their time and the bikes were very, very much like a regular bike with a battery strapped on it and a clunky motor. So yeah, absolutely. It’s only really in the last I’d say kind of five years and that’s that they’ve really started to to look start to look better, perform better have much better ranges and charging times. And yes, the big manufacturers now are all embracing it. And, you know, Specialized are definitely one of the leading, leading manufacturers of e. Is certainly certainly our biggest brand. Ebike in the business is Specialized I think every every brand you speak to, if you talk about 2024, 2025 and they expect the vast majority their business to be electric. And regular acoustic bikes, as we call them, I think will definitely become a diminishing part of part of the range.

Carlton Reid 29:51
Is that a bad thing?

Ian Whittingham 29:54
It’s it’s it’s evolution, isn’t it? It’s I think as long as you know what, as long as people out on two wheels, then I don’t mind what they’re riding. You know, just discovering the joys of cycling.

Carlton Reid 30:05
I captured that interview with Ian after a day in the saddle, but grabbed this one with former elite cyclist Monica Dew as we were riding along. Monica, who rode for Storey Racing until 2020 is now a cycling coach, and one of the expert guides on these LeBlanq joy rides. So, Monica, we’re here on the climb back to the hotel on the second day. And you’ve been leading what group are you your blue? Yeah. Okay.

Monica Dew

Monica Dew 30:37
So 100k each day. So we got here on Wednesday, did a prologue on Thursday. Yesterday’s ride. Really lovely, very short, sharp climbs. Today’s ride. A lot more rolling. Loved it. Having a laugh, having a bit of fun.

Carlton Reid 31:01
So, Monica, how did you get this gig? Because it is a sweet gig.

Monica Dew 31:04
It is a pretty good deal to be honest. Yeah, so I used to race. I’m really good friends with Adam Blythe.

Carlton Reid 31:11
Everybody’s good friends with Adam Blythe.

Carlton interviewing Monica Dew.

Monica Dew 31:13
Everybody’s friends with Adam Blythe.

You can’t not be. Yeah, and he just said just in this set up. So I joined. Yeah, the rest is history really like second year in and it’s pretty special. Very fortunate to call it my job

Carlton Reid 31:34
Riding a bike is also Mark Cavendish’s job. But when that involves nosy journalists asking him questions, he’s famously less keen. So when we went for a quick resort ride together, I didn’t pump him for any exclusives. I just wanted to know what he thought about LeBlanq’s formula. Okay. So you’ve enjoyed it here?

Mark Cavendish 32:03
Yeah. It’s been nice. It’s good, innit. Just riding with other people that like cycling. Bit of music from Pete Tong yesterday.

Carlton Reid 32:13
Yeah, that was pretty cool.

Mark Cavendish 32:14
Good, like. So you’ve enjoyed it?

Carlton Reid 32:18
Yeah, it’s been fantastic. Now we nearly knocked into each other there. So that’s a good point. How are you like riding with with, with us because we’re amateurs, we don’t know where to go. And we’re not very fast. So how, how do you find that?

Mark Cavendish 32:32
It’s riding, it doesn’t matter. That’s the thing about cycling you’re free to go where you want, with who you want, when you want.

Carlton Reid 32:37
Getting the chance to ride with Cav and the other cycling legends was clearly the major draw for most people on this not-cheap LeBlanq trip. And after ended, I sat down on a beach sofa with company cofounder, Justin Clarke. This is bigger than all of your previous trips. The vibe is gonna be different anyway, because it’s Ibiza and it’s not Champagne. So it’s not that kind of vibe.

Justin Clarke 33:07

Carlton Reid 33:10
It’s a more laid back vibe. So that suits this trip anyway, because just five in with Pete Tong wouldn’t be good.

Justin Clarke 33:26
Yeah, so great question. The, you just described two factors that the first factor that dictates the size of a LeBlanq event is venue. So we wanted to come somewhere that felt really special, and also have all of the operational elements that we needed, space for the bikes, space for the care, space for the people; there are many things that we need. So the Riomar hotel, absolutely ticks all the boxes, and it has 114 rooms. So 114 rooms, and so OK, so this could be a much bigger event than we’ve done before. And then because we’re in Ibiza it’s yeah, obviously we’re about food, we’re about cycling, we’re about camaraderie, relaxation, having a good time but in Ibiza you have to do music as well, because it is in is in the blood of the

Carlton Reid 34:20
Pretty fluky that the man who was most, you know, note noted for being a bit of creating the scene really almost on Ibiza is a cyclist.

So that’s magic. That’s perfect.

Justin Clarke 34:34
Yeah, so a colleague of mine when I was at Endeavour, a guy called David Levy, head of electronic dance music for William Morris, he was the one who told me a few years ago, that if ever you do an event in Ibiza, and it’s cycling, you’ve got to get Pete Tong involved because he loves cycling. So as soon as we decided we’re definitely going to come here. David got a phone call from me and said, we’re going to do it and he asked Pete. Obviously, bringing all this together is very complicated business: dates, availablity.

Carlton Reid 35:09
Cos you couldn’t do this event in July.

Justin Clarke 35:11

Carlton Reid 35:21
I guess I’m where I was going for with that question is because you got pros here, you got you got okay got ex-pros who are coming too, but they’re probably going to be commentating anyway. Absolutely. So your your window of when you can do these trips are actually narrower than if you are just to say a holiday company.

Justin Clarke 35:36

Carlton Reid 35:37
You can’t do the pro season.

Justin Clarke 35:39
So we, well, actually, you can, it’s every event that we create, it starts with the place. And then we build out the narrative of the event based around the place. The professionals who are current, and the broadcasters who are working on the Grand Tours are focused on the Grand Tours when the Grand Tours are on. There’s a whole bunch of people who love cycling and food, who are massive names. Chris Hoy, for example, who July is actually quite quiet, because there’s no track season going on in July. So Chris Hoy, you’ll notice, every July event we have is our main man. And we have something very special planned for Chris for next year. And this one actually, I have a message message by by Chris couple of times was was Ibiza looks amazing. Looks amazing. It’s like yes, he says, Please really come next here. And the answer is yes. Alright.

Carlton Reid 36:37
So your name dropping there, but that’s fine. Because you know, everybody, yes, you’re allowed to to name drop. Because you aren’t like an agent for some, right? So give it give us just a very brief cuz we have had you on the show before. So let’s just get a brief overview of where Justin comes from.

Justin Clarke 36:54
Yeah. So my background, I was a very average domestic professional in 97, 98, 99. And I, I did the riding that I wanted to do. And to be honest, I didn’t want to be on a doping programme and every other pro that was in a team where it was on a doping programme, so I had no interest in that. So I just wanted to see how good I could be. And the answer was averagely good. And then I got into live events and live events has been my last 20 odd years. And for about 10 years, I was the Global Head of Culinary for IMGg which is a sports marketing agency. But culinary is like a, you know, chefs were becoming superstars. They’re rock stars, and I was working with many of the best chefs in the world. René Redzepi, Gordon Ramsay Heston Blumenthal, etc, etc. So, I know that that world, I built a brand, from scratch with Taste, started with Taste of London and began Taste in 20 cities around the world. And I’ve always loved the interaction with consumers. And talent. I much prefer the word talent over celebrity. I don’t like celebrity, because often you can have a vacuous celebrity, you can have someone that’s famous just for being famous, whereas I like working with people who are the best at what they do. So champion cyclists, amazing chefs, or those kind of people. I love working with them because they’re inspirational. And they’re inspirational to me, but they’re also inspirational to the visitors and the guests that come on these these trips. And you can feel it. When you’re there. It’s like, Wow, I can’t believe I am in the presence of greatness. So, so yeah. So in the representation space, there was only one person that I’ve managed, I say manage rather than representative. And it’s Bradley Wiggins.

Carlton Reid 38:57
Do you want to go there? On why he’s not here?

Justin Clarke 39:03
Yeah. Brad is this amazing guy. And he’s very complicated. And a can of worms, a bit of a can of worms got opened up In an interview that I’d arranged with Mens’ Health magazine, and yeah, a whole programme of activity that have been built around him unravelled with a no-show, but no-show was because of fragility. And I love him. I’ve known Brad since I was 12. And I do love him. He’s, he’s complicated. But I don’t I don’t have any intention of representing anyone else whether share for talent. This is this is about building the LeBlanq business and created experiences like these that people fall in love with.

Carlton Reid 40:03
So you are quite rightly able to name drop because you do know people, you’ve known Brad’s since he was 12 so that’s a good name drop. But then you’ve got somebody else who could do that maybe with other with different people, maybe even that you wouldn’t perhaps not as know as well. And that’s Sean Yates. So is he a lynchpin in that he opens lots of doors that I’m not saying you wouldn’t be able to open those doors. But he really opens certain doors on the professional side, if Sean says, this is the event, people go, ‘Oh, it must be right.’

Justin Clarke 40:38
Yes. Sean is probably one of the most respected people, human beings in cycling. He’s adored for good reason, because he’s just an amazing man.

Carlton Reid 40:50
He’s famous for being a tough guy. Well, when you when you meet him, he’s a he’s a softy.

Justin Clarke 40:55
He’s, he’s actually famous as a writer famous for helping other riders, his whole thing he was the original, super domestic. He was the rider that was normally strong, and would destroy himself at the services of other people. And although he won things, he won the obviously the 1988 trial in the Tour de France. And he won. The reason, obviously, the reason why he won time trials was because he’s so good. And in the territory, you can’t ride for someone else unless it’s a time trial, team time trial. So he won time trials. But you know, he’d probably maybe he lacked a bit of self belief or he lacked a bit of self confidence or something. It could be argued that he could have won more races had he been more selfish, but the reason why everyone loves him is because he isn’t selfish. He is a straight down the line, brilliant, decent human being.

Carlton Reid 41:50
So what’s he doing for you apart from opening his wonderful contacts book he’s coming out of here he’s recceing things for you. He’s like looking at that’s got a pothole, we can’t go on that route. Yeah. That kind of is it? Is it that kind of granular?

Justin Clarke 42:02
So Sean is a stakeholder in LeBlanq, so there are two people that I wanted to be integral to the growth of LeBlanq one is Sean Yates on the cycling side and the other is Ashley Palmer Watts on the chef side. Both have stakes in the business. And it’s very deliberate. Because where Sean is highly respected by virtually every rider of the last 40 years, Ashley Palmer Watts is respected by almost every chef in the world. And I’ve worked with virtually every top chef in the world actually is a top chef in the world, and therefore there’s a different relationship. And then it’s one of when we work with the talent and you’ve seen this. We’re not booking the talent to come and just do a job and go again. The talent are integral to the narrative and the story and the experience. Nieves was on the right. Michelin star chef from several was at Barrafina Barra fina was obviously sensational restaurant that became a restaurant chain. She’s beautiful human being a member of the RCC, she rides a bike, she cooks the food. Pete Tong is the ultimate DJ, he’s out on the ride on Sunday. It’s these people are integral to the experience. They’re not just a booking. If they were just a booking, they just kind of do what they normally do. They fly in, they fly out. That’s it. But that’s not what.

Carlton Reid 43:29
So this is not a bike holiday. So there are lots of companies that do bike holidays where you could come riding. So you’re you’re offering something extra to that. I mean, look, there’s the other companies that do food as well, and bikes, but you’re offering the riders, and very, very, very close access to the riders. So close, you are following them, you know, an inch away from their their back wheel down Scary, scary. The sense as I found out that that’s where you’re coming from that is that is that that element is the riders is what people? What do you think people are coming for?

Justin Clarke 44:09
Tthey’re coming for escapism, we do luxury escapism on bikes, that’s what we do. The riding is joy riding. we’ve coined this expression of joy riding and it could be, you know, technically joy riding is stealing cars, but joy riding for us is riding your bike for pleasure, whatever your version of pleasure is. And you know, because you’ve been on the rides, we have the black group, but the black group was smashing themselves to bits to ride as fast as hard as they can, because that is their pleasure. And then we have our green group, which half of them were riding the bikes, and they are just take you there drinking in the scenery, because that is their pleasure.

Carlton Reid 44:52
And how do you do that? This is what I’ve found very, very, there’s many things about this. I’ve found impressive, obviously all the things you’ve already mentioned. But what I found really impressive compared to .. because I’ve done many, many bike tour trips with a variety of companies — is the way that you’ve somehow got people in the right group, I would say 95% of the time. And yes, you’ve got a questionnaire. But people probably don’t actually fill questionnaires in properly anyway, sp how are you, how are you physically matching people to those groups and getting it so spot on, you know, from the get go not having to ditch people or people up?

Justin Clarke 45:32
Yeah, so LeBlanq has its own concierge. And Lisa, who, sadly she was, she was ill on a pretty critical day. And there’s like, it’s tragic for her. And it was kind of difficult for us. But Lisa builds relationships with every guest. And the relationship is not just a fill in the form. It’s have a conversation with a person. And we’re interested in the guests that are coming, we do our research,

Carlton Reid 45:59
Are you looking at their Strava profiles? Like I’m in black? Yeah, no, you know,

Justin Clarke 46:05
Wo what we know to be true. And here’s the thing. One of the reasons why we’re pretty good at getting right, is that we take in multiple pieces of information, and we make our own judgement. Because if we just asked the person,

they’d get it wrong. because I’m not being

sexist, but many men over exaggerate. Women under estimate.

Carlton Reid 46:29
Yeah, that’s why I was definitely coming at it. From that point of view, I slightly different from me, in that I was in many groups, and that was fine. And I’m I’m doing it for different reasons. I’m doing it for work, I’m trying to photograph at the same time. And so I couldn’t go out in the black group, because within three seconds I’d be left behind. If I wasn’t doing those things, I would like to think I could keep up with them. But I probably couldn’t. So I have been in, you know, it was just perfect. That group is just because it wasn’t stressed out. It was just it was it was mellow. So it was a joy ride. For me. And I haven’t heard of anybody here saying they, you know, they’ve gone above and beyond what they ever thought they could ever do. It’s just been rightful. So that’s, that’s a part of this, which you’re getting absolutely spot on.

Justin Clarke 47:14
Thank you. It’s so our final piece of the test to work out which group people should be in is the prologue. Yes, the prologue is a short ride, and it deliberately has a hill in it. And as you can see on the hill, that are any question, who should be in which group?

Carlton Reid 47:30
Why was that? Black? They must have seen me storming.

Justin Clarke 47:34
Because you were clearly yes, that’s, that’s the final piece of the jigsaw, we, we work very hard to make sure that the experience is as close to faultless as it can be. Yeah, you know, it’s there are so many data points now, that, that people want to share about what they’re doing that, you know, if you’re bothered, and we are we use those all those different fantasies, but it’s not just how good someone is. It’s what kind of what is a joy ride for them? You know, because some people, what not some, many people are here as couples. And the couples either want to ride together, and therefore one or rather, the non rider is on any bike to be able to keep up at the same pace, or are very happy to just go in different groups or owners, you know, they know that they can’t ride the same point. But they both want to ride for themselves. Yes. So they’re like multiple factors of what makes up a hazard. Right? And therefore, that’s why we have concierge, because when you really understand the people you can then deliver to what they’re looking for. And LeBlanq is not a race, it’s not a fixed ride. It’s a ride for pleasure for the people who are coming. And that’s that’s kind of it, you know, if we, if we had riders who are all semi professional, we probably put in 160 kilometre route, probably. But we had we had Brian Briggs, who is still what is it? He’s the Masters cyclocross champion, so he’s like an amazing rider. But we still thought now 130 kilometres, that’s enough hours in the saddle. You don’t you don’t want people to come back broken because you still got all the other bits. The meal and the recharge and everything else.

Carlton Reid 49:23
So you’re not carbo loading. You are gourmet loading. Do cyclists end up hungry on your trips?

Justin Clarke 49:34
No, no, the key meal, which is carbohydrates is the meal we give them as soon as they get back from the ride. That is pasta salad, potato salad that is carbohydrates, but it’s consumed almost without thinking. It’s a callback for the ride hungry and you walk in, you get back to the hotel, you walk in you sit down still in your sweaty cycling kit and you you have a really delicious immediate buffet meal. And that is what takes the edge away. And that’s what actually puts the calories back in from the calories who really burn, meaning that the meal they have in the evening you’re not starving, hungry. So you’re not just in your heart just need to eat this, you’re appreciating the meal. And the meal is about culture, is about location. It’s about the seasonality. And we don’t want people to be eating because they’re ravernous, we want them to be eating, again, for pleasure.

Carlton Reid 50:27
So how much are people paying? I know, I could go on the website and I could find that out. But you tell me on the tape. How much are people paying for this, including say, in addition and give us the fee that would pay to hire the beautiful Specialized Athos that I had? And and maybe if I was coming out here, it was just me the single room supplement so how much that’s a package that’s an average package how much would that cost me?

Justin Clarke 50:50
So the the average spend across the board is around about £3000. The price the price for two sharing is £2750. The single room supplement is £750. And the bike you can use for the whole weekend, a Specialized Athos is £250. Or we also did the service for exactly the same £250 where we bring your bike from the UK and you can ride your bike without the hassle of using the bike bag and everything else.

Carlton Reid 51:21
I’ve seen the photographs the bikes were brought in in the same van as the beer that’s it yeah so you see the picture by osmosis sucked up the beer. Now, I don’t want you to take this the wrong way and I can well appreciate if you go ‘I don’t want to answer that Carlton’ bu, and I asked ask you the price for this for a reason, because some people will go ‘how much?’ and I don’t go like that I go well for what you get. That is phenomenal value for money — for FFS — considering you know the people who just behind me still in a lounge you can see Adam Blyhe. I can see Matt Stephens, I can see your Andrew your photographer and Cav was there but he’s no longer there. So we’re still surrounded by a whole bunch of incredible people that cyclists such as me and you get very excited about. So it’s not expensive, really, at the end of the day. Beautiful hotel, beautiful route, 45 staff you’ve got the guides, everything is on the bring the chef’s out from lunch all this is just that is phenomenal value for money. Even if people think it’s a lot of money, it’s still phenomenal value for money. My question is, using the arithmetic of how many people you’ve had here, how much you must be paying people to be here because the riders aren’t doing this for you know for a stick of toffee, how are you making money?

Justin Clarke 52:47
It’s um, I’ll tell you how we are. We’re very good at being extremely efficient with how we work with our staff and our talent and our brand partners. One of the things that is integral to LeBlanq is the association with our brand partners. Almost everybody here will have a really close affinity now to Laurent-Perrier champage. Everybody here will understand that Cold Bath beer is a beautiful beer. They our brand partners and they are very intelligently integrated into the overall experience

Carlton Reid 53:25
Are they are different brand partners for different trips?

Justin Clarke 53:28
So we have global brand partners. Okay, so our brand partners are there this year, they’ve been talking about contracts and we’re going to go into multiple year contracts. So it’s an overall strategic programme but also we’re very good, I don’t want to give the two weeks secrets away but we are booking a hotel at low season

Carlton Reid 53:53
This is this is totally end ofseason if not there might not even be open everyone here kind of date we are

Justin Clarke 54:00
That there are many things that we do to be extremely efficient. But yeah, it’s

Carlton Reid 54:07
Even so yes and I appreciate that and I can imagine yes you’re getting sponsorship from so it’s it’s it should be £4000 or £5000 per trip for you to make money

Justin Clarke 54:21
You sound like myus board.

Carlton Reid 54:26
You know, I am not in the hospitality business. So I don’t know exactly what discount to get with what is and then how much your staff getting paid. But just as a former entrepreneur, who who tried to make money in publishing, and using all my arithmetic skills, which isn’t many is still like that’s that’s still a tight margin. You’re on even with those those things. So you’re amortising this across all of the trips across the whole time and you’re hoping people will come back. And then they’re your your valuable customers. So is that the way you looking at it as a as a this is this is a brand building? Yes, across the year?

Justin Clarke 55:12
So our first experience, so this event here average about £3000, the first event that we had, which was in Perthshire with Ashley cooking was £1800. The price. That is there’s two things, there’s price and value. The value is extremely good. The price as who you are, you see that extraordinarily high or is really cheap. That depends on how much money you have. So we are in the building process of proving concepts. We had 140 people here. And if I told the guests in advance all of the detail of exactly where it is they go, there’s no way you can possibly give me an extraordinary experience for 140 people. It’s just not possible. But we have. So we are very happy to prove ourselves and to build and to grow with a long term, medium long term strategy. The number of people who have been blown away by the fact that Leblanq has its own Master of Wine. And we are very good at choosing.

Carlton Reid 56:26

Justin Clarke 56:27
Yes. David Hesketh. He is one of 320 Master of Wine in the UK. And every trip, he always selects the wines. We have a three Michelin star chef who is overseeing every single dish that goes out, no matter who’s cooks it, we have standards, you can charge four or five or six or 7000 pounds when people believe you to be true. And you’d have to prove it first

Carlton Reid 56:55
Is that you saying you’re gonna put your prices up? I’m gonna put it the other way ‘Get on the trip quick because the prices are gonna go up you know in three trips time, do it now.’

Justin Clarke 57:07
Thank you. I like I like good value, you can still have a very high price with very good value. So we will always be good value but the price will be reflected with experience.

Carlton Reid 57:20
Thanks Justin Clark of LeBlanq there and thanks to all of those who talked to me in Ibiza. This has been episode 313 of the Spokesmen podcast. Show notes and more can be found at The next show will be an interview with author Hannah Reynolds and will be out within the next 10 days or so. Meanwhile, get out there and ride!

November 4, 2022 / / Blog

4th November 2022

The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast

EPISODE 312: Good Move: How Bicycles Could End the Occupation of Cars in the EU capital of Brussels

SPONSOR: Tern Bicycles

HOST: Carlton Reid

GUESTS: Elke Van den Brandt, mobility minister for Brussels; Luxembourg councillor and EU Committee of the Regions rapporteur for mobility Linda Gaasch; Alison Abrahams from the Casual Cycling Club; Philip Amaral, policy directer of the European Cyclists’ Federation; Kim Smouter of the European Network Against Racism; and Philipp Cerny, author of the European Mobility Atlas.

TOPICS: The burgeoning of bicycling in Brussels


Carlton Reid 0:13
Welcome to Episode 312 of the Spokesmen cycling podcast. This show was engineered on 4th November 2022.

David Bernstein 0:27
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 caring another adult, visit www.tern That’s t e r n to learn more.vav

Carlton Reid 1:02
The UK might no longer be in the EU but this Brit recently went to Brussels to talk bikes. I’m Carlton Reid and for today’s episode I’m bringing you a bunch of interwoven interviews with Brussels-based bike advocates and Green politicians. You’ll be hearing from Elke Van den Brandt, the region-city’s mobility minister for Brussels, and I have an interview with Luxembourg councillor Linda Gaasch who successfully pitched an active mobility position paper to the EU’s Committee of the Regions. Alison Abrahams from the Casual Cycling Club explains how she’s getting more women on bikes in Brussels and Philip Amaral of the European Cyclists’ Federation puts the city’s Good Move circulation plan into a wider political persepective. Philip talks about some of the violence that greeted the introduction of this circulation plan, and I meet Kim Smouter who was up close and personal with some of that violence. But first I chat with Philip Cerny, author of the European Mobility Atlas, on the rather busy Rue de la Loi. This is a multi-lane highway from the outskirts into the centre and it has recently been reconfigured a little, with a lane each side taken away from motorists and given to cyclists and e-scooter riders. Naturally, motorists have claimed this reallocation of road space is the reason for the road’s current traffic jams.

If you can hear us above the bothersome road noise here I am with Philip Cerny.

So for what outside all the different EU EU buildings here, and we have

what what is this road? First of all, do you know what the road is?

Philipp Cerny 3:15
It’s Rue de la Loi the main road through the heading through the European headquarters.

Carlton Reid 3:24
And they basically taken where we’re standing amongst all this motor traffic and they have taken lanes away on each each side of the road.

They’ve taken away some space from from motorists and giving it a bit more to pedestrians and to scooter users and to cyclists.

Philipp Cerny 3:40
Exactly. And that’s that’s really helpful because the commission is also

a commission the other institutions are really promoting to, to use the bicycle. They’ve been some

challenges that

in between the commission and department had built too many parking spaces, they weren’t allowed to have so many parking spaces because they expected everybody to take their car to work. But people were actually voting with their feet or with their bicycles to say so because more and more people just notice them. It’s simply possible to get to work by bike.

Carlton Reid 4:21
Now you’ve been working in this this city for a number of years. So this traffic congestion here now isn’t caused by the bike lanes. That’s always been this has always been in a congested Street. Yes?

Philipp Cerny 4:36
It hasn’t changed a bit. It doesn’t.


better infrastructure for cyclists and pedestrians now. But the car traffic essentially is still the same.

Carlton Reid 4:48
So the the basic accusation from from many people in many cities is when you put the bike infrastructure in, all of a sudden that’s what’s causing the congestion and all you got to do is

Basically just on Google Maps, probably and Google Streetview, where you can actually know that congestion was there there before. So this street was congested before they’ve taken away

car lanes, but it’s still congested.

Philipp Cerny 5:14
And in my opinion, I don’t think that’s going to change anytime soon. It’s

unless the city of Brussels is really going to enforce some stricter access regulations. People will, on one level or another continue to drive into the city.

Carlton Reid 5:37
The mobility Minister Brussels says cars will always have a place in the city and region, but they should no longer rule. Green politician Elke Van den Brandt spearheads the city’s Good Move circulation plan. Here’s the European cyclists Federation’s policy officer, Philip Amaral, to explain more.

Philip Amaral 5:58
Good Move is is a is a mobility plan, like we’ve seen in many other cities. And its main objectives are to

adjust traffic circulation with the aims of reducing the volumes of cars.

Sort of ensuring that some neighbourhoods within the city have lower car speeds lower volumes are more protective of people walking and cycling,

decrease pollution

Elke Van den Brandt 6:35
The goal of this mobility plan. It’s not about transport. It’s not about transporting people from place A to B or transporting goods. It is actually about quality of life and the quality of public space in Brussels.

Carlton Reid 6:52
That’s mobility minister Elke Van der Brandt speaking, we talked in her office on the 13th floor of the Botanic Tower, an office block overlooking not just the city’s Botanical Gardens, but most of the rest of Brussels.

Elke Van den Brandt 7:08
And if you want to do something about quality of life in Brussels, and making the city more attractive for visitors and people living here and people working here, that we need to change our mobility habits, because we have about 70% of public space that’s taken up by cars in a parking space or car lanes, if you want to have more place for children to play, for elderly people to just sit on a bench, for maybe putting some trees because climate change is real is here. If we want our cafes to have better terraces, if we just want to have quality of life, in a public space, we need to talk about the occupation about cars. And we need to change that. And so we need to change the habits of mobility of mobility. So if people start moving around differently, we can gain a lot of space. And that’s the main idea of this mobility plan is one How can we make sure that we get people out of the car into onto a bike on their foots, on public transport, in shared mobility, all the other alternatives exist. How can we make this model shift to gain space and to make Brussels more attractive.

Carlton Reid 8:13
Good move was started by Elke’s predecessor. And of course, it went out to public consultation.

Boulevard Anspach, before …

Elke Van den Brandt 8:21
A public inquiry and about 80% of the people participated agreed on the goals and also the because all the communes in Brussels is very complicated. We have a region and commune. So we have a lot of political levels who need to agree on something before you can put steps. And so we have 19 communes and they all agreed on this plan. So the plan is approved every political party or has on some political level agreed on the plan. And that’s an important element. Good Move is the big mobility plans, you have 50 measurements is about

Boulevard Anspach, after …

Philip Amaral 6:27
and encourage more people to take public transport to bike, you know, to replace their car journeys. And you know, cycling is part of the mix of that. And walking is part of the mix of that.

Elke Van den Brandt 8:55
transport of goods, it’s about bicycle lanes, it’s about low traffic neighbourhoods, it’s about a lot of things. But then you have also the low traffic neighbourhoods, which are also called Good Move. And there’s, we should think about it, this confusion about it. And so these are for large

it forces you to to negotiate and to find solutions. So it is really sometimes difficult, but it is the way Brussels works. We should change that. But as long as we haven’t changed our institutional organisation, it’s where you need to work. So the note low neighbourhoods, low traffic neighbourhoods are also called Good Moves. So we divided Brussels in 30

areas and in each area we want to have a circulation plan without goal. That’s the loop

All traffic can still go in and out. But the transit is put on the structure, the main axis. So that’s the basic idea so that everybody can still get home or go out. Sometimes you will need to do a little detour. But to do encourage all the people just passing through because they want to gain one or two minutes, they want to avoid traffic lights, now we really wants to make sure that the traffic, the main traffic is put on the main roads who are conceived for it, who can support it. And so in the neighbourhoods, we want low traffic, slow traffic, and a lot of place for other things in cars.

Carlton Reid 10:35
And what about that common accusation that bike lanes and other parts of a circulation plan, increase, perhaps even create, congestion? Well, Elke gives that very short shrift.

Elke Van den Brandt 10:47
Brussel’s has been the most congested city for decades. And it’s true that people tend to forget that even before we start taking measurements, you had traffic jams, they’re not new. And we do calculate them, they have been quite stable for over the years. So if you do nothing, they will stay there. So it is it is changing habits. And there’s a lot of people

who took that somehow for granted, even people who don’t drive their cars. And that’s a mentality shift that changed about 10 years ago or 15 years ago with the historical centre of Brussels, there was this reclaim the street action [in 2012] where people were picnicking on the streets, and the idea of picnicking on the street was so gentle action. It’s nice and a Sunday between the middle of a road in the middle of the roads. But it was in the middle of the historical heart of Brussels. So who is wondering who you could pose the question. It’s really strong action, lots of people came families, children, and it became such an important signal that politics had to follow. It was a non political action in politics had to follow. So they made those roads were at the heart of the centre, they said, We’re going to make them car free. And then it became for now it’s the biggest pedestrian area, I think of Europe even so it’s a huge pedestrian area. And nobody wants to go back. And that’s that’s the first time that people didn’t take for granted the fact that our city seems to be organised to host cars to come here to work and to get out in the evening. So they realise that we can make the city for people who live here who work in want to stay off to work who want to come and visit us. So that’s an important mind shift.

But still, the congestion if now that’s the heart of it was the same debate was 10 years ago, same debate. And now we have the same debates like yes, but you’re increasing traffic, we have the data, it’s not true. The traffic is caused by cars, not by bicycles. I often say that if, for example, on the Rue de la Loi, which is very emblematic roads before the European institutions, you had four car lanes, we just took one which is not so radical, and gave it to the cyclists because they had to share the space with pedestrian before and there’s a lot of conflict between pedestrians and bicycles. So we took one we gave it to be cyclist. And the main communication was, these are your allies, because everybody who is on that cycling is not in with you in the traffic jam, they’re not picking your parking spot, when you arrive there, they’re your best ally. So give them some space, and it will help you also you will have more fluid traffic. And we took the we were following the measurements. And yes, there’s still congestion will Allah and it will be still there after everything’s gone. But the time loss is not significant. Although there’s a lot of bicycle increase on the bicycle lane. It’s even too small for the moment. So data shows that whenever he puts infrastructure in place, alternatives in place, they’re being used. But it’s the perception, of course, it’s you’re talking about mobility, and then they notice these incredible traffic jam that used to be there, but then they make one on one. And that’s

And it was the same as the pedestrian area and beginning is difficult. But now nobody wants to go back. And I’m sure that once the circulation plan is well installed, once we’ve been able to do the infrastructure works to make it permanent and people will really feel the benefit and there won’t be a call to go back but so you need to go to this phase where you rip people adapt it you need to be I think patient and grateful to people to do this efforts, but then afterwards, you can show the results.

Carlton Reid 14:58
But not everybody cares to be patient.

And there have been protests against Good Move. Here’s Philip Amaral again.

Philip Amaral 15:05
In some parts of Brussels I think notably, in the commune of Anderlecht, there has been really violent opposition at some local council meetings lately. And where people have used violent language, physical abuse, from a minority of people have to say I mean, it doesn’t look like to be a popular uprising and under like, but it’s a very vocal minority.

Kim Smouter 15:27
So I’m Kim Smouter I live in Cureghem. And I also on a day to day job, so if I get my rent, I pay I work for the European Network Against Racism.

Carlton Reid 15:36
Kim is also a bicycle advocate. And he witnessed Anderlecht’s bikelash up close.

Kim Smouter 15:44
I think there were fists

they were fists exchanged at the last town council. Yeah,

I guess we’re having in Anderlecht, I guess, the very, very symbolic fight. In the symbolic flight between kind of cars versus other forms of transportation. There was a circulation plan, which was implemented, which is a regional plan, actually. So the whole of Brussels, the whole of Good move. And essentially Cureghem, which is a neighbourhood which is known for being quite a poor neighbourhood, with a very difficult history, with local authority in particular,

And this summer is gone, this is gone. And essentially, it involves the implementation of the plan involves changing a lot of streets as direction. So some directions, some streets, which have always been one direction went the other direction. Some streets, which were very common through fairs or bypass fairs, were suddenly blocked with cement blocks and those types of things. In Cureghem, they’ve actually dropped the plans. So basically, the entire circulation plan was removed with, with essentially the commitment from the green socialist majority that they’re going to re, they’re going to go back to zero, they’re going to reconcile the entire neighbourhood, and they’re going to put a new circulation plan in place instead, whatever that looks like. That’s a big question mark.

Carlton Reid 17:19
So that was successful. And so so people shouting and maybe throwing fists. Yeah. Was that worked?

Kim Smouter 17:25
That worked, yeah. And bullying inside the town council. So like, even even I, I had an interpretation, which is kind of a concept within the local authority, where you can go to the council and say, your piece, in essence, I didn’t have a formal response from either the majority or the opposition. And even during my statement, I had people who were against kind of literally coming up to me, and interrupting my speech and asking me how long I’m going to take and those types of things. And the council members were just happy to say well, please don’t do that, it’s not very respectful. That was it. So, so yeah, so you’re really in a situation where actually yeah, bullying works, the more you shout works, and that enables you to remove an entire plan and now we have no idea where we’re going. So, yeah.

Carlton Reid 18:08
That bullying appears to work worries the mobility minister.

Elke Van den Brandt 18:12
it was it was not a happy moment this so it did it does feel doesn’t feel good. It’s in so we had a lot of discussions to learn about this episode. And it’s true that it never got the chance to be really tested. It’s from day one. There was people demolishing the the road signs. There were some furniture made some nice banks to close on the routes they will demolish so we had to put in place concrete blocks which are not so sexy, but because everything else was demolished. So from day one, it was sabotaged, and I think it was it is a problem that police didn’t defence, the measurements so it is

of control. If you put something in place you need to control the town’s housing, so it was not enforced. That’s the first step so the plan itself never really got tested. We had a difficult time the moment was implemented the first week a lot of protests but in the end people do see the advantages and do realise that we have done data so we we tackle everything with data so we can show that travel time has not augmented so the time you get from one place to another mountain because instead of going up to 50 and then going back to zero to get at a red light you know go to 30 says the curves a little bit slower but your travel time does not increase which is an important element because the biggest critic like taxi men and taxi women say we will have lose half of our clients because we can’t travel and the the fire people will get too late all those things. So we monitor, takes, there’s no loss in time.

Carlton Reid 19:53
In the nearby city of Ghent, the deputy mayor, another green, got death threats when

he introduced the city circulation plan. So does Elke Van den Brandt inspire the same sort of ill will?

Elke Van den Brandt 20:10
We do have the same thing as death threats and the aggressive Facebook groups and we can play the bingo we we’ve been in Paris ever the same it’s it is

But these are also neighbourhoods where people have questions about security, there’s direct traffic in front of see they’re afraid that their children will get in contact with the drug dealer. There’s housing problems, there’s work issues, there’s employment issues. So if you talk to those people are saying, yes, okay, we can we can perhaps hear what you want to do with mobility. But we have all these other issues. And whereas the government’s on that. And so the fact that the last decades, there’s been an underinvestment, and there has not been adequate answers also made it really difficult to go and talk about mobility because it was only about mobility. And that’s also been a frustrating I seem to my colleagues, you all need to step up now. Because I cannot work in a context where, where it’s only about mobility, we need to make sure that we have better housing programmes that we have better employment programmes that police doing the job that we tackle direct, direct traffic. So all these things need to be tackled, because otherwise people do feel abandoned.

Carlton Reid 23:47
And I don’t want you to feel I’m abandoning you but we’ll be right back after this message from my colleague, David, about our sponsor.

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Carlton Reid 28:29
Thanks, David. And now it’s back to Brussels. The City and the region’s mobility Minister Elke Van den Brandt is at the sharp end of reshaping urban mobility. But decisions made in a different part of Brussels can have huge implications across the EU. Brussels is the capital of the European Union home to the European Commission and the most important part of the European Parliament. In a moment, I’ll introduce the Committee of the Regions, which is the EU’s assembly of regional and local representatives also based in Brussels, but first, here’s Philip Ameral again, explaining a potentially big move on cycling earlier this year by the European Commission.

Philip Amaral 29:21
What happened at the end of June in Copenhagen just at the start of the Tour de France was a few things one is the Executive Vice President of the Commission Frans Timmermans gave a speech where he endorsed an initiative by French MEP Karima Delli to have a European cycling declaration, inter institutional declaration of some sort of like that something to show how important cycling is for Europe. Something to help it grow from a policy perspective and provide support from an industry perspective. as well, just before that speech think the day before Karima Delli was at an event in Lyon, France, called Connecting Europe days, which was about the trans Europe transport network TEN-T. And she sort of teased this announcement already. And then I think at that event in Copenhagen, she also joined via video link to endorse this as well. So that caused the big to do in the cycling advocacy mobility community.

Carlton Reid 30:32
Because it was a surprise or when it was a surprise?

Philip Amaral 30:36
Yeah, it’s well, a bit of a surprise and a bit of not, and I say a bit not, because I mean, we’ve seen good progress from the side of the commission towards cycling over the years. I mean, the way we look at it is that in the EU’s, smart and sustainable mobility strategy from 2021, they included cycling in there as part of that mix. rather low part compared with other modes of transport, it’s there. And then we see the urban mobility frameworks use Urban Policy come out in December last year, and much stronger knots, walking and cycling and train trips. And the idea is to, you know, require cities in Europe to create mobility plans where they feature cycling, so all of that was quite good. And even some of the legislative proposals for the tendency regulation or for bicycle parking, and other policies seemed good. So we started to notice this positive trend, and which was different from 2016, or 2017, when ECF, before I joined, was lobbying hard with many others for a new cycling strategy, where ECF had produced, you know, really thick one. And that didn’t go nowhere. And I think times are really quite different. And the reality has changed on the ground. Now, people are buying bikes, they’re riding them all around Europe, cities are just building infrastructure, not waiting for the EU. Paris is the obvious example. But I mean, in Brussels as well and elsewhere. So in that sense, it’s not a surprise, the commission is moving in that direction. But I think what continues to surprise us as the sort of the strategic ambition, at least the what’s being voiced and in speeches at events. Now, what’s important is that the speeches are backed by hard policy moves stuff we see on paper. So since then, we’ve been in touch with Delli’s office too, discuss a potential cycling resolution that might come out in the parliament later this year. And we’re in talks with the Commission to see well, what can we make of this good announcement. And Frans Timmermans. You know, his his rhetoric has been on cycling has been quite good at the Velo-city conference in Lisbon, for example, he gave a really good video talk, where he said a lot of the same things. I mean, he’s a supporter of cycling. So I think from his position, he’s trying to see how we can grow cycling Europe from a policy perspective. Of course, you know, the Commission is an uneasy institution to move in any one direction. So I would, I would say, we’re all quite optimistic about what could happen. But, you know, like, anything you level requires quite a grind.

Carlton Reid 33:35
Quite a grind, and not always joined up, partly because cycling infrastructure isn’t considered to be internationally significant. It’s devolved down to regions and cities, rather than always being considered of strategic importance. Phillip Ameral, again.

Philip Amaral 33:55
It goes both ways. At the same point, the EU would say, Well, you know, one of the main principles that we operate on is the principle of subsidiarity. So you know, what doesn’t fall within our competence, you know, falls, and then competence of national governments and municipalities and the rest of it. And, and I think up until recently, that’s been the overriding argument, when it’s come to cycling at that level, it’s like, well, you know, we have our EU funds, which goes to national governments then which they disperse and, you know, benefit cities in a way and if cities are wanting to build infrastructure for cycling, that’s great. Do it. And, and, you know, we’ll clap our hands. I think that’s changing a little bit. I think the Commission’s urban mobility framework, were their original framework from 2013 just didn’t get anywhere, didn’t really achieve any of the objectives in lower pollution and improve safety and prove congestion levels and cities didn’t really improve mobility at all, because it’s just a voluntary thing and Now, for at least the 400 Plus cities that they designate as urban nodes, so cities that have more than 100,000 people. And they will have to develop these sustainable urban mobility plans. And these plans need to have a number of things. One of them is to improve active travel, cycling, walking, and they need to be able to benchmark that, and that’s going to be linked to EU funding. So there’s some partial conditionality there. So this is for us a signal, you know that the EU is seeing this more from its continental EU perspective. But I think you’re right, the more cities show up and just start acting, that’s an indication to the EU that it needs to get aboard that, that train that bicycle bus. At the same time, though, we wouldn’t want the EU to say as well, this is great that’s happening in cities. And we’ll just continue like we’re doing and more power to you. The problem that we see throughout Europe is there are lots of great things. But then there are just lots of things that aren’t so great. There’s infrastructure that’s being built, that’s not great, you know, not an efficient way to use public money. There are cities that are going the other way, and not focusing on active travellers that on car travel, there are cycling strategies and mobility strategies that are written differently different benchmarks. So it’s really hard to compare what’s happening and to have a common benchmark set of benchmarks, because in the end, the EU will need to cut road transport emissions by 90%. If it’s going to meet European Green new goals. And obviously, more cycling in cities is one good way to do that. But in order to really use that potential, the EU is going to need a way of saying great, you know, we’re going to need X amount of infrastructure built all across Europe, it’s going to need to be you know, two 300 400 or more kilometres of infrastructure, we’re going to make 3 billion available for that and the special fund are these what existing funds for that. And here’s how you should be building that cycling infrastructure we’ve created some guidance with the Commission is actually supposed to do and and here’s how you evaluate how good that is, you know how your local mobility plan should evaluate how it’s reducing emissions, improving road safety. So then you have this comparable data and that the Commission can use then decide how much more policy support do we give? How is it achieving our Green Deal goals, etc. So this is why we Europe on a European scale, we need a common strategy, we need that policy drive and not just leave it to subsidiarity and that the cities do it because then it will just be you know, a handful or more of good initiatives, but sporadic and aren’t really achieving, collectively what’s needed. Now, it’d be a shame for the EU to miss that one.

Carlton Reid 38:07
And here’s where the Committee of the Regions comes in.

Philip Amaral 38:11
The Committee of the Regions is important because it gives a voice to that group, which is quite politically influential. Although it’s, it’s in Brussels, it’s in the same neighbourhood as all the EU institutions, but it’s a bit apart. So you know, they’re not producing legislation that has a very direct impact on things that involve us. You know, for example, the TEN-T regulation, Energy Performance of Buildings Directive about bike parking, you know, and all that. And they’re not involved in the same way as the European Commission, funding streams and all of that. But if we want more cycling to happen at a city or regional level, I mean, they’re really important to have they’re the ones who decide to spend the EU funds or even they’re the ones who should know that such funds exist and that you can be taking advantage.

Carlton Reid 39:05
I was in Brussels talk to people like Philip, Elke and Kim to report on a mobility focussed position paper drafted by Linda Gaasch, a green politician from Luxembourg. This paper, it is known as an opinion, was formally adopted by the EU’s Committee of the Regions. Gaasch was chosen to be a Committee of the Region’s rapporteur for mobility at the beginning of the year. A rapporteur is an appointee tasked with reporting on a specialist subject. Her opinion called for improved cycling networks and for the EU to develop emission free and affordable urban transport systems. I met her in one of the EU buildings the day after the successful adoption of her opinion

Linda Gaasch 39:59
First so I’m really happy that it passed. And I’m really happy of the we got a lot of good language through because it really shows that cities and regions are ready for the mobility transition. The I would say 95% of it is exactly what I wanted, there are a few minor things where the wording that was adopted wouldn’t be exactly the one I would have preferred. But it’s also not damaging the report as a whole. And it’s not questioning the main message of the report, the report was adopted, and it sends a clear message. So this is a really good step. But it’s also just the beginning, because cities and regions, of course want to be instrumental in shaping the mobility of tomorrow, mobility is made in cities for citizens. So the report now will be sent back to the different institutions. And then my job is also to make them aware, what is written in the report. So I will make sure to meet different representatives of different institutions, and also really promote the message written in the report. Because in a way, with the adoption of the report, the members have also given me a clear mandate to promote this position of cities and regions. Transport is an area that that is super interesting for grants, as it has a lot of potential to decarbonize. And there is also if we talk about transport and cities, there is also really something that has to do with the vision of how the city of tomorrow should look like the that it should be a livable city, that it should be a city where you have space to work to, to I don’t know, let your kids play the so yeah, it’s it’s, of course, very much also, I would say in the green identity to to, to be wanting to do this shift in the transport sector. The politicians, not even only mayors and local elected, but generally green politicians that I follow who have worked a lot on transport. I think their key of success is mainly to really try to involve all the actors, because what you said about like, the green stereotype of transport, and then of course, they will do a lot of things for the bicycles. It’s very real, I say, but the same time greens generally are also really trying to get the consensus and have different actors involved. So the places where drastic changes in mobility patterns of cities have worked? Well, it’s usually because all the actors were consulted. Of course, not all of them were happy at first, humans are quite resistant to change. And if you think that somebody takes something away from you, it’s, it’s your first turn to oppose it. But mainly, it has worked. And if it works for people, if, for example, you take cars out of a city centre, and all the shops that are there, we’re telling you, we’re afraid that we won’t have clients anymore, we want to have customers anymore. And then you take the cars out of the city centre and the shop owner see that people who come to their shop, the number of people who come to their shop has actually increased because people who walk are slower, and they pass by the shop, and they look at the window and they get interested. So then they see the positive change that it makes. And then, of course, their opposition is is not existing anymore. So I think this is unit politicians that can do bold decisions, but at the same time tried to get everyone on board. And then if people see on the ground, what the positive effect is, I think they don’t want to go back.

Alison Abrahams 44:11
My name is Alison Abrahams, and I’m one of the cofounders of Casual Cycling Club, which is a women’s cycling club in Brussels, which encourages women and trans, non-binary people to cycle. So we started Casual Cycling Club to attract women who didn’t cycling. So we thought it would just be for people who really, maybe had a bike in their garage or in, you know, in their cellar, and they didn’t really use it. We wanted to introduce them to cycling. What we’ve since discovered is that actually, so many more women than that want to cycle in a club setting. And we get women who are very experienced we get women who have been cycling every day for years to get to and from work, but they don’t cycle for fun. And I’ve had that long had the impression cycling for fun seems to be a male preserve, you get you go out into the countryside on a weekend for rides, and you only really see men cycling in groups together. And that sort of thing is such a shame because I love cycling, for fun for health, in chatting to my friends. And so we wanted to encourage more women to do that. And so while we started out with this one small group of women who only had city bikes or big, you know, heavy bikes, now we have three different speeds of women who join our different groups on different days of the week. So yeah, it’s been it’s been a really big success. And I think we’re really proud of it. I mean, I came for work originally, and just loved it. I really, I really love living in this city. I think it’s great. And it’s a real, it’s a small enough city, that if I cannot get somewhere within half an hour by bike, I consider if it’s worth going on. Like, I look at my friends in London, and I think, No, I couldn’t do that. Brussels is just small and manageable. And there’s a great, like I said, it’s an incredibly international cities, lots of interesting things happening. We are in Parc Cinquantenaire, which is one of the many parks in Brussels. And we’re in the middle of the running track, actually with people when they got around us. And a man doing keepy-uppies

Carlton Reid 46:32
And also it seems to be surrounded by some pretty nice cycleways. So Avenue. Renaissance is just to our left here and that look like a nice cycleway. Does that continue? Where does that go to is that famous for being a nice and the rest isn’t nice.

Alison Abrahams 46:47
Like much of Brussels in the last few years, this has been quite transformed. So in the last few years, suddenly, bike parking spots popped up all over this park. And I remember coming in and saying to the park keepers, what are these doing here? I’ve wondered this for years, they said, Yeah, we’ve had a request in with the administration for years. And we finally just got them approved. And now you know, you can see they’re really well used. And the bike lanes all around here. So this we’re in the EU Quarter of Brussels. And this is quite a sort of it. You could almost say like sort of site. It’s not officially one, but it’s almost like a cycle superhighway like people go from here, out to the suburbs of Brussels. So towards Overijse, Hoeilaart, Leuven. And there’s a kind of direct line from here that goes all the way out of the city. There are a few, you might say loose links on the way. And just up here. There’s a crossing that’s not ideal, and there’s a part of pavement that’s shared us with pedestrians. But in general, this is it’s nothing like it used to be it’s way better.

Carlton Reid 48:01
So given the fact that you are trying to bring new people into cycling with with your Casual Cycling Club, do you recognise that absolutely puts people off if you get one little part of a chain isn’t linked up that will make the whole of the rest of network null and void for people who are maybe you’re trying to attract?

Alison Abrahams 48:21
Absolutely. You know, something that we do with Casual Cycling Club is that we say to women who have never joined us before, we can come and literally pick you up from your house and bring you to the start of the ride. Because for some people that is absolutely a barrier to them cycling in the city. And I think I heard alcova anabranch is the Minister for mobility in the region. said recently, you know, cycle infrastructure is only as strong as its weakest link. And I couldn’t agree more that for me, I have a lovely bike lane to get to work. But to get onto that bike lane, I have to use the kind of defensive cycling that you spoke about, I have to cycle in a street, which is one way for cars, but bi directional for bikes. And I’m coming up against these enormous vehicles who are, you know, driving well beyond the speed limit? And yeah, I feel fine. I feel completely safe. And I feel absolutely confident to do that. But I’ve been cycling here for over 10 years. And that’s not the case for everybody. Elke Van den Brandt has done really an excellent job. I have to give her full credit for that. She’s working in what is sometimes a very hostile environment to cycling in their political parties in Brussels, who bemused me in their

opposition to what should be very common.

Carlton Reid 49:45
Left and right?

Alison Abrahams 49:46
Like that, yes. What the Liberals really who kind of set up their stall on this sort of anti mobility agenda. But I think that one thing that everybody knows is is missing. is the kind of it’s the smallest streets so well, you know, the big axis, you go them the Grand Axis, you know, that cut through and across and around the city cycling infrastructure on those has vastly improved. But there are areas which often very residential, where the small streets, nothing has changed, really. And I think that’s kind of the next step in order to really get people onto their bikes.

Carlton Reid 50:26
Elke Van den Brandt wants Good Move to transform how people get around Brussels, but, I asked Philip Amaral, will be the city, the city home to the EU, ever become as bicycle friendly as Amsterdam?

Philip Amaral 50:45
I don’t know if it will be Amsterdam, but I do think it will be really close. I think the momentum is there. I think what we’re seeing now is, you know, the, the inevitable conflicts that arise when you know something new is coming on new plan. But as long as the political leaders here stick with the plan. And as long as they’re able to convince people from other political parties to support the plan, and then the things get built, because that’s really important is get the money build it. People adapt when they see things on the street. Nice infrastructure, nice cycling path, wide sidewalks, good public transport service. And then it will just be you know, the past will be something that you think about like …

Carlton Reid 51:46
Thanks to all of those who took the time to talk to me in Brussels and thanks to you for listening to episode 312 of the Spokesmen Cycling podcast. Show 313 is audio from LeBlanq Ibizaa and will be with you real soon but meanwhile, get out there and ride.

October 30, 2022 / / Blog

30th October 2022

The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast

EPISODE 311: You don’t have to be horrible to win

SPONSOR: Tern Bicycles

HOST: Carlton Reid

GUESTS: Donna Tocci, Jim Moss

TOPICS: Roundtable discussion on Cav’s chances of winning a stage of the 2023 Tour de France, Musk’s takeover of Twitter, Mario Cipollini’s three year prison sentence for domestic abuse, and will Denver’s super popular e-bike rebate program reduce car trips? See links, below.


Joe Lindsey article on Cav in Bicycling


Denver’s e-bike rebate program

Mario Cipollini sentenced to 3 years in jail

Jim’s article on Bicycle Retailer

October 27, 2022 / / Blog

27th October 2022

The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast

EPISODE 310: Cycling legends roundtable with Mark Cavendish, Oscar Freire, Adam Blythe, Johan Museeuw & Matt Stephens

SPONSOR: Tern Bicycles

HOST: Carlton Reid

GUESTS: Mark Cavendish, Oscar Freire, Adam Blythe, Johan Museeuw & Matt Stephens

TOPIC: This roundtable discussion was recorded at LeBlanq’s Joyride in Ibiza

LINKS: LeBlanq

October 10, 2022 / / Blog

10th October 2022

The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast

EPISODE 309: Old crew is back

SPONSOR: Tern Bicycles

HOST: David Bernstein

GUESTS: Tim Jackson, Donna Tocci, Jim Moss, Carlton Reid


  • What is everyone up to these days?
  • The Hour Record
  • UCI Gravel Worlds
  • Cycling Tips Reporter Disallowed From Worlds in Australia
  • UCI Changes Rule to Combat Aero Advantages in Time Trials
  • Official at Finishing Line Gets Handsy with Lorena Wiebes
  • National Cycling League
  • Electric Bikes

David says:

Tim says:

  • UCI Gravel Worlds
  • UCI is “sport washing” some bad actors, still/ again/ as always … (link?)Can’t I just rail, as always? (TIM- part of a Twitter dialog, with Joe Lindsey, I’ll try to find. Lapartient gave a tepid response to reporter’s question about risk of sportwashing- basically, “we need the money.”)
  • Bike market is auguring like a lawn dart. (???)
  • e-Bikes are here to stay, even as Rad Power Bikes is getting sued into extinction, battery fires are making the news, Florida hurricane Ian e-bikes represent a huge fire risk through the damage/ flood zones … (David loves his eMTB) ?

Jim Says:

My truck last night bringing 19 bikes back from the BSA Camporee.

Josh Reid

October 6, 2022 / / Blog

6th October 2022

The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast

EPISODE 308: In conversation with Legion’s Justin Williams

SPONSOR: Tern Bicycles

HOST: Carlton Reid

GUEST: Justin Williams

TOPICS: On today’s show, six days into Black History Month, Carlton talks about the inspirational 19th century black American professional cycle racer Major Taylor with his modern equivalent, Justin Williams. Like Major Taylor, Justin raced in Europe but unlike Major Taylor he’s entreuprenial, using his Los-Angeles-based Legion racing team, which he founded with his equally fast brother Cory, to increase the diversity of cycling. In this 45-minute chat they talk about Justin’s cycling mad dad and the crazy popular cycling scene of Belize.



Carlton Reid 0:13
Welcome to Episode 308 of the Spokesmen cycling podcast. This show was engineered on Thursday sixth of October 2022.

David Bernstein 0:27
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 caring another adult, visit www.tern That’s t e r n to learn more..

Carlton Reid 1:02
On today’s show, six days into Black History Month, I talk about the inspirational 19th century Black American professional cycle racer Major Taylor with his modern equivalent, Justin Williams. Like major Taylor, Justin raced in Europe, but unlike Major Taylor, he’s entrepreneurial using his Los-Angeles-based Legion racing team, which he founded with his equally fast brother Cort to increase the diversity of cycling. I’m Carlton Reid, and also in this 45 minute chat, we talk about Justin’s cycling mad dad and the crazy popular cycling scene of Belize. Oh, and there’s a short bonus video clip of Justin on because he set up his camera for this chat, even though I didn’t. Okay, first of all, thank you ever so much for for coming on the show and we’re being completely different time zones here so you are 9am Justin, is that right?

Justin Williams 2:12
Yeah 9am

Carlton Reid 2:13
Okay, is that early for you? Is that good or bad?

Justin Williams 2:17
That’s usually right time for me. So I’m typically I typically have breakfast I’m out the door. I’ll try to get out the door at nine. I live in the valley so it gets a little bit hot especially and winding down end of summer so still we still have some pretty intense days

Carlton Reid 2:33
when you think getting out the door that’s for training or that what is that?

Justin Williams 2:36
Yeah, yeah, that’s for training. That’s that’s usually that’s usually right time.

Carlton Reid 2:40
Yeah, that kind of makes sense – for here where we are it’s raining all the time. So that wouldn’t apply. You kind of go out in the rain showers in England, Northern England even worse than just being

Justin Williams 2:54
Yeah, that’s that’s rough man. I was in London maybe three weeks ago and it was amazing.

Carlton Reid 2:59
Well, talking about London and talking about the UK you’ve got the Legion kit is done by Rapha. So that’s that’s a London a UK a British brand had that deal, because it looks fabulous y the way, how did that deal with Raphaa come about?

Justin Williams 3:12
Now that’s a great question. The deal with Raphaa came about because I have a friend named Mark Alfred, who works for them. He’s the Marketing Manager for the Santa Monica store. And I went to a premiere with Gus and Morton’s we’re about there abouts. And we had this conversation after after, after the premiere had happened and I had talked to Mark and I said, Hey, man, like, I love this is really dope. And he had been trying to corner me because I was riding another brand. He was like, dude, you gotta come to Rapha. You know, the way we market things, the way we tell stories. It’s really in line with kind of what you’re trying to do and how you’re trying to tell stories. And me and him just chat. It was a couple other really cool people that I had loved from the brand and had good relationships with so I really considered it but really, you know, my friend Mark and an understanding of how Rapha operates and functions as a storytelling brand really, is what drove me to go go in that direction. Obviously, the clothing the clothing is amazing. And so that was a factor also. But the big factor was like the storytelling that the brand

Carlton Reid 4:32
Because that they’re obviously known for having very expensive, very slick, very, very nice kit. But yet that storytelling, you had mentioned that because they are doing an awful lot more for diversity in cycling, which is what you’re you’re absolutely about too?

Justin Williams 4:45
Right. And so the mission is aligned there, right. They wanted to they wanted to give more into that. And that’s obviously like most of what we’re trying to accomplish is creating diversity and inclusion within the space and giving people an opportunity to be the most authentic version of themselves. And so that alignment was very important. And they gave us that platform to tell that story on a bigger level.

Carlton Reid 5:11
Now my son, who is currently he did the Transcontinental race across Europe just recently, he’s riding back from that. And he rang just before we came on to record this. And I said, look, I gotta go, son, because I’m going to be interviewing you. And he said, he’s really cool. And I said, why? Why is Justin really cool? And then he gave me your life story. So clearly, I did not prime him on this. I did not say, you know, he just knew everything about you told me all the podcasts he’s listened to where you’ve been on, hopefully and he’ll listen to this one. And he knows about your, your brother and your background, all that kind of stuff. And then he made this really interesting point. And if this makes a Forbes story, then this kind of comes to the fore here in that he said — do you know that a guy called Mark Beaumont, have you heard of that guy? No, he’s a he’s a long distance cyclist. He is the guy who’s ridden around the world the fastest in a number of different ways. He’s that kind of guy. But my son said, Justin is like Mark Beaumont because they’re both business minded. So Mark has kind of like made a business out of his his prowess in in cycling, and you are also very, you know, founding or co founding a team. It’s that kind of ethos, as well. So tell me about your business acumen. And how it developed.

Justin Williams 6:42
Yeah, honestly, it’s come, it’s come very natural. To me, I have such an entrepreneurial mindset. And that’s something that’s always been just a part of who I am, I’ve always thought about how things work and why people buy things and what connects people to products and why I love Nike, and not you know, any other brand. And so that was always fascinating to me, I think it started with kind of like this fascination with marketing. And then, and then the stubbornness to want to do things my own way. I’m very much of the mindset that just because people have done it one way doesn’t mean that it doesn’t, it can’t be done another way. And I think that finding your why, and the truth of what drives you and then getting people on board to help you with that vision is something that’s very important to, to that understanding of, of having, but to my understanding of having a successful business. So yeah, I think it started in marketing, and then everything else is just learning and knowledge. I’m just really thirsty for learning and understanding of how things work in business. I love kind of the game that’s played with, you know, everything from you know, pitching to, you know, negotiations and, and trying to get the best outcome for for kind of whatever your goals are. So that that’s, that’s always been something that in being an athlete, I love riding my bike, I love travelling, that’s still a big love and passion of mine. But as I look to my future, it’s definitely something that I’m very, very interested in. So I figured why not get started a bit early and start taking the steps toward and learning kind of the different ways businesses run, how CEOs operate, looking at some really successful businesses, looking at some businesses that have failed, and kind of like really picking apart and understanding like why those things happen. So yeah,

Carlton Reid 8:55
You’re a bit old for me to nominate you for the Forbes 30 under 30.

Justin Williams 9:00
That was a dream of mine. That was honestly when I was growing up. It was it was definitely I missed it. I’m 33 now I missed it but that was definitely on my list of things to do, with 30 under 30.

Carlton Reid 9:13
Well, I couldn’t nominate you because you’re American anyway, because I’ve got to nominate European guys I did nominate a cycling entrepreneur to become one of the 30 under 30 and thankfully he actually he got that so he was super pleased with that they they kind of said they take pro clothing from from all the pro teams and then sell it to everybody else you know once the pros have used it. Let’s go back to your your pro kit and your Rapha kit. And and and and the graphics that you’ve unpacked your T shirt that you’re wearing there now, so the Legion logo has the 39 in it. So I’ve read where the 39 has come from I’ve listened to the fact that but for the for the sake of everybody who hasn’t heard of that This is a street. Obviously, we’re in Los Angeles, but it’s almost kind of like a district and it’s an area and neighbourhood. So tell me about that neighbourhood and why 39

Justin Williams 10:12
Yeah, it’s, it’s in South Central, actually, it’s 39th Street is in South Central LA. And it’s such a great contrast because USC is literally maybe a mile away from where I grew up. And I didn’t grow up in the most fancy of neighbourhoods, it was it was unpredictable, and it was rough. And it was you had to be really cautious. And my parents did a really good job of keeping us away from a lot of things without taking away like quality of life. And, yeah, the area’s just you know, it’s, there’s movies about it, there’s, it’s, it’s, it is very much or was very much I think that it’s, it’s getting a bit better now, it was very much kind of like, the Wild West, like, I’ve called the police before, and like no one showed up. Like, that’s the kind of area it was. And with, even with having all of that it’s such a great place. And it was such a great place. For me growing up, my family was all very close to me, we splay we had this really cool space, that was an alley that they have, like, blocked off at both ends. And then the wasn’t there was only one side of the alley was gated, the other side had led to our apartment. And so we had this like, it was probably like, a 50 metre alley, and we used to play football and basketball and, and that’s where I really fell in love with sports was in that alley, just playing sports every day, man every day with like, I have a lot of cousins with all of my cousins, like there’s, you know, upwards of like, 10 of us at a time playing sports in. And that’s where I learned to be really tough because my cousins were very, if you cry, you don’t play. Growing up in that environment where we had that little bit of protection of that ally and a hat and I didn’t have to go make friends because I had my whole family. It was it was you know, that was the that was a the blessing of it. You know,

Carlton Reid 12:13
And your dad kind of gave you a very similar experience I’ve read of putting you on a long bike ride when you’re 13. And then kind of leaving that ride.

Justin Williams 12:25
Trial by fire. I like long story. Here’s the long version of it. My dad bought me this Bianchi, it was this Celeste and orange Bianchi and it had Shimano on it. And I remember like it was yesterday. And I was riding his bike around, it was my size. And I was really young. I think it was maybe 10, 9 or 10. And I’m riding it around this alley. And it’s long I can ride it. It’s like a full effort, dude. And I remember my mom making me let my younger brother CJ ride the bike. And then my dad comes out Oh, my dad’s working in this like little corner because he’s fixed cars. But like he still fixes cars, but you still like fixed cars, and then like so on. And he stops working. And he looks out and I’m not riding the bike that he got me and this is like a serious thing because it’s like a foreign race bike. And he goes and he takes it away. And he goes, you’re not serious. Like you’re done. Like you’re not serious. You don’t want to do this, like the bike is a serious thing. It’s really hard. And so I like never, he never bought me that bike. And then so it took me like another two or three years to like, convince him and I convinced him by riding his trainer, he had his trainer already had his bike on the trainer. And one day I just like randomly started riding it. It was winter, and I wasn’t doing anything I was playing football wasn’t played basketball. I don’t know if it was raining outside. Maybe it was wet outside, but there’s no reason to be outside. But I had so much energy as a kid, I needed to do something. And and so I started riding his bike and my dad at this point is probably like five inches taller than me. So like it doesn’t fit. And he comes inside, he looks at me and I expect that I’m getting screamed at like I’m about to go toe the toe to read a book or do anything else. Like it was very known that you don’t touch my dad my father’s bike. And he just looks at me and he pauses and then he goes into the kitchen, he gets whatever he wants. And then he leaves and I think I ride the bike for like 30 minutes that day. And then I ride the next day. And then the day after that he like puts the seat down. And then the day after that he like makes the cockpit a bit shorter. And then he’s like, okay, and then slowly but surely, he gets me all of these new things. He got me like shoes and like the pedals to work with the bike. And before I knew it, I was riding this bike. It was way too big for me when I was riding and I had to ride it for a month before he would even consider taking me outside. So then or sorry, two months, so then two months go by. He’s like alright, great. We’re gonna go for we’re gonna go for a ride. And so we’re riding and I haven’t done any I have this before, I don’t know how much I need to drink. I don’t know how much I need to eat. I don’t even know that I need to eat. I’m thinking we’re stopping at McDonald’s or something. And we’re doing this right. And we just keep getting further and further and further and I kid you not like, at the point where we turned around, I was done. Like, I was done and and we had to turn around and I was like, oh my god, we’re going home. And at this point, I’m like, starting to bonk, which is, you know, when your body doesn’t have enough sugar in it to function properly. And yeah, and I’m just like struggling through this, right? And he’s like, pushing me up some of the climbs and I can tell he’s getting irritated with me. And we’re doing sting. And we get to this point, that’s right. At the beginning of Malibu, it’s like, we’re Malibu. It’s like when Malibu starts and when Santa Monica starts. And I’m just done. I’m like cramping, and I’m just, I’m ready to go. I don’t want to be here. I don’t want to do it anymore. I’m done with the sport at this point, and he’s just like, trying to massage this cramp out of my leg. And I have shorts. I have box I was uncomfortable with the warning just the tight so I have boxers under under my like cycling shorts. And he’s like, I literally he’s like I told you not to wait, you don’t wear short cycling shorts under your you don’t wear boxers under your cycling shorts. What are you doing? And I was like, at this point, dude, I don’t care. I mean, just like, do your worst that. You just like, stay here. And I’m just on on Santa Monica. He’s just like, stay here. And I’m like, alright, cool. And I think he’s going to get help. And he’s gonna come back. And turns out he was just he was going to catch up with the ride that we were the group that we were what they were riding with. And, and I’m just sitting there for maybe five or 10 minutes. And I’m just, I’m a kid. I know better, right? Because I had gone. I’ve gone places I hadn’t known better. I just stayed there. And like 10 minutes later, my aunt pulls up and picks me up. And he was just gone. I didn’t see him until he got back until I got back to the house. So that was my introduction to cycling.

Carlton Reid 17:11
That’s a helluva introduction, surprised you ever got on a bike again.

Justin Williams 17:16
yeah, no, it was uh, at least the weather was nice. And my aunt took me to get food like immediately. So it was like it ended up being a really cool day. She’s one of my favourite aunts. So we got to hang out. And she was basically like a sag vehicle. So she’s basically just following us. Which I didn’t know, because I was so busy trying to like stay with the ride, right? And so hyper focused on trying to stay with the ride. But yeah, it was it was quite the introduction.

Carlton Reid 17:40
So my son overtook me as a fit cyclist at about the age of 15. So how long did it take before you know that that that incredible. And you described there? How long before you beat your dad anyway?

Justin Williams 17:55
Oh, that’s a great question. I was so lucky. So my dad raced the category threes when I was growing up, and he would do some one, two races. But for the most part, he just was very comfortable in threes in California when I was growing up the category threes are like the everyday man’s group. So it’s like very, it was super, super competitive. It had a lot of debt to it. But it was for the people that didn’t have the time to put in, you know, 25 or 30 hours of training, but they had the experience of being very good bike racers. And so when I was about, I would say 15. I started racing with my dad every once in a while. And that was really cool. And then when I was 16, I spent the whole season like having my dad as a lead out man. And I think I won like almost every big race in in California at that point. And it was really cool. I was second in the state championship which broke, which which broke my heart but but I had won some of the biggest races in California. My dad was my lead out guy. And so I think at the end of 16 is when I started. I think we’re pretty equal at the end of 16. But I think 17 is definitely when I was I was better I could like take him out on a ride and like smack him.

Carlton Reid 19:08
And does he still ride?

Justin Williams 19:10
Yeah, he rides every once in a while. I tried to shame him into riding because he has such a nice equipment now.

Carlton Reid 19:16
Because you has your handdowns? ,

Justin Williams 19:19
exactly. I’m like no one has a Legion bike and you have a Legion bike.

Carlton Reid 19:22
I get my son’s handdowns so he’s a Giant sponsored athlete. I get his — it used to be he used to get my bikes, now I get his hand me downs.

Justin Williams 19:32
I used to get my dad’s part I didn’t get a new bike. I didn’t get anything new until I turned pro. So I turned pro when I was 17. And my dad always gave me either his hand me downs or my uncle’s would have hand me downs or like Hassan would have hand me downs. Like those. We had a really, really incredible community. In LA actually of black cyclists Steve Pulliam this guy Orlando there’s there’s a there was a major motion named after Major Taylor, a cycling club. And it was this really amazing group of people. So like, there’s so many people that either gave me their old stuff on top of my dad gave me his old stuff, but it was. And I look back at that now and think it’s incredible that like, as a kid, I was so excited to get anything that was, you know, a higher quality of what I had, it didn’t matter if it was hand me down or not. And then it made it so much more special when I got my first fully pro, new bike

Carlton Reid 20:33
As a black athlete, aspiring cyclist when would you first hear about Major Taylor? Is it he’s somebody that, you know, does he transcend cycling as a black man? Or is that something you had to be a cyclist to have heard of him?

Justin Williams 20:48
No, I think that that moment is coming. I think that moment is coming. I think that there’s places where he transcends cycling, but I don’t think enough people know how incredible his story was. So you know, he’s a first American World Champion, I believe,

Carlton Reid 21:02
But he suffered an awful lot of racism when he was racing in Europe, a tonne of racism,

Justin Williams 21:08
again, an incredible amount, an incredible amount he like had to race a lot of races from the front just because of sabotage from other riders, because they just didn’t want to see him win, which, which is, which is funny and ironic.

Carlton Reid 21:22
He also made a lot of money.

Justin Williams 21:23
He, he also made an incredible amount of money. But like what happens with athletes, especially nowadays, he didn’t know how to invest it, or he didn’t know how to make it work for him. And so he I think he ended up dying with nothing.

Carlton Reid 21:37
Yeah, that’s a kind of common story. So let’s, let’s go back back to LA and Cycle Kids. So quite apart from you know, Legion, you know, with with, you know, that kind of level of cycling, you’re also trying to reach kids who you know, your seven year old, your 10 year old. So tell me a bit about Cycle Kids.

Justin Williams 21:57
Cycle Kids is amazing. It’s an amazing organisation. And it just gives us a platform, a platform to create, to start this process of pipeline, right. The thing about cycling that isn’t the same about other sports is that in America, in particular, there is no pathway to get from being a kid to the pros. And so something that we’re focusing on and partnering with someone like cycle kids is, let’s get bikes in schools as early as possible. Let’s get kids learning about bikes and having an understanding of about about bikes as early as possible. And then use that to them, like enriching the junior ranks, and then the collegiate ranks. And then you know, after that the category, that you have the categories that you have to climb on your way to pro. So we just have such a great relationship with them. It’s so fun just getting to interact and communicate with kids and stick them out on bikes. Everyone learns, mostly everybody learns how to ride a bike when they’re a kid. And somewhere along the line, they forget that journey. But that is step one, right? It’s getting kids a richer understanding of, of how bikes work. So in case, you know, you get a flat or something’s wrong with your bike, and your parents can’t fix it, it doesn’t get like parked in the garage, you they can go after it. And there’s a curriculum that’s like kids provides a school that they can get after and they can learn how to ride their bikes. It’s a really, really cool programme. And we’re really proud to be involved with them. Because it is like, like I said, it is step one, where we get to interact with these kids at a at a level where they’re just starting to understand things. And so teaching them how to work on a bike has been really cool. We’ve had a couple of stops already where we get to be Santa Claus, I say, we get to go and then and they do all the hard work. And we get to come in and just build the bikes with the kids and kind of answer any of their questions and get them stoked on everything from like how fast we go to all the junk food we get to eat on the road, which is a massive hit with kids. And yeah, and then just you know, teach them teach some of them how to ride a bike, some of them don’t know how to ride a bike and it’s funny watching my whole team run after these like tiny little kids as they try to like balance on this brand new bike. So that’s really fulfilling and very much in line with again, creating a pipeline to the top of the sport which is Legion.

Carlton Reid 24:24
You Ciclovias in LA but exactly have you noticed a difference in the that years you’ve been riding? Have you noticed a difference in cycling in in Los Angeles and hopefully you’re gonna say it’s getting better? Or is it

Justin Williams 24:42
almost hard around the world? Honestly, the difference that there’s been in like diversity in LA like, I was lucky enough to grow up in a we used to do a ride out of the Merc Park, which is like a very like central place for black culture and I like it And so I was lucky to see that at home. Now when I went to like different places like, you know, the valley, Orange County, yeah, there was there wasn’t a tonne of diversity and a lot of black people were racing at that point. But we had some, but when I travelled around the country, there was no black people. Like it was no, there was no people, barely any people of colour. And now that we travel, I kid you not, it is amazing to watch it be like a almost a 5050 split of like, you know, Asian people and black people and Spanish people and, and it’s incredible to watch this all happen in kind of in my time, I’d say. And then even around the world, when I, I did a project, it was like a panel in London last year at Rapha. And it was to celebrate a lot of talent and Black talent in cycling. And I’ll never forget how proud I was to see this room full of people of colour in London. And up until that point, I hadn’t realised a lot of the things that were happening, because I was so focused on building the team trying to change a sport, you know, redefining, like the relationship that like the general public has with cycling, I was trying to do all these things. And I was so focused in like, in a tunnel, that I didn’t notice it. And that really took me aback when I got into that room and heard the applause of all these people of colour that felt like they had something that they could be a part of, and connect to. That was probably one of my proudest moments thus far, in doing what we’re trying to accomplish.

Carlton Reid 26:46
You kind of I’ve read that you’ve one of your heroes back in the day, he’s not that much older than you anyway. But it was was was Rahsaan Bahati of the Rock Racing team. And cool, very cool strips they had the, the jerseys they had,

Justin Williams 27:08
I was lucky enough to be a part of that team. Rahsaan actually brought me on

Carlton Reid 27:12
So so he’s another famous black rider, then you’ve got Ayesha McGowan, who’s been on on this show a few times, starting in 2016, she’s she started getting much more visibility, you know, back then, as well as the only at that time the only black road cyclist in you know, getting sponsored and stuff. So are you definitely seeing a change, you know, these people that were just mentioned that, you know, including yourself are, are making a change. But do you see that carrying forward?

Justin Williams 27:45
Yeah, no, I think that as obviously, as we get more opportunity, we give more opportunity. And obviously, because we understand the landscape and kind of how some of these teams function and operates, we know that there’s people that deserve chances that aren’t getting them. And so I even last this year, this year at Tulsa tough, which is one of the biggest criterium series in the country. We took a picture with the Caribbean riders that were at the race because me and my brother race for Belize now. And there was like 10 of us. And before I remember there being like Amile Abraham, which was like one guy from Trinidad, like that was that was it. And it was like 10 of us it was like Bermuda and Barbados and Trinidad and Belize. And it was, it was incredible. That was so so so cool. To kind of see that change happening. And then obviously with everything that we’re trying to build, the more of those opportunities that we can give out to bring some of these talented athletes.

Carlton Reid 28:49
What’s cycling when your parents were in Belize? And is that how your dad was into cycling back then was the cycling culture in Belize?

Justin Williams 28:56
Oh my God, that’s like a big story cycle cycling in Belize is like cycling in Colombia, like the country loves loves loves cycling. We do a race every year. It’s called the Holy Saturday cross country race. And the whole when I say the whole country is on the side of the road cheering for this race. I mean like there’s 1000s and 1000s of people lining the road it’s an out and back so you get to see the race twice. And it’s like it is a national holiday. But like this This race is so important to the country that if it Belizian wins then everyone goes out and they celebrate for the rest of the week and it’s amazing and if a Belizian doesn’t win, it gets a foreign winner it’s it’s painful. It’s like everyone’s like talking about feeling disappointment come off from people. It’s a really big deal. So I think in Belize, soccer, cycling and track and field are like the sports but cycling is a really special one.

So your Belizian heritage has been important in and getting into you into cycling?

Oh, incredibly important. I remember being a kid and go into my uncle’s barber shop, and having these massive trophies. They’re like the same height as me at the time. And I remember these trophies and they’re all dusty and old. And I was like, why does this guy still have these like trophies? Like they look like they’re falling apart. And he had won this this race cross country. And so even for as long as I can remember, I didn’t know what it meant. But those trophies in that race was like so present in my life. And now I have a bunch of those massive trophies. Oh, my my mom has them, she doesn’t let me touch them.

Carlton Reid 30:44
So from Belize to Belgium, tell us about your time, your time in Europe.

Justin Williams 30:50
Yeah, my time in Europe, like when it was it was an exciting thing. I was on the US track national team when I was 17, 18. And a part of the programme was going over and racing road in Belgium to get ready for them, like the Mad at the six day season, the Madison season. And it was the best thing for me because the it was hard. I was a sprinter or I wanted to be a classics guy. And I was a sprinter. And I was really fast. And there was no real development in the US for that I didn’t even get a coach until I was 20. So I didn’t really know exactly what I was doing or exactly how to channel my energy and my training to get the best outcome. And then, like I said, the only thing I had was were Rahsaan as I had Rahsaan as a mentor on how to sprint but not in the systems or the direction that was going to take to get to being a sprinter on the highest level. And so when I got over to Belgium, cut, it was like so much change, you know, I had literally gone from, you know, not doing I don’t think I was doing anything the year before, because the team that I was on had folded halfway through the year. And so I was doing these races and I was getting, I was getting good results. I was doing this. And it was I definitely could see myself doing the racing, but I just wasn’t mature enough yet. And I didn’t have the kind of support and there was there was a few key things missing or what you will need to survive over in Europe didn’t speak the language didn’t understand how to function as an adult in the space where you’re on your own. And so ultimately is as cool as the experience was because my whole thing was I got to do under to be under 23 Paris Roubaix. And that was like the only thing that kept me going. And once I did that I was pretty much done because after that was gone, everything that I that was my Northstar. And then when I came home after that, everything that I had dealt with over there had really been prominent in the front of my brain. And I just it just wasn’t for me. It just wasn’t for me, I didn’t feel like I belonged. I didn’t feel like I had the support, I needed to be there. I definitely didn’t have the money to be there. I was constantly running out of money. So it just it was just too much for a kid at that point to be over in another country coming from South Central LA and trying to like become all of these things with all of these handicaps. And yeah, I just decided that the like the juice wasn’t worth the squeeze, like what it was going to take for me to be over there. I was like no, I would rather be home and you know, I love criterium racing I would rather like try to make a life out of that. And at that point, like were Rahsaan was making decent money. So I figured like, Okay, well I can be I can be a criterium sprinter and like that’s, that’s good enough for me. So that was that was kind of my experience over there. But I go back now and it’s I still think it’s pretty incredible. I’ve been lucky enough to go to Worlds in Harrogate and then the worlds in Belgium. And those were both, like some of the coolest experiences I’ve ever had.

Carlton Reid 34:10
So you’re sprinter, you’re a crit rider. Do you? Are you like an all-bike guy as well? So you’ve got a mountain bike, you ride fixies What are you just a complete bike guy or you really on your your your track bike only?

Justin Williams 34:24
No, I’m an everything guy. Everything except for gravel. Except for except for gravel. I just I just don’t get it. But mountain bike, mountain biking. I love a good mountain bike ride. My problem with mountain biking is that I keep going out riding with my pro mountain bike friends, and they think that I’m as good as I am in criterium racing and mountain biking and I’m just not like I love mountain biking but again, I think it’s so fun but I’m not trying to follow like my pro mountain bikers like I’m not trying to ride down descents with like Lance Lance Heydrich or Christopher Blevins like I don’t want to do that to myself. But I do really love and enjoy it. Road bike always track bike love the track. It’s my it’s a secret weapon like if you want to build speed get on a track it makes you incredibly fast. Yeah, like BMX like oh hang out and riding BMX every once a while I’m not gonna do any jumping, but it feels like being a kid isn’t the style J and riding a BMX bike.

Carlton Reid 35:27

Justin Williams 35:29
Love fixie

Carlton Reid 35:31
Not a track bike as in like an urban fixie?

Justin Williams 35:34
Yeah, I’ll do fixie, I’ll do fixie, I was actually a part of I got to, you know, I was lucky enough to be a part of Red Hook, when that was kind of this big deal. And honestly, you want to talk about this crazy influx of culture and people from every walk of life being a part of this like really tight knit group Red Hook was this incredible space where everything that cycling needs to be Red Hook was and that’s that’s fixed cure races. I was second in 2018. And in the red, the Harlem or not the Harlem Red Hook, New York race, which was really cool. And then before that had gone to Barcelona on vacation, like my vacation from cycling was a cycling event. And it was it was a Red Hook Barcelona. So I do a little bit everything like even cyclo cross, I love in cyclocross and gravel to me are different

Carlton Reid 36:33
You’re cyclo cross is usty cyclocross.

Justin Williams 36:37
we’ve know Yeah, we know, our cyclocross is like a crit on dirt. Yeah. Which is awesome.

Carlton Reid 36:43
To us. Yeah.

Justin Williams 36:44
Exactly. It’s a crit on dirt. But it’s dope because it’s like, you have the display your understanding and like skill in handling of the bike, and what’s going to happen and it’s it’s so fun watching people kind of flail on on gravel. Like it’s so many people are going to gravel because they’re like, oh, it’s safer than road riding. And I’m like, Yeah, but have you been down like a, like a super dirty, dusty descent before like the ground moves under you on gravel. The ground has moved on to you on the road. But yeah, that’s how it is.

Carlton Reid 37:18
At this point Justin I’d like to quit for an ad break, and my colleague David will take over.

David Bernstein 37:24
Hey everyone, this is David from the Fred cast and the spokesmen and I’m here once again, to tell you about our amazing sponsor Tern Bicycles at t e r n Tern are committed to building bikes that are useful enough to ride every day and dependable enough to carry the people you love. Speaking of being able to ride every day as a spokesmen listener, I’m going to bet that you are the go-to consultant for your friends who want to ride but are an enthusiast and need some advice on what to buy. In that case, you may have people in your life for whom you just haven’t been able to recommend just the right bike considering their stature, age mobility issues or just plain hesitant to get back on a bike. Finally, those family members and friends can experience a new bike day with the all new Turn NBD new bike day Nbd. Okay, the NBDd has been specifically designed to be confidently easy to handle and easy to ride even. Even for those folks who might be as Josh Hon, team captain of Tern Bicycle says are smaller in size and have a hard time finding a bike that fits or older riders who might not have ridden a bike in a while or riders who might have balance or physical issues or riders who are just intimidated by the sheer size and weight of the average ebike. As Josh goes on to say the NBD will be refreshingly easy to hop aboard and ride. Now how can Josh be so confident in that? Well, it’s simple. The NBD has the lowest longest step through opening of any premium ebike. So if you know someone with a knee or a hip injury or or somebody who just can’t lift their leg over the top tube of a regular bike, this alone could make all the difference plus the NBD is designed with an ultra low centre of gravity and a longer wheelbase. And what does that mean? Well, it means that it makes it easy to balance and handle. And with a lowered bottom bracket and motor the NBD is stable for all riders and particularly inspires confidence for shorter cyclists because they can easily get their feet on the ground when they come to a stop. But the NBD isn’t just for shorter riders. As a matter of fact, it adjusts in seconds. Without tools by the way to fit riders from four foot 10 to six foot three or 147 to 190 centimetres. The NBD is also super comfortable with its upright riding position, swept handlebar suspension seatpost and wide 20 inch balloon tires need to load the NBD into a car. No problem, it folds flat in seconds. How about getting into it into a smaller living space? No sweat. The NBD includes Tern’s vertical parking features, you can roll the bike into a small elevator and park it in a corner of your apartment. Now with a max gross vehicle weight of 140 kilos that’s 308 pounds, the NBD can easily carry an extra passenger and plenty of cargo with up to 27 kilos on the rear rack and up to 20 kilos on the front rack. And in fact, it works with a wide range of Tern accessories and with most child seats, as I’ve said before, and this is important to me really important safety is a core value at turn. And that’s why the NBD frame and fork have been rigorously tested by one of Europe’s leading bike test labs. That’s also why turn chooses to use the Bosch motor and battery system. It’s one of the few systems on the market that meets and passes the UL standard for battery and electronics safety read the news and you know how important that is. Now the NBD comes in two models with prices starting at $3,899 or 3999 euros and bikes are going to start arriving in stores in Q1 of 2023. For more information about the NBD or any of Turn’s wide range of bikes, just head on over to Again, t e r n We thank Tern for their sponsorship of the spokesmen podcast and we thank you for your support of Tern. Once again, thanks for allowing me this brief introduction everybody. And now let’s get back to Carlton and the spokesmen.

Carlton Reid 42:00
Thanks, David. We are back with Justin Williams. And we’ve been talking about his Belizian background. We’re talking about now Black History Month we’ve been talking about Major Taylor. One question we have kind of skirted around, we’ve we’ve looked at it a little bit, but I would like to like just dig into it. So you’ve got you’ve got riders, riders like Kevin Reza, who’s been in the Tour de France. But you know, we really have got, you know, the digits of one hand can very easily accommodate the number of black riders have been in the Tour de France. So do you think we’re going to get more black riders coming in the Tour de France in the next 5, 10 years? And this is like African riders? Or do you think we’re going to see black American guys coming through? What’s where do you see it coming from in the future?

Justin Williams 42:48
Honestly, I don’t care where it comes from, as long as it comes. Honestly, I think that there’s talented or I think there’s talented writers everywhere. There’s a there’s a load of Caribbean talented, right, it’s I think it’s more about building a system in which they can like start that development process a bit earlier, in racing in Europe is completely different from racing anywhere else. And I think you have to be exposed to that. To really be competitive and understand kind of what the ebbs and flows are. But I think they’ll come from everywhere. It’s really cool that African riders have been integrated into European cycling in such a way I can only hope that the same thing happens with Caribbean riders. And there’s also writers from the Netherlands. I know Celin Alvarado’s brothers super talented, he’s he’s a cross guy. You know, he’s he’s coming up, I know, there’s a, there’s a kid in a kid right out of London, or he’s in England, he’s super talented riders. So I think that they’re everywhere. And I end up hoping that there’s more opportunities for that. And I think and I hope that there’s a bit more patience when it comes to incorporating them into these teams, because that’s kind of what I felt, I felt like there was a we’re giving you a chance and you’re lucky to be here. But as soon as you don’t fit into that narrative in a way that they want you to which is not specific to black people, I think that’s like just the way cycling is then you’re out the door, and you don’t really get a chance to develop. So I’m hoping that with the rise of African riders in showcasing their talent on the highest level that that will continue to open up doors for for other people, ther black people.

Carlton Reid 44:45
I looked on your Instagram before we came on here. And there’s a fair few of your you kind of the brands who sponsor you. So let’s talk about a few of them. Okay, so there’s one of those back four or five posts back you’re doing a recovery with a product. So what’s that product,

Justin Williams 45:05
Therabody. They’re such an incredible company, they do so many different, so many different things really well. And some one of my favourite things that they have is they make these these boots, these recovery boots. And they’re the best. So like, my favourite thing is, I’ll jump in them, if I hit buy, like I work a lot. So if I don’t have time to ride, but I have a big ride the next day, jump in the boots, kind of get my legs like ready and prepared. If I have a big ride and I’m wrecked and I’m trying to like get ready for the next day, I’ll jump in the boots on my computer, get some work done to kill two birds with one stone really flush out that kind of, you know, flush out that blood and get some fresh blood in there. And then when I’m travelling, they have this like Theragun Mini that I just take with me everywhere. And it’s just the best for everything. Like if my neck is tight from sitting on a plane, and if my legs are tight from sitting on a plane, it’s like, I just have something to kind of break things up.

Carlton Reid 46:05
So a massage gun?

Justin Williams 46:07
It’s a massage gun. Yeah. Yeah,


Carlton Reid 46:11
You might get funny looks on a plane if you get one of them out.

Justin Williams 46:16
I’ll wait until after. Honestly, it’s pretty discreet. I got I don’t know, if you would I think somebody might ask you to use it. They might be like, hey, when you’re done with that, feel free to pass it over here.

Carlton Reid 46:30
I think we’re drifting into a different kind of conversation. So other sponsors, because I’ve seen a fantastic and it’s just the last, it’s just dropped the last couple of days with Red Bull, which you’ve been in and there was a fantastic film that Rapha you were in so you’re you’re kind of like building up your your your brands who are supporting you, brands who are sponsoring you. So is that is that something that has come to you are you having to work at that?

Justin Williams 47:00
Yeah, that’s that’s what makes it a good partnership. A good partnership is someone that you can help build and tell your story through and like, obviously, discreetly promote their products and like who they are and what they believe in. But you can also do that for yourself, or you can tell your story. And so for us, we tend to lean toward partners that really understand the vision. And I want to tell it in an authentic way we don’t want to have, we don’t want to put out content that isn’t true to like who we are. We don’t want to put out content that’s like heavily, like overly branded, we want to just put out stuff that is very true to who we are and what the partnership is supposed to represent. And so we just been lucky enough, and I guess selective enough to have really great partners who want to tell the story, you want to have fun and want to change the sport and want to change lives and inspire people. And so that’s what we get to go out and do with a brand like Red Bull was a dream sponsor of mine. That’s what we get to go out and do with the brand like Rapha, who’s like, you know, their company identity is based in storytelling, that’s what we get to do. And even with companies like like Therabody, like there is a company that is very much invested in what the story is, and what the team is and what the identity that we created is and they just want to enhance, they want to make it better. And so that’s that’s a perfect partnership

Carlton Reid 48:34
On that kind of note because I did say to your people, that this would be like a 45 minute chat. So we are coming up to the end of those 45 minutes and I’m really appreciative of you taking your time and I’m sure you’ve you may have even done your ride but just to wrap this up, can you just give us all of your social media stuff so so anybody who’s listening to this, unlike my son who will know all of your social media channels, of course, but for everybody else who who anybody else who doesn’t know your social media channels, where can people find out about you, Justin?

Justin Williams 49:12
Shout out to your son, man. That’s That’s amazing. I’m really really excited about that. Yeah, most of my most of my social media handles are at juswilliamz. And then you can find you know, find a lot of me at Legion Los Angeles, L three, nine on Instagram on tiktok on YouTube, all the good ones.

Carlton Reid 49:41
TThanks to Justin Williams there and thanks also to you for listening to Episode 308 of the Spokesmen cycling podcast. Show notes and more can be found as always on The next episode will be a report from Brussels as I cover urban mobility at the sounds-boring-but-is-really-very-important 151st plenary session of the EU’s Committee of the Regions. That show will be out in the middle of the month but meanwhile, get out there and ride …

September 24, 2022 / / Blog

24th September 2022

The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast

EPISODE 307: Kidical Mass: How, Why, Where, When

SPONSOR: Tern Bicycles

HOST: Carlton Reid

GUEST: Kat Heath, Kidical Mass, Reading

TOPIC: Hundreds of “Kidical Mass” rides are taking place across the UK and Europe this weekend. A more family-friendly version of Critical Mass, these rolling demos show decision makers – with an abundance of cuteness — that children need safe space to cycle and that roads are theirs too. Kat Heath of Reading’s ride explains more.


Carlton Reid 0:13
Welcome to Episode 307 of the spokesmen cycling podcast. This show was published on Saturday 24th of September 2022.

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 caring another adult, visit www.tern That’s t e r n to learn more.

Carlton Reid 1:04
Hundreds of critical mass rides are taking place across the UK and Europe this weekend. A more family friendly version of critical mass, these rolling demos showed decision makers with an abundance of cute purse that children need a safe space to cycle and that road of theirs to Kat Heath of Reading’s ride explains more.

Kat, you’re organising the Reading version of critical mass. First of all, what is Critical Mass is like a form of putting kids in the way of trouble because critical mass where does this come from, of course is famous for being quite an anarchic.

Kat Heath and son

Kat Heath 1:52
So Critical Mass is a worldwide grassroots movement that is intended to say that cars, not cars, the street should be for kids not cars, and that we need better cycling infrastructure to make it safe for our children to cycle. If you imagine an eight year old cycling to school, for most parents, that’s absolutely terrifying. And that shouldn’t be the reality. They’re not designed with the same principle that critical mass has a lot of these rides are fun, fun, family friendly rides that don’t even go on the roads. Some people do want to use them more as protest rides, which is absolutely fine. But the heart of these rides is just trying to raise awareness of the diversity of people on bikes, and why we need better infrastructure. I think, a brilliant point that we consider that a city that is designed to be good for children is good for everybody from your pensioner who’s out on a bike because is there any mobility aid? I have a friend that has MS and having an electric trike has completely revolutionised his life. And he’s been able to maintain a degree of independence he just wouldn’t have otherwise. It’s just a good thing in general, I think. Does that answer the question? I ramble, you can tell me to shut down

Carlton Reid 3:06
and that’s fine. So is this by using kids using this perhaps the wrong word probe? But by involving kids? Is that a kind of wave of almost softening the message? Or is it that’s the absolute message we need to do this for kids?

Kat Heath 3:21
That is the absolute message, we need to have this for our children. I my little boy is 18 months now. But we’ve been cycling since he was five weeks corrected. And my ability to cycle with him completely changed how I could cycle I couldn’t cycle defensively like I used to. I couldn’t fit in gaps that were there before and I became I had to be in traffic because I had a trailer behind me. And there was just no way that I could like how I used to if your child is five years old, our setup just does not allow the children to cycle and they need to be at the heart of these decisions. I think the other thing that like is really key for why it’s so important for children. They are the people that are going to be living on this planet long after you and I have died. And the reliance on car travel at the moment is fueling climate change. We have an obesity crisis. We have a air crisis, air quality crisis and enabling active travel whether that scooting or cycling or walking or wheeling has to be at the heart of everything. At the moment most of our towns and cities are just not set up to support that.

Carlton Reid 4:31
So by riding with with your kids and with families and is that something that you can try to get local politicians involved? So you know, you’re basically the message is gotta go to them to improve anything in your in your city. Are you getting the media involved? How are you pushing this message apart from the actual ride?

Kat Heath 4:50
So again, this will change from group to group. So I helped form the one in Inverness and the one in Redding. So I can speak for both of those. We have actively invite It counsellors to all of the right and we’ve seen different parties turn off different frequency. Inverness and reading, we’ve got the right mic normally me or somebody else invited to a lot of like the clean air or the active transport committees, so that we can start being that voice for, hey, this is a great design, but that’s not going to work for a child. So let’s rethink this. I think also the Inverness ones especially, every council meeting, we heard different counsellors reference them about why active travel was so important. People that weren’t turning up to the rides were using us as a really good example of why the city needs to be designed better. It also just highlights awareness, I think the amount of people that have stopped and chatted to me and my son, when we had a trailer and now is on the back of my bike to say hi, I’ll be like, Oh my God, that’s a brilliant idea. I didn’t realise you could cycle with a child. I think that helps other parents that maybe aren’t as confident doing it as well. So you start having that knock on ripple effect.

Carlton Reid 6:03
That critical mass, famously, was like once a month. So how often is critical mass,

Kat Heath 6:10
again, depends on this is all local people. So it’s normally local parents, but not always raising it. And it’s how many marshals you can have. So marshals are there to keep the children safe when you’re cycling. We reading is working we’re working on now. So we do ours every other month Inverness, there’s monthly bath has a different frequency, it’s really dependent on the city or the town, and how much time the people organising it have got to do it.

Carlton Reid 6:39
And how many places around the UK and perhaps worldwide are organising critical mass.

Kat Heath 6:48
UK, there has been so Germany who are incredibly good at this have been organising worldwide events. So they had one in May, there was 11 towns and cities writing and I think that had doubled from the year before. In September, were aware there’s about 15 or 18 rides happening in September. So it’s growing little by little, I can find the stats from the last ride and actually email it to you. But there was over 100 I think almost 200 rides across Europe in May. So it is growing. And it’s coming to the point about like raising awareness, the more people see these happening, and the more we can get word out about these very fun and very cute events. And I think more people will start doing them. I hadn’t heard of critical mass until last year. And now I don’t stop talking about them.

Carlton Reid 7:41
And, again, that this will be a question that your answer will be, you know, it depends on each town. But if you give us a broad spectrum here of kind of the the amount of people that have kids matter, parents, how many people are attending these events, so So give me a flavour.

Kat Heath 7:58
I think it’s about 100 people. So including parents and children that are coming. school holidays have a surprisingly big impact, which I didn’t think through. But yeah, most of the rides that I saw in May, were about 100 people that said some rides had 200 London gets a lot more. So yeah. Yeah, about, I’d say 50 to 100 on every ride that I’m aware of apart from one last month, which where we had 10 people turn up.

Carlton Reid 8:31
Was that bad weather? What was the 10?

Kat Heath 8:33
Heat wave? Oh, like we Yeah. Also, I think we put it in the wrong location. And a lot of it’s trial and error. You try new things and school holidays.

Carlton Reid 8:47
What’s what’s the right location?

Kat Heath 8:50
For the rides? I, I got the same answer. It depends on what you’re trying to achieve. So I think if you haven’t done that many of them sticking to safer paths that you know, well, is a really good idea. Edinburgh to have, like, I think they had 200 people came and they were on the road. And they gave people lots of warning. And it was just fantastic to see children doing these beautiful routes, we tend to go from Park to Park, one of the things we’ve been trying to do and reading is highlight cycle routes that take you to areas that children actually want to be to help inspire parents cycle with their children.

Carlton Reid 9:31
Because if you did it on, say, an existing bike path that was already great. Yeah. Which is which would be fine for the kids to ride on already. But kind of not really promoting the message you’re trying to get out there is it’s like we want bike paths here. Not to use the existing ones which we know are okay for kids.

Kat Heath 9:52
I slightly disagree with that. I think highlighting good infrastructure especially if you’re trying to inspire more people to cycle is a great idea. At the same time, highlighting where there needs to be more, because it’s a massive gap. So you want to cycle to things like your hospital, to your doctor’s, to your schools, to your parks, I want to be able to cycle my kid to nursery and not have someone tried to run me over and then be able to go to a coffee place. And I think it all needs to tie in and be connected. Have you read invisible women, where it highlights that most carers which predominantly are women, we don’t tend to go A to B, we tend to have these A to B to C network journeys. And what we need to show is that we need connected networks with secure bike parking, that are segregated paths so that we can get everyone cycling. And there’s a million different ways of highlighting that. But it needs to be designed with accessibility in mind. And I think some plans assume a confidence level that not everybody has all that it will work for every that it will work for a single person on a bike. But then that doesn’t account for having a trailer, it doesn’t account for being a recumbent or traffic lights are a nightmare when my son is in a bad mood with me because he was my bike. And it’s just something you’d never find. And I’m not I don’t shoot the red lights, by the way. But it’s just finding what’s right for where you are and how engaged your active travel teams are and how engaged your counsellors are, and also the maturity of the cycling infrastructure in your towns and cities.

Carlton Reid 11:29
So what’s it like in Reading already?

Kat Heath 11:31
awful, it is absolutely awful. And reading, it’s like being in London 10 years ago. I’ve lived in London, I lived in London for when I was 18 when I was in my early 30s. And I cycled most of that time. And it feels like that here, the drivers are not prepared to see cyclists on the road, where they do see cyclists on the road like I regularly get sworn out, I regularly get driven at. I have had one guy scream at me with my kid on my bike to get on the effing pavement. I’m just like, that’s not even legal dude.

Carlton Reid 12:06
Kat, why would you in that camp? I’m being devil’s advocate here. In that case, why would you then inflict such an awful activity on on children, if you’re getting, you know, this kind of part of

Kat Heath 12:19
the reason they’re behaving like that is because we don’t have segregated bike paths. And they see us as an intrusion is the dog really annoying in the background?

Carlton Reid 12:29
There’s dogs, there’s dogs everywhere, don’t worry about it.

Kat Heath 12:32
Dogs, my sister. At the moment, some drivers and not all see us as a conflict were to be less than 2% of freaking road traffic. But if we had better segregated paths that were safe to use, more people would be using them, there’s less traffic on the road, it is better for everybody. And I think this is why Critical Mass ride and engaging with your counsellor. Any form of activism that argues for active travel is so important, because we need to get people out of cars for short journeys and onto bikes and, or onto scooters or onto whatever it is. But that’s not going to happen until the infrastructure is there. And if these rides can safely and in a fun way, highlight the need for that infrastructure that has to be a good thing. Which coming back to your question of whether it should be on the road or on pavements, non pavements on like in existing infrastructure, show a family a route that they wouldn’t have dreamed of, to get between their school and their part. And that to me as a win as much as it is getting highlighted highlighting the need for why this road needs infrastructure on it. It’s got to come from every angle. And it’s got to be fun. Because again, you’re right. Why would children and families turn up if it’s not fun, and they don’t feel safe?

Carlton Reid 13:49
So I’ve been on my local one which is was in Whitley Bay, North North Tyneside, I find I felt kind of awkward, because I was invited along to take photos. But I didn’t have kids. And well, I hadn’t I didn’t have kids there. So my kids are, you know, flown the nest and stuff. So and they’re riding their own bikes now in other cities. So I didn’t have like a tot with me. So I felt a bit awkward. So these rides, do they welcome everybody to join in? Or is it if you haven’t got kids, you can’t come along?

Kat Heath 14:19
I again, this is going to be on an individual talent level. All the ones that I am aware of that I have been involved in or that everybody is welcome. I think one of the ways we’ve marketed it as please come you don’t need a responsible child to look after you. If you don’t have a responsible child and you’re interested in marshalling please chat to us about that because we always need more marshals. But again, the whole idea is diversity. My parents live up in Inverness, and my poor dad every right I was like, Dad, I need you to come with mom on the tandem. Just so we can highlight that we have pensioners cycling it’s important to show diversity in every area. I’m the person that organises them in Exeter, the Powell doesn’t have any children. He just thinks that cycling should be safe for everybody, no matter their age group and loves critical masses. So he’s led on organising one that everyone is genuinely welcome, the more people we have out there, and the friendlier these things are, it’s got to work for everyone, right. And one of the things I’ve been discovered when I talk to taxi drivers, and this is their living like livelihood, they obviously get anxious when we talk about or anyone talks about shutting down city centres. But actually, if you had less cars there and you had more bikes, the people that did need to get into there, we’ll be able to use the taxis or we need to start engaging everybody in his consultations and making sure that the best solution for the future is heard in my opinion. And we’re not doing that because we’re prioritising people’s convenience about using a metal box over our children’s future. And like I don’t, I don’t know how old you are. But if your children have flown the nest, probably, like, not in your 20s anymore. Like when I grew up, we had water fights in the street, and I could psych on the street. I’m teaching my little boy how to walk right now. And I hate taking him down our quiet road because the cars are parked everywhere, there’s cars racing up and down a residential street and it just doesn’t feel the safe area that I grew up in. And my dad was Army. So we grew up in villages and cities and towns like we moved a lot. But that’s not our children’s reality anymore. Because our streets are for our cars, not for our communities.

Carlton Reid 16:30
Let’s let’s dig down into any differences between this and critical mass because I’m, I’m struggling to see how it’s actually any different apartment, maybe there’s ice creams at the end and that kind of stuff. There’s more entertainment. Yeah, there’s like there’s the kind of that that blackmail at the end to get the kid to come. Because at the one at Newcastle, the one on the way into it was like we’re going to have an ice cream van at the end. And it was free, free brownies and stuff. It’s like okay, that’s not on critical mass. That’s that’s the difference. But just generally what what genuinely is the difference between because the describing events are actually pretty much similar.

Kat Heath 17:07
I think they come from the same ethos Critical Mass is started to raise awareness of the amount of people that were dying by bike. And sadly, that hasn’t dramatically changed has. To me, the main difference is someone’s organised both is the amount of planning that has to go into a critical mass. Critical Mass is you say a name a day, and then you cycle together. And you’ve got grown adults that know how to cycle. And you don’t have to worry about it as much critical mass we spend months sometimes figuring out routes that we can keep our kids safe on other people’s kids safe on accessibility as a huge issue for critical mass. Again, them having fun and enjoying this. So they want to carry on cycling outside of critical mass here is a thing. I do think it is a there is a lot of anger towards cyclists or people on bikes. And I think critical mass helps with that, because it shows that some of these people on bikes are children on bikes, and it is very difficult to have the same level of anger. So I think it raises awareness in a more positive tone potentially, then critical masses due and Critical Mass is a great fun. And I love attending them. And they still have the same bribery at the end, by the way, because they finish in a pub, what’s really the adult version of offering an ice cream. But they are all raising awareness that our roads aren’t just for cars, and it needs to be safe for all people on those roads, not just people in a metal box.

Carlton Reid 18:47
So Critical Mass is that famously, there’s no organisers of it are meant to be no organisers of it certainly no organisers who are named and can be contacted in in any named way. Whereas Critical Mass is very much you know who the organisers are? Yeah. It’d be easier for the police to come in and just stop this. So do you have to approach the police? Do you what do you have to do as an organiser to actually organise these things with your name on

Kat Heath 19:17
so we have recommendations on this you. We recommend you get in contact with your police force and let them know at least six days beforehand. Some of the police forces have been amazing sunrise, the police force are coming out and acting as marshals. Other ones there’s been more of a debate. I think one of the things if you are cycling on the road, you’re not holding up traffic, you are the traffic and that’s a really big thing to remember. You don’t have to ask permission you need to inform people that these rides are happening. In my experience, informing the council as well has been really, really positive. You don’t have to but in Vaness Council and Reading Council have been really, really helpful with us. In Venice, we had a problem with the route. And the event planning and road team helped me find an alternative route and got the permission to go through this area that was closed off by a private company. So we can keep the kids safe in reading, we were using a non we were using a lovely Riverside path, a part of the road that was completely overgrown with stinging nettles and I let them know and they went and cut it down for me. So I think there’s a huge benefit in working with your counsellors, but that very much depends on your councils and your relationship with your councils. I product managers live as a job. So communication and coordination and getting people to work together, I find makes anything in life work easier. But again, that comes down to your relationship in the city or town.

Carlton Reid 20:51
So the city or town that you’re in reading, have you seen any change? So organising these critical mass event? Have you seen any inkling that there might be some differences coming up? Or do you think this is a multi year, your child will be 23? Before you even get anything in? What do you see is the the progress?

Kat Heath 21:11
So I only moved down in February, I came down from m&s and wanted them here. So I said I’ve set them up here. I think the fact that we are sitting on council groups now is a great sign. So we can input on consultation, these things aren’t going to happen overnight. It can’t be 23 years. We just don’t have the time anymore. We are at a critical point in climate emergency. And we need to get more people doing short routes by active travel. Don’t expect it to happen overnight. Like realistically these infrastructure changes we’re talking about we’re talking years, not months. But I do think we need to start seeing changes a lot earlier than 21 years. And when I hear visions for 2035, or 2050 is like that, that’s too far away for my kid. I’m a very effective product manager. So I basically decided to take this approach with these.

Carlton Reid 22:14
Hmm, and how much organisation does it take and you get an inkling before that it takes more than a critical mass. But just just tell us exactly what you have to do.

Kat Heath 22:26
A high level you need a few people involved, definitely. You want to you need a route, you need a route that is safe for children and accessible for children. And just thinking things through like drop curbs. Or if you’ve got bollards, where you’d be able to get a trailer through or how a tandem would work. So a lot of route planning and that tends to be where the most focus is spent. You need marshals. So when you have kids going past junctions, just having a martial there to make sure someone doesn’t inadvertently or intentionally drive into the middle of the children, because they are like some of these kids are four or five on a balanced bike. And that’s not going to keep them safe. You need cake. So encouraging people to bake stuff. They’re fun, right? You do need that. What else telling the place that you’ve suggested is a good option. We’ve written a how to guide. We’ve also sorted public liability insurance. So people anyone organising critical mass can sign up to public liability insurance, which you don’t need to. But in my opinion, is a sensible idea to do. I think yeah, maybe and then you need to promote it. And whether that’s Facebook or parents, WhatsApp groups, talking to the local media, talking to the national news media, hopefully, I think it’s just raising awareness and getting people to turn up on the roads. That is most of it, find a safe route. Tell people about it. Make sure you’re keeping the kids and other vulnerable users safe.

Carlton Reid 23:57
I should be asking the kids this, but for obvious reasons. I can’t but what are kids think about this, this these rides.

Kat Heath 24:03
So mine doesn’t talk yet, but he seems to love cycling. He is so content on my bike is incredible. I can share a five year olds account of the last critical mass from one of the other organisers and he absolutely loves it. His main question after the last one was when’s the next one? Going back to Inverness. Some of the other people. Their children’s spoke to STV about what they thought about it and why these rights were important. And overwhelmingly the kids love it. They get to cycle they get to spend time with their friends on bikes, their parents on bikes and they’re safe. And then they get coke at the end or the he invested a lot working with 42 cycling to have ramps like mountain biking ramps so they could get exposed to that they got a pennyfarthing and a lot of the riders do have fun at the end and I think that’s me highlight head just how much we’ve lost that as well. Like you don’t play out on the street with your friends anymore because you can’t. And having those play out areas at the end have become a really important part for some rides on having that sense of community. But

Carlton Reid 25:17
yes, the ride I went on Whitley Bay was ended at a at a play park basically. So the kids could just leap in there, you know, jump off their bikes and go play together, which was, which was very cute. You mentioned before about the abuse, the sadly, the abuse that you get when you’re riding your bike, when you’re on the critical mass. Do you get any abuse from drivers then? Or is it the fact that there’s quite a lot of kids and parents on their bikes actually stopped any abuse?

Kat Heath 25:46
Very, very little. So I’ve probably done 11 right across in Vanessa reading. And I think maybe two or three drivers I’ve seen have been annoyed with the ride. For the most part, you just get these huge smiles and a few curious what’s going on. If you’ve been to the ride, it is a lovely, lovely thing to see small children on their bikes or on their parents bikes, ringing their bells or smiling. And for most people, I think it just makes them smile. We Inverness had a thing with the hospice, we went past the hospice room, and some of their patients would request to come over to the hospice window so they could see it. Because honestly, they just really enjoyed seeing it. I think the aggression towards cyclists has changed. I get a lot more aggression now than I did even 1015 years ago. A lot less sexual comments. But a lot. I mean, it could just because I’m older, right? But a lot lot more aggression than I did a few years ago, which is bizarre.

Carlton Reid 26:52
Yes, yes, it is very sad turn of event. And how long are these rides?

Kat Heath 26:57
In general? Three miles ish. You’ve got people on small wheels. Yeah, in general, just think through your target audience if you’ve got a small bike, a very small ride for you. Isn’t that small and also getting to them and leaving as well.

Carlton Reid 27:16
And when is the next event for you personally in Reading?

Kat Heath 27:19
Our next one is on the 25th of September as part of the European Critical Mass weekend. We’re going to do a combined ride so working on are going to start and then they’re going to join us at 1130 and Palmer Park, where we are going to ride together to finish at the reading Bicycle Festival where there will be cake and but also some stunts and tracks and cargo bikes so people can really see the breadth of bikes bikes available to them.

Carlton Reid 27:49
Thanks to Kat Heath there And thanks also to you for listening to Episode 307 of the spokesmen cycling podcast brought to you in association with Tern bicycles, show notes and more can be found as always on The next episode will be out next month. But meanwhile, get out there and ride…

September 22, 2022 / / Blog

22nd September 2022

The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast

EPISODE 306: Eco Adventure on Proposed Sail-powered Bike and Foot Ferry From Dover to Boulogne

SPONSOR: Tern Bicycles

HOST: Carlton Reid

GUESTS: Andrew Simons, Brandt Williamson, Robert Tickner, Tom Treasure, Caroline Tyndall, Wayne Godfrey

TOPIC: A pioneering wind-powered cross-channel ferry for cyclists and pedestrians from Dover to Boulogne operated by startup SailLink had a series of test runs earlier in September, and Carlton Reid was on the first crossing to northern France. SailLink plans to commission a bespoke craft for its 12-passenger service, but the demonstration crossings used a smaller vessel, the Mago Merlino, a 12-metre catamaran certified to carry six paying passengers and two bicycles.



Tres Hombres

Guardian article


Carlton Reid 0:13
Welcome to Episode 306 of the Spokesmen cycling podcast. This show was published on Thursday 22nd of September 2022.

David Bernstein 0:23
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 caring another adult, visit www.tern That’s t e r n to learn more.

Carlton Reid 1:06
That’s the unmistakable roar of a Merlin engine

of a Spitfire, and that was coming from Biggin Hill, taking people on £3000 jollies over the White Cliffs of Dover. And that’s exactly what I’m looking at right now. I’m looking at Dover castle. I’m looking at the White Cliffs of Dover. And I’m looking at some ferries.

And I’m going to be going on a ferry very shortly from Dover Marina.

But not P&O, not DFDS. I’m going on a new ferry company, SailLink

And SailLink is taking cyclists and pedestrians across the channel from here in Dover Marina to Bolougne, in France, but not using big old boats.

The roll on roll off motorcar ferries, this is only for cyclists and only for pedestrians. And it’s a sailboat ferry. So it’s going to be the eco way of getting across the channel. And I’m waiting in the marina here for Andrew, who is taking his boat out.

For a bit of a test. He’s going to come back into the marina, very shortly. I’m gonna be getting on and I’ll be putting my Tern S8i onto the ferry. I’m guessing other guests is going to be joining us. And we’re going to be going across to France.

Andrew Simons 2:56
This is

Toby the Skipper.

Okay, you can pull up your head and lines on the floor.

Toby Duerden 3:08
Yeah. Right. So wear life jackets the whole time we’ve gotten just behind you that

Andrew Simons 3:15
I am Andrew Benjamin Simons Stolz.

Carlton Reid 3:19
we’re in the we’re not quite in the middle. Where are we in?

Andrew Simons 3:21
We’re not in the middle of the channel about where we are just coming in to the southwest bound shipping lane of the traffic separation scheme of the Dover streets.

Carlton Reid 3:35
Is that a dangerous place for us to be

Andrew Simons 3:38
Potentially, but there are very clear clear rules and for what we’re doing, and we all have a lot of equipment on board to avoid collisions. So there’s a lot going on. I don’t disagree. This is a really intense area if you look on a website like marine traffic and then focus in on the Dover Strait, all you will see is dots of ships. But that is not those those those markers on the website and not in real size, but it makes it look like there’s no way through it. But you can look around here. There’s lots of space, there are ships coming at us. But we can avoid those quite happily what we’re doing is perfectly permissible.

And we’ve followed the rules for doing what we’re doing. And there is plenty of space for this.

Carlton Reid 4:28
Toby has knocked the engine off now it’s the engine was ticking over to charge charge the engine basically

Andrew Simons 4:34
That was to charge the batteries we had some issue earlier. Yeah, that somehow for some reason the batteries not the engine battery, but the battery we have for things on board had drained quite a lot. So we were just charging up again. But now we have a hydro generator running in the water behind us because

Carlton Reid 4:51
you’ve got solar power,

Andrew Simons 4:52
we’ve got solar and now because we’re going along at a good speed there’s a good wind, we can drop this hydro generator in the water behind

us it’s not going to impact on our speed at all. And it’s going to charge the batteries using all using the wind.

Carlton Reid 5:06
And the wind is powering the sail.

Andrew Simons 5:08
Exactly. So we have a, we have an engine now above us in the form of the sails. And we have a fuel in the form of the wind that is blowing onto those. And it’s, it’s readily available for us and for the next person to use.

Carlton Reid 5:24
So Brandt there is walking. Yes. From here. Yeah, I’m cycling to and from here. So we’re green, the power that you’re generating from the solar and from the, from the hydro generator

And obviously the sails

Andrew Simons 5:41
Yes. Also, yeah.

Carlton Reid 5:42
Is that basically your schtick? You are taking people across who are pedestrians and cyclists using a green method. Is that is that that is at your sales pitch?

Andrew Simons 5:54
It isn’t actually no, it isn’t because we have to be careful of economies of scale. And if we would really do the calculation, you know, you’ve heard as we’ve on this vessel, we have one diesel engine and one electric engine, but the diesel one is more powerful. We use that to get in and out of the entrances to the to the ports where there’s tide running and things. So, you know, if we would boil it down and look at the co2, for example, or greenhouse gas emissions per passenger kilometre, we’re demanding, depending on how you’re doing, we might not be any better than a ferry. But it all depends how you make that calculation. And actually, I’ve worked in that field. So I know how complex and often misleading those calculations can be. So and the other reason I don’t sell it primarily on that basis is because we all have to go in the direction of being environmentally friendly, and reducing our impacts, also the big ferries. So if I, if that is my sales pitch in a few years, I hope I will lose my sales pitch, if that is it.

So I have to have other ones to keep my business unique and to keep that competitive advantage. And I believe that that that sales pitch is based on the experience,

but also provide in

connection with not only with the culturally with the places we’re going to and from, but also with the ocean we crossing we have in a completely different experience of the ocean, of the winds, you’ve already learned, I think just in this short time, an incredible amount about how a boat works and what we need to look out for. And what we’re using in order to get across. You’ve heard about tides, about winds, we’re using those natural prevailing conditions to get ourselves across. Yes, we have to use a little bit of fuel. But in the future, we’re also going to reduce that hopefully down to purely electric and be able to charge some of that onboard or recharge overnight at the the pontoon. And hopefully their sources of electricity are also going to be quite green.

Carlton Reid 8:14
So, how many people can you fit on here because this is not going to be the eventual boat?

Andrew Simons 8:18
This is yeah, this is this is

an interim boat. Yeah, this is purely for the pilot phase. And also I’ve used this boat in the past in the last couple of years with its skipper-owner, to explore the possibilities here and to to do the crossings and to yeah, really just run the feasibility on it.

Carlton Reid 8:41
Feasibility of it with the next boat is how many passengers?

Brendt Williamson

Andrew Simons 8:46
12, 12 People 12 passengers is a reg is an international maritime limit. Which means we’re actually if we stay with a maximum of 12 We’re not actually a passenger vessel, we’re not classed as a passenger vessel. And that means that we can use in theory any port we like we don’t need to go to a big ferry terminal in order to put our passengers through the passenger cross border procedures with a limit of 12 of course you are still a passenger on board. But we are permitted then to use a marina a harbour. And with good collaboration the border authorities, the agents come to us

or if it’s not possible we send out and they need. For example if a UK passenger is going to France now they must get stamped into France. And if the border authorities don’t come to meet us in France, then the passenger needs to go to

Calais to the port authorities and get their passport stamped in your case. You’re doing a very quick turnaround. It doesn’t matter it’s

it’s quite fine for us to arrive or a person to drive on

on this boat

on late in the evening, like we’re doing today and say, I’m going to go tomorrow, that’s alright. You don’t need to get your Passport, passport some immediately as you step off the boat. It’s just not practical. And they are very, they’re very pragmatic about it. But you do need to pretty much go straight there as soon as you can.

Carlton Reid 10:19
Now this this, this crossing isn’t the choppiest in the world.

But it still to me chopp to me compared to when I’m on one of those big boats.

Andrew Simons 10:28
Okay, yeah. Yeah, there’s some movement.

Carlton Reid 10:31
And that’s giving me a fresh appreciation of these these refugees in their tiny inflatables who are getting even worse bobbed

around the sea than than we are. So

what? How are you viewed by both border authorities? And secondly,

if you see

them coming across, did they come this way? What do you have to do?

Andrew Simons 10:59
Okay. Yeah. So to the first question, I had exactly the same sort of

anxiety about posing this concept, this very concept to the border agents thinking, they were just telling me, please, we have enough on our plates don’t come with this kind of thing. But I absolutely got completely the contrary, they greeted me with

welcome and enthusiasm for what I’m doing. And because I really, I spent the time of COVID really following up

on the regulations and making those connections and finding out how can we design this according to, to stay within the regulations we need. If we’re to operate the ferry day in day out, we have no other option but to work within those boundaries. And it’s only going to make our lives more easier if we, if we really cooperate, and if we can get them on our side and they cooperate with us. So I put a lot of effort into that before I really went to the public on this.

So actually, yes, you say, I actually, I did get a very warm welcome. And we’ve had a lot of exchanges and we found a way to do it. We’ve had them on the boat for discussion. I’ve been to the port to Police aux Frontiers offices in Calais now at least twice, to discuss with them. And they’re very, all very pragmatic and obliging.

And then to the to the, to the migrant issue, it is a very, very, very sad situation. It’s a very

personally, I feel a very, very sad reflection on on the UK

using its castle,

not only its castle status, but that castle.

fact that it is surrounded by this moat of the English Channel and they require

by not having an asylum procedure on the French coast, they they make these people have to cross the channel in order to claim asylum on French or English shores. But yes, they do not know what they’re getting themselves into, really, they launching themselves out into the channel into conditions that I really doubt they understand fully tides with the currents, the weather, the distance, where they’re going, how are they going to get there?

And yeah, the Dover straits is not a friendly place for the wheel now is this this is absolutely yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. But that now they’re apparently they’re departing from quite a long stretch along the French coast are no longer focused on Calais

So that could be going southwest, passable on it could be going east, east, past to Dunkirk, you know, so, and then with the tides taken them back and forth, they could be they can find themselves anywhere within quite a large area and thereby a long way from shore if they’re not really on that Calais to Dover stretch, they can be a long way from shore.

Carlton Reid 14:18
And then what do you have to do if you spot them?

Andrew Simons 14:20
We are under obligation every ship passing the Dover straits operating in the Dover straits is under obligation to report to Dover Coast Guard, or to Cap Gris Nez on the French side, sightings of small boats.

There’s a little bit of

interpretation there because you know, anybody is allowed to be out at sea. And just because you say to small boat doesn’t mean you have to get reported. I mean, people do go around the world and all sorts of tiny things, but they don’t need to be reported as doing something wrong, you know. So these people are putting themselves out to sea in. What they are doing is something

are unsafe for themselves.

And so anyway, the first thing is, are they in danger.

So we spot one a little way off, we have the obligation to report it,

we might see people on it, we might not see people, any people on it depends how far away we are from it. And it can also be the case that the people have already been collected by the border agents, and the boat has actually been left in the water.

And I’ve had that now a couple of times that we’ve gone to investigate, and there’s been nobody on board, it’s just a drifting boat, no sign of anybody, they’ve probably been picked up. And actually, then if they if that is the case, then the border agents, mark the vessel, the votes were the number and

and that’s it, if there are people on board, then we have to think of our own safety first, were also quite a small vessel. And depending on how many they are, they can endanger our boat, if we somehow go to their rescue, and

we, you know, we can’t take an unlimited number of people on board, and that would endanger our own seaworthiness.

So we have to assess the situation, if there are people in the water, that’s a different issue, then, you know, everybody is obliged, under maritime law to go to the aid of people in distress. And that’s just what we have to do, regardless of who they are.

But we do have to be careful of our own safety, if there’s 50 people on board, we just cannot take all those people in the water, we can’t take them all on board. So but the you know, we’re in a very small, relatively small area of water. So if we report it, the the Coast Guard’s are going to be here, probably even almost just as quick as if we go to them. So we would stand by and make sure nobody is really suffering, and wait for them to arrive. And then we carry on. Okay.

And just to add to that, I don’t want to also in this whole SailLink thing I don’t want to,

I don’t want to make too much of it is it is a sorry, situation. And I would like to help their plight wherever I can

legally within what we’re permitted to do and

within the tolerance of the ports and the authorities that we’re working with. But

I also don’t want to make some sort of migrant safari out of this sailing issue that people come on board and are thinking they’re going to see migrants and have a look at it. It’s a big thing in the news. And

you know, we hear is reporting to hundreds of people arriving every day on attempting the crossing. What we don’t know is how many do set off?

Carlton Reid 17:45
And how long does it take you to get across with passengers? How long is this trip going to take?

Andrew Simons 17:52
Yeah, well, it depends on the winds today, we have good winds, we set off a little late for the title window that we have, but we should be fine. Now. We can always adjust our course to suit that.

So I think yeah, today we’re easily going to manage that five hour crossing

always takes a little time to leave the ports and to get into the other end. So between harbours Yeah, I think we have a for our Crossing, it’s at maximum, it’s going to be a nice, really nice crossing today. This is, as we’ve said, this boat that we’re using, now it’s a good boat, it’s commercially coated. On paper, it’s ideal, it’s all legal. For doing this in the future we need we need a bit of a faster boat, this has got a accommodation, you know, quite nice accommodation on board, all the facilities, we don’t need that.

We need a larger boat to get 12 people on and potentially their bikes, and to go faster.

A longer boat means going faster.

Carlton Reid 18:54
And then I mean those those big boats over there, they’re year round, you’re gonna be nowhere I can imagine at the moment doing something like from April to October, so Easter to sometime in the autumn.

Andrew Simons 19:09
Because, yeah, in winter, it’s when the big storms arrive. I don’t think many people are going to be wanting to come, we’re going to be setting off in dark in the darkness arriving in darkness.

It’s going to be a bit miserable, the boat will take a lot of beating. You know, it’ll take a lot of wear and tear in the winter. And I don’t think we’ll get much return for that and we need a time off. It’s going to be for the crew quite a demanding job. I hope it’s going to be really really rewarding and good job. But they need a time off in the winter. We need time to just get the boat back in shape for the next season. Make any improvements so no

additions, changes, all that sort of thing.

Carlton Reid 19:52
And how much is it gonna cost?

Andrew Simons 19:55
I don’t know. The moment we’ve got the prices that we’ve published.

And that’s simply based on

me putting that into my calculations, and together with sort of ideas on average passenger numbers and the number of days that we will be sailing, which are based on historical weather data.

But that can all be improved, with a better boat to have a better boat that can handle the conditions that meet, that we can go out in stronger conditions, but the cost the passengers remain comfortable and confident, then we can continue sailing longer, we’ll have clear cut off conditions where we simply say we can’t go out in that. But you know, with modern

today’s weather forecasting, we know about that at least two days in advance, so we can give our passengers prior warning and, and then the contingency plan is, if it’s still not too severe, then they can go on the normal ferry.

Or they can choose to alter the

travel and travel with us another time or they this is the thing I think with people travelling by bikes, and like brand is doing is pilgrimage. I think if people are already on this, they’re already out for some adventure, they have some flexibility with their bikes, I hope we can accommodate we can both work together to to, to build in this flexibility if needed,

without too much

discomfort to people’s plans.

So I think, you know, this sailing isn’t for everybody. I understand that fully. We don’t want everybody we have 12 places.

And but the people I think the people who will be appealing to

may be willing to also accept a little bit of flexibility. You’ve had to wait a little while on the quay till we got there today.

Yeah, but I think I think at the moment, that sort of special nature of the type of travel that it is, is, is okay. Yeah, we’re using natural conditions working with that. And I think I hope the passengers can accept that and tolerate that as well. And it’s also something novel for them, you know, not just to leave, according to a time a timetable

made according to I don’t know what, what, but we have our timetable is designed according to the tides, and that we can plan a year in advance, you know, the tides we know already next year, I don’t know if maybe we’re all

somewhere they’re known already many years in advance, but

so we can plan a year’s schedule. And then if we need to, we vary that a couple of days in advance. At the beginning or for the last year, let’s say we were thinking maybe we need to use have some different ports in mind. For example, on the French side, we have Calais, of course,

on the UK side we there’s not many honestly the either side of of Dover without going up to Ramsgate. There’s rye, which is not very usable for us. But maybe that could be our flexibility that we say okay, the winds are not very good that day, we’re gonna go to rye or we’re gonna go to Cali.

But I think now, it seems to be that by playing with the tides, we can actually

alter our course within this within the same overall course of trying to go between Milan and Dover for example that don’t belong we can we can alter our course

and tack and sail

and use the tides and the winds to still maintain that without I think that there’s more discomfort caused by a complete alteration the same we’re leaving from a different town or we’re going to a different town.

I want to try to avoid that if possible.

Carlton Reid 23:56
What’s your background? Andrew? Where do you come from? Why Why have you done this?

Andrew Simons 24:00
Yeah, well, this is sailing is the answer to my own.

Preferences to travel. I grew up in Yorkshire.

But for the last

quite a few years, I’ve lived in Switzerland.

Now I have a lovely family and home in Switzerland. So for several years now I’ve been travelling between Switzerland and the UK. And obviously, in the early years, I used the plane and I stopped doing that and use the Eurostar

done the ferries. My background is that I was I started off as a wooden boat builder,

working in various places, also went to Switzerland doing boat building actually, funnily enough with the opportunity to work in Bern in this capital city. I’d always worked on the peripheries of the coast. So that was quite an opportunity and then stayed in Switzerland and then I


I went retrained, studied environmental science and worked in the field of lifecycle assessment of transport and energy systems.

And so I guess what I’ve done is to combine all those sorts of things and the awareness through lifecycle assessment, and environmental impacts, human health impacts, all that sort of thing. And my own needs to get back and forth.

What I’ve also done in the last few years, is to revive my boatbuilding.

And to use that to help

cargo sailing

enterprises, there’s now been a resurgence that say of transporting products across the oceans, using sailing vessels. And that’s mainly Fairtrade organic, you know, nicely produced products such as coffee, cacao and rum.

And then selling in the markets in Europe. And they these ships, particularly the Tres Hombres, run by fairtransport, that goes back to Holland every year, after it’s done, its circuits. And then it has a big refit, like a renovation every year. And I go and help with that, because that has a wooden, they have wooden planks on steel frames. So I go and we there’s always a lot of work being done there. Lots of planks being done. So I go from Switzerland to Holland,

put in a load new planks and then go home again. And that’s my involvement there. And I’ve had the opportunity to sail with them. But it’s also inspired me to think, well, if this can work for cargo, then what about passengers.

So I’ve brought all of that together, the living in Switzerland, the being from the UK, the travelling experiences, the lifecycle assessment, all of that. Also, of course, I love sailing. And it actually started in the idea site in 2019. I went with my teenage daughter, from Cherbourg, in France, to Poole in Dorset to do a little bit of the southwest coast path. And so we were out for exactly for that for that a little bit of adventure. And we were thinking well, I was wondering, well, maybe one of the sail cargo ships just happens to be passing and they can take us across. And of course, they weren’t at that time. So we had to go with the big ferry.

And we arrived in Cherbourg by train. And then we walked to the ferry terminal. And in doing that, we passed the harbour with the yachts and small boats in two minutes down the road from the train station. And then we continue to walk for another hour and a half to get to the ferry terminal. And of course, in that time, we thought, Well, why do we need to go out to the ferry terminal? Sure, we can go on one of these boats. And that sparked the whole thing. And I started looking into it. And the thing is, I was thinking then to start up some sort of platform whereby all these boats that align in all these harbours can get used to take people across. But as soon as you start getting into commercial


then you need commercial certification of the vessel. The skipper needs to be commercially certified, and 99% of the boats out there do not have that. So

unless you’re having some sort of other exchange

is not permissible.

So that’s led it down this part of a boat specifically for this purpose with a professional crew

and operating on a very tight for shedule.

Carlton Reid 28:50
Can I ask about your wife?

Andrew Simons 28:53
my wife? Yeah.

Carlton Reid 28:54
Because your wife does bicycle infrastructure.

Getting people on bikes basically. Yeah, in a town or city in Switzerland.

Andrew Simons 29:06
That’s right. My wife runs the

is she’s she’s the head of the planning department for foot and for pedestrian and bicycle

planning for the city of Bern in Switzerland.

We were also very keen cyclists; we cycle as everyday cyclists.

But she does that professionally. Yeah. And of course in sailing, she’s a absolutely vital part of

this whole thing. I can’t do it without her, you know, she goes off to work.

And I get the the the possibility to develop this business.

And then from a professional point of view, yeah, she she’s

already involved in that and


very much helps to encourage and inform

the whole cycle the whole side of it with passengers with bicycles, yep.

Sailing, we’ve talked about the experiences of the sea and, and this is also a real a really serious sailing experience you’re sailing across international waters

on the open sea on a very tidally titled stretch of water. And you only really get to do this if you have connections with people with boats or you’re part of a club, it’s quite an exclusive thing. And so sailing is really a key part of it is to offer that just by buying a ticket for I think not that much

and gain that opportunity.

Also for children for groups for in the future also for people with wheelchairs, we want to be able to get bikes on and off easily but also people and people in wheelchairs. So

you know really open it up to to whoever wants to come.

Carlton Reid 31:04
And we’re arriving into Bolougne, fantastic voyage across, with the orange Harvest Moon. But now I’m going to hand over to David for a short break.

David Bernstein 31:16
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Carlton Reid 35:51
Thanks, David. And we are back and I’m back on the boat the ferry across and we’re leaving Boulogne now. And we are going to be about four or five hours before we’re in Dover. But we have a new passengers on board who are going to go all the way across to the UK.

Brandt Williamson 36:12
I am Brandt Williamson from Virginia in the United States.

Small town called Delaplane.

hadn’t been overseas in quite some time and very, very excited about this experience. So it’s already been quite an experience.

Carlton Reid 36:29
And what do you do when you’re in America? What do you do for a living for a profession?

Brandt Williamson 36:32
I’m a physician. I’m an emergency room doc.

Carlton Reid 36:35
And then if you hadn’t gone across the channel in a sailboat because the sail has now gone up a massive sail above our heads.

If you weren’t taking a sailboat across the channel, how would you have got across?

Brandt Williamson 36:47
Well, actually, this whole trip, my whole trip has kind of evolved. Originally, I was going to take the Chunnel across and then I realised well like that’s not going to be the most efficient way to do this. If I’m going to be going down to Dover walking,

because I don’t think you can get on to the channel there need to go back track to where you came from. So then I was just looking at going on one of these massive ferries that takes people across. But when I found out this was available, that was not that was not even a consideration anymore.

Carlton Reid 37:22
So eco we’re not burning any fuel here to get across is that was that part of the consideration?

Brandt Williamson 37:30
I think it’s part of the consideration. It’s also just the adventure of it all. This is just more adventurous than jumping on a car ferry.

Robert Tickner 37:39
I am Robert Tickner.

Carlton Reid 37:41
And Robert, what are you doing today? Why are you going across the channel in this eco friendly way? Or have I just preempted the question?

Wayne Godfrey

Robert Tickner 37:50
You have to a certain extent, yes. It’s it’s kind of a bucket list item.

You know,

I’ve always been looking for an opportunity to sell across the channel. And then I saw this this come up. I thought okay, that’s quite interesting.

Carlton Reid 38:06
How do you say where do you say it actually came up?

Robert Tickner 38:09
In a different publication with the independent Simon Calder. He’s he mentioned it and said that this was going to start, and I follow him on a regular basis. And I thought, yeah, that sounds great. Let’s do that.

Carlton Reid 38:21
And you’ve never been on a boat as small as this before always, maybe not across such a channel as La Manche?

Robert Tickner 38:30
Yeah, exactly. I mean, I’ve been on even smaller boats than this, but sitting not on a seagoing basis. So yeah, this is a bit of a new experience.

Carlton Reid 38:39
And what do you do for a living? Your Brussels based?

Robert Tickner 38:42
Yeah, I’m Brussels based. Yeah, indeed. So actually, I’m the head of PR for Toyota in Europe. So the other aspects of this is the sustainability angle, which, which has, you know, to Earth is very interested in that kind of activity. So looking at what’s happening here, I think aligns well with what I do on a daily basis.

Carlton Reid 39:01
And this has got some electric onboard

power certainly out of the harbour. Is that an interest of yours with Toyota?

Robert Tickner 39:12
Yes, indeed, we have a hydrogen fuel cell technology which

is also used for electric power. And we do have some, some prototype electric boats using hydrogen fuel cells

working on a on a transatlantic Trans Pacific bases. So I think it’s definitely something of the future and allied with sail. I think it can be a real boon.

Carlton Reid 39:38
So you’ve come across

from Brussels on the train. I presume?

Robert Tickner 39:43
I drove from Brussels to Calais.

Carlton Reid 39:45
You work for Toyota, of course you’ll drive, what a silly question? Okay, so,

okay, yes, a bit. Yeah. And you’ve parked up and you’ve you’ve got to here. What are you doing across there in Dover?

Robert Tickner 39:58
So I’m back I’m gonna get off this

Uh, I’m going to hop for it to the ferry terminal and go straight back to how you’re doing the full the full treatment and excursion. Yeah, I need to get back in, in Brussels for tomorrow morning.

Carlton Reid 40:12
What time is that? What time do you have to get to Dover?

Robert Tickner 40:17
Well, the ferry’s due leave at 10 to seven.

As well as a passenger, I need to be there about an hour and a half beforehand,

Carlton Reid 40:25
you should be fine. So because you were tracking the journey when you enter in vesselfinder last night.

Robert Tickner 40:30
I tracked it yesterday. And it took me six hours to get across. But I think if it’s six hours today, or less than I should be fine. You don’t have to run too fast to get to the ferry termina. It’s the hour and a half I have to be there beforehand, which is problematic.

Carlton Reid 40:48
And not every ferry company that goes from Dover will would accept you as a pedestrian or if you had a bike. So you basically they’re favouring car passengers,

Robert Tickner 40:58
They are there at the moment, which is a bit of a shame. I mean,

Unknown Speaker 41:00
the P&O are doing this, they’re not doing it for all of their crossings, just just a few . But the one that I’m targeting is the last one. So if I don’t make it then it’s gonna be a B&B in Dover.

Tom Treasure 41:15
I’m Tom treasure.

Caroline Tyndall 41:17
I am Caroline Tyndall.

Carlton Reid 41:19
Okay, and welcome on board. Why, why are you doing today’s trip?

Caroline Tyndall 41:25
Well, I saw the information about SailLink in a local newspaper.

Carlton Reid 41:35
French, expats or French, fully French.


Caroline Tyndall 41:42
And I said to Tom, that sounds really interesting. And I’ve always wanted to sail across the channel. And as Boulogne is just down the coast from where we live, it couldn’t have been more convenient. And so we looked at the website and managed to secure two places for sailing today, which we’re very grateful.

Very easy for us to live we just drove down to Boulogne and parked very near the port. And the plan is to stay tonight in Dover.

and then come back to Calais tomorrow on P&O ferry, which is now allowing passengers after a long time.

So it’s a bit of a round trip.

Very enjoyable.

Carlton Reid 42:37
Yeah, well you’ve got some good weather. I was lucky yesterday.

Caroline Tyndall 42:41
A couple of days ago that was

sa y in French “souffle tempête”

Carlton Reid 42:48
That means a storm? Okay.

Caroline Tyndall 42:52
So Tom is a retired doctor

a rofessor cardiac surgery and so he’s still writing

papers for

medical journals.

Carlton Reid 43:09
So obviously this trip is attracting doctors

Tom Treasure 43:13
Yes, well


a lot of doctors go sailing it’s a favourite thing you know you have a boat keep boats on the channel Coast if any of my friends had boats but they might sell two weeks a year you know, but very busy. Yeah, and the channel is often inhospitable for the fun sailor.

But today it’s

always slightly envious but never really wanted to commit to a boat myself anymore because it doesn’t have to pass so she did have their time

Carlton Reid 43:51
and money

Tom Treasure 44:01
shred them under a shower.

Carlton Reid 44:02
That’s so this is this is poor man’s version of that so you’re you’re you’re going on a boat, but you’re not actually owning the boat and people are having to keep it exactly. You’re fostering this this ferry?

Tom Treasure 44:15
Yeah, well, it’s a very nice idea because crossing the Channel simply without having to take a car every time.

It’s something we lost for a while. I could do it again.

Wayne Godfrey 44:28
I am Wayne Godfrey.

Carlton Reid 44:29
Why are you doing this?

Wayne Godfrey 44:31
Making making the most of my time on the planet. I sort of read it in a local newspaper

and thought what a fab thing to do, combined with the opportunity to ride my bike, simple pleasures.

Carlton Reid 44:45
Wayne, what do you do for a living?

Wayne Godfrey 44:47
I am a removals man, which I find very enjoyable. It’s very physic, physical, physically active, physical when you’re part of people’s journey.

make people happy to bring calm to a situation.

Carlton Reid 45:03
So Wayne tell me your journey what when did you start and what have you been doing?

Wayne Godfrey 45:08
Started Friday morning, got the 9.15 ferry across in, arrived in Calais just before lunch, pedalled my bike down to Boulogne. Just do a record of where the sailing was from on Sunday.

Spent a pleasant evening in Boulogne. And then headed out

Saturday morning down past le Touquet into Berck. Again, some fantastic beaches, some fantastic cyclin. I can recommend France to everyone. And yeah, had a nice evening. Not too much to do there. But again, it’s what you make it and then headed out this morning bright and early. Watched the sunrise which again, I’d recommend everyone done now and again to make the most of every day. And yeah, cycled consistently 40 kilometres from Birck to Boulogne. Yeah, French road drivers are very considerare. And I had a wonderful time I’ve been on bike paths even on roads we’ve been on all mix yet.

The even in France, they accommodate bikes very well along. Most routes have a bike path. Again, it’s a road cycling again, the roadss in France are much more cycle friendly than in Britain. And yeah, the weather has been absolutely phenomenal. But again, it’s what you make it

as long as you’ve got warm clothing on top you

can generally tolerate most weathers. And I haven’t not worn shorts for five years because my skin is waterproof.

Yeah, I got soaked when I headed out from Margate on 6.30 Friday morning, but once I was when I was wet and I wasn’t cold. So yeah.

It was a very pleasant cycle as well.

Carlton Reid 47:06
So is this the kind of journey you would do


Wayne Godfrey 47:11
It’s just I would say this

journey again and again. And again. Because it’s therapeutic. It’s environmentally friendly.

To spend your time, I find it’s always good to take time out for yourself, and do what makes you happy if something doesn’t make you happy.

Carlton Reid 47:30
Now when we get to the other side, how far you got to ride, what are you doing?

Wayne Godfrey 47:39
From Dover to my house is three hours cycling and it’s quite hilly and it’s about pushing yourself but there’s also within and making it enjoyable as well. So I’ll shift cycle to the train station and to get home and

Carlton Reid 47:58
where’s that where’s home?

Wayne Godfrey 47:59
home is sunny Margate, which I’ve been here for about 10 years now. And I used to live in the inner city. And it’s something so therapeutic about seeing the sea every day. And just being peaceful really.

The older I get, the more I try and deliver myself places under my own steam. Because I don’t find for most people it’s about the destination whereas myself, it’s part of the journey and the destination. I go to the Lake District, by train and by bicycle and a few times to come off the mountain. And I think I would like my car but once I start pedalling I’m free and I love it.

Carlton Reid 48:46
Thanks to Andrew Simons and SailLink’s first passengers for talking to me on what was a wonderful crossing between Dover and Boulogne and back again. Thanks also to you for listening to Episode 306 of the Spokesmen cycling podcast. Show notes and more can be found as always on The next episode is a chat with Cat who is a local organiser of a Kiddical Mass ride. That show will be out in a day or two. But meanwhile, get out there and ride …

August 29, 2022 / / Blog

29th August 2022

The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast

EPISODE 305: Sexy Urban Bike: In Conversation with Knog CEO Hugo Davidson

SPONSOR: Tern Bicycles

HOST: Carlton Reid

GUEST: Hugo Davidson, CEO, Knog

TOPICS: Knog, 20 years young this year, started with a scattergun portfolio of bike products, a messy mix of messenger bags, shoes and cycling gloves, tapping into the zeitgeisty fixie-cum-singlespeed scene of the early to mid 2000s. But there was also the Tadpole, a LED handlebar light with front and rear facing LEDs. This turned out to be the Australian design company’s breakthrough product, far more in demand from a global audience than the eye-of-the-beholder soft goods. But it was the next LED offering which made the company’s fortune. Shaking up the technical but staid lighting market, Knog’s halo product was the Frog, a silicone-covered LED that, with its much copied stretchy tail, could be easily, quickly and securely strapped and unstrapped from seat posts and handlebars. More than 10 million of these iconic bike lights been sold since 2006.

In this half-hour episode you’ll hear how Hugo invested to protect the company’s IP and how the edgy marketing of its early days — a punk messenger aesthetic — morphed as Knog matured.


Carlton Reid 0:13
Welcome to Episode 305 of the Spokesmen cycling podcast. This show was recorded on Monday 29th of August 2022.

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 caring another adult, visit www.tern That’s t e r n to learn more.

Carlton Reid 1:02
Knog, 20 years young this year, started with a scattergun portfolio of bike products, a messy mix of messenger bags, shoes and cycling gloves, tapping into the zeitgeisty fixie-cum-singlespeed scene of the early to mid 2000s. But there was also the Tadpole, a LED handlebar light with front and rear facing LEDs. This turned out to be the Australian design company’s breakthrough product, far more in demand from a global audience than the eye-of-the-beholder soft goods. But it was the next LED offering which made the company’s fortune. Shaking up the technical but staid lighting market, Knog’s halo product was the Frog, a silicone-covered LED that, with its much copied stretchy tail, could be easily, quickly and securely strapped and unstrapped from seat posts and handlebars. More than 10 million of these iconic bike lights been sold since 2006. I’m Carlton Reid and today I’m talking with Knog’s co-founder and CEO Hugo Davidson. I’ve been reporting on the company from the very beginning, including trade mag scoops on Knog’s successful sashays into the world of copyright infringement protection.

The Chinese-made Frog was easy to copy leading to what could have been crushing sales losses for the putative innovator. In this half-hour episode you’ll hear how Hugo invested to protect the company’s IP and how the edgy marketing of its early days — a punk messenger aesthetic — morphed as Knog matured.

Hugo, people listening to to this will, I’m sure know your product. They perhaps have had a Knog Blinder, or any of the other ones that you’ve brought out over the years or perhaps even sad to say the copies that have come on the market. And you did.

Hugo Davidson 3:23
There’s been a few of those.

Carlton Reid 3:24
Yep, absolutely. There has. But I know where you’ve come from because I was there when you first sprang on the on the scene in the early 2000s. But but tell everybody else, because you weren’t originally lights. You had a broad, a very broad portfolio of products, didn’t you?

Hugo Davidson 3:44
We did. Yeah. And yeah, it’s interesting. You were there, you were one of the first to, I suppose recognise maybe the potential, maybe just that there were a couple of, of guys who really didn’t know much about the bike industry.

So we this is our 20th year this year. So we’re having an anniversary, which is very exciting. And we stemmed from design, consulting background. And so we’ve been designing and developing products for all sorts of other companies doing computers and mobile phones and toasters and kettles, the typical sorts of industrial design products that you would you would associate with a design company.

And then back then in around 2002, we wanted to develop our own product. So the the idea I think, stemmed from one of our employees who had worked at a bike store, and that was about as close as we come to bikes besides the fact that we, you know, we rode bikes when we were a little bit younger, and so we It wasn’t necessarily a passion for the sport. It was a passion for products and

developing things that were unique and were different. And so we thought it was a great industry because the people were very

straight up and there was they had a passion for what they did. And that was far more exciting to us than maybe

working with consumer electronics, per se. And so

Carlton Reid 5:24
Hugo, can we just stop there? Can we could Can you just define “we” and where because it was telling me the company name and your company, founder, co founder. And where you are, because we have only discussed where you work is your Copenhagen, where Knog is based?

Hugo Davidson 5:41
We’re from Melbourne, Australia. And Malcolm McKechnie, who’s my business partner, and an engineer, and myself,

who I’m an industrial designer by profession. We had had this consulting company back in Melbourne working for all sorts of company. So it was one of our employees back then who was a designer who said, look, the bike industry has lots of generic Chinese products.

And really, there’s so much scope for doing something which is different. So we started exploring that. And that’s when we realised, look at this, these, these lights really don’t offer anyone terribly much. anything terribly exciting. If you remember back 20 years ago, a black light was to double double A batteries and a couple of little LEDs.

And that was a really, you know, that was starting to use halogen lights for the front. And there was. So we started doing that. But we realised very quickly that we could, you know, there was, there were shoes that people needed, and all black shoes look the same. So we thought, let’s look at let’s look at some shoes that are completely different. We did waterproof jackets. And in fact, one of the first distribution partners we met was a British company called Extra.

And Brian, I met at one of the bike shows. And he said to me, you know, there’s lots of opportunity, because it’s so wet in the UK, you should be focusing on these sorts of products. Another distributor, we may have, we found in Australia that I think you should be doing this sort of a product, so and they were looking looking at luggage, so we ended up doing

luggage, saddlebags, backpacks, you know, all these sort of things, we and the other thing, which was interesting, from our perspective, probably I don’t know if it was interesting for anyone else’s. But we because we’d had a consulting company, we had really very strong

links with a lot of manufacturers in China, who worked in particular areas. And so some were some worked with fabrics and textiles, some work with luggage. And all these are all areas that I designed products for in a previous life, probably in the previous 10 years. And so we just went back to the same factories and said, Look, you know, would you be interested in working with us on a new range of bags.

And so it was a very easy, quick entry for us into the industry with products that

we could manufacture and sample quickly. And so we turned up to the first, our first tradeshow in Taiwan,

with just a hand a bag full of samples that were we had no idea if anyone would buy them. And we had no idea if there was any interest in them. And we’d we’d gone to one of the factories that made bike lights and picked a few of their products that we thought we could re-badge as well, which we don’t do anymore. But that was our first strategy as well. Plus this very unique bike light, which plugged into the end of your handlebar, which was our first real product.

So that’s how we started it was it was a sporadic approach across a whole range of different products based on the background we had as a design company. And it was it was so exciting. I just remember thinking, oh my goodness, we’re, I think that first trade show we we ended up signing up 16 countries and we looked at each other I think I think we’ve got a business here you know, I think we’re

so that was really the that was the start

20 years ago so yeah, fascinating.

Carlton Reid 9:31
Well, congrats and happy birthday. Now I’m looking at one of my original stories through the beauty of archiving on the web. And it’s not my first story that must have been in like in Bikebiz the mag but I can see on the website by I can see for 2003 that that you had 35 cycling accessories at that time, which is clearly massive. So you must have very, very quickly whittled that down

So is it just what sold the most? Or cos you said you know, Brian from Extra say do this and your other people? So how do you kind of like fixate on the handlebar? Light?

Which then, you know, which then developed into the silicone, you know, wrap around light, which is

for I say know you for anyway. So how did you very quickly narrow it down?

Hugo Davidson 10:29
Look, we had

probably the 2003 or thereabout anyway, we maybe I can’t exactly remember that the year when we did develop the first of the silicon lights. And they really were the that was the product that captured people’s imaginations that predominantly because it was it was a redefinition of what of how you put a bike light on your bike and how easy it was, and, and colour. I mean, everything before that was black. So we’ve ordered that in 12 colours. And so the end, the success of that particular product of the first little Frog light meant that we ended up with a Beetle and a Bullfrog and a Toad. And, you know, we ended up with a 1,2,3,4,5 different LED products for front and rear and

and it was at that point, actually, that the these early distributors that we had picked up in different regions, looked at and said,

these are clearly the front runner, these are the things that sell most, why I don’t really want to have a warehouse full of bags. And I don’t really want to have you know, clothes are difficult. They okay, we like what you’ve done, but they’re not your core skill, you know, could you please not design not develop any more products quickly, because we can, we can’t afford to put them in our warehouse. So we were very unique, not unique. Naively, we were of the opinion that we’ll just design anything, and people will buy it.

And we found that very, very quickly that that product sold in America has to be a very different product to those sold in Europe. And similarly something sold in Switzerland is very different from something’s obvious that Spain

or South nearly so every, every region has a particular nuance or requirement and learning that was probably the well, we had some very understanding distributors who just sort of bought things because we made them and then told us six months later that they hadn’t sold and that they wouldn’t buy anymore. So it wasn’t like it wasn’t very long before we realised that lighting was our feet. And that’s where we, you know, we, we were most successful. And so we really just, we just decided that we would focus our efforts in trying to actually master what it was as a lighting company in relation to optics and performance and function. And when we did that things

were very much more focused. And our approach was very much more focused.

Carlton Reid 13:05
So quite apart from the brilliance of that, that Frog light, which I remember vividly, I remember,

probably hadn’t got them in the garage today, in fact, orange ones and you said that there’s lots of different colours there. But I remember vividly the orange ones and how they wrapped around and that definitely was was very different for the time, but quite apart from that you are known certainly for the first few years.

A good five years probably for your really your your punk marketing. And and your your show. Sure, you’re probably told by your distributors. Why are you doing here? This is so out there. Because you were really, really out there weren’t you?

Hugo Davidson 13:47
We we loved I mean, you got to understand, I suppose, having worked. For my perspective, he worked in a consulting company where you would provide some ideas for someone and your client typically would choose the most conservative idea.

Suddenly having an opportunity to to build a brand

yourself and to to determine the tone and the approach yourself without anyone saying that you could or you could do it was absolutely liberating. And so I mean, we had we were very lucky because the the chap that we’d found to help us with all the marketing, it was himself a genius, Michael Lelliot. He was a creative. Yeah, he was really out there and had worked with brands like Crumpler in the past. And he came to us and said, you know, guys, I know you want this to be a brand about safety and but safety is not that sexy.

What I think I think what we should do if you really want to make a difference, we should. The key phrase for that or the byline should be “sexy

urban bike.” And you know, that’s what people are after they. So I was listening intently trying to work out what that meant for me and suddenly realised that when the first images for the catalogue came out there were there was a lot of imagery, which I wasn’t expecting.


it was it and it was polarising. It was, it was no question it, it got it, it grabbed people’s attention. I, you could recognise suddenly the engaging the engagement from everyone around you. And of course,

you don’t deny that you sit back go well, if that’s what’s going to happen. If we do this sort of thing, then I think that’s a that’s let’s start here and see where it goes to. So

Carlton Reid 15:46
let’s just describe Mike because Mike, Mike’s a tall guy.

A bicycle messenger type aesthetic. So here’s tall, cycling cap, beard,

Hugo Davidson 16:01
Big red beard, deep, very thick rimmed glasses looks a little bit like a gnone on steroids.

And he needed a look at when he started with us. He

he was far more conservative, but I think he took on the brand as well. And so he was with us for quite some time. Really, until I think we realised that the, you know, we had a polarised

a large portion of the market that were that, that no longer wanted to buy our products, and people were growing up. And the fixed gear scene had moved from being fixed gear and those cyclists were moving on. And we were at risk of actually just becoming irrelevant, because we’d sort of had moved with time. So

you know, Mike had had made incredible impression and was quite happy then to move on to other projects. And, and we decided we would try and sort of consolidate consolidate what we’re doing and broaden our appeal a little bit more see became like,

Carlton Reid 17:04
You went to the adolescent phase in effect and you’ve mature, but those those early days, they still they I’m sure lots of people who are back there in the day will will still associate you with those old days, because that absolutely propelled your brand quite a pop and the brilliance of the product. It was the brilliance of of the market that you can’t sustain that clearly, because there was some very anarchic marketing going on those and I remember some incredible Euro bike booths with was it like, Action Man and and Barbie dolls, you know intertwined in strange ways? Yeah, there’s some, there’s some pretty strange stuff out there. But then that just propelled you into a moment mature company, because you couldn’t sustain that.

Hugo Davidson 17:52
So I think that’s true. And I and I do think too, given I mean, it wasn’t just Mike. We have, we had a whole stable of people. And what I loved about that particular period of time, is that if you provide people with the licence to go and do, you know, to work within a framework, and to have fun, then they did so the people who were designing the the trade shows and the booths and the exhibitions, along with all the trends in the photography in the video. There will, there were a lot of people involved, and everyone just was we were having a lot of fun, I think I think it showed.

So I think we still have a lot of fun, but it’s just that I’m 20 years older than I was back then. Yes, you say it’s not sustainable. Yeah.

Carlton Reid 18:38
And then with the success of a product that is groundbreaking, and is new, you very quickly suffered from from knockoffs. So you’ve had a fair few intellectual property fights over the years. Would that be fair?

Hugo Davidson 18:53
We have Yep. Yeah. And we quite and thank you, Carlton, for your support over the years, because you’ve actually been very, I suppose, influential in your ability to report on those. And that’s been great that we, we take it very seriously. And

we certainly didn’t initially, because we didn’t realise how it would impact our business. And when the first of the knockoff silicon products came, I think our sales dropped by 50% in six months.

So we really went from from writing quite a high

you know, being on a bit of a high and then realising that actually, no one everyone was associating the silicone products with cheap Chinese products. They’d lost their

their boutique interest and they would ever they were flooded the market. So we had to change approach. The first patent I think we wrote we wrote ourselves because we couldn’t afford to get a patent attorney

And we held that up, and they laughed at it. So we started getting proper advice from intellectual lawyers, property lawyers. And we from that point on we’ve registered and or patented every design that we’ve done.

And it’s been really interesting because while it’s very expensive to run a patent case, and actually chase people down,

it has been a great way of stopping Chinese factories copying, and probably the most effective was a few years ago, when

we’d found that there was a company who had blatantly copied our products, and was advertising and they were going to show it your bike, and we knew, we managed to get the customs police to


take everything, they stand out and removed all the products from the stand. And we got some of the international press to to record that. So when that happened, and it was sort of broadcast to the world. It clearly the Chinese factory suddenly took notice. And we’ve had very, very few direct copies from that point on. Because I think people realise that we take it seriously. You know, does it does work? It’s expensive.

Carlton Reid 21:18
It must take a big part of your budget, I’m guessing, to protect IP?

Hugo Davidson 21:23
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. It does. Yeah, it’s probably half a million dollars a year we’ve spent on intellectual property, which is, you know, it’s an awful amount. That’s the sort of straight profit that goes back in but it does allow us to, to stop

to stop the copy products. And there’s also a wonderful company in Italy, that that now searches the web for any Chinese copies, and it’s like whack a mole, and they actually shut them down. So that’s another part of the strategy. And together I think

all of these things help to, to fight and to ensure that if a company like ours is being innovative, and is developing products that are unique, and we invest so much energy and time and

add passion in coming up with something that’s new, then it’s only fair that someone else shouldn’t profit from that. So, you know, I’m a very strong believer that that’s, that’s the way we’ve got to go.

David Bernstein 22:20
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Carlton Reid 26:55
Because you then branched out or

eight years ago maybe with with the bell. So that was a kickstarter. Didn’t you do that that was a Kickstarter product to begin with we yeah, we did.

Hugo Davidson 27:07
We did. We’ve done a few things on Kickstarter. And so the Oi bell was

pretty, it’s actually probably been our most

successful product as far as just sales. It’s one of the products I’m most proud of, because it does sort of redefine what a bicycle bell is. And we had this crazy idea that that’s, you know,

kicked out as a great way of marketing products as well as selling them. And so we thought that’s what would happen if we put it up there because it was so unique. And

it was it had a crazy response calendar, we ended up with a video

that you put up on the Kickstarter site, I think that was viewed 580,000 times. In those 30 days the campaign was running.

And we raised I think, 1.2 million Australian dollars or something like that. And we sold it into

40,000 Bells into 92 countries or something crazy, like the stats were incredible.


it was such a great marketing tool. Because all of the I think bike stores typically look to kick started generally just out of curiosity to see what is coming up. And so our distributors were getting calls left, right and centre from, from companies who often retailers who wanted to get their hands on this belt, you know, when’s it coming? When’s it coming? So, I think was, at this point in time, we’ve probably sold over 4 million units since that point,

which is, you know, that’s a fantastic achievement. And it’s just one of those those things that,

you know, we we didn’t know how long it would last. But I think it’s really has

found a place within sort of bike culture is a piece, it’s a piece of equipment that people really like to have on their bikes.

Carlton Reid 28:59
It’s simple, very loud. And well and striking, you could say literally, literally striking.

So again, that’s kind of your ethos of doing something quite interesting and different. And then do it really, really well. If you don’t mind me saying.

Hugo Davidson 29:18
Thank you. Yeah, no, thank you. And look, that’s, that’s what I say. I’m quite proud of it. It’s it came around the sort of philosophy that we wanted something that was more like jewellery for your bike, you know, something that was that was

people say to us, road cyclists don’t use bells. And that’s quite true and fair enough to because they’re bloody ugly, and they’re,

they’re a stain on what could be a beautiful bike. So we just said about trying to develop something which which would be sympathetic to the bike and where people would look at the product and go, Oh, my God, I love that. Then and that’s, I mean, that’s sort of what we try to do with all our products. You know, it’s got to have something

trigger something is unique and something that makes people go oh, yeah, that’s great. So people still doing that with the way bell I show people who haven’t seen it and sort of reaction. Yeah. So it’s, it’s a lovely, it’s, that’s the satisfaction you get as a designer. I think if you walk down the street and you see something like that on someone’s back, it’s nice. They appreciate it.

Carlton Reid 30:23
Let me go back to that story I did a few years 19 years ago, in which I actually used a bit of Shakespeare to introduce the word. No, because I back in those days, where did not come from. And and there’s a there’s a Shakespeare in phrase where he says, I will “knog his urinals.”. So when it was I was looking at your, you know, your anarchic punk phase, I thought, well, maybe that’s where that came from. But then you told me back in the day that no, it’s not it was just the noggin. The head is that right?

The Merry Wives of Windsor, Act III Scene I, A field near Frogmore:

SIR HUGH EVANS: “Pless my soul, how full of chollors I am, and trempling of mind! I shall be glad if he have deceived me. How melancholies I am! I will knog his urinals about his knave’s costard when I have good opportunities for the ork. ‘Pless my soul!”

Hugo Davidson 30:58
Yes, it’s not as exciting as your “knog your urinals”

we, I know, you told me that with great, great, great glee and pleasure. I think

it’s interesting, I think, I’m not sure

if we would have named it that had that.

We, yes, look, we were the first products we were looking at developing for for ourselves under this brand was were helmets. And

we ended up not doing how much but that was that was the idea. And so I we were trying to find a name that

for helmets that would work and noggin was where it stemmed from and then clearly, I can’t spell save myself. So we put a silent K in front of it and thought if we, if we reduce it to a four letter word that we can get a good website and, and something which is sort of recognisable. And we also, I mean, interestingly 20 years ago,

there was quite a if you are an Australian brand, or if you’re an Australian, you didn’t really want to associate yourself with Australia, there was in Australia, you would have, you know, flying kangaroos, and there would be Australian-made, it was always sort of very

I thought it was crass anyway. So we were happy to be considered as more European style and Knog had a certain ring about it was that maybe more Scandinavian than Australian so so it was just for those all those reasons we thought that’s it’s a, it’s a vessel. It’s an empty vessel. We’ll use it and we’ll fill it up with our own meaning. So that was that was where it came from.

Carlton Reid 32:39
Thanks to Hugo Davidson of Knog, and thanks to you for listening to Episode 305 of the Spokesmen cycling podcast, show notes and more can be found at Episode 306 will be out next month. But meanwhile, get out there and ride

August 10, 2022 / / Blog

10th August 2022

The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast

EPISODE 304: In conversation with e-bike guru Ed Benjamin

SPONSOR: Tern Bicycles

HOST: Carlton Reid

GUEST: Ed Benjamin

TOPICS: The growth of electric bikes since the 1990s and their future, with e-bike guru Ed Benjamin.


Carlton Reid 0:12
Welcome to Episode 304 of The Spokesmen cycling podcast. This show was published on Wednesday 10th of August 2022..

David Bernstein 0:23
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 caring another adult, visit www.tern That’s t e r n to learn more.

Carlton Reid 1:03
Hey there I’m Carlton Reid and on today’s show I’m glad to welcome back e-bike guru Ed Benjamin. Veteran e-bike guru Ed Benjamin, the go-to guy for e-bike growth stats and also the go-to guy for bike industry folks who want to figure out a complex sourcing challenge. And I said “welcome back” because Ed has been on the show before, but not since 2009 and I can’t link to that episode because it was recorded at the Interbike trade show in Las Vegas and was streamed live to a TV audience of … well, a TV audience. We talked for a little under an hour and you’ll soon hear why I call him a guru.

You were basically

telling the global bike industry, there was an E bike boom coming back in the days even of lead acid batteries. So 2025, perhaps even more years ago. So are we at that future? That you said back then we should expect? No, I think we are the My understanding is that

PADI IDC Staff Instructor Ed Benjamin

Ed Benjamin 2:22
No, I think we are. My understanding is that Europe, European European market is going to be about 5 million units this year. The American market is not far from a million units. I’m predicting it at 700,000 for this year, 880,000 for last year, but things are cooled off a little bit here. The Chinese market is more than 30 million. And

hey, we’re there. This is we are a significant and important part of the transportation mix for most of the world.

Carlton Reid 2:54
So you were saying that before? Well, people are saying you’re crazy. When you were saying that 25 years ago? Probably I was saying you were crazy as well, Ed. And I have known you for an awfully long time. And you were saying those things and people were going yeah, that’s not going to happen. And absolutely, as you’ve just said that it’s absolutely happened in China. First, it absolutely happened in Europe. I mean, America has been a slower burn, hasn’t it?

Ed Benjamin 3:19
You know, adoption was very quick in Asia, partly because the vehicle was perfect for the dense Lee inhabited coastal cities of Asia. And because there was strong government encouragement that the Chinese governments in particular, recognise that the small vehicle was what their people were going to use and the small vehicles were emitting a lot of pollution and they’d better do something. And so they basically provided as they put it, strong encouragement for the electric bicycle by discouraging two stroke engines by discouraging mopeds, gasoline assisted bicycles, etc.

So they were fast, you know, from the time that the technologies that enable electric bicycles to be a commercial success were available, which I’ll suggest that they were available at the correct price starting in 1994.

From 1994 to the time the Chinese were reacting was two years to the time that the Chinese electric bicycle was all over the place in many hundreds of 1000s less than 10 years. And today, there’s probably more than or something very close to 300 million electric bikes used in China, everything that acid may still lead acid mainly. Well, yeah, lead acid is still a major, major energy storage device. There’s a lot of the wire lithium is the primary battery metallurgy for the Western market. Lead Acid is still the

Primary metallurgy for most of the Asian markets with lithium making some grounds make gaining ground I should say. So yeah, and that’s been an issue, you know, lead acid batteries, they for heavy daily use, they typically last about a year, and now they need to be recycled. And, and most of the cities of Asia now have vigorous lead acid recycling,

where in the West, we are using a lot of lithium batteries. And we don’t really have a way of dealing with the old lithium batteries yet. Because in the EU that just brought in a new rule that you’re going to have to recycle those. So you say manufacturers and suppliers are going to have to do something with their then EMI and batteries.

Well, and they would say we are doing something.

And maybe a more honest thing would be for them to say, we’re in the process of figuring out what’s the best thing to do with it. An awful lot of lithium battery recycling today is shred it and put it in a landfill. But I’d like to personally, I believe that it won’t be very much longer before some of these outfits will succeed in commercially viable recovery of the lithium materials, which have a significant value.

Carlton Reid 6:19
We got somebody but you got companies like Redwood materials who are doing it for cars. So that was that was a former

executive from Tesla who realised that this is gonna be a big thing. So presumably of if Tesla can do it for a company that sprang from Tesla can do it for for cars, bikes can surely do it?

Ed Benjamin 6:38
Oh, yeah. And I think that we’re in the process of getting there. Keep in mind that the battery package for car which can be 1000s of cells, and the battery package for bike, which might be 40, maybe 60 cells, different, different size of scale. But if we look at lead acid battery recycling, which is something the western economies do very well, if I have a lead acid battery, whether it comes from a car or an electric bike, I think there are four or five places that will accept it for recycling within one mile of my home. And we’ll see the same thing happen with lithium. In the end, we’ll see the lithium recaptured lithium metal, the lithium salts have a value that are going to have more and more value as we build more and more electric vehicles that use lithium for energy storage. So we’ll get there and there’s probably some lithium guy that will be listening to this and going hey, wait a minute my company’s blah blah, blah. Yeah, we’re making progress.

Carlton Reid 7:43
Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe you’re speaking to us here from Fort Myers in Florida from Fort Myers, Florida that’s in the news at the moment is Florida I know you’re about 125 miles away from completely opposite from from the building that’s in the news at the moment but you’re in your you’re in Florida.

Ed Benjamin 8:01
I’m in Florida and we are often in the news.

Carlton Reid 8:04
Now the reason I bring up Florida because it’s I’ve never been there in the in that have never been ever but I know that in the summer. It’s meant to be incredibly brutal to live in Florida. Now. Know what correct is that?

Ed Benjamin 8:20
Oh, no. I’ve been reading about the temperatures in the UK recently. You guys have a tougher than we do. We have a lot of air conditioning you don’t.

So you know, yeah. It’s warm here in the summertime.

Carlton Reid 8:34
And that’s a different sound. Where I was going with that was just is that not just somewhere perfect for an ebike because you don’t want to sweat you don’t want to you know go on your your standard bike and ride around but you might within a bike is that well, it’s a good place for e-bikes.

Ed Benjamin 8:52
There’s a couple of markets that really stand out for the electric bike. One of the markets is the older person who wants to ride his electric bike around often in the evening, often staying in the neighbourhood and chatting with his neighbours or her neighbours. Often couples riding together and we have a lot of that in Florida we have a lot of retirees that live in areas that are quite pleasant to go for a casual ride. And they’re finding that electric bike is something that they enjoy riding, it’s easier to ride and it’s something to talk about when they when they visit with their neighbours. I look at my new electric bike. So there’s been a lot of that that market is very strong in Florida. Another. Market builders very strong is dense urban environments, cities where parking your car is a major expense or a major inconvenience. places like Boston, San Francisco, New York City, South Miami. These are all places where they have owning a car is just a pain in the butt. And in Florida we do have

have year round cycling weather, although we also have some very serious rains that visit us most afternoons in the summertime.

But that’s manageable. So yeah, so the electric bicycle in the cities of Florida, it’s a natural, but the electric bicycle in the cities of the world is unnatural. If we look at where our electric bicycles used most, the most, I would say it’s flat coastal cities all over the world.

Carlton Reid 10:27
You mentioned the oldest demographic. And of course, that’s that’s what the industry was very frightened of promoting to, and they very much wanted younger people to get into into E bikes, it took an awfully long time of marketing to that demographic. Do you think the bike industry has succeeded? Is the bike a young person’s product?

Ed Benjamin 10:47
Well, one aspect of it is yes.

There are two things that have happened. One of them is the young people, I’m talking about the United States. But I think there’s a lot of overlap here with Western Europe. The young people of America are broke, they’ve got school debt, they’ve got challenging in income issues for most of them. And owning a car is expensive. So riding a bicycle. And remember, these are young folks are still perfectly capable of riding a bicycle. But the electric bicycle means they can go farther, they can live farther away from the work or farther away from the metro station. It means that they get to work without being without perspiring without needing a shower. So we have young people turning to this as a mode of transportation that suits today’s reality. We also have them turning to it for recreation in the United States of bicycles have been sport, fitness and recreation, that we even though there’s always been a relatively small percentage of our bicycle riders that have used them for transportation, we don’t think of them as transportation now and in Asia, the first thought you have is that’s a way to get to work or that’s a way to get to the metro station or the store. And you almost see that attitude. You see it in some Western European cultures to a greater or lesser extent of bicycles transportation, of course, in America that there’s no of course, a bicycle sport, fitness and recreation but but but but but mountain bikes, ah, mountain bikes, we love go mountain biking, we love to ride off the road, and somebody has been turning gravity up every year of my life. And as they turn gravity up, I find an electric bicycle allows me to continue riding in the mountains that allows me to continue having a totally enjoyable afternoon and rather than the embarrassment of walking up the hill, the so the electric mountain bike fit very neatly into American ideas about what the bicycle should be. It’s fun. It’s it’s fitness is recreation. And it was like somebody threw opened a couple of huge doors into the electric mountain bike world and said, Come on in here. It’s fun. And I think I’m quoting Gary Fisher correctly, Gary Fisher, of course, is a an institution, a legend in the mountain bike world. And Gary said at one of the trade shows that the electric mountain bike adds 15 years to your mountain biking season.

Carlton Reid 13:21
So that worked out there. Also, there was friction there with with with getting it on to certain mountains and in certain

national year properties where the Rangers didn’t want mountain bikes to be electrified. And they didn’t even like mountain bikes if if truth be told. So there was not much in there to

know there.

Ed Benjamin 13:43
Yes, there’s, of course there’s friction there. And

but I would suggest it’s really more from other users. A few years ago, actually, a couple of decades ago, I was doing an internship in Boulder, Colorado, and I was fascinated. They have a wonderful bicycle path that goes up the mountain stream. And I was fascinated by all of the friction, I guess would be the way to put it. The dog walkers hated everybody. The roller skaters hated everybody the bicycle riders are going this is our bike path. You dog walkers and rollerbladers need to get out of our way. And then there’s the skateboarders. And then there’s mom with us baby stroller. And all of these groups were trying to share the same piece of asphalt and none of them were happy with the presence of the others. What this taught me was people are a messy bunch. I don’t care what it is how far from the road it is, or how sensible it is. Somebody is going to bitch about it. And by the way, let’s not forget the horseback riders on the mountain trails in the back country. They don’t like bicycle riders, they also don’t like walkers. So are human beings going to just instantly say, Hey, this is great. Let’s share

not my experience. So I don’t you know Yes, I observed that there is this kind of conflict I observed that P

Pull for bikes and some of the other organisations have done an awful lot of good work to try to formalise the where you can and where you shouldn’t and to negotiate peaceful coexistence as best they can. I’m really impressed with the work they’ve done. But human beings are a messy bunch. They’re gonna grow up in each other.

Carlton Reid 15:21
Tell me how you got into the bike industry. And that’s before the ebike stuff. And before you owned a bunch of bike shops in Florida, so how did you originally get into bikes?

Ed Benjamin 15:34
Alright, my first bicycle shop job was in 1969. But before that, I was working at a McDonald’s as a teenager. And there was this nutcase guy there that had this incredibly expensive bicycle, I think he paid more than $200 for it back in back in the 1960s $200, paid for a bicycle was mind bending. And this guy was a big, strong, good looking guy. He was also working in McDonald’s. And I was fascinated by his bicycle. And I said, What is this all about? This is this is a racing bicycle. It’s a real racing bicycle. And I thought that was just the coolest thing. I just was absolutely fascinated with the bike, I was fascinated with the idea of racing bicycles. And I got started racing bicycles as a result of Bob Easton and his Raleigh professional that he rode, rode to McDonald’s as his way to get to work. So I followed along behind Bob Easton, learned to be a bicycle racer, won a few races last a lot of races, wound up working in bicycle shops, as many bicycle racers do. And so I was a skinny teenager on a crappy bicycle, who rode so much that he won races and that allowed him to buy a better bicycle. And that’s how I got started.

Carlton Reid 16:48
So that was your archetypal bike, boom. 70s bike boom person in 1969, you know, 70

That’s, that’s when the, you know, the National Geographic is covering it and saying there’s a boom in bikes happening. So you’re that guy?

Ed Benjamin 17:04
Well, if you look at the movie, Breaking Away, some of the people that were extras in that movie were the people that I rode with, and, and that movie resonated with us. That was us.

Even down to the very ugly shorts that caused every girl that saw us and them to go, ooh.

Carlton Reid 17:25
Okay, and you’ve segued from that into owning bike shops. How did that happen?

Ed Benjamin 17:33
Oh, I Well, I worked at bicycle shops assembling bicycles. I later wound up managing bike shops. And then, you know, I went to the University learn to went and got a degree that would not allow me to make a living, got out of the university and said, Well, one thing I do know how to do is work in a bicycle shop. And my father and I identified Fort Myers, Florida as a promising market. We bought a bicycle shop that existed in Fort Myers and we started operating that store and we kept we expanded it into four stores. And then to, to, to beat you to the next question in the in the 1990s. My father passed away from cancer my, what my chief financial officer who was my wife, decided she didn’t want to be married to me. So she became an ex wife, my store manager, my brother got hit and killed in a car bicycle accident, and I’m going I don’t want to be in the bicycle shop anymore.

I’d been good at it, but I didn’t want to do it anymore. But I was totally fascinated with this new thing called electric bicycles. And that’s how I got interested in started chasing electric bicycles

Carlton Reid 18:45
that kind of Lee Iacocca kind of period?

Ed Benjamin 18:52
Lee Iacocca was talking about electric bicycles very close to the same time. And I frankly, I found his vision or the things that he said I found him inspiring,

Carlton Reid 19:03
describe, describe who he is, an executive from the motor trade basically?

Ed Benjamin 19:09
Yeah, here’s an executive who had had been involved at the Ford Motor Company and and Chrysler Motor Company, highly articulate, very good crews, charismatic.

You know, and here was a guy who was famous for bringing the Ford Mustang into existence. He had been involved in every aspect of the automobile industry, and he was an icon of the automobile industry in a very, very big deal. And here, he was fooling around with electric bicycles, really. And but what that gave me was validation. Not only was he articulate and and charismatic, and he was saying things that really resonated with me. But here he was making this stepping from the automobile industry, which in American minds is the main event, stepping from the automobile industry into the electric bike business.

Now it turns out that Lee was not very good at the electric bike business. But he definitely shaped a lot of my early interest. And unfortunately, Time magazine asked me, I think it was a 1997. Time magazine asked me for a quote about how do you think Lee Iacocca is going to do and I said, Well, he’s not going to sell 50,000 bikes in his first year. And leave parently took personal offence to that, and my chances of becoming least buddy died in that statement.

Carlton Reid 20:36
But did he? Did he not sell that? Were you right?

Yeah, no, his his his business success with EV global motors. There wasn’t any business success.

Ed Benjamin 20:45
You know, it was inspirational. But he, the market was not ready to buy an EV until he wasn’t ready to buy electric bikes, the United States and it wasn’t ready to buy the global motors bike. And Lee, who apparently was quite brilliant in the world of automobile companies appeared to be not very good at a small company, small startup company.

Carlton Reid 21:12
That wasn’t a pedal assist bike that was almost a electric motorbike.

Ed Benjamin 21:16
Yeah, yeah, that’s what we call a class two bike.

Carlton Reid 21:19
Now it was controlled by a throttle, but they did open a lot of people’s eyes, including yours by the sound of it to their sector. And then other people came along and started doing stuff. So what what were you doing in E bikes at this time? What are you physically? How are you connected to the industry?

Ed Benjamin 21:34
Well, in 1996, I decided that I was going to focus my attention on the electric bicycle world or electric bicycle industry. Now keep in mind that electric bicycle had really become a commercial success starting in 1994 in Japan, and there was we were in 1996, we’re reading about oil to Europe, the Chinese government is banning mopeds and encouraging electric bikes and so on. And, and I was

had, we had a customer in the bike shop, a guy named Dr. Frank Jamison, and Dr. Jamison had been investigating and researching the electric bicycle business since 1993 94. And Dr. Jamison got to know him because he’d bring these electric bikes in and he would need them fixed. Most of the problems were bicycle problems, by the way. So we took his bikes for him. And I got to know Dr. Jamison, and then Dr. Jamison, who was not a young man asked me to go to China for him and visit a trade show. And, of course, I was strongly interested in doing that. Although I was a boy from Kentucky who had never travelled, I’d never been out of the country, I’d never certainly never been to Asia. And here Dr. Jamison was sending me on this this fact finding or information gathering mission. And wow, that was such an eye opening thing is a result of Dr. Jamison’s introductions, I wound up going to a trade show in Germany, and then to a trade show in Shanghai. And by the time by 1997, 98, I was convinced that electric bicycles were going to be the main event for the bicycle industry, they were higher price they were they used up their battery, they they were going to be written more, they’re going to need more service.

This was going to be the moneymaker. I was absolutely convinced starting in 96, 97, that this is going to be the main moneymaker for the bicycle industry. While most the bicycle industry thought that was absurd. And I was reasonably well known in American bicycle industry, because I operated these bicycle shops and had operated them successfully. And I’d been around for a long time. And I had people telling me that you’re going to be broke forever, you’re never going to make this consulting company work. And, and there was a lot of doubt in my own mind. But

that relationship with Dr. Jamison, he is encouraging me to go out into Europe and Asia, and learn about it and, and make friends. And one of the things that happened quite a lot at that time was I would go to a factory, for example, TN di or Small Antelope in in Suzhou. And I would go to the factory to visit the factory and the people in the factory would say, what are you here to to buy? And I’m not here to buy anything. What are you here to sell? I’m not here to sell anything. Why are you here? I want to make friends. And that turned out to be a really good thing to really good approach to this. So I spent five or six years basically travelling around to the electric bike events and electric bike factories, electric bike component makers, battery makers, motor makers, etc. And my only intention was simply to develop a network to make friends to get to learn from these folks. And that worked. And the result was that I was early in and and

got around a bit. And that created the the foundation for a future consulting business and the foundation for what would become the Light Electric Vehicle Association.

Carlton Reid 25:11
Lever. Lava. How would you pronounce that?

Ed Benjamin 25:14
Well, I usually say l e v a. But we have other folks that say laver. Yeah, you know, I think doesn’t matter. Because

Carlton Reid 25:23
obviously, so that’s vehicle. So that’s not just, you know, e bikes. So what classify what that what that encompasses?

Ed Benjamin 25:34
Well, a vehicle, there’s a device that carries somebody from A to B. And, you know, we could say that, automobiles, buses, trains, aeroplanes, skateboards, the list is a long of the devices that human beings used to get from A to B. And when we, when we named the Electric Vehicle Association, we had thought about calling it the electric cycle Association. But the problem was that, or the challenge that we saw was that we were going to see a lot of, of categories of electric powered micro mobility vehicles that have that are not electric bicycles. They were going to be, we didn’t know exactly what they were going to be. But we could see these electric mini scooters that people stand up on, we could see

a lot of innovative electric vehicles coming out of Europe, such as the trike.

And since then, we’ve seen continued to see a very interesting innovation in micro mobility vehicles. So is the electric bicycle, the ultimate ultimate micro mobility vehicle. It’s a very good one, and it’s working really well and it’s selling really well. But isn’t the ultimate one. I don’t know. I kind of doubt it. I suspect that we’re kind of, you know, if you think about the automobile industry in its early days, 1906 1910. They call them horseless carriages. And we if we saw horseless carriage today, we would chuckle and say, Boy, they’ve certainly evolved. I think we’re going to see similar evolvement from the electric bicycle. My grandkids may be looking at electric bicycle and chuckling and saying, Well, that’s not what we use today.

Carlton Reid 27:19
Is your dog okay by the way, is it like panting to see you or?

Ed Benjamin 27:24
No, there’s some landscapers that have arrived. And even with the door closed, she feels that she has a secure security duty to inform the landscapers that she’s got her eye on them. I apologise.

Carlton Reid 27:37
What kind of dog have you got there, Ed?

Ed Benjamin 27:39
She’s a Labrador.

Carlton Reid 27:41
Okay. Labradors are not normally that barky. I was thinking of a different breed to that, but okay.

Ed Benjamin 27:47
Now she’s a four year old Labrador who takes if if we let her outside, she would run up to each one landscapers and greet them enthusiastically, and then come back inside and be quiet.

Carlton Reid 27:59
Yeah. No, I’m with you there. So going back to

vehicles, electric vehicles. I do see I did a story a while ago, two years ago now. Time flies, but on the the Canyon kind of electric car. So

you know, the Canyon than the mountain bike and the road bike people clearly think there’s a potential future there for an electric vehicle,

basically, but they were very adamant that they were in fact, when I mentioned the Sinclair C5 to them, they kind of knew exactly what I meant. And they knew that’s what they had to not do. Does that Sinclair C5, you know, not hold that category back?

Ed Benjamin 28:46
You know, I have to confess that I don’t pay a lot of attention to

anything more than three wheels. And so I would suggest that

the human race is going to by are going to start using a wide variety of vehicles that

have many sizes and many characteristics, but

I have reasonably informed opinions about ones that have two or maybe three wheels, and anything more than that. I can say I see it coming. But I don’t pay that much attention to it.

Carlton Reid 29:19
So your ltva Could one of the categories. There are the one of the kinds of . It’s not four wheels.

Ed Benjamin 29:27

I’m sorry, I must have missed something there. Maybe I am not familiar with the Canyon vehicle.

Carlton Reid 29:36
I think the Canyon is a trike it I’m pretty sure. I think on it certainly smart it was small enough to fit into, into into a bike lane. That’s where they that they’re, they’re pitching it.

Ed Benjamin 29:47
Alright, how are we spelling this?

Carlton Reid 29:52
Canyon, like the bicycle company, the bicycle company, it’s basically they’re doing a light electric vehicle as a concept vehicle

Yeah, which they did, basically electric, you know, they would they would have it was actually before they started doing electric bikes, but they knew they were gonna be doing this electric in effect small car. It’s not commercial yet, but just the fact that they were looking at this space, you know, for Canyon to do that was really interesting.

Ed Benjamin 30:18
Yeah, it’s been I found it it’s been around for about a year


this you know,

this kind of light electric car, I see it as a no brainer for

the dense urban environment that human beings are moving into more and more often.

Carlton Reid 30:38
But it’s also and we could probably build it using mostly electric bicycle monitoring. And I think that’s their idea. So this could be quite light, quite inexpensive and quite functional. But I’ve not been paying attention to this category. Because we do. I mean, if you go to the Netherlands and you go to Amsterdam, you see these kind of vehicles already dotting around that, you know that the bike paths of Amsterdam, you know this

Yeah, since at least 20 years they’ve been tottering around, but they haven’t taken off massively. So I’m just wondering what would it take to make them take off probably access to safe roadways, and of course the Dutch ride those things on the bicycle path.

Ed Benjamin 31:23
But again, it’s a simply a category that I have not been paying much attention to I recognise that exists. I probably would own one myself. If I were riding through the rainy days of Amsterdam, but I’m afraid that not my not my area of knowledge.

Carlton Reid 31:42
Okay, so um, wasn’t gonna go, I won’t go into like the villages type, you know, golf cart, electric car. That’s kind of not your territory. It’s got to go shape thing.

Ed Benjamin 31:54
The Villages using an electric golf cart. If they could buy one that had a diesel exhausted put up black smoke, that’s the one they would like better.

case you don’t know what the villages are a hotbed of everything that’s stupid about the baby boomer generation of which I’m a member. Yes, yes. But the villages are a concentration of conservative, upside down right wing. We don’t like anything that’s good for anybody else thinking. I’m sure somebody will hear this and say something nasty about me. Because that’s what they do in the villages.

Carlton Reid 32:30
I’ve done a few stories on it. So it’s an interesting place. So mid motor, hub motor, bolt on accessory to make your wheel go round. Do any of these things matter? Is it just the fact that you should be getting an electric bike? Or do you think there should be a form of technology here? That’s that’s better than the others?

Ed Benjamin 32:50
Well, they’re they’re different. They have different strengths. They have motor bike, the motor is inexpensive, it works really well. It’s almost absurdly reliable. It uses a space in the bike that nothing else does, you can bolt it into an ordinary bicycle frame. Wow, lots of advantages. Disadvantages, well, if you can’t use the bicycle, Trent, you can’t run the power of the motor through the bicycle transmission. And it’s, that’s what the great advantage of the mid motor bike where you’ve got the high torque motor of the human being, somebody called it the meat motor one time or the muscle motor, that’s a very high torque motor, and you add to it and an electric motor, and then you run it through the sophisticated and broad range of a bicycle transmission. And we have one impressive vehicle, we can climb mountains, we can go fast we can do we can wow, this is a great combo. The downside is that it’s more expensive, partly because there’s a lot more machined parts in there. And partly because it’s a generally speaking, it’s a more sophisticated and tightly integrated system. But the performance advantage is significant.

Other types of electric vehicle or electric bicycle propulsion, they’re very small by comparison, today, we’ve got a lot of motorbikes, they’re by far the unit, the dominant in Unit numbers. Motorbikes by far the dominant in terms of attention, because of their superior performance and higher higher prices. And because the people that saw them have got good marketing skills, the bikes that don’t fall into either those two categories, ones that might have a motor mounted outboard of the rear triangle or a motor that rubs the tire or some other innovative way, but for the most part, they’re really small at this time. Is there something lurking out there that’s just going to take over? Maybe? I don’t, I don’t, I don’t see it right now. Most of the other ideas are find that their useful niche or their commercially viable niche is as a DIY kit or an aftermarket kit, for example.

A unit that rubs the rear tire or uses a rear wheel as its gear reduction

is very inexpensive and very easy to instal. And that makes it a very attractive aftermarket kit, but it doesn’t climb hills worth anything and it you run it through what anything wet road or a puddle and doesn’t work at all. So the, you know, all of these systems have got their pros and their cons, but the dominant ones, the hub motor and the mid motor. Both of them have their particular strength, their particular application where they’re great.

Carlton Reid 35:37
Don’t be accessories, you know, those add ons, which there are, you know, any number on Kickstarter, anyone on Twitter, do you think that just basically shows you the interest in the concept, people might be frightened by the cost, so they kind of attach themselves to these lower cost options, but then eventually, they might buy that equipment and it to attach it to their existing bike. But at the end of the day, it’s been far better for them just to buy it in an electric bike, and then that’s what we end up doing.

Ed Benjamin 36:05
And that’s, that’s often their conclusion. In fact, earlier today, I was reading a interview from the guy that was running, super pedestrian, super pedestrian, commercialised the Copenhagen Wheel, which was an all in one wheel battery motor controller everything inside the rear wheel of the bicycle, very tidy. Got a tremendous amount of media attention got a tremendous amount of excitement. And I’m sorry that I don’t really remember a soft last name but a soft commented that one of the things they had learned as they sold the this all in one wheel was that an awful lot of their customers would come to the to decide that what they wanted was just a complete bike. You know, this business of installing a wheel fiddling with a wheel when you make a conversion like that. There’s no matter how skilled you are, or how good that kid is. There’s always a period of oh, I needed to adjust that or I needed to add this. And what what a soft says in his interview is they’re super peds.

Carlton Reid 37:05
Time challenge. Were the people who said I’m just gonna buy a complete bike. Oh, telling pedestrian, does that come in a bike, I’d buy the bike. I’m not interested in the wheel. Give me the bike.

Ed Benjamin 37:18
I’m sure they heard that a lot. Mm hmm.

Carlton Reid 37:22
At that junction, and I’d like to go across to my co host, David. And we’ll split for, in fact, an electric bike themed ad break.

David Bernstein 37:32
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Carlton Reid 42:07
And we are back Thank you, David we are back with with Ed Benjamin. And Ed

is I think it’s pretty safe to say is an ebike guru and is and has been talking about E bikes for longer than 27 years. Most people are 27 years old, Hannes Neupert is probably now harnessed Norbert was doing this since the 90s

Ed Benjamin 42:33
You know,Hannes was also an inspiration to me a young guy full of energy, he’s really smart.

You know, and immersed in the details of the early days of this business. And of course he had his partner

I don’t mean partner in that sense. I mean, his coworker Susanne Bruesch did a was really good at articulating ideas and spreading information. And so we had Hannes Neupert who was absolutely visionary and and Susanne Bruesch, who was absolutely a terrific communicator. And then they had this large group of smart young motivated people that would come and go you know, they would

sitting down to dinner with that group at a trade show was a cross cultural

extravaganza and quite an interesting bunch and and very very influential over the long haul about what happened with electric bikes in Europe.

Carlton Reid 43:38
You went consultancy they went a different way they kind of went into

letting people ride these things so taking them out on the road on like a road show Yes. The extra energy roadshow in effect so that was obviously you know, lots of trade shows would have them but they would go out to other places and just get people on because isn’t that the crux of this is whenever you get somebody on an electric bike it then clicks it’s like you’re gonna grill that’s what it does I like

mm hmm yeah, the kind of the the the tailwind affect you kind of give you a sense maybe not so much with a with a hub but centre where the mid motor it just you feel like Superman or Superwoman you know it’s you know, it’s right

so if that’s the case, why hasn’t it? Why did it take so long to take off in America because you’re talking about you know, America is big into into cars is that just the only reason that the the ebike took so long to?

Ed Benjamin 44:46
I alluded to it a little bit earlier.

The electric bicycle was presented to the entire world by s transportation. The Chinese developed a transportation vehicle and they were the main event for it.

reduction of product, the Germans and the French and the Italians that were involved in the earliest days of electric bicycles also thought of them as transportation and presented them as transportation. Honest. And Susie presented this as transportation. And in America, bicycle is not transportation, a bicycle if a bicycle is being used for transportation, in the 1990s, early 2000s, that’s because you’re poor, it’s because you can’t afford anything else. And bicycles are for sport, fitness and recreation. And the electric bicycle of those days was

not very interesting for Sport, Fitness or recreation. So what happened in America, I think, was a simply a cultural phenomenon. We were shown this interesting transportation vehicle, and he said, No, we used cars for that. And it took a couple decades before the American public woke up to the advantages are the benefits that an electric bicycle could bring to them?

Carlton Reid 45:58
You also like I mean, our Europeans like this as well, of course, but

more power, more torque, and specifically a throttle. So in the US, UK, and in the EU, we generally don’t have the throttle.

Ed Benjamin 46:11
Yes, US has got on one class of bike has got the throttle. What’s the sales differentiation between those which which is bigger in the US? How are those sectors doing? Well, the unit volume is heavily in favour of the throttle. But one of the things that I’ve learned is this, the majority of the people united states don’t ride bicycles, they may have written a bicycle for a while as a child. But they’re not bicycle has not been for most people, like maybe all but one or 2% of our population. A bicycle has not been a major part of their life than one or 2% of our population that has been very interested in bicycles. They’re used to buying nice bicycles at the bicycle shop. And they’re used to controlling the speed of the bicycle with their feet, the harder they push, the faster they go, that’s to them. That makes all kinds of sense. But the vast majority of our population did not grasp that idea. As an intuitive, this is the way a bicycle should be. So they were presented with an electric powered two wheeler, and told this is an electric bicycle. And you have to pedal it for the motor to run and they’re like what, but when they were presented with this, and you said here, twist this throttle, they got that they understood it, it was intuitive, and it’s also easy. So in the United States, the class to bike is the unit volume leader. Now the bicycle industry has a hard time with that because the bicycle industry, the wreath at every level in the United States, is people who like to ride bicycles, or they are maybe often former competitors. So your BMX bike race or your next BMX or x triathlete, I shouldn’t say x, you’re you have this background and you’re working in a bicycle shop. Of course, you think that controlling the bicycle by how hard you pedal is totally the the correct way to do it. But the people that come in to talk to you about buying a bicycle may not see it that way. In fact, the people that come into your the most of the people, most of the American population will not go into a bicycle shop because they that’s not where they buy bicycles, they buy bicycles at Walmart.

And at Walmart, they read the cardboard card that’s hanging on the front of the display, and choose which bike they’re going to buy with very little in the way of expert input. And the that’s our normal American bicycle buyer. And the bicycle industry doesn’t like to confront that because, frankly, it represents a gigantic failure. We have not connected with most of our population. But most of our population does understand what a bicycle can do for them. The United States typically by something in the neighbourhood of 15 million bicycles every year, that’s a lot. And do we ride them a lot? Then? No, most of our bicycles stay in the garage with the been working as a laundry rack.

And if we look where do people use bicycles for transportation? You know, I used to tell people who want to see electric bikes, you go look at the back door of restaurants, the back door of hospitals, the back door, where people are who are working for low wage rate jobs, need to have transportation to get to work and there you will find a cluster of bicycles, or including some electric bikes. So that stigma, I don’t want to people think I’m poor. I’m not going to have a bicycle that I use for transportation. What really helped us with that problem with that with helped us with that cultural disconnect was when the electric mountain bike became a thing. Because when the electric mountain bike became a thing, it became absolutely culturally acceptable for you to be interested in electric bikes and to go out and get one and guess what they’re fun. One of one

No, my good friends is Estelle Gray and Estelle Gray and her partner, Sally? Are they sell the Edward Selia words as a former, I guess, not former, she’s still doing triathlons.

There, she’s a prominent person in the triathlon world, and still is one of the holders of the women’s trans continental tandem record. And I’ve known Estelle for decades, and we have discussed electric bikes off and on over the years. And she was, she would put up she’s a strong, sturdy girl, and she doesn’t need no stinking motor. And then she got an electric bike. And I think she got the electric bike because there was a mountain in between her and work. And she wanted to pull I remember the story, and I may have it wrong. She wanted to pull a trailer with a dog. That was a dog that works with kids. She wanted to pull a trailer with the dog over the mountain. And so she decided to give electric bikes a try. Last time I talked to Estelle, which was a couple of weeks ago, I think she told me that they now had four or five electric bikes, her and Sally. So wow, that’s actually not a bad synopsis of what’s been happening in the bicycle world, with a undercurrent that is really important, and it goes like this, we don’t make much money in the bicycle business, we don’t make much money on bicycles, we’ve managed to create the razor thin margins to the point where it’s almost a waste of time to try to sell a bicycle. And then electric bikes came along. And electric bikes were bigger ticket, a bigger margin, need more service, wow, we can make money with these. And so what we’ve seen in every market is the bicycles, companies and distributors have embraced the idea that with electric bicycle, they can make money. With a normal bicycle. It’s very tough with electric bicycle, not so bad. So all over the world electric bikes are the main moneymaker of the of the bicycle industry. And that means that’s the main attention focus of the bicycle industry.

Carlton Reid 52:03
So Hannes has famously, he’s rowed back from this a bit subsequently, but he famously said, and he said it in in various symposium or what have you in various shows over the years, that the mechanical bicycle is dead, it’s gonna go the way of the mangle

of the mechanical typewriter.

What you’re just saying there was almost going towards that. So is that something that you also see happening that just at some point in the near future, or maybe the far future, the mechanical bicycle is going to be the dodo?

Ed Benjamin 52:40
I think that the typewriter is a good analogy. I’m old enough that I learned to type on a mechanical typewriter, and I used to be able to type on a mechanical typewriter. But the electric typewriter was so much easier. And then the computer came along and we stopped even talking about it.

And I think we’re gonna see the same thing happen to electric bikes, I think we are in the process of seeing

an electric component to the bicycle transmission, we’re going to see that become almost ubiquitous, it’s going to become almost universal. And the result is going to be bicycles are much easier to ride and we might not even be completely aware of why

Carlton Reid 53:18
Is DI2 almost a stealth way of bringing, you know, electrification of the bike into a mechanical bike. So you’ve got the Shimano electronic gears, and you have a battery on on your frame, and you recharge it every every now and again. But it’s still a mechanical bike. But it’s not too much of a leap to think will, you would just have a smaller battery than a slightly bigger bed, but inside the frame, you wouldn’t see it. And that just becomes the form factor for the bicycle.

Ed Benjamin 53:48
Every bicycle will be electrified in some way, shape or form in the future.

Carlton Reid 53:53
Thanks so can you can you hear the gasps of horror? A? That that that that that? Just your acceptance of that, that the gas is horror from the global fan.

Ed Benjamin 54:07
I’ve been hearing it shouted into my ears for as long as I’ve been doing this and and you know what? I’m a bike guy. I grew up working in bicycle shops, I raced bicycles. I’ve competed in triathlons. I rode long distance bike rides, I commuted on a bicycle most most of the time when I’ve gone somewhere in my life. I’ve gone by bicycle more often than any other vehicle. I’m a bike guy. I’ve got big thighs.

And I get it. I understand it. It’s not. It doesn’t fit into our paradigm. And you know what, I also am willing to embrace change. And I understand that most human beings have difficulty with change. It’s not one of our skill sets of embracing change. But guess what? It’s going to happen. Change does happen. It always happens. Doesn’t matter whether you participate or not. So guess

What bike industry bike guys everywhere, electric bikes are coming, I shouldn’t say are coming, they’re here. And we, it’s in one respect, it is a terrific, wonderful, upbeat, bright future that we face. And yeah, if you’re the kind of guy that deliberately types on a manual typewriter, because that’s what you think is cool. You may have difficulty with this.

Carlton Reid 55:30
So you’ve got a consultancy, as you’ve said,

Tell me the name that consultancy, what’s

Ed Benjamin 55:36
Ecycleelectric and we provide research, we monitor imports, mostly to the United States, we were networkers, if if somebody wants to know, just you take out an example, if somebody said, which, which Chinese motor factory is the one that I should be talking to about this requirement, we probably know and we probably know approximately what the price should be. And we can probably introduce that client to the bosses at that factory, save them a lot of time and say and usually save them a lot of money.

And I would say that the that’s basic premise carries over to batteries, controllers, complete vehicles. So we we leverage our connections and our history, to help people that are new to the industry or need this kind of help.

That’s our primary function in the consulting business that and tracking and reporting on the industry now focusing almost exclusively on America, for tracking and reporting. We used to try to cover the entire world, but it’s gotten way too big. And then we have the light Electric Vehicle Association, which is perhaps a more important activity. As my wife put it, she says he’s like electric just makes money. That’s all it does. Light Electric Vehicle Association helps expand the utility of the electric bicycle or electric two wheeler. And that was the electric two wheeler and electric bicycle electric motor scooter, is improving life or offering options to hundreds of millions of people. That’s an important thing. And like Electric Vehicle Association has played a very small part in that. I’d like to point out harnesses played a much bigger part in that, but we’re all going in the same direction.

Carlton Reid 57:23
So my wife, you’re describing my wife there as well, actually, because we’ve got an electric car of hers that sitting on the drive doesn’t doesn’t move much. And she just rides to work. She’s, she’s a hospital doctor, and she she works at the top of the hill. So she goes on her electric bike pretty much every single day. What you’re saying there about, you know, improving people’s lives? Well, I would say if I had to ask her why did you go on your bike? She would say because it’s good for her mental health. It’s certainly good for exercise, because you know, you have got to pedal the bikes in the UK.

She just likes, likes, likes doing it. So this is this is a product that improves her life. Yes.

Ed Benjamin 58:02
Getting out and riding your bicycle, whether it’s an electric bike or a manually powered bike, or just getting out and walking to work or walking to your grocery store, is I think it’s something that resonates inside the human spirit. We get out, we move ourselves under our own power. It’s a glorious thing that we get to do. And bicycles. You know, you and I have had the same experience. bicycles have been a very important part of our lives. And they are an invigorating moment in every day.

Carlton Reid 58:33
Thanks to Ed Benjamin ofecycleelectric there and thanks to you for listening to episode 304 of the Spokesmen cycling podcast. Show notes and more can be found on The next episode will be out at the end of the month but meanwhile get out there and ride.