Hosted by David Bernstein & Carlton Reid since 2006 Posts

January 11, 2020 / / Blog

The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast

Episode 234

Saturday 11th January 2020


HOST: Carlton Reid

GUEST: John Stehlin, assistant professor at University of North Carolina at Greensboro, USA, author of “Cyclescapes of the Unequal City.”


Carlton Reid 0:13
Welcome to Episode 234 of the Spokesmen cycling podcast. The show was published on Saturday 11th of January 2020.

David Bernstein 0:24
The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast is brought to you by Jenson USA, where you’ll always find a great selection of products at amazing prices with unparalleled customer service. For more information, just go to Hey everybody, it’s David from the Fredcast cycling podcast at I’m one of the hosts and producers of the spokesmen cycling roundtable podcast. For show notes, links and all sorts of other information please visit our website at And now, here are the spokesmen.

Carlton Reid 1:08
Hi there I’m Carlton Reid and here’s a belated Happy New Year to you for the start of the twenties. Who knows whether they’ll be roaring or not but I know for me personally that this decade will see me getting out on my bike as much as I can, although not as much as my 22-year-old son, Josh. Back on show 231 I recorded an episode about his epic bike ride back to the UK from China, and now we’ve just discovered he’s been chosen to ride the Transcontinental race in July — this is a self-supported race from Brest in France to Burgas in Bulgaria via not the Alps this year but the Carpathian mountains. Before, maybe even during, and after this ultra-audax race we’ll get Josh back on the show but, meanwhile, today’s episode is not about long-distance racing it’s about bicycle infrastructure, and how it can often be installed unevenly, and that’s socially not just geographically. To discuss this I’m joined by John Stehlin, assistant professor at University of North Carolina at Greensboro in America. We talk about his book, “Cyclescapes of the Unequal City.”

John, thank you so much for joining us on today’s show. I’ve got your book in front of me and I will go through it almost page for page and pick out bits that I’d like to talk to you about. But first of all, I’d like to find out about you. So I’d like you to tell us your your academic trajectory, including and starting with your job as a bicycle mechanic at Via Bicycle in Philadelphia

John Stehlin 2:59
Right now. Well, that was I mean, that was pretty formative in the introduction or in the acknowledgments sorry, in the text I like to blame. Also a good friend Joey for kind of hooking me on tinkering with bikes but Via Bicycle was really a sort of a, a major kind of formation. I went in knowing basically just enough to be very dangerous and left knowing quite a bit about both working on bicycles and kind of bicycle history is a shop that basically service bikes everywhere from about 1870 onward.


as a mechanic at that shop, one of the, one of the main parts of my job was speaking Spanish on a daily basis. So a lot there were a lot of this was in the this is in the Italian market, South Street district. Philadelphia, which is now kind of the centre, or one of the centres in the sort of, in the city of kind of Latino immigration from Central America and Mexico. And there are a lot of mostly men, mostly male delivery riders are would be delivering food on bicycles or would be getting to work at restaurant jobs on bicycles. And because of the constraints on their budgets, all they could really afford were bicycles from Target or Walmart. And so they were in kind of constant need of repair or installing a basket, those types of things. And so I came to know them fairly well, at a basically at the same time and you know, I’m kind of applying this frame to myself was the kind of rise of more cognizance of the kind of hipster bicycle moment, right and then there A lot of people, you know, people who looked like me like younger white folks coming to the bike shop getting old road bikes converted into fixed gear bikes, you know, part of this kind of cultural moment a lot of messengers came to our bike shop, bike messengers. And so, it was kind of this, this very complex brew, there are a lot of older retirees, lower income people, people of colour who had lived in the neighbourhood for a long time. Now the neighbourhood was kind of undergoing gentrification, in fact, the, you know, the shop itself actually was recently displaced to a different location because the building that it was in was sold. And so it’s kind of kind of an example of how bike shops are often actually subject to some of the same forces that I’m talking about in the book that that, you know, effect. Residential. You know, that effect patterns. So I didn’t kind of I didn’t think a tonne about that as a potential project. Going into grad school I mostly a part of my motivation for applying to get a PhD was kind of to restart the, you know the, I’d say restart the the kind of academic side of my brain and tried over the course of my PhD tried to keep the kind of mechanical side of my brain going by continuing to work at a bike shop moat for most of my PhD. But then, in my in my PhD I started to kind of take early in my PhD before I had decided on a topic, I started to take note of some of these kind of these moments of battles over bicycle infrastructure as being indicative of a reflective or even causal of gentrification, you know, most notably in Portland, there was a big fight over a bike lane project in Portland’s kind of historic, low income African American neighbourhood just had a long history of displacement through infrastructure projects. And that you know, I did a little bit of field work up there and ultimately didn’t didn’t pursue it because I kind of refocused around the the kind of regional story of the San Francisco Bay Area, but that kind of alerted me to the, the the sort of the politics of space and and infrastructure and this kind of this way of movement that partially became sort of noticeable in cities, precisely not just because it was novel, but because it for whom it was novel, it was novel to see white middle class professional Animals on bicycles not in sort of smaller college towns but in bigger cities and in gentrifying neighbourhoods.

Carlton Reid 8:09
So your book and you call it a monograph in one of your CV. Quite your book, it focuses on three cities, one of them being Philadelphia, but just to go backwards a little bit. You’re not in Philadelphia. Now. I’m assuming I’m talking to you where you are at your current institution, University of North Carolina.

John Stehlin 8:29
Yeah. So currently, I’m at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro in the geography environment and sustainability programme or department. At the, the book has a kind of complex trajectory because I had done a bit of done I had some Philadelphia, some familiarity with the Philadelphia case from having having worked there. After I finished my PhD dissertation which was focused most specifically On the San Francisco Bay Area, I did some subsequent field work with a small grant from the University of California Berkeley where I was continuing as a lecturer. And I returned to another kind of field site that I had explored early on, which was Detroit. And which was in which was implementing a bike sharing system sort of on the model of, of city bright city bike in New York City, but more appropriately on the model of Philadelphia’s Bike Share system. And at that same time, the San Francisco Bay area was finally expanding its initial pilot, which was basically just San Francisco, San Jose and a sprinkling in between was finally expanding that pilot to the East Bay, which was kind of more properly my everyday field site so it made sense to expand on the dissertation for the purposes of making it into a book

Carlton Reid 10:01
Now your book is US based. But I note from you again from your CV, University of Manchester. So you were in in Manchester 2018. And yes,

John Stehlin 10:12
yeah, it was a one year position at the sustainable consumption Institute. And, you know, it was a it was an, it was quite eye opening Actually, my expertise again, yeah, comes from the United States, and the sort of specific bicycle politics of the United States. And there’s some elements there’s some kind of Anglo North Atlantic commonalities between US and the UK, I in terms of bicycle policy, but also some significant differences. So you know, I did, I did ride a bike around and in Manchester. And when I was there, I was doing I was working on kind of new research that’s going to be coming out quite soon on mobility platform is far more general. And that was, you know, I think part of the impetus for that with my collaborators, Michael Hodson, and Andrew McMeekin was the experience of the mobike, a bike sharing platform that had emerged kind of suddenly in 2017 and Manchester, which was its first European foothold. And then basically as soon as I arrived there in 2018, it had, they had abandon the city for a complex set of reasons that we can talk about if you’re interested, but that was so that was a kind of it was a nice trajectory from looking at bicycling, bicycling with people’s personal bicycles and bicycle lanes into the politics of bicycle sharing systems into this whole new kind of world of the politics of mobility platforms more general and especially micro mobility.

Carlton Reid 11:56
I would like to get onto micro mobility and on to bike share. Because I know it’s a chapter in your, in your book, but just to go back to Manchester. So you were there when mobike kind of rose and then failed, I mean mainly is because of vandalism. And it was just costing too much for the company to have the bikes in this particular city which which also raises issues of one of the bicycles. Why are they getting trashed, which is interesting it right. But Manchester is going to be so Chris Boardman, the cycling and walking Commissioner who was big into mobike. They had two systems that at one time, but they are going to be bringing their own docked version in quite soon so that they’re going to be getting a variety of companies, including the big ones that have done London, Montreal, etc. to come in and pitch for that. So Manchester is changing to you were there at a pretty formative time with Oxford road where you would have been based had the bike lanes were what freshly minted when you were? Yeah. Probably a year old when you were there. So that was changing the composition of cycling in Manchester anyway with lots of students, right?

John Stehlin 13:13
Yes, definitely. And so the mobic was really on the wane. Basically, when I arrived in August of 2018. There was, there was speculation that was pretty well substantiated, that they were going to leave. And it was interesting because I had just come off of doing some field work for a different new project that was continuing to work on bicycle sharing systems in Austin, Philadelphia and Oakland, which is a sort of a deepening of that last chapter so to speak, but then adding in Austin, which was another interesting case, I kind of a more of a sunbelt case so to speak in the United States. parlons. And when I was in Philadelphia, I took a trip Across the river to Camden, New Jersey, which was, to my knowledge, the only place where there was a kind of formal structured partnership between one of the micro mobility providers ofo and the and kind of local community development corporation in Camden. And shortly after I was there conducting interviews and kind of seeing, seeing a kind of a very different context of a sort of a city that by most by most ways of measuring would not have been able to support a doc based system because of the kind of level of investment required for complicated reasons, the Philadelphia system would not have been able to expand over the river just yet, although I think that would, that would have made a lot of sense. So they had this ofo system you Shortly after I left Philadelphia, in July ofo, declared that it was leaving the United States altogether. And, you know, my understanding is that Camden read about it in the newspapers just like everybody else. And their their argument in that case was simply sort of refocusing around, you know, strategically better markets. And so I felt slightly You know, there was a lot of vandalism of mobike and mo bikes and stuff and I know that mo bikes bicycles were more expensive than some of the other firms. But I, I looked at you know, I’m it was maybe a bit more sceptical of the justification of vandalism because there was a great report done by Graham Sheriff and others at the University of Salford that showed that mobike had been kind of paring down its spatial coverage kind of over a long period of time leading up to that closure. And they just also weren’t getting the kind of the usage rates, because they weren’t covering very much of the city in order to cut cut to cut costs. So I think there’s a kind of a bit more complicated story of the of the, that dockless bike story because that that wave has sort of receded in general in favour of the scooters. But to go to the, to go to the Oxford road case, I mean, it was a very interesting case because on the one hand, the Oxford roads infrastructure was was fantastic, right. And on the other hand, was basically present only an Oxford road. So when I would ride to sort of the, you know, the middle class suburb of say Charlton, for example, I would ride in a quite narrow bike lane, there were a lot of cyclists but a quite narrow, you know, quite narrower than in the United States. Actually, it was quite eye opening. And then there are other other parts of the city more low income parts of the city where there were, you know, less, you know, potentially less demand for physical infrastructure, less agitation for it, where you didn’t see much of anything in terms of bike infrastructure. So while I think that, you know, I think that that that was a, it was an impressive piece of infrastructure. I, you know, I think it was still one of those cases of sort of it’s very uneven deployment. And I think that my understanding of board Ben’s approach is that he wants to see it, too. He wants it to be far more comprehensive. So

Carlton Reid 17:30
john, let me just go to your actual book here. So I’ve got it in my hand. And I want to get a definition of here in a second but it’s it’s called “Cyclescapes of the unequal city” — bicycle infrastructure and uneven development and it’s the University of Minnesota press. Now in the book itself, you talk about cycle scape being the discursive space of the bicycle, so expand on that. What is a cyclescape?

John Stehlin 18:01
The cyclescape I’m sort of I’m drawing on some of the literature in human geography and anthropology around kind of bringing the notion of escape. So for instance, a landscape that kind of brings together the materiality of, of the of this space with a kind of experiential and, and discursive component as well, especially thinking about the way that you’re part of what motivated me was thinking about the ways in which being on a bicycle that the kind of materiality of cycling actually calls up, elicits a different relationship to urban space, a different way of seeing urban space, a different way of navigating urban space. Without that was also cut through with not just questions of uneven urban development, right, where where infrastructure existed, what places were cut off or more connected from what other places Is, but also questions of race, class, gender, and more generally, the sort of the positionality of the rider. And so, cycle escape was a was sort of a way of bringing together that, that material, the discursive and they kind of experiential together into sort of into one frame.

Carlton Reid 19:23
So in the book and I’m going to be quoting you at length here, as you described bicycling as being placed or framed alongside guerilla gardening, graffiti and skateboarding as active hacking the dominant code of the capitalist city. Now that describes to me Detroit, down to a tee. I know there’s a lot of guerilla gardening goes on in, in Detroit for a variety of reasons. So describe where you were coming from in in that particular sentence.

John Stehlin 19:53
So, in that sense, I was really drawing from the work of Chris Carlson, who I think I was I was referencing his work and then also I want to say it was Mark Farrell now I’m forgetting I’m scanning my shelf to see if I can see it. But the all of these different ways of thinking and really drawing a lot of ways on the French sociologist Michel de certeau, who posited that kind of a set a set of everyday practices through which people would sort of disrupt the control regimes of the kind of dominant grid of urban space and that was a really it’s a really common way of thinking about bicycling especially coming from messenger and punk and other kind of do it yourself subculture subcultures, which were really really major influences in in bicycling culture, at least up through, you know when I was inculcated into it in the early 2000s. In the case of Detroit, one of the things that initially put Detroit on the map for me so to speak, was I found an article in The New York Times that we was talking about this, you know, about the sort of creative reappropriation of urban space. So, you know, warehouse conversions, guerilla gardening, all of that kind of stuff that was going on in Detroit and and also discussed cycling at length, and made an interesting argument about the politics of cycling where you could the argument and I’m blanking on the man’s name, which I feel bad bad about. He very kindly invited me over to his house when I was in Detroit at one point posited that cyclists, bicycle advocates could make what he said was a kind of tactical retreat to Detroit, where there was plenty of space where call had abandoned the massive boulevards that were now far too large for the amount of traffic that actually existed in the city. And that the sort of the pitched battles over bicycle infrastructure that you saw in New York City and San Francisco and Portland would be sort of solved by just the, the general abandonment of the city. And I thought that was a bit a bit of a strange way of framing a city that the abandonment of which was very uneven, people who were able to leave, and especially over the last 50 years, you know, the the white population were, who were able to leave left, and the people who were left with the kind of decaying infrastructure were mostly people of colour, who who were prevented from leaving by a whole set of reasons having to do a segregation having to do with the The very low values of their of the houses that they owned any sort of resale value to then purchase a house somewhere else, etc. And so this sort of creative reappropriation felt from a kind of another perspective is sort of partying or kind of framing Detroit as a cemetery where it was actually still a site of struggle over race, and disinvestment. And so, nevertheless, there were there were actually a lot of really interesting things going on in the city of Detroit, that, that offended a lot of the assumptions around what bicycling meant, there. There were a number of when I did field work there in 2011, and then came back in 2016 and 2017. There was a massive number of, of black bicycling clubs organised around churches in quote unquote the neighbourhoods. Which in Detroit denotes the areas of the city that are outside the central business district. And what you’ve seen in Detroit over the last, say five to seven years is a massive reinvestment in the central business district the what is called the 7.2. And very patchy reinvestment outside of those areas of few kind of more more gentrifying neighbourhoods such as corktown and Woodbridge, West Village, which I all of which I discuss in the book, and then beyond that kind of ongoing, ongoing abandonment.

And so more generally, what what I was both trying to capture the vitality of bicycling as a subculture and pointing to the limits in this framing of sort of strategic and kind of underground reappropriation of urban space and the way in which that narrative of bicyclists kind of bringing back the city of Detroit in some ways both kind of flew in the face of the evidence, which is that bicycling was was very diverse and actually practised a consciously as a survival strategy in that city. And the the the logical extension of that argument was that it was this sort of the dispossession of certain areas would be the sort of the The Proving Grounds for their re their kind of rebirth through bicycling and active transportation. I thought I, I didn’t, I didn’t know I didn’t agree with that sort of politically as well.

Carlton Reid 25:40
Now, you do talk about vehicular cycling in your book, and I don’t want to touch it exactly right here. But on Detroit when I was there, there were campaigns to get bike lanes put in, but then you look at the roads and it’s like, but there’s no cars on these roads. Why would you actually want bike lanes. When you’ve got A four lane highway here with one car every 10 minutes coming along you have got the whole of the infrastructure here you don’t need it. Now I have been told and you can you can tell me if this is true here that has massively changed now in that those highways like that, the woodwork so I was taking photographs on Woodward what wear those, I could put my bike in the middle of the road and and take a photograph quite happily. And then. Okay, you could see a car coming. But you’ve still got another few minutes to actually take the photograph. Now you can’t do that now. I believe so maybe bike lanes. Yeah, a bit more needed now. But there’s also a very, very distinct in between that the areas as you were you were touching on that, in that some areas. Were still massively current ages and others. Absolutely not. So if you radiate out from Woodward, and you went to say, the Middle East and the kind of Arab areas Well, that was massively car centric and And it was very dangerous to be on your bike at that point. And yet just a mile further towards the CBD, it becomes incredibly safe because there are no cars.

John Stehlin 27:12
Right? Yeah, I mean, so I think what’s in a way Detroit is unexceptional in that regard. I think what’s exceptional is the scale of the unevenness. But I mean, that’s a patterning that you see in a lot of American cities. There. There are streets that due to disinvestment are not heavily used by by cars. But there are not there are not a tonne of destinations around there. So it’s it’s hard to see that as a kind of model for kind of re refocusing transportation priorities, which is ultimately what I’m interested in, right. I think Detroit was also really an interesting case, because when I had done field work there back in 2011, with the I spoke to people at the Southwest Detroit Business Association, who was who were far more of a kind of Community Development Corporation, and they had been major supporters of putting a bike lane in on. I’m the one of the kind of the main thoroughfares in the Latino section of Southwest Detroit, which was actually among, among the places that were far less disinvested than other places in Detroit because of immigration from Latin America. And so, that was a place where there was actually it was vernor Avenue. There was a significant amount of congestion in part because there was still a lot of activity. The my recollection of being there in 2011, verses 26 2016 and then 27 17 is the total transformation of the Woodward corridor especially with the with the building of the M one light rail system which some people call the straight line people mover be with it as a kind of derisive reference to it, you see would where it is now much, much more of a challenge on bicycle, in part because there’s a kind of a complicated jog that the streetcar line does between sometimes curbside boarding and sometimes centre boarding and so that precluded bike lanes on Woodward, which was I think frustrated a lot of advocates. The the street cast, which is just to the west is now this is now where a lot of bicycle infrastructure investment is going in and you’re also seeing a lot of bicycle infrastructure investment on Jefferson, which is the Big Big East. West corridor on the east side of Detroit, really, it’s kind of Northeast to Southwest because of the angle of the streets, but, you know, I think that was a very car dominated corridor, even back in 2011 when I was there and certainly is now and so there is there there is a way in which again, the, the hypertrophy of the streets for, you know, back when Detroit was a city of, of 2 million people does create a lot of opportunities to recapture some of that road space without kind of negatively affecting the flow of traffic. I’d like to see, you know, I think it requires more political well, but it’s political Well, that’s really sorely needed. The ability to recapture road space in places where it does affect the flow of traffic, but also Kind of balancing that against creating other better ways of moving for people who for reasons of where they work or where they live, are for the, for the moment at least going to be needing to use cars.

Carlton Reid 31:17
And many of those areas are quite a problem. The ones out in the absolute

Unknown Speaker 31:21

Carlton Reid 31:22
are where people of colour live who generally in many cities, and this is very much evident in America and less than in the UK, but it’s more class based, don’t tend to get the, the kind of the investments in bicycle infrastructure

Unknown Speaker 31:43

Carlton Reid 31:44
say, a middle class, mainly white area gets, and I guess that also touches on bike share stuff as well. So an awful lot of bike share, set sending the doctor ones you often find that they’re not put in in a Cities equitably they are very much placed in certain areas. So how can how can cities break out of that? And and is it worth their while to do so if cycling in some communities isn’t actually that, that aspirational?

John Stehlin 32:20
Right. I mean, that’s a that’s a difficult set of questions and something I’m still grappling with in the work that I am, you know, a chunk of writing that I’m, I’m still in the process of completing from the more recent work. The short version is investment, right. One of the things about one of the things about Bike Share systems, at least the any bike share system, but especially the station based systems, is once once you’ve put them in, they still have to perform. They still have to generate revenue. Whereas once you’ve put in a bike lane, if it’s something very kind of niche, it might require a different kind of sweeping regime, for example, but once you’ve put in a bike lane, it doesn’t, it only has to prove its value politically right? Because politicians will point and say, well, you took away this parking or you took away this road space and look at this empty bike lane, right, which is we don’t get that same narrative about empty road space. Nevertheless, with with bicycle sharing systems, as they’re sort of currently constituted there is sort of stuck between being bicycle infrastructure, capital investments, and being transit systems. And I’ll speak to the US case which I know better than some others. In the US case, a lot of bicycle sharing systems are launched at least in part with that grants. And the federal grants are basically permitted only for capital investments rather than operation ongoing operational costs. And so operations will be funded from a sponsorship deal ideally, and, and ongoing fare box recovery. And basically, that’s essentially it. There’s small other pots of money that cities and Bike Share systems can tap into grants. That’s the case in Philadelphia, which actually enabled them to expand on on the kind of more restricted system that would otherwise be possible. But they still have to, they still have to perform. They still have to perform as infrastructure. And the reason I compare it to transit is and the more recent work that I’ve been doing, and Austin, for example, the bicycle sharing system, because of the lack of a big title sponsor like a Citibank or like Ford, which until recently sponsored the San Francisco Bay Area system, they had to operate on a around a 100% 95 to 100% farebox recovery ratio. So they they had to be completely self sustaining, whereas the fare box recovery ratio for actual transit is closer to 35 to 40%. If you’re getting 50 or 60, that’s tremendous. And the rest comes from federal subsidies. And so there is a bill that is periodically that is periodically works its way through Congress. That’s called the bike, the bike share transit bill that would read designate bicycle sharing systems as transit that would open up a lot of federal grants federal funding for operations which would enable a kind of different morphology of the system. You could see something this would still require political will, it would still require a commitment to invest more broadly outside of the kind of the central cities. But you could see, you could see the movement toward a kind of transit, a more directly transit oriented system, which systems today are somewhat transit oriented, but, but also attempt to preserve contiguity. But you could see, you could see networks extending into suburban areas that connect to kind of longer distance commuter trains that would potentially open up a lot more usage and a lot of you know, really Reduce car dependence on on that and as well.

So that would be an option with with kind of federal funding. In the case of Philadelphia, I kind of pull out Philadelphia as a potential example in the book, because what Philadelphia did was very consciously attempt, both through capital investment and through outreach to extend the range of the system beyond the kind of usual suspects, so to speak narratives or neighbourhoods, I should say, which were the central business district adjacent, you know, predominantly now gentrifying middle class professional, predominantly white, or, or, or at least turning toward toward that demographic profile, those types of neighbourhoods which you had seen dominated the ridership of bike share systems in places like Washington DC, for example, Philadelphia was very conscious to, to append that and to move beyond that, to move beyond that narrative, and part of what enabled that was local philanthropic money, part of what enabled that was philanthropic, philanthropic funding that funded more generally, an approach toward rethinking how bicycle sharing systems were put in called the better Bike Share.

Unknown Speaker 38:40
The better Bike Share,

Unknown Speaker 38:43
programme project.

John Stehlin 38:46
And Philadelphia was one of the kind of case studies and so there was a lot of money going into outreach. There was a lot of going a lot of money going into actually understanding how low income people in neighbourhoods of colour in Philadelphia would actually potentially use the system. It changed how I changed how they actually went about planning and designing the systems it changed where the system would be located. So they had an outreach efforts soliciting feedback on particular station locations, beyond just the kind of web based map which was very common in a lot of other cities. And it required shoe letter shoe leather and it required money and the idea was to develop, develop a programme that could then be deployed as a set of best practices for much less investment in other cities. But I think, you know, Philadelphia saw

Unknown Speaker 39:51

John Stehlin 39:53
an incredible increase in the number of low income people and people of colour using their system and I think Part of this story is actually just that efforts, not that one off effort to create a pilot that would that you could then deploy very cheaply elsewhere. But that ongoing effort and the kind of real show of commitment to neighbourhoods that had seen, you know, that had seen neglect infrastructural neglect, right? So I think that’s part of the Philadelphia story that was maybe Annette was maybe unanticipated in the sort of the structuring of how it was anticipated to be a sort of best practices test case.

Carlton Reid 40:36
That sounds really good. It does sound different to how other cities have done it. Because as we know, you’re a white guy. I’m a white guy. And we know that the current kind of truth for cycling is that it’s white, it’s bourgeois. It’s hipsters, it’s it’s the gentrification, which you are talking about, when in fact, the majority users of bicycles, certainly in the US and maybe not in the UK, people of colour. And that often described in that that famous article as invisible cyclists and that they’re out there. There’s a lot of them, but we don’t notice them for for various cultural reasons, and perhaps even physical reasons that they might not want to be seen.

John Stehlin 41:20
Right. Yeah.

I mean, that’s, that’s incredibly important. And, you know, some of my colleagues Daniella Lugo, Melody Hoffman, a lot of other folks have written really perceptive perceptively on this more perceptively than I have, I think. And I think that, you know, part of the invisibility is, or I’ll say I’ll refocus it and say part of the kind of hyper visibility of the kind of middle class largely white professionals or if if not largely white, in a Place like Oakland non black, which I think is an important caveat. The a lot of a lot of that hyper visibility has to do with the kind of novelty of seeing people in an unexpected class position, right, visibly maybe sartorially, visibly middle class on bicycles, where it had been considered to be a mode of transportation of last resort previously, or it was for people who had lost their licence due to conviction for impaired driving, for example, things of that nature or people, you know, who couldn’t afford a car or you know, a variety of reasons, right that it was perceived as some sort of, of lack on the part of the individual that one was on a bike, or it was a kind of lunatic fringe. of the hippie environmentalist, right? That’s how be glossed, and I think the novelty of seeing, seeing the kind of young, maybe slightly stylish professionals, you know, mostly white, suddenly appearing in Central City neighbourhoods that had previously been disinvested. And on bicycles becoming visible. And again, this is that kind of the the cycle escape argument and the way in which there’s the the machine, the machine ik qualities, and I’m coming from science and technology studies with this as well, that kind of inherent properties of the bicycle, lend themselves toward that increased visibility. And then on the flip side, you rightly pointed out that, that there is the narrative of invisible cyclists, which I think partially comes from a sense that or Maybe a tacit sense that it’s unremarkable to see a low income person marked racially using a mode of transportation that’s appropriate for a low income person, right, which is how bicycles were perceived previously

Carlton Reid 44:18
cycling kind of gets it with with both barrels from both ends in that it is for poor people, and also rich people. And these, you know, whichever way you want to attack it, you can attack the cycling from all sorts of different angles in that, you know, this is a porpoise or it’s for people with very expensive cars that have left them at home and are going out treating this as Cycling is the new golf. So you have got both of those streams at exactly the same time.

John Stehlin 44:43
Yeah, no, it’s I mean, it’s quite fascinating. And you also have that’s also the kind of the the story of the American city right now as well. Right? That the, the city that the that the middle class can no longer afford that. That the that very low income people have a very tenuous foothold in still, because of the presence of public housing, which has been disinvested. And and, you know, cities are are working hard to eliminate it and a lot of cases, but it still exists and there are still poor people in cities who benefit from the low cost of bicycling and the the relatively the relative lack of sort of official exposure to instruments of the state right thinking about licencing requirements which don’t exist for for bicycles and I think would be a terrible idea to institute. But going back to, I think you get both the invisibility where it’s not. It’s not unusual to see a poor person on a bicycle, historically, and the hyper visibility were being on a bicycle exposes people primarily people of colour and low income people to to enhance scrutiny. So cases of biking while black, which I think there were findings in Tampa of massive disproportionality in terms of police stops of, of black people on bicycles. While I was doing fieldwork, there was a there was a young black man in the Mission District in San Francisco who was sort of snatched off of his bicycle at his front door by San Francisco Police and there was a pretty large March that I think it was exciting because it included a lot of bicycle advocates, who maybe in their day jobs had not always been on the front lines sticking up for the rights of the poor, specifically, so and that was a kind of an exciting moment. But that overextension I also to to bring it back to Detroit. One of the investments in southwest Detroit was a bridge that crossed one of the kind of the main freeways that cuts Southwest Detroit off from from the corktown neighbourhood. This is the the badly bridge, there was a big big investment was a bike head bridge. And it you know, it’s a really nice piece of infrastructure. And I heard when I was there in 2011, a lot of Latino cyclists were, who lived in that neighbourhood. We’re not using that bridge because of how visible they would be to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which goes to show notionally the border that ice is policing is the Canadian border in that in that location, but it was that exposure whether it was real or not, and I saw ICE agents frequenting taqueria in in southwest Detroit, whether it was whether it was simply perceived or whether it was a real overexposure being visible on a bike on that bridge, that was a that was it was it was narrated to me as a big part of why you didn’t see a lot of usage of that bridge.

Carlton Reid 48:17
I would like to come back to how cycling be structure is us and we’ll come back to that after this short advertising break.

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Carlton Reid 49:52
And thanks David and we are back with the show and I’m back here with John Stehlin. And we are talking about cyclescapes of the unequal city. And I’d now like to go into a topic Where will we know as in bicycle advocates know that there’s a huge economic sense of putting in cycle infrastructure. But you do describe that in your book as exclusionary urbanism. John, so what exactly is exclusionary urban ism?

John Stehlin 50:24
Yeah, I mean, so I’ll back up and talk a little bit about what made me interested in that in this emerging business case for bicycle infrastructure. I’m one of it. One of the the reasons that I got interested in this was the the narratives around gentrification and that and that the, the, the, the battles over bicycle infrastructure in North Portland and the albino neighbourhood for example. We’re specifically that we’re not just battles over a gentrified neighbourhood. There were also battles over this having been one of the key black commercial strips in the area that had seen massive demolition in in the context of urban renewal demolition. That was actually then the land was never actually rebuilt because of a change in urban renewal plans. So there was a lot of abandonment, but it was a black commercial strip. And so part of it had to do with that, that business district, so not just a gesture that is not just a residential district in the abstract, but the kind of identity of that business district. And one of the kind of big early one of the one of the places where this narrative had, that the narrative of bicycling being good for business had first achieved really a lot of traction was the Valencia street district in San Francisco. Which is what I talked about in in one of the chapters in my book and the ways in which bicyclists bicycle advocates had to fight to get a bike lane put in on Valencia, it was not determined to be viable based on traffic engineers understanding of traffic flow on that street. in the, in the initial bike plan in the draft that was released in 1997, it was not included. It was signed bicycle route, but it was not. There would be no kind of real infrastructure treatments to it. And so bicycle advocates were predictably angry because it was actually one of the streets that they use the most to get from the Mission District, which was at that time, sort of seeing seeing the early parts of the wave of gentrification that crested in 2001 with boom and then again, After boom. And now is you know, one of the kind of the crown jewels if so to speak of gentrification in the San Francisco Bay Area and crown jewels and bicycling as well. They had to fight tooth and nail to get this included in the bike plan, which the Department of parking and traffic the head, the head of which said there would be bike lanes on Valencia Over my dead body. Part of the case that they made was a business case was going to local businesses and saying it you’re going to see more people shopping, you’re going to see more people stopping at your stores popping in quickly because they’re going to be moving at lower speeds because the traffic will be calmed and the mechanism for this was what was known at the time as a road diet. So reducing the reducing the overall width of the story. Not the overall width, I should say, the allocation of road space from four travel lanes to in each direction to three car travel or to two car travel lanes, one centre turn lane and a bike lane on each side notably did not affect parking and that was a kind of a big third rail at that time. So

that was approved, and it became that the success of it was narrated in economic terms as much as anything else. It was also a success in terms of reducing crashes and it was a success in terms of reduce or of increasing the use of that corridor by bicyclist, but it was also narrated in terms of economic benefits, and around 2011 2012 it popped up. It was kind of ubiquitous in discourse on streets blog or from bicycle advocates. About the economic benefits of bicycle infrastructure, right that this was a clear test case of that, too. But bike bike and biking nomics, exactly, as Ellie blue puts it. And you know it. I don’t think that’s wrong, necessarily. Like I think it is easier to make a quick stop and pop into a store on a bike. I think what it does is orient advocacy toward these particular these particular kinds of cases, trying to foster a thriving commercial corridor. And I think it also points toward a kind of limited view of sort of the range of justifications that you might be able to use for bicycling infrastructure. And I think actually the business case, it’s funny, you know, my book just came out, but I think the business case has waned slightly in favour of the safety case. And I talked about this a little bit in the last chapter of the book, but I think it’s become even stronger since I was kind of drafting the putting the final touches on it. I think this because of, especially in the in San Francisco, the increases in cycling injuries, cyclist injuries, pedestrian injuries, cyclists, fatalities, pedestrian fatalities, there’s been a kind of a sudden uptick across the board in the United States. There people are still trying to figure out what the causes of that are. On Valencia Street, you saw a sort of a mass invasion of the bike lane by Uber and lift as a place to pick up and drop off passengers and that creating a lot of problems on that corridor. But the safety case I think, is both more is more valid. It’s more generalizable. It points us towards places like East Oakland where they’re high crash rates.

Unknown Speaker 57:09

Unknown Speaker 57:12
high crash rates, very little infrastructure.

John Stehlin 57:16
A lot more cyclists of colour. And the business case would be a more challenging sell because of its association with gentrification in those areas, whereas a safety case has potentially more traction. Now I do talk about in the book how safety can mean different things to different groups of people. If it’s a safety case that is couched in terms of more aggressive policing of infractions by drivers, I think that’s that’s a non starter for a lot of communities of colour and a lot of low income communities who rightly see police as a threat. So safety is not a non political thing, but it potentially Has wider traction. And notably, the politicisation of cycling injuries and fatalities in the Netherlands and the 1970s was a big part of the backlash against auto auto mobility that led to a kind of more pervasive investment in bicycle infrastructure there. So there’s some precedent to that as well.

Carlton Reid 58:23
So So where does exclusionary urbanism come in?

John Stehlin 58:26
Right? I think the it’s exclusionary or is it urban ism is less about

whether a bike lane leads to exclusion and a bit more about whether a bike lane and bicycle infrastructure investment when pursued for a kind of business oriented strategy reflects an exclusionary urbanism. And so one of the things I talked about in I talked about in the introduction, which is kind of the introduction is doing a couple of things where it sets the stage for the kind of broad regional political economy. of the of the San Francisco Bay Area Philadelphia and Detroit but then also looking at particular ways in which active transportation, both walkability and bicycle infrastructure had been included in quite massive redevelopment strategies, especially in the case of Philadelphia, the sort of the re the refocusing of West Philadelphia, around the innovation economy, and bicycle, bicycle investments in bicycle infrastructure, and again, active transportation more generally being being understood to be a key part of that and what you’re saying is this kind of massive investment, especially in office development, r&d space, around the school river in West Philadelphia and the area around you, Penn and Drexel, really becoming a sort of a second downtown Or you can even say a third downtown in terms of the historical development of the city for Philadelphia more broadly and infrastructure for the creative class. Yes, exactly right. This sort of the innovate the innovation district model, which, you know, that comes, you’re referencing Richard Florida, quite rightly also. The Brookings Institution, and especially Bruce Katz, at the Brookings Institution has been very has been kind of one of the key thought leaders in this realm. And again, it’s like I, I don’t necessarily, I don’t necessarily think that those framings of a more walkable a more by bikable urban space being conducive to the kinds of happenstance interactions that lead to new ideas. That’s, you know, that goes all the way back to Jane Jacobs. But that’s also been shown to be quite an exclusionary model of envisioning an urban future in a lot of places. And you know, that’s like Richard Florida kind of to kind of reorient how he frames his work around this kind of the new urban crisis and the fact that the benefits of the economic engine of the creative class, although I think that there, there’s kind of dubious, statistical compositional elements to the creative class model, those benefits haven’t really been extended beyond. So I’m going

Carlton Reid 1:01:30
to quote you a sentence and it does lead in from what you just been saying that really. So this is your word, as bicycle infrastructure becomes another valuable immunity in the urban portfolio. However, the bicycle fails to meet what many justifiably see as its emancipatory potential. expand on that. So we’ve it’s failing, how is it failing?

John Stehlin 1:01:54
Well, it’s sort of not the bicycles fault. Yeah. This is like one of those one of those tough things

I don’t I try not to accord the bicycle kind of unique causal role in all of this, because bicycling is actually still extremely marginal. And I think that’s kind of my point. You have a situation where I think rightly people see enormous potential for getting people out of cars into an equally flexible mode of movement through space, right? There’s actually a lot of commonality between the bicycle and the car. They’re both quite individualised. One is a sort of furnace into which we’re ploughing our future. And the other has a very light touch in terms of environmental costs in terms of costs to the individual operator etc. Nevertheless, I think it being a kind of niche development strategy in a certain number, a small subset of urban neighbourhoods and a small subset of cities in the United States limits the potential that you that that, you know, that limits its potential. When people talk about bicycling being the most inexpensive way to get from point A to point B. There are a lot of caveats to that, where is where is point A, where is point B? Do Is it expensive in terms of cost Is it expensive in terms of personal risk Is it expensive in terms of time. These are all you know, touch on really, really big issues of of urban form the morphology of urban of urban America and the urbanisation process more generally. And again, I’m drawing for the second the subtitle of the book, Neil Smith’s work on uneven development and what he calls the seesaw motion of capitals. So, capital expanded out into the suburbs, suburbanization wave in the post war era. And now you’re seeing a partial kind of seesaw or a major, actually seesaw motion of capital back into a smaller number of Central cities in the United States. And I think resting our hopes on on the bicycle being able to ride that seesaw motion, rather than deal with the broader structure that has been wrought over the past 70 years, you know, actually more close to 100 years in the United States organised around auto mobility. I think that’s really the next task. It’s a retrofitting the suburbs task, it’s the reduction of the need for mobility and a lot of places that kind of coercive need for mobility in a lot of places. That’s the kind of next task and the and the next move that will require the bicycle Really going beyond the bicycle as well.

Carlton Reid 1:05:02
That’s potentially a good segue then into micro mobility in that order. Mobility has been as you’ve just said, there, you know that the past hundred years that’s been the main driver of the shaping of cities, really. And many bicycle advocates, maybe even not bicycle advocates have long said that will will, bicycles can replace cars. And what’s happened in the meantime, is these tech bro companies have come in, and the birds the lines, and they brought in scooters, and potentially these these electric scooters are more car substitutes or better cars or to use than bicycles. So do you think bicycles are actually at risk of being left behind here?

John Stehlin 1:05:47
Yeah, that’s an interesting question. You know, some days I do, and other days I don’t. I think I think that there’s a lot of interesting potentials in in the Micro mobility story which I, which I touch on a little bit in the, in the at the end of the book, but then I really kind of have dived into head on with my new work, especially with my colleagues at Manchester and then kind of moving forward. Which is that I think that there’s something there’s something good about a shift away from the kind of fetish of the object, you know, the fetish of the bicycle, and a shift towards a focus on this on a particular scale of mobility. And you were also seeing that predating the shift toward the by the shared bikes and scooters and all the rest of it in the there’s a planning paradigm that was coming out of Portland that was also being taken up in Detroit called 20 minute neighbourhoods right creating sort of new focal points within the urban fabric within which people people were no more than 20 minutes walk away from you know, the The quotidian requirements of life, right? Maybe not a big shop, maybe not buying a piece of furniture or something like that, but the sort of everyday needs. And I think that there’s something there’s something positive about refocusing around a scale rather than particular objects. And you’re seeing people talking about small vehicle lanes rather than bike lanes, and I think that sort of broadens the potential for political will. Behind micro mobility. I’m still extremely sceptical of the kind of delivery mechanisms in you know, essentially what shoshanna Zubov calls surveillance capitalism, right or the the is very bubble prone moment. And I think it’s really hard. The example of mobike is a case in point it’s really hard to stake, future future potential mobility regimes on Something that seems quite ephemeral, a thermal ephemeral, sorry, at this point, you know, mobility is ultimately an issue of rhythm and habit far more than then kind of novelty and and speed and kind of constant constant revision. there’s a there’s a phrase in the micro mobility and the kind of mobility platform world more generally, that’s code is the new concrete. And I think, you know, while concrete is, is a carbon furnace in and of itself, building things that last that kind of orient future development is, is I still think I worthy goal. And so, I would, I think that this particular moment is we’re we’re in a kind of throwing spaghetti against the wall type of moment and that concerns For me, is that with incredibly inexpensive, actual physical infrastructure? Right? If you think about the the the scooter right as the physical infrastructure, combined with the data platform, that it doesn’t leave much behind when the bubble bursts in, in a very different way that when the railroad bubble burst in the late 19th century left behind a lot of quite usable track, right, that we now use for on a public basis in a lot of places, or the street car bubble burst and what you are left, what you were left with, until it was dismantled, was quite usable public transport systems. And my concern is that there’s there’s nothing there’s nothing left afterwards that can be used in a more public way. And when you look at when you look at the investments that Uber and Lyft are making in micro mobile, platforms, it’s company that lose money and companies that lose money investing in other companies that lose money and it’s hard to see. The

it’s hard to see, you know what the future holds for that. Now, one thing I will say is that it I think it in a strange way shows that moving people equitably and sustainability sustainably is not profitable. And I think that that’s fine. And I think opening up a conversations around the mat or conversation around the massive subsidies that companies like lime and bird have received in the form of venture capital constantly delaying the need to be profitable, that that subsidy is not much different from the subsidy that moving people should be receiving. From the public sector. Right and that, that kind of aligning that that that subsidy is not bad. That subsidies are needed moving people cost money. It’s a public service.

Carlton Reid 1:11:06
So you’d be a proponent of the dangerous left wing socialist tendencies here. But you’d be a proponent of free public transit, for instance, free Bike Share hires, for instance, that kind of thing.

John Stehlin 1:11:20
Certainly. Yeah. And and the and especially their integration, which I think is enormously important. The the integration and especially in the context of the United States, where it’s, you know, we we are dealing with a, we’re dealing with a land intensive form of urban development, and we’re, you know, I’m talking about Central City neighbourhoods, and the kind of hypertrophic suburbs are another story altogether, and you’re probably going to need in order to achieve that First and Last Mile X Access to transit, you’re probably going to need faster ways of moving than just walking. In order to access where people really do live, while at the same time building up more housing, I would like to see it be social housing around public transit nodes in suburban areas to sort of refocus that development pattern. But when you look at where the places where micro mobility platforms are serving, they’re not they’re not flocking towards out that the edges of transport networks, right, they’re flocking towards the centre, the the centres that already actually have some of the best transport coverage. And I think that that’s that need to generate more trips, which would be, I would say at least modulated under a more kind of publicly oriented type of system.

Carlton Reid 1:12:58
Now on You’ve touched on something in your book that I’ve certainly touched on in my books. And it’s very rarely touched upon in bicycle advocacy circles, if at all, and that is how uncomfortable bicycling actually is to the great majority people we kind of forget, as bicycle advocates, we kind of forget

John Stehlin 1:13:19
that. So I’m gonna again, I’m going

Carlton Reid 1:13:20
to quote your book. So you talked about cycling or bicycles do not shield the rider from the weather from injury due to collisions, often the gaze of other road users, they cost their riders energy and impose risks, meaning distances, measured in bicycle time vary between individual levels of effort. So bicycles are this. Yes, they’re a miracle. Yes, they’re wonderful for for certain people. Yet at the same time, they are incredibly uncomfortable. They don’t shield you, as you said, They’re from the public gaze which is an issue for women. It’s an issue for people for colour, people who Don’t want to be seen. They don’t want to be seen in public a car is perfect for shielding from the public gaze. So bicycling isn’t the panacea that many people think it is for many people. Do you do do you? Would you see that as quite fair?

John Stehlin 1:14:18
Yeah, I think it is quite fair. And

again, I think that the comparison to micro mobility platforms is illustrative. I think part of what what has led to the enormous explosion of scooter sharing is not just that the rides are unsustainably cheap, right. And it’s not just that the the actual physical infrastructure is very cheap, and so it’s easy to put a lot of it in the centre of the city. It’s not just that you don’t have to be responsible for it. Once you’ve ended your ride like you do with a bicycle, which is something theft, you know, you walk outside and you have a, you know, a soggy bicycle to get on because it’s been raining all the rest of it. It’s not just those things. It’s also the

Unknown Speaker 1:15:13
it’s it’s also the fact that

John Stehlin 1:15:18
that it’s easy, right? That it doesn’t require a lot of physical effort that you just kind of get on and go. And for those of us who are seasoned cyclists, we approach it in the exact same way. But it is a kind of a learning curve. And especially I think, it feels like more of a hurdle to be straddling something to that there’s kind of more fit issues in terms of, you know, the height of the saddle, the the width of the handlebars, the distance of the bars of the saddle, all of that. I mean, these are kind of these are things that we take for granted, those of us who are kind of seasons cyclists or those of us who are seasoned bicycle users and don’t think of ourselves as cyclists at all but are very comfortable on bikes. I think that there’s another there’s another aspect to it though, which is that we have it’s driving is also effortful in different ways. driving to work, especially very long commutes is exhausting. It’s mentally exhausting it you know it, I think, I think there’s a fairly good research on on this that I you know, I can’t call call up from memory right now, but the, but I think it in in imposes a psychological cost.

Carlton Reid 1:16:49
Yeah, there are studies that show you it’s the stress levels of a fighter pilot, just just going into driving to work is just as stressful as that.

John Stehlin 1:16:55
So I think that there’s I think that we have to work refocus the sort of discussion around effort of within the broader context of sort of what people’s lives are like today. I talked a little bit referencing the Great British geographer Dorian Massie, who’s talked a lot about time space compression, which is a kind of classic. And in Marxian geography, the way that investments in kind of transport in investments in kind of faster transport create the kind of shrinking world. Of course, it doesn’t shrink evenly, it shrinks between particular points that that are connected to those networks. But one of the things that I think is that you see with bicycle, bicycle usage and walking as well, is people choosing what you might call time space elongation, right? a longer, slower, maybe slightly more effortful mode because of a whole Set of other pressures in their lives that are reduced, right? The journey to work is potentially shorter. If you live and a gentrifying area that are that’s right next to your office in the central business district. There are other kind of pressures on on people’s physical lives. It’s really hard to you know, it’s it’s, it’s hard to do a lot of social reproduction tasks which are enormously gendered, right. child rearing, taking kids to school, doing the shopping, all of the what is called trip chaining that is disproportionately done by women. It’s hard to do all that with conventional bicycles and the bicycles that make it easy to do that are very expensive, you know, 1200 to 2000 and beyond dollars, which, if it’s a it’s a hard sell to somebody who is uncertain about cycling overall and it would be especially Sell to somebody who their built environment doesn’t really support easily doing that. That kind of stuff. I live now in Greensboro, North Carolina, which has a very different built environment from the San Francisco Bay Area, very much car orient, very much more car oriented. Even in the kind of the central neighbourhoods of the city, it’s very hard to do a lot of kind of routine shopping by bicycle, I still do it but the effort, the effort, commitment that it takes, it’s not something that would be easy to ask somebody whose job is otherwise also effortful, or stressful, or who have a lot of other claims on their time due to social reproduction or caring for caring for elderly, relatives, etc. be hard to ask. So I think we need other kinds of options, but we also need a different kind of built environment that exact sort of fewer, fewer mobility, fewer, less coercive mobility and more mobility as as a choice, right?

Carlton Reid 1:20:20
You mentioned Marxist geography. So there are Marxist geographers, can you get right wing bicycle advocates? Or is it inherently left wing?

John Stehlin 1:20:31
I think you definitely can. I mean, we mentioned we discussed a little bit about the

Unknown Speaker 1:20:38
the vehicular cycling,

John Stehlin 1:20:44
way of thinking which was really dominant in the United States, and I would I would hazard the UK as well, in the 1970s onwards, and vehicular cycling basically posited that cyclists were saying Fist when they acted the most like cars, what that meant was riding at speed in the centre of the lane. And a lot of vehicular cyclists were quite reasonable when it came to bicycle infrastructure and a lot of vehicular cyclists were extremely opposed to bicycle infrastructure investments on the basis that they would quote segregate bicycle facilities, and that it would be a slippery slope towards banning cyclists from the roadways. And one of the kind of the fathers of vehicular cycling discourse in the United States, john Forrester, who was a who was a Stanford Stanford avionics engineer, had no particular kind of left wing proclivity proclivities, he was quite centrist or centre right, depending on you know, how, how you measured his pullet his political tendencies, I shouldn’t I shouldn’t use the past tense He’s still alive, I think, um, yeah. But the, but the narrative was very much around personal freedom and he was very suspicious of bicycle advocates who wanted to change what he saw were the kind of the development patterns of the American suburbs that were a natural product of simply choices in the marketplace where many urban historians from, from David Freud’s to kianga Yamada, Taylor have shown how those restructured by you know, racialized lending practices, and so on the red lining story, so to speak. So so I think that there there is a kind of individualistic streak. Occasionally you’ll see arguments and more conservative publications like think I’ve seen arguments in reason for example, that specifically around kind of the, you know, bicycling is good. It’s personal autonomy, it’s just kind of personal responsibility. It is not attached to the, you know, mass transit system or you know, you might call the nanny state or something like that. And you hear this at a kind of vernacular level sometime among sometimes among kind of sensibly quite left wing bicycle advocates who nevertheless see one of the benefits are not even advocates but just bicycle users. One of the benefits of cycling being not being tied to transit schedules, right, the sort of the, the tyranny of the transit schedule, which in the United States, those schedules are quite dismal. Right, I would I bike to work every day because it’s extremely easy. I live very close to campus, I would be able to walk to work, I would love to be able to just hop on a bus some days and and and be at work very shortly or be at other locations. Very shortly but the the, the bus headways are, you know, the scheduling, they’re very long delays, if you miss one bus, you’re going to be standing for half an hour. So it’s again, it’s against the terrain of the existing that the bicycle looks like a kind of a personal freedom I was actually living in the living in the UK really, you know, introduced me to the fact that being able to take public transport everywhere is a form of freedom that I think is very precious and I think is very undervalued in the United States. JOHN, we’ve covered

Carlton Reid 1:24:39
a lot of ground both metaphorical and literal spatial geography this show is all been about and we haven’t even got on to the fact that you’re a college radio DJ. And so we’ve missed out tonnes but we having to load up your book is a fascinating book at psycho escapes of the unequal city. So this is the point in the show where you tell me how how people can get the book and how they can get in touch with you perhaps on social media.

John Stehlin 1:25:05
Right? So, yeah, thank you so much. This has been really great. It’s really exciting. I listened to a lot of these. And now you know, I get to get to kind of hold forth so to speak. You can you can get the book on the University of Minnesota presses website, I think it’s And you can also find me on social media on Twitter at @Jostehlin. And I think that yeah, I think that covers the social media engagement part. But I’m, you know, I’m excited to kind of talk about these issues with a sort of fellow traveller, so to speak, and kind of kind of play about with some of the potential futures that cycling holds

Carlton Reid 1:25:54
at Well, I’ve got to that note, thank you for including my books in your research. So I’m I looked in your bibliography and there, there’s some of my work in there too. So that’s pretty cool.

John Stehlin 1:26:05
Yeah, no, it was great. It was great to finally talk to you and, you know, meet meet the face behind the words or meet the voice behind the words, I guess.

Carlton Reid 1:26:13
Yeah, it’s just a word. Because we’re not having this is not on video. So, john, thank you so much for for taking the time out of your assistant professorship role.

John Stehlin 1:26:26

Carlton Reid 1:26:28
Your, your institution, we did take a while to get in touch with each other. And we kind of like ships passing the night once or twice. And we had a few technical problems, all of which is now or moot, because we’ve had a fascinating conversation a lot longer than probably we both thought at the time. But I’m sure other people will find it equally fascinating as of course, is your book “Cyclescapes of the unequal city.” So john, thank you very much. Thanks to John Stehlin there – tdetails about “Cyclescapes of the Unequal city” can be found on the show notes at And that’s also where you can get a transcript of this episode and a whole bunch of the previous ones. If you enjoy today’s show, brought to you as always by Jenson USA, make sure to subscribe, so you’re hooked up to get all future episodes and take a shufty at our massive back catalogue. Massive. There are a whopping 233 other episodes to check out, hours and hours of listening pleasure. The Spokesmen cycling podcast has been narrow casting to the world non stop since 2006 been kind of twice a month anyway, however, and wherever you like to listen to the Spokesmen cycling podcast, get out there and ride.

December 23, 2019 / / Blog

The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast

$100,000 For A Bicycle? In Conversation with Michael Mourechek of Festka

Episode 233

Monday 23rd December 2019


HOST: Carlton Reid

GUEST: Michael Mourechek, cofounder of Festka


Forbes article on Festka.

$35,000-worth of handpainted bicycle


Carlton Reid 0:13
Welcome to Episode 233 of the spokesmen cycling podcast. This show was published on Monday 23rd December 2019.

David Bernstein 0:24
The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast is brought to you by Jenson USA, where you’ll always find a great selection of products at amazing prices with unparalleled customer service. For more information, just go to Hey everybody, it’s David from the Fredcast cycling podcast at I’m one of the hosts and producers of the spokesmen cycling roundtable podcast. For show notes, links and all sorts of other information please visit our website at And now, here are the spokesmen.

Carlton Reid 1:08
Hi there I’m Carlton Reid and this episode of the Spokesmen Podcast is a bonus show, my little Christmas present for you. It’s an interview with Michael Moure?ek, cofounder of the lustworthy bicycle brand Festka of the Czech Republic. The company was in the news recently with a $35,000 carbon road bike painted to look like porcelain so I called Michael for a chat, and we talk about this particular paint job as well as why one Festka bike recently sold for $100,000 in a charity auction. Festka is co-owned by a billionaire and I’ve just written a story about the brand for Forbes. Check it out at

Michael, tell me about the world. The reason we’re talking to you today and you’ve had some media on this in the last few days is this project that you’ve been working on for like 13 months for this, this Bangkok bicycle collector. So tell me about that before we get into into Feska as a whole,

Michael Moure?ek 2:22
This was a very interesting project for us because we love for this difficult project. And this client was amazing because he gives us a freedom and he just influence us with his life and then we have complete freedom. So we know about him that the collect the bike, so he has a more than 40 full custom bikes, and he also collects the porcelain. So for us, was this like a good idea to works with illustrator named Michal Ba?ák, which is an amazing guy. He did a lot of porcelain stuff. And there was a long time ago in our heads

Michael Moure?ek 3:17
to do something what represent like check porcelain or check glass school. So this was a good opportunity for us. So why they took the 13 months was because the client wants to have a lot of personal details. So we was drawing on the paper, lot of sketches and this just took us like a six months to send him the sketches and discuss every detail so if you sit on the bike, you’ll see that there is a lot of small pictures and everyone somehow it’s connected with his life with his life past the Finally. So this was interesting on one time and I think that this create for him really personal.

Carlton Reid 4:12
do you know Is he going to be riding this bicycle or is this a bicycle for his wall?

Michael Moure?ek 4:16
Yeah, definitely. No no no, no no definitely definitely will be righted by his house. It’s looks like like temporarily cyclists museum. So, so he has a bike display in his house, but he used them the majority of the bike or what I can see on his social media. He writes so and with that bike, he discussed with us mainly about the the riding specification. So the bike is ready to be used so he has handlebars would you normally use nothing fancy There was there’s a lot of stuff, which tells everyone that this biker should be used in the future.

Carlton Reid 5:08
How did he find you in the first place?

Michael Moure?ek 5:10
This project has one exception because normally we do this directly with the customers, the sky. Talk first with our dealer in Bangkok, so somehow it goes through him. But after that he used our client service. Bangkok it’s a good market for us maybe surprisingly, but Bangkok has a very unique thing that there isn’t one only one route where is it possible to ride a bike like this safely? It’s around the airport, which is open it’s it was a great for the cyclist and it’s open 24 hour per day. So, it’s a big city. So it’s every hour, you can met the cyclists there and you can join them. So and this created a specific market because it’s some kind of the socialising so people need to care what they wear for example like in jersey businesses in Bangkok a little bit different in the rest of the world so because you go to ride the bike and it’s the similar like in the Europe we go to the pub, so we want to be well dressed and show maybe our social status wherever. And in the Bangkok somehow. This works similar with was riding the bike around the airport because you met always the same people and you need to show them new new stuff. So it’s it’s it’s changed Little bit business and we have quite a lot customers there and majority of them owns custom by

Carlton Reid 7:10
the basic is it’s a Spectre it’s a standard kind of a I’m saying standard here it’s it’s your your base model and then people then customise from there.

Michael Moure?ek 7:21
Yeah, yeah, actually it’s not based model It’s a race model. So this is the same bike what for example, check track national team use for for the road races and they have also a version of this frame for for the track so it’s very stiff. So this is another thing will show that the clients really want to use this bike because if not, probably will go for the cheapest frame or maybe for the most expensive frame to make the show off. So and hate to say this Really race oriented frame?

Carlton Reid 8:03
Because I’ve seen his social media. I mean, he rides in Europe. So he comes and does like events in Europe as well, doesn’t he? So you may be right, right. And one of them

Michael Moure?ek 8:12
yeah, maybe maybe we didn’t have a chance to meet him during this process, but hopefully I hope that we will meet here in the Europe or during my travelling to Asia.

Carlton Reid 8:27
So this was basically a $35,000 bicycle.

Michael Moure?ek 8:33
Yeah, it is. It is. It’s Yeah, it’s hard to say like that. Because in this cases,

Unknown Speaker 8:42
the price it’s

Unknown Speaker 8:46
it’s, it’s very hard to set up the price because

Michael Moure?ek 8:50
we did this art bike or a bike together with an artist in the past. So there is I don’t know. Let’s say seven. Bye. Like that already from the past, and we always try to choose the artist which has a good value and there is no can predict that his work will be more expensive in the future. So, so far all the bytes what we did in this art edition keep the price or maybe today price is higher levels on the beginning and very often the price for the artwork it’s a higher than the material cost for the bike and for the components

Carlton Reid 9:42
because it and the components front you took the logos off Didn’t you have the of the components


Michael Moure?ek 9:48
with Yeah, yeah, we took a logo, we redesign the strum group said so because in Georgian over there is like a civil sticker and we changes we change that And there was some people from from a solid and I was impressed at how how this looks so there’s so many small details we ask also the lightweight to use like different buildings and etc so so there is a small tuning also on on the components yeah we remove the logo from the seatpost and etc but this is a some kind of the standard stuff what we do because we try to always think about the bike like complete thing so all the components need to play

Unknown Speaker 10:40
Yeah, so

Michael Moure?ek 10:43
nothing special for for us like to to redesign the groups and it’s quite common for us.

Carlton Reid 10:50
And how many bicycles are you? customising a year and a how many bicycles are you selling a year so how big is the custom part of your business

Unknown Speaker 10:59
in the past was like

Michael Moure?ek 11:03
when we start like, so we start like a 10 years ago. So then immediately we start to sell our bike. So in real estates took us like a five years to reach the limit to reach the level of where we are today with r&d and production capacity and etc. So it took us, let’s say, five years to develop the product. Then until now It took us another four years to set up the production and all the processes so we wasn’t in a hurry in the past year, so it will change right now. So for example, past two past three years, we keep our production on 200 frames per year. We have a production capacity for 500. So for the next year, we plan to reach higher number on the beginning of the hundred personal fall reframe was for custom,


we start to step by step represent something would we call Core Collection, it’s standard design. Then we have some kind of the limited edition of designs. And these full custom today 70% of our customer by the base design, maybe they change the colour too much with the car wherever. And the 30% of our production is the unique things for each writer

Carlton Reid 12:42
set to tell me how you make your frames because it’s not I mean, most carbon frames are in mold. This is not in mold frames.

Michael Moure?ek 12:51
No. There’s two things. So first, it’s a pupil connection. So which is not so unique but What it’s quite unique or not so usually it’s the filament building cubes what we use because 10 years ago when we start thinking to produce the bike, we we have a freedom because we don’t have any past. So, we was looking to to the future so we were searching what I mean try to guess what the the carbon industry can move in 1020 years perspective. So, so and we took the inspiration for the aircraft industry and in these days was a big hype around the Boeing Dreamliner. And for example, Boeing Dreamliner, main tube of displaying some main was the same technology like v2 A tubes. So in the shortcut for us what is very important is that these tubes are made by the machine by the robots. So if you compare the moulds production It’s the hand made the job. So this is the people will make a mistake because they think that we are handmade company, which is not a true the big brands are handmade because they need to take like 500 or 700 pieces of the pre pregs and they need to put them by the hand inside the moles and it’s quite unhealthy. There is a lot of space for some mistakes and etc. So in our case, the robots do our job they are very precise. They are always in the same mood because they don’t have the family issues and wild party. So they every every day, produce the perfect cube for us. And and then we use the human hands to assembly them so thing that we have absolutely freedom to do any size, what we need. So normally we offer 24 sizes like stock sizes, let’s say and plus the custom one We can change the tube if we need it. So I remember that in the past, we did a few frames for very heavy people. So they don’t have the same job like I use. And in our workflow, it’s quite easy to change up just for them. So this is different way how to produce the stuff from the carbon not so common for bicycle industry. It’s a very niche in the bicycle industry. But it’s very common in the different kinds of industries like automotive aircraft industry or the gas bottles today are made from the carbon and it’s very similar technology like that used for the tubes.

Carlton Reid 15:51
and where are you? The robots are somewhere different and then you get them shipped in and then you assemble where do you assemble

Michael Moure?ek 16:00
We, we produce the tube in the souls of the Czech Republic by the coincidences there in a very small city when I was born and I didn’t know it, we have a company like that there. And these guys are amazing. It was the company was a phone by two students in the 1993, if I remember correctly, and there was a one student who studied like aircraft engineering and the composite material. And the other one was the student who studied robotic scientists, and one professor, put them together and say, one, hey, you should design it to the robots for your colleague. And you should, you should try to do something and they try it. And they found the company. And what is amazing for us is that these guys Build Own robots. So and they also make the programme for them. So if today I need something, they completely control. The they they really control their production because very often people buy some machine but they don’t know who make the software for them. So they they have a lot of possibilities what they can do with them, but not unlimited. And these guys are very unique and the carbon words with that with that possibilities. So today we are very connected even our head of r&d as a table in that company and for the next year you will be employed by the company because it’s it’s better, it’s cheaper for us so, so we are very close. So they do so today we have let’s say free spots on the robot so we can even change everything like an hour before. So so they produce that you for us but we do together the r&d because we need to know What how to make the tube or what we want to receive for the final product. So it’s a very close partnership

Carlton Reid 18:09
and they then making that mainly for aerospace normally

Michael Moure?ek 18:16
they do like like the tubes or beams goes to company who produced robots and these robots working in the automotive industry for example, they do like stuff for military, I saw that they do like the car, RPG from the car horn and stuff like that. Any kind of the product and very often a very high end with some sophisticated needs. So the they do been so which are the base of very precise copying machine, for example. So so it’s hard to imagine But it’s very often it’s looks like a very ordinary product like normal aluminium beans made from the carbon, but they are so, so good that they know how to design the layers of the carbon inside that the product absorb some kind of the vibration for example. So, so, I remember that they did one project for some line production line in automotive industry and they replace the aluminium beam with the carbon beings and the lines goes 15 times faster than before. So, this is a huge impact to their business. So, so they do this kind of

very high end engineering.

Carlton Reid 19:49
So you get the tubes, this very high end engineering tubes and and you then have a factory or workshop where you then put these things together.

Michael Moure?ek 20:00
Yes, yes, yes. So we have we, yeah, so we do own r&d. So it’s, we always need to tell them what we want. So then we receive the tubes from them very often two times per week. And we need to mentor them and put them to the Jake made the lamination around the joints. You know, we need to prepare the carbon for the paint job. We have our own paint job. So we paint them and we do assembly and etc.

Carlton Reid 20:33
And how many people have you got working there and they go

Michael Moure?ek 20:37
to today it’s working for us 18 people. So in the past was a more of as close to 30 when we was really working on the r&d stuff. Now all the team has 18 members,

Carlton Reid 20:52
and tell me about the company. You said before that you were you’ve been you’ve been going for 10 years. Was it was 2010 when you you were founded Yes, yes. And how you say it was you and a business partner

Michael Moure?ek 21:08
It was a me and my friend Ond?ej Novotný it happened that

Unknown Speaker 21:12
was a

Michael Moure?ek 21:15
the real beginning was in the same day when I have a birthday so I was on the bar and Ond?ej was the first guy who came and my parents called me and they asked me to buy a bike so they want to give me the birthday gift the bike and was a funny situation for me because it was the first time in my life in my life when I was in a position to buy to buy because previously I receive always the bike from the team so people pay me for it and I never have a freedom to choose the group said which is the brand the colour and etc. So so I was 30 years old the guy was quite a lot experience with with the bikes and will never bought the bike for himself. So, it was a unique situation for me and it was a very you know Andre in the days was a very curious what brand are will choose and etc and I I told him that I will not going in that way that I will first study little bit worries the the steel tubes right now what is in the offer and then I will select some frame builder who will put the tubes together for me and etc. And he was very impressed with that possibility because he didn’t know it. So he was immediately on the board and actually we didn’t need this bike so so we take a time and we want to make it a nice project for us. So we started travelling we visited a lot of frame builders here in the Czech Republic was in the past it was a nice scene of the frame building. But no one fits to our needs. So we went to the delay. I know the language. I have a lot of connection there so we were the data layer and during the struggling we realised that almost no one has under control all the skills would you need to have if you want to build the perfect bike so it was a guys who doesn’t understand my writers needs they don’t know how to how to transfer them to the geometry if there is one someone who understand what I won, the craftsmanship wasn’t on the good level. If these both things works, they frozen with the designs are in the 80s so so we can’t find the perfect frame of the for us who owns all these so we went back and do the Republic and we want to do this like a project. And so we start to searching for some commitments guys, and we want to build our perfect by just like a project and me falling in love with that would be so different. stabilities and the chariot public is a perfect industry country whereas a lot of like a basic research and basic industry and we saw like the possibilities of high end industry would we we can transfer to, to the simplest things like the bike frame is it So, this is how all these start

Carlton Reid 24:25
and then you Andre and yourself, you you you created a business and then it could you have backing from a billionaire was was that from the start or was that later on?

Michael Moure?ek 24:42
It was later on because

we was we will start we start with a steel. And we on the beginning we can’t imagine that we will jump to the car bonus so soon, but somehow it happened and we we did cover some possibilities in the carbon and titanium as well. And, and we and we, we burn all our money, what we put to the business together as the Andre. So first finance think of our company was through the fund raising so in 2012 we made like own private fundraising project call it 200 and we promised people to deliver 200 carbon frames which we did actually wasn’t 235 remember correctly we produce around the seven day because the production cost was the higher than the price what we promise So, but but it helped us to develop our first carbon frame together with a comeback and Later on with a chicken University and etc. And basically this was the really base of our future. Today, I hope I can say hi in production. And so we show something with that. And we need the money to to fund the company to fund the production. We know that we are on the some direction what we feel that can bring something what is not on the market right now. And yeah, so we need the money for it. So we make this connection with that billionaire guy.

Carlton Reid 26:47
So how do i mean that? That’s fascinating. How do you make a connection with a billionaire guy because that’s not an everyday occurrence with Is he a cyclist? What Where’s interest?

Michael Moure?ek 26:57
No, no A good question

Unknown Speaker 27:03
is happened that

Michael Moure?ek 27:07
one, so so we will searching for it. So it wasn’t like there was no secret that we was searching for the partner. And we was talking with Mr. Zdenek Bakala, which is his owner of the Quickstep team. So it’s a Czech guy who owns the team. And, and we had a meeting with him and he was very happy to when he imagined that he can own something like that, but the we don’t like the people around him. So basically, we say no. And this was a funny because then the Forbes magazine made the interview with us and Mr. Bakala confirm that we say no. In that negotiation So this thing’s maybe go public that we searching for someone and the big guys are interesting to invest to our company. And then one my friend knows these guy and this guy, and he called me if we if I want to set up a meeting with him, so he set up the meeting. We have a one lunch, he asked us about the business. He set up the next day, the lunch again, and he asked us for some question, and we was impressed how good homework he did overnight. So he started the business. He, I don’t know, he asked us for the 15 questions and the 10 questions was perfectly on point. So yeah, so we made a deal with him. Michal Korecký.

Carlton Reid 28:53
Because people do get into the bike industry. Often, often they’re they’re very much into Yes. And they assume they’re going to make lots of money and then they get into the bicycle industry and discover it’s actually a cottage industry in many respects that you don’t make much money in this industry so so is your billionaire mean this is this is Michal? Yes. That this is he’s still happy with with the bicycle industry and with you.

Michael Moure?ek 29:27
Far hard to say. So I think that we have, we have a maybe different vision about about the future because you name it so these guys want to push the business always to the big numbers. And we feel more our potential in this niche, let’s say luxury business, because this was the original idea behind the first car to Create the very high end bike which are perfect in every point of view. So there need to be perfect components. Perfect material. Perfect frame, very nice design and everything you need to be perfect. And this was our revision. Yeah, and we want to keep this so yeah. So so in that we have a different direction. And as I mentioned before, they will be changed in our own struction soon, which will reflect exactly what I name it right now.

Carlton Reid 30:42
So let’s go backwards a bit because you mentioned there your your when your birthday, the bicycle that you could choose and the fact that you were a bicycle racer, and you got bikes given by him so tell me about your bicycle racing career, Michael

Michael Moure?ek 31:00
I remember that when was the Olympic Games in Seoul which was 1986 if I remember correctly I was sick and I saw it I it’s like a flashback when I call to my brother to see the TV and there was a team pursuit race on it and I was so fascinated with the guys on this bike with the full disk wheels and Aero helmet and this skinsuit and this was something but I was like a tour guy living somewhere in the mountains. So I can’t imagine how can happen that someone do this sports, so I forgot it on it. And during the high school, I started there was some discussion and the people asked me what will be my dream job and I say the Pro Cycling and they smile me say I could be Pro racer. So I start to take this stuff seriously. And I become to be one of the best like a junior racer. I get them Medal from the world championship team pursuit. So somehow my dream come true. And I have like a very big results. When I was Junior then I moved from the junior category directly to to the Italy I was racing for small teams and Italy was in these days the small teams was very often the good this team was a connected with the pro team. So first year I was in team was connected with the Mercatona-Uno you know, and then I was on the farm of Mapei. And it was a very interesting experience for me the I need to return back to the Czech Republic to make a military service so I can ride a bike also during the military service but I need to stay here in the Czech Republic and then I stay with that pro continental military team in the end of my career in year 2006 so during that time I was a 10 time champion on the on the road on the on the track so like nothing special

Carlton Reid 33:30
I think it’s quite special so 2006 you retire you’ve been lately you’re the age of 26 so there’s four years but what the gap be so 2006 to 2010 when you found it fast go What were you doing in those four years?

Michael Moure?ek 33:47
Yeah, first I maybe I I quit but I still have a contract. When I quit my I realised that my I will be never like the winner of the Tour de France and etc. was also the complicated situation because I was very often so close to sign the contract, but it was a in these days the the Germany like a very strong economic doesn’t have a pro component to the team. So it was quite complicated situation. So it was a pragmatic decision. So I I say my saved cell that I’m not too old to try something new and one of my friend

Unknown Speaker 34:36
searching for someone who can

Michael Moure?ek 34:40
be ahead of his political campaign because he wants to become to be the major of the proximity. So and I say this is interesting, so maybe this could be like a good restart for for myself. So I say I can I can quit riding the bike in immediately. And I can start to working for you. So and this happened. So the next four years I was working in the marketing. And mainly I did the political campaigns. So something and then I realised that it’s not so good for my karma. So I was looking to, to go back to the site.

Carlton Reid 35:25
And then you found it faster with Ondreh. And now Festka. You told me before means fixie, in effect in Czech.

Michael Moure?ek 35:35
It is but it’s a little bit complicated. The first car it’s it’s a very old check. name for the fixed bike. Perfect See, but it means of the trek bike not the fixie, what become to be popular in over the year 2000 wherever. So and I know this word Because since my trek career my coach or the old writer always call the track bike Festka so and I have this background and there was a free com domain and I never want to put my name on on on the frame because I since the beginning I want to create the project the people will be working together on the frame so it’s doesn’t make sense to put my name on it because it’s not only my work, so yeah, so I just take this again, there was a pragmatic decision so people can there was no connection between this name and anything else. So if you put to the Google it’s works for us and etc. So, so again, nothing special just a pragmatic decision, and I like this word and deed. Make

Carlton Reid 37:00
fixies as well I mean it was that goal was got a good

Michael Moure?ek 37:05
we yeah this is this is all the people think that we started as a fixie, actually it’s a true so on the beginning we made the fixie bike but in reality we made like maybe 10 bikes, like a fixed gear bikes because we give ourself first two years for the studying the business, the cycling market because we don’t have this experience. So we must open to do everything what the clients wants from us. So from this early ages of the first car, we made it full suspension bikes, for example, mountain bikes, the travelling bikes and etc. So and we’ll learn from our mistakes in that so and everything somehow influence us for the future. So the fixie was amazing school for us because there was a client who doesn’t have any experiences of cycling so they asked us for for the things what the experience cyclists never asked for like to like paint spokes. The I don’t know the the they want to have a different letter on the on the settle and it’s a draw so and we wants to fulfil their wishes and and from these days comes this our experience today that we can make gold leaves on the subtle and etc. And we have experienced that this works so it was a good school for us but no business and yeah, there’s maybe 10 people owns the

fixie bike. Right okay.

Carlton Reid 39:00
Now tell me about the Doppler because the Doppler is it’s half its carbon and a half, it’s titanium. So what were the were the different tubes there.

Michael Moure?ek 39:12
This become, actually, this was one of the few things what the billionaire on the board influenced us because he he asked us if he can make the titanium frame I say, again, based on my experience from the racing, I say, okay, it’s not a big deal to do world titanium frame, but to make the perfect titanium by frame, it’s a different kind of thing. So, but luckily in the past was in the Czech Republic, the company named Moratti and it was it’s a company today they produce the, the part for the engine and maybe somebody And for the US military. So again, very high end industry focusing on welding the titanium and in the 90s they don’t have a work. So, they started doing somehow the bicycle parts and they use all the experience and they transfer this to the bike. So, they have a very unique technology. And in 2004, this company bought Honeywell, so they immediately quit the bike production and, and I come back the CEO of this company and he helped us to develop our titanium programme. So we started doing the titanium frame, and then I did a lot of people call me holidays before the Christmas time like now and they they want to have something like a combination of the carbon and titanium something like this. flights do or Enigma, or this titanium blocks and the carbon to plain sight. And I always say that hey, it doesn’t make sense to me because this is the solution what was here a long time ago and it’s always felt like Allen frames, look frames and energised as a matter of the one the glue will be old enough. And there was so many reason don’t don’t do this because one of them rules will be at Invesco that we never do anything without the purpose. And in that kind I need to see the purpose but the people push me and I say okay, I don’t remember it was 2016 during the Christmas and I say I will be thinking about each tube separately. So I saw with the head you and I realised that the to make the carbon head you it’s the much more easier and much more better for the frame than To use the titanium one. So then I thinking about the main joobs top tube and the downtube. And I think that these guys are who by this by our people who wants to have the modern version of the titanium Pike, so they still wants to feel and see the titanium. So the main cubes are from titanium, the bottom bracket, it’s somehow just the holder for the bearings. So, perfect the things to save the way to with a carbon chainstays are responsible for the the power transmission so definitely the carbon is better for that application the titanium as a lot of troubles with the diameter of the capacitor acid carbonic was the perfect solution. Seats days are responsible for the conforte titanium can afford for the perfect come forth and the last things was a seat post and Our solution with an integrated seatpost it’s the weight it’s a 185 grammes wherever all the seatpost with the with the lock for the settled, so we can save a lot of weight on it. So and if you put this together, I think that somehow it’s works and it’s a good frame still you feel the titanium and the weight of this bike. It’s 1100 grammes. So it’s lighter than the luck solution. So yeah, so this is it. So and we, we know how to how to work with identity and how do works with a carbon. So the joints what works looks like Lux. Actually, this is not the luxus the special way how we do this elimination and one of the magic things it’s and so we need to do, the very complicated stuff was How to prefer the titanium for for for that.

Carlton Reid 44:05
And what’s the light? What? What’s the lightest bike that you can do with with a road disc brake

Unknown Speaker 44:11

Michael Moure?ek 44:13
This is always the question of the people asked me for and I my answer is easily 500 grammes, but you need to ask me if this bike will be good or not so, so it’s a it’s always a combination of the stiffeners. The the riding for the bike need to be stable and the high speed which is the weakness of the ultra light frame, etc. So today, I think that the 750 grammes, let’s say, it’s the border and I don’t feel the reason to go below. Low that way

Carlton Reid 45:01
so for full bike you can get that to like 5.8 kilos

Unknown Speaker 45:07
for the full

Michael Moure?ek 45:10
in the you asked me for the disc version so a few months ago we made it to the disco version of the bike and the weight was a 5.6 kilos and still the and the target wasn’t to make the lightest disc bike on the world The reason the target was to make the perfect bike with no

issues so is

all the gears would you need

no light component, the DVD blue

and this crazy things what to do to wait we need to do to to reach the limit. So all the components on it are let’s say stop. One so it’s a 5.6 with a very light tires It was 5.5 But after I decided to use the normal tires for it so I’m so it could be less and in with the with the same bike with the rim brake so it will be close to five I guess.

Carlton Reid 46:19
Now when you mentioned before about when you’re in your your pro career that you couldn’t choose your bag you are given your bike. So pros given bikes, and they can’t choose so they couldn’t, no pro could choose your bike and say I want to ride on that bike because that’s the best bike. They’ve got a ride on on spec bikes, that sounds kind of unfair, that they can’t ride on the best bikes in the world.

It’s a business behind that. So it’s it’s a it’s a change

Michael Moure?ek 46:50
over the year 2000. So in the 90s if you will be the team director and so maybe You will be we will visit me and say Hey Michael, I believe that the with your friend we can win the Tour de France I say okay I believe in your skills and in your writers and what do you want and probably will be asked me for I don’t know 60 maybe 80 frames I will say okay well let’s make a deal today if you are by producer you will never ask me for the quality of the bike you always asked me how much money I can give you. So if you are a good manager, I believe that you are so you’re you’re conditioned condition will be like 300 bikes, not frames but full build bikes, and I know something from 500,000 euros or even close to a million euros per year, like like like the minimum. So this is the this is the condition so What the protein can have right now. So So today on Tour de France, you can see the people who can afford it to pay the rider. It doesn’t mean that these products are the best. It’s nothing against to this product. But this was a one of the best bigger surprise for myself. When I was racer, I lived in the bubble of the Pro Cycling. So I know a lot of brands, but all these brands can afford it to pay the rider. Then I discover a lot of niche brands, good brands, like I don’t know, like a Chris King had said, I always fight with a headset on my race bike. So when I quit, and I discovered there is some guy named named Chris king who made this amazing headset. I never have an issue with that right now. So I’m thirsty. So many nice, nice components, and this company can survive without support to the big race.

Carlton Reid 49:10
So, are you making electric bikes for people? You know, like, where they can fit the battery?

Unknown Speaker 49:17
Is that a great? No

Michael Moure?ek 49:22
definitely it’s a big market for a must production by we the people pushing us to do this as well. So during the Christmas I will maybe it’s happened in the future, we are in we we will be tested the very specific engine in the beginning of the next year. Which is unique because it spreads to every our current frame. So So this seems to be interesting to me that I can Be sure that nothing change with behaviour of the bike or with the feeling with the rider has. And it’s just the option if you if you select any our bike and you just ask us for the engine, like like an upsell or something what is there it will be maybe possible the funnel, what I like on that solution is that it’s just the one and a half kilo which means that the battery has a one kilo so if you want to enjoy the bike without the help from the engine, you just need to keep the battery at home. So in the relative your bike will have just the 500 grammes on the top and when we talk about our 5.6 kilos dispersion bike, so it will be 6.1 still you will have lighter frame We like to bike then the majority of the population. So So this seems to be interesting. Yeah, so there’s a few things that need to be solved. Like the the temperature of the engine inside you, etc. So but it’s looks promising so I think that is 80% change that we will offer this auction in the future. Nothing What it’s my personal taste if you asked me for it, but I understand the clients who lives somewhere in the Alps for example, so there is no where to go. So this support makes sense for them.

Carlton Reid 51:50
So the bicycles you are making, as you said before, they are luxury product. So the people who are buying them Bye bye absolute definition have to be rich. So no, no Go on then.

Michael Moure?ek 52:08
No, no, this is

this is an interesting because if your dream will be to own to the Ferrari, for example or authors car and I don’t know you are you working behind the desk or in the supermarket? Probably you can never afford a car like that. Even if you win the money in the lottery, you will have no money for the maintenance. So for many people, this dream, it’s closed forever, but to have a dream bike from from flashcard say it’s okay so our bike starts at, I don’t know seven 6000 euros if you don’t want to do the compromise You need to be ready to pay somewhere around 10,000 euros. But still, the value of this bike you can enjoy for next 20 years. So basically, it’s just your decision or the priorities. So we have I’m surprised with how many let’s say ordinary people are definitely not Richard people we have in our fiscal family, so it’s not a matter of the money. It’s a matter of preference.

Carlton Reid 53:40
Thanks to Michael Moure?ek there. Links to Festka and my Forbes articles about the company can be found on the show notes at the hyphen spokesmen com On the last episode I had promised I’d be talking with academic John Steylin but this bonus episode bumped that show into 2020. Meanwhile, get out there and ride

December 17, 2019 / / Blog

Episode 232

Tuesday 17th December 2019


HOST: Carlton Reid

GUEST: Andy Boenau


Andy’s Bike Share book:

In this episode of the Spokesmen Cycling Podcast supported by Jenson USA I talked with US transportation planner Andy Boenau. We discussed his new Bike Share book as well as mobility-as-a-service (MaaS), cycle helmets and much more.


To come ….

Carlton Reid 0:14
Welcome to Episode 232 of the Spokesmen cycling podcast. The show was published on Tuesday 17th of December 2019.

David Bernstein 0:24
The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast is brought to you by Jenson USA, where you’ll always find a great selection of products at amazing prices with unparalleled customer service. For more information, just go to Hey everybody, it’s David from the Fredcast cycling podcast at I’m one of the hosts and producers of the spokesmen cycling roundtable podcast. For show notes, links and all sorts of other information please visit our website at And now, here are the spokesmen.

Carlton Reid 1:00
Hi, I’m Carlton Reid. And on this episode of the spokesman podcast, I’m talking Bike Share with Andy Boenau, Andy is the vice chair of American Planning associations New Urbanism division, and chair of the Institute of Transportation engineers, Transportation Planning Council. That was a long one. Anyway, he’s also a mobility as a service geek. And that’s mess, of course, and we touch upon that in this show, but we’re mainly chatting about his new book on bike sharing. And it Welcome to the show. Welcome to the spokesmen cycling podcast. Now, before we get into your book, and that’s what we’re gonna be talking about your bike share book, let’s talk about and the same

So, who are you? What do you do tell me about kind of like you can be as, as long as brief as you like here, but give me a thumbnail sketch of of you. I’m looking for people in the context of this programme.

Andy Boenau 2:17
I’m looking to help people live happy, healthy lifestyles, and and i it sounds flippant. I don’t mean that in a just everyone’s going to feel happy all the time. But I’ve been fascinated for a long time about the connection between an overlap between the built environment and how people behave.

I’m not a mental health expert, I’m not a

not somebody that understands the science of the body, why we are the way we are, or how our how our brains work and and how things can make us smile.

But I have been in the transportation business for over 20 years and I’ve seen over the years how the work that

I do either makes things worse or makes things better. And same for the industry around me. So
who am I, I’m a person that likes to make up true stories. I, I enjoy people I like people watching.

I made a couple of people. I’ve got two wonderful teenage boys, Drew and Aaron, who I hope will be more propaganda artists,


whatever, whatever it is that their path leads towards. I think both of them are going to end up doing some type of artistic work, which excites me.

Carlton Reid 3:36
You dedicated the book to them, didn’t you? I saw that. I did. Yes.

Andy Boenau 3:41
Yeah. The last book that I did emerging trends and transportation planning was

was to my dad, who he’s in he was in the transportation business for decades before retiring, and a couple years ago, and like any teenage boy when when I was

My kids age, I just assumed I’m never going to do the type of work that my dad does. Because he’s my Dad, why would I follow in his footsteps, I’m going to do something completely different. And then I ended up going to get a civil engineering degree that he helped pay for. And then started in traffic engineering. And then over the years got closer and closer to his type of work with mass transportation. And at some point in time, we kept running into each other that would say, that’s an unusual last name. Do you know this other beno? And of course, we did. So.

Yeah, fascinating in that sense. So when it came time to actually published something I was looking back at, or thinking back on my career and realising Wow, I did not understand fully as a young professional, just how much my dad was pulling for me, which was, I guess it’s the type of thing that you see with age that the kind of thing that a young man might not necessarily see but as you get older and

You start picking up on those things. So yeah, and then come coming for around this time putting thoughts together around bicycling, bicycling, infrastructure and bike share. One of the things that I’m constantly thinking about whether it’s walkable or bikable infrastructure is the ability or inability for little people to be able to move around. So as I thought back and looking through pictures of

my van little guys having to hang on my hand or be nearby crossing the street and just teaching them what I saw as obvious like here’s why this intersection is really comfortable to walk across. Here’s why this sidewalks comfortable. Here’s why we feel miserable right now, and why our heads are on a swivel and we’re constantly in a panic and so since since they are very aware of my biases, and they’ve been a part of that kind of

thinking out loud exercise of the

The connection between the built environment and how we how we are as humans. I thought, of course, of course I need to have this for them.

Carlton Reid 6:09
So you mentioned a minute ago, mass transportation, but there’s also Mass Transportation as in MaaS. So mobility as a service, which I see from your profile you’re into as well. So I’ve had

the founders of MaaS on on the show before, but you give me give me your profile of how you consider

abilities or service working and how it fits into bicycling.

Andy Boenau 6:41
Yeah, good question. And I’m glad that you connect those two because I definitely think that that bicycling and in particular bike share is an important part. And if we, the play on words, I suppose would be mass appeal.

I would define mobility as a service as

something that really

has three key ingredients. And I don’t think that there’s anything newsworthy or shocking about what I think the three ingredients are. But it’s I think it’s important that there are these three, rather than just, it’s car share, or it’s Bike Share. I think I think mobility as a service is something where a customer can with a single app, plan, their trip and the route that they take the path. And then the second thing is they can choose from a variety of vehicles. So that might be a scooter, a bicycle, a car, a bus or a train a plane, you know, whatever the thing is, and that payment collection is taken care of all within that same interface. So there are a whole lot of aspects of that of mobility as a service and public and private combinations and big brands and little brands. But I think that’s the core that’s what’s important is it’s it’s that very customer focused transportation opportunity. Its customer focused in the

sense that you want someone to be able to easily see all their options and make all the decisions. And then you know, thinking ahead somebody with my bias at once walkable bikable streets and I know the same for you. Bike Share is is a huge part of that because we want bike share at the the lower speed city friendly opportunities, we want that to be an easy and convenient choice for customers.

Carlton Reid 8:26
I mean, we talk a lot about I say talk a lot about Paris and we talk about the changes that have come from there. I absolutely put a lot of that down to believe. I think the changes that that have now become apparent in Paris and that they are amazing changes with a whole load of bike paths and and and banning cars from certain major roads, etc. that has all come after villig pretty much was out there.

Kind of

Making the way for all these other changes. Would you say that’s fair? Would you say that that’s happened in North America too? Or is it something that’s still to come?

Andy Boenau 9:08
I think in the denser urban environments, you’re absolutely right.

I think it, I think it could be it could also you can also make a case that

the bus in the traditional sense, not necessarily the traditional vehicle that looks like a bus, but mass transit, fixed route buses could also be one of those backbones. I do think, though, that the bicycling is a key ingredient in that and it’s

unfortunately, it’s not as robust in North America. I think that’s going to change in the very near future as connected and autonomous technology takes off. I’m I know I’m on the fringe of my fellow members of the all powerful bike lobby when i when i support things like autonomous technology, but I really do think that that

Going to help get people in and back to or in from and back to further remote areas, it’s going to help people that are in the less dense areas in suburbia, connect to transit lines connect to bike share opportunities, where they don’t have them right now, so we won’t have to have, you know, a rural ish county have 5000 bicycles so that there’s enough to reach everybody will be able to bring people in front with autonomous shuttles and, and other forms of shared transport that, again, are hopefully part of mobility as a service offerings and get them in closer that bike share. But yeah, that bike share i think is critical.

Carlton Reid 10:40
That although I would pretty much agree with you there, as long as the the autonomous vehicles didn’t have to interact with either the pedestrians or the cyclists. So it almost sounds as though you’re talking about exterior to the city hubs, where the autonomous vehicles come in from the outside, drop at a hub and then you go on to

Other forms of mass transport? Is that is that what you’re talking about? Or do you envisage autonomous vehicles interacting in the same space as bicyclists and with pedestrians? I think what you described is ideal. And I think about it in terms of,

Andy Boenau 11:17
I mean, I generally frame mobility, in in terms of freedom, that’s one of my biases, I want people to have the freedom to move around using whatever mode is available to them and what they prefer. So, walking being the primary, the ultimate, if people are able to walk they should be able to walk if people and then the next step from that would be walking on the seat of a bicycle, right? pedalling. So those are critical, those are the fundamental modes of transport and, and I think they should be absolutely provided for. I want people to have the freedom to choose those things. I also want people to have the freedom if they so choose to

Purchase a big pickup truck or some other personal automobile. The difference is where I say this issue of freedom doesn’t mean you then have the freedom to aggress on everyone else. So if I have friends over and they’re wearing muddy boots outside, because it’s raining, I absolutely want them to be able to wear those muddy boots, if that’s the best part of their outfit to get to where I live, but when they come inside, they don’t exercise the freedom to wear whatever they want. They don’t then tread around the living room with their muddy boots on they leave them at the door. I think it’s that same kind of thing with motor vehicles in dense urban areas. So I think it’s an absolutely compatible kind of belief system to promote freedom of mobility and say, in a dense area. The cars don’t belong in this little area. I mean, at some point, we all agree that you shouldn’t drive on a sidewalk. I don’t think it’s a stretch then to back up a little bit further and

Say these places where these these intersections in in urbanised areas, they used to be a big deal. They weren’t just where cars were turning left and right. This is where you had the exchange of ideas and commerce and all those good things that we know about cities for thousands of years. So I think to the extent that we can bring people to and from those areas with different types of autonomy, whether it’s shuttles or or trains or smaller cars or pods, I think those details will work out as the technology evolves. But I completely agree that when you get to those lower speed environments, you just it’s it’s dangerous. We know that we’re introducing danger when we mix those speed differentials

Carlton Reid 13:47
So, Andy, are you into carrot or stick and mix of the two or should the never be stick.

Andy Boenau 13:56
I think my stick looks like a carrot.

I think there needs I think there needs to be both. I think it also depends. I mean, I, I enjoy sometimes taking people’s comments out of context. So I very aware that I could say there should be both. And then I myself will say, here’s a specific opportunity where a stick just isn’t going to work. So I guess we could, that could go that could be applied in different ways. You could talk about policy issues you could talk about when you’re dealing with private property, like if it’s a university campus, that’s that’s privately owned and operated, you know, everything on there as private.

But I think in general, if you’re talking about changing behaviour, and how we make things, how we make this stuff happen, if you’re a local government, and this is true, I can say this definitely, through most of North America, I’m not sure that how true this is in in European cities, but throughout North America and especially the US, local governments generally controlled

Their own streets. So

I think it’s perfectly reasonable expectation if you’re the local public works department, and it’s your job to provide safe streets, clean streets, then if you see something that needs to be done some way to modify your street network to make the streets safer, and more accessible and more accommodating for all your people, all ages and abilities, that sort of thing, then you do it. And I think then the way that you communicate with people is not to say, Hey, we’re going to put out a vote and ask everyone, do you want safer streets? If so, then check this box and we’ll go ahead and put some safe bike infrastructure. If you don’t care about safe streets, check this other box and we’ll just leave it as it is 12 foot wide lanes and 45 mile an hour speed limit. I think if you’re the local public works department, it’s it’s your job to make those things safe. So that’s not a top down kind of oppressive mentality towards infrastructure. That’s

Those people signing on to make their city a great place. And if the residents who don’t, who live there, don’t appreciate the way that the roads are being handled, then there are a bunch of ways to speak up about that. I think where we misstep with this, the idea of changing travel behaviour is it’s it’s kind of a stutter step where we’ll go forward. And when I say we, I mean advocates of low speed streets and bicycling infrastructure and walking infrastructure,

will put forward some ideas that we’ve seen online or we’ve seen experienced in other cities. And then we’ll quickly step back when a local business person says, I think car parking is the key. If you lose in a car parking spots, we’re going to lose business. And then we’re very quick to pull back and say, Oh, sorry, didn’t didn’t want to offend anybody. Don’t worry, don’t worry what we said about the bike lanes, it’s not going to happen. We’re not going to put any bike corrals or bike share systems in here. So I think, you know, all the way back to your question, I think

It’s it’s both it’s you need to have. You need to have policies if you’re the local government to make your streets safe, and then you need to go ahead and take the initiative to do it. If you make bicycling and walking easy and convenient, we know people will do that. We know people inside of a shopping mall, for example, will walk extraordinary lengths. So it’s not the walking, that’s the thing. But

we can put in tonnes of bike lanes, we can put in wider sidewalks, etc, etc. But if there are people in these, you know, 14 foot high cars out there at the moment, still able to use the streets that were all mixing with. Well, that infrastructure is not going to work so that the stick has got to be used and made quite big. Because it there almost seems to be like a constitutional right in the US to drive everywhere and

If that’s the thoughts of lots of people that I should be able to drive everywhere, it’s going to be incredibly tough to encourage people into all these forms of other forms of transport. If you’re not using that big stick and actually getting people out of those cars by force. Yeah, you’re right. And I think, well, and maybe it’s not out of the cars, maybe it’s just how they’re operated. I think we, as Americans, especially misuse the term freedom and we miss use the phrase individual liberty, I think more Americans need to consider the non aggression principle. You can purchase, let’s say a Hummer, you know, a really large, oversized ridiculous vehicle, purchase your own vehicle, you have the right to purchase that vehicle. If you live in downtown Washington, DC, you’re not going to be able to drive that thing very far. It’s going to be really challenging to navigate anywhere and

It could be that the local government where you work decides there are certain streets that are off limits the cars, you don’t have the right to drive that thing, 50 miles an hour on 25 mile an hour streets, you don’t have the right to speed through because then you’re aggressive on other people, you’re introducing a dangerous situation to people around you. So yes, you have a freedom to purchase a thing. But you don’t have the freedom to use it however you want, if it’s going to aggress on others, and then that same line of thinking can be extended towards, you know, what, what type of pollution comes out the back of it? Is there some kind of air quality control in place? So I think there are a lot of things around this idea of non aggression principle that are completely compatible with individual liberty. It’s just we like to abuse that phrase. So whatever it happens to be at the moment that we want, we say, Well, I have the freedom to have that or I have the freedom to say no to that. It’s we have to think beyond ourselves. I mean, there you

Yes, individual liberty and treat people around you.

Carlton Reid 20:03
Well, Andy, you’re the chair of the Institute of Transportation engineers transportation. That’s a big long word. big long phrase Transportation Planning Council, but i t t p. Wow. That’s that that’s a long meeting just to get people around the table around that. So given you the share of that, but given the fact that you’re for one to kind of like shorten it down into your people friendly transportation planner, how unusual a you now, or do you think the way you’ve been talking from from for 20 odd years, is now coming into the mainstream in your profession? Well, I guess it depends. If you’re asking if I’m normal, it depends who you ask. In terms of the it membership.

Andy Boenau 20:54
One thing that I found very interesting and I’ve told other the others in it, even

Public This is not some kind of secret conversation that is now being publicly revealed. But there was a period of time when I was seriously considering ending my membership both with the Institute of Transportation engineers and American Planning Association and similar reasons and it was both. I was frustrated with both organisations that seemed to be more concerned about self preservation. And they were just stuffy environments. That was my perception. And that was my personal experience for a period of time.

And I was approached by one of the leaders who asked if I would help by participating in the Transportation Planning Council, and the conversation went kind of like this.

U 21:45
Andy, there are a bunch of people that I’ve talked with that have expressed similar concerns to you, but as as your concerns, they don’t say them publicly because they’re afraid of consequences. And so they’re alive.

These people out there, they just need somebody to help pull them together. So that was kind of that’s that was the beginning of a conversation that was fascinating to me and then kind of struck me right back into it.

Because I was starting to see okay, there are, there are other people who are the scales are coming off their eyes like me. I didn’t. I don’t have my biases about infrastructure and freedom and mobility. Because I’m so smart. I asked a load of dumb questions over the years, so that my bosses didn’t have to do my work for me. And as I was asking all these dumb questions, why this? Why that why not roundabouts? All these kinds of things. I kept hearing over and over again, the answer is we’re what we do this because that’s why we we’ve always done this. Our fathers fathers did this. And so we continue.

And, and I saw this opportunity where other people were starting to ask those questions, but very quietly, because, you know, they’re concerned about employment. They’re wondering if my what happens if I question my

Boss, how do I question my boss? How can I do these things respectfully, how can I?

How can I work for a particular client that is insisting on a certain type of design when I know that design is dangerous?

And so these kinds of questions were coming up more and more and and I was definitely not alone in that I am not alone and that there are a lot of people that are asking these kinds of questions. And I credit in large part, the internet. I mean, they I say all the time I tell my kids this regularly, the internet is amazing. It’s fantastic. It’s it’s, you see people pile on about how, how social media can be toxic and there are aspects of it that can be but if you if you just keep your attention in the right direction and put those other, you know, close the door on some of the darker areas. It’s fantastic. You can connect with anybody and share ideas all the time. So like you and I can talk about places all around the world that are altering how people move around in dense urban areas and people are exploring ways to

to convert buses into smaller

modular autonomous shuttles, and we can see these things and share these things with others in an in a new kind of way. And then coming back to membership of it, you can see All right, here’s an organisation where the mission is how do we advance transportation and serve the public interest? And so that’s what members of the Transportation Planning Council are thinking about is how do we as planners, how do we how do we approach technology? How do we approach mobility as a service? How do we approach things like bike share and you know, whatever the whatever the old and new things are, how do we do all of this in a way that serves the public interest? That’s customer focused?

Carlton Reid 24:37
Okay, similar question coming at it in a slightly different way.

Transportation engineers, as a body

are getting younger because the older guys have a naturally retiring. So do you think that refreshing of the gene pool if

Andy Boenau 25:00
You like, will just naturally over time, lead to changes to people friendly infrastructure because the younger guys who are coming through the industry now, I can be much more in tune with your kind of points of view, compared to, you know what you’re saying about? Well, that’s how my father used to do it. You know, 20 years ago, I tell, you know, my people used to do this job, I used to do it. So the new thinking is going to change stuff. I understand what you’re saying. And I don’t think it says it’s, I don’t think it’s that easy. Um, I would like to say yes, I’ve, I’ve encountered plenty of the stereotypical millennial who has ideas about terrible infrastructure. I have. So just anecdotally, I think this is what’s going on young people come out of school and start working as transportation engineers, traffic engineers, city planners. They are excited

About what they learned in school, they may have been exposed to Jane Jacobs and other people who now are embraced by planners. But, you know, decades ago, these were people who were at direct odds with city planners and traffic engineers. So they come out of the university inspired, excited, they’re going to make things better, they’re going to get more more butts on bikes, they’re going to get people riding the bus again. They’re going to they’re going to retrofit suburbia. And then they start working. And they had, they’re working with nice people who say, Look, that’s, that’s a good idea. It’s just not practical. And then they see project after project where the clients are saying, Yeah, we don’t want that. We want this over here. We need to widen from four lanes and six lanes and it’s there are what seemed to be convincing arguments that that’s what it’s got to be, you know, you’ve got to serve level of service. You need less vehicular delay, that sort of thing. And so then what happens is, the young people coming out of school are trained by Gen Xers. My

And then even older. So you know, boomers are still on the scene. So you’ve got, you’ve got mentors who still have the very

car centric design in mind, and they’re training the young people. So I think it’s a mixture. That’s not to say that they’re completely squashed. Some of them I think have been but I don’t think it’s as as easy or?

Unknown Speaker 27:23
Yeah, I just I think it’s I think it’s still going to be, we still have this challenge of persuading people of all ages that this is doable.

Unknown Speaker 27:33
One, one thing that is a little bit exciting and probably counterintuitive, it was to me anyway, is I keep encountering people that are closer towards closer to retirement, who are very open minded to walkable bikable infrastructure. And my feeling is, that’s because they have less pressure. They, they care less about what other people think. So if you’re 16

Unknown Speaker 28:00
Five years old and still on the job, you don’t really care as much if someone rolls their eyes at you about your idea for a protected bike lane, is when you were 25 years old, and you’re worried about what everybody thinks you want to make sure that you stay employed. Right? So I, it’s, it’s, it’s interesting how the generations are viewing

Unknown Speaker 28:22
new transportation opportunities. And the manuals also have to change not just the personnel is the fact you’ve got these very strict design manuals, which tell you, you know, all sorts of different things and if you if you you can’t divert away from these things. So is that something that also takes an awful long time to change? I think manuals themselves do take a long time to change. Yes, and that and that’s one of the reasons why I had so many issues with professional organisations is it seemed like they part of their existence was to simply put out

Unknown Speaker 28:55
these humongous doorstop textbooks that

Unknown Speaker 29:00
That were Delta read and terrible on the environment. You know, they they were methods to make our infrastructure worse.

Unknown Speaker 29:09
So, I think, and this is this is me speaking not a professional organisation that I am affiliated with speaking, but I think in a lot of places, make perhaps every place just start with what you know, is painfully obvious. What when I walk around with my kids in certain areas, they’ll say, I mean, they’re they’re teenagers now, but when they were young, they could point out easily dead, I can’t cross that street, and they were right, or dead. I don’t think I should ride my bike on the sidewalk. It’s too bumpy.

Unknown Speaker 29:43
Kids get this stuff. You don’t have to be a traffic engineer to understand intersection operations and you don’t have to be a a licenced engineer to, to design a comfortable bike path. In fact, it’s probably beneficial. If you’re not if you’ve

Unknown Speaker 30:00
Never seen a manual and you just say, You know what? My bike is about this wide. my elbows stick out here. I need some more space and that like you could figure out pretty quickly a novice could how wide it comfortable bicycle lane should be. So in terms of the manuals, yes, I think

Unknown Speaker 30:18
if there’s one thing you should, you should delay in your professional work. It’s cracking open a manual. It’s just start with what’s common sense what makes sense for people to move around. And then you can easily backcheck is this legal? Oh, yeah, it is legal. Turns out it is quite legal to have a 10 foot wide lane. So let’s get into your book. So we’ve talked about you let’s now talk about the thing that you’ve just written. So I’ll actually work it’s Bike Share, is that that’s a pretty simple title. But I’ll then just read out the subhead and the subtitle on that site planning business models ridership and regulations and I like this bit of the most, most Miss

Unknown Speaker 31:00
Dude form of modern transportation.

Carlton Reid 31:03
So when you say most misunderstood for modern transportation, is that bike share itself? Or is that cycling? Or was that both? Both? My my focus was on bike share, but I’d say I’d say both.

Andy Boenau 31:15
I was getting a little bit of flack for this on Twitter, but I’ll stand by it.

Unknown Speaker 31:19
The point of it is

Unknown Speaker 31:23
we, you know, you talk with anybody about about traffic, and it, comedians have been pointing this out for forever that anybody, anybody that has a driver’s licence is a traffic engineer. And that’s certainly true. Everybody has these ideas about how modern transportation works, what we need, what we don’t need. Now with ride sharing services like Uber and lift, it’s, it’s even more pervasive that everybody’s an expert. And yet, when it comes to bicycling, it’s still kind of the fringe recreational thing, and then even when people visit a major

Unknown Speaker 32:00
metropolitan area in the US, for example, and an experienced bike share for themselves, and then they come back home and they talk about it. It’s, it’s kind of like it’s part of the experience of you know, I went I stayed in this Airbnb, I use this bike share, it was pretty cool. And then I did this other thing. So it still feels like recreation. If you’re not in an area where you’re, you’re able to see this regularly. So in terms of bike share, that’s what I’m thinking about why it’s it’s a misunderstood form of transportation. It’s it’s also things like this assumption that if you put any number of bicycles out to be shared, then it should either work or not, like if it works, then people like Andy were right. And if nobody uses the 10 bicycles in the city with a million people well Bike Share was back sure doesn’t work. That guy was wrong. It’s just people don’t understand its purpose. The bicycling is transport, and bike share how it can and and then in certain ways how it won’t work.

Unknown Speaker 33:00
So that was my thinking along this, I realised that if you’re a traffic engineer, or some type of city planner, maybe maybe your review site plans that you may know already a lot about this, you may be very familiar with some of the things I referenced in here like naccho, or some other design guides.

Unknown Speaker 33:21
One of the reasons that I wrote this, though, was it I kept hearing over and over and over again, and not necessarily by professionals, the same several questions around bikeshare. And so what I wanted to do was put together basically a frequently asked question, you know, my responses to the FAQ for these things that come up over and over and over again, without getting into an academic exercise where I’m researching on my own and then referencing specific data sets, but just getting right to the point of the issues that people bring up. So your book, do you think it’s mainly

Carlton Reid 34:00
About doct bike share, so cities are going to be putting in

Unknown Speaker 34:06
this form of infrastructure probably subsidised or do you see bikes

Unknown Speaker 34:13
coexisting with the the Chinese model of bike share that you know that the Mobikes of this world you know which which in some ways have come and gone but they’re they’re still there in some cities and potentially littering the sidewalk is still a concept that that troubles many cities. So what kind of bike share Do you think you’re you’re talking about in your book so good.

Andy Boenau 34:40
That’s a good question and I touched on each of them

Unknown Speaker 34:45
docked as in kind of the the original heavy anchor bolted into the ground stations kiosks where the payment is and then dockless where it’s just a free for all the free roaming and then the hybrid.

Unknown Speaker 35:00
Which we’re seeing much more of where the technology is in the bicycle, but they’re being parked at hubs. So when I first started jotting down ideas for this, we still in the US had thousands and thousands of the pure free roaming the Chinese model all around. And then by the time you know, by even like right now, today, end of October 2019, they still exist, but they’re, they look very different. And the companies that operate them are thinking about the operations in a very different way. It’s there, they’re not so much on the market exposure

Unknown Speaker 35:40
angle that they were when they first burst onto the scene.

Unknown Speaker 35:44
I mean, it was it wasn’t that long ago, when all of a sudden everybody in the US was saying, whoa, there’s bikes everywhere. And then a few months later, we’re all going Oh, there’s bikes everywhere. because like you said, it was literally it was they weren’t they weren’t useful.

Unknown Speaker 36:00
What I think I mean, I touch on each of these I touch on the different trade offs associated with each type of model, I think for the future of bikeshare. In the US anyway. And I mean, I would, I would assume that this is true just generally because it’s, I think people

Unknown Speaker 36:17
react to the environment around them in similar ways, wherever we are in the world, even in the really, really dense environments.

Unknown Speaker 36:25
We like things that look nice. We, we generally don’t like to see piles of junk. And we generally don’t like to see someone’s yard with debris in it or a place of business or work or worship with junk piled up around it. We kind of like things neat. I mean, even when people park their cars in a gravel lot, they tend to park them in an orderly way, even though that you know, they might be at an apple orchard. And this they still kind of organise where they park so I think the future of

Unknown Speaker 37:00
Bike Share for successful Bike Share, I, I would go further than say i think i would say i the evidence shows we know that these things need to be organised. So if, if I’m going to use if I’m going to be part of a fleet of shared bicycles, I need to know that if I walk down certain streets, certain corridors, it’s predictable, it’s visible, I know where to find bicycles. And I don’t have to pull up my phone, throw out the thoughts and prayers hashtag that I’m going to find a bike somewhere nearby. So I think that free roaming model is behind us. The veil exists exist, yes, but there’ll be the exception. The future is we’ve got this amazing technology batteries are getting smaller and lighter weight. So you can have so much tech inside of a bicycle itself, you know, built in the frames, that we can track them as if they were free roaming, but when it comes time to park them, they’re organised and then now with mobility as a service. Start

Unknown Speaker 38:00
evolve will be able to have these shared mobility hubs where you can have the the organised way to park the shared bike. You’ll also for a time anyway have shared scooters, the mopeds, the autonomous pods, you know, whatever the thing is train station, you’ll have car parking. So I think organisation is is going to be key.

Carlton Reid 38:21
But that was my next question actually. And that is your book is called Bike Share. But the the up and coming thing or not the up and coming It’s absolutely there. And millennials, everybody is on these things in the cities where they are. And almost, I’m saying almost almost Bancshares old hat because you’ve got bird and lime. And the other companies offering scooters, which you just hop on. And they’re like a little car because you just you just you just press a button and off you where’s where’s the bicycle even a bike share bike with

Unknown Speaker 39:00
Electric Power on, you still have to pedal. So that’s kind of old fashioned. Do you not think when you’ve got the burden the lines and the whiz bang scooters out there?

Andy Boenau 39:14
In some ways, it is old fashion. It and at the same time it’s not going anywhere.

Unknown Speaker 39:21
The bicycle I mean, it’s not going anywhere. I think electric scooters have a place. I’m a I’m a fan. I’m a huge fan. I mean no, like I said before, of choice, I want people to have freedom of mobility choice. So there are places where scooters are probably going to be around for a long, long time. I think controlled campuses like universities are big corporate centres. Those are quite logical.

Unknown Speaker 39:45
Certain downtown cores, but then there are a lot of places where it just doesn’t make sense. If I this is coming from somebody who rides scooters when they’re available. I bikes and scooters. One of my

Unknown Speaker 40:00
challenges on a scooter is if if I want to be carrying something in my hand and you know motorists put earmuffs on right now, if I want to have my my drink that I’ve got, you know, the to go cup from the restaurant at lunch, I need to hold that in one hand while I’m writing. I’m not going to do that on a scooter because it’s a thumb throttle. It’s too wobbly. I’m going to fall. If I’m on a bike.

Unknown Speaker 40:23
That’s easy peasy. You know, a bike is bigger, it’s more stable. You can carry groceries on it if you need to. There’s just there’s so much about the bicycle. That is a lot more practical

Unknown Speaker 40:39
than a scooter. So a scooter has a good purpose it It fills a role.

Unknown Speaker 40:45
But it’s not the same. It’s it’s compatible with and different from the bicycle.

Carlton Reid 40:50
Now, here’s the question that I know troubles a lot of cities because they’ve got various rules and regulations against this and

Unknown Speaker 41:00
Their their state their country, whatever and that helmet so where do you stand on the use of bicycle helmets for Bike Share systems in the full knowledge that an awful lot of cities who’ve who’ve put bike share in have discovered it didn’t really work that well because we’re forcing people to wear helmets.

Andy Boenau 41:18
Yeah this is

Unknown Speaker 41:21
the it’s probably the biggest one is probably the biggest elephant the room. I think we can talk about politics, religion and sex more freely than we can helmets.

Unknown Speaker 41:33
That said, I’m happy to add to the list we can talk about all four of those of you like

Unknown Speaker 41:39
I, I don’t think anybody should ever be forced to wear a bicycle helmet. I think we

Unknown Speaker 41:46
the trap that we fall into and and this is especially true in the US and I know Australian cities are suffering from this right now too.

Unknown Speaker 41:53
We have we have this idea this perceived safety of wearing a foam hat

Unknown Speaker 42:01
And in people, you’ll hear this all the time. And I don’t try to argue with this an anecdote about what a bicycle a bicycle helmet saved my life. Let me tell you how maybe it did, maybe it didn’t.

Unknown Speaker 42:14
According to the science behind how those foam hats are constructed, probably didn’t save your life. But I’m not going to tell a person don’t wear the foam hat with the little pieces of plastic on it. I’m not going to say that. If a person feels more comfortable doing that, then by all means, do that. We know that when a government agency forces a person to wear a certain type of clothing, when they ride a bicycle, that fewer people ride the bicycle. And then I think the bigger issue that kind of the ground level issue really for this is it’s not about what you’re wearing. It’s not about

Unknown Speaker 42:55
the reflectivity of your shirt or the type of light

Unknown Speaker 43:00
The hand signals that you use that an intersection or whatever is on your head. The fundamental issue is we have high speed car traffic, mixing with bicycle traffic and mixing with pedestrian foot traffic. Those things shouldn’t be mixing. So if we keep designing streets where it’s easy for a motorist and comfortable to drive 4045 miles an hour, in the same environment, where people are bicycling at about 12 miles per hour, 15 miles per hour, we’re going to always have a problem. And another issue it’s not helmets but same kind of thing that pops up over and over again, is distracted walking. Or, as most of us call it, walking, that distracted walking isn’t the dangerous speeding drivers of the danger. So um, I think the cult of high visibility, Mothers Against helmet, lust children, these are their good intentions.

Unknown Speaker 44:00
But they’re misguided. Fix the streets make the streets good for riding bicycles. And then you’ll see places like Copenhagen where, you know, even in the miserable weather by it by us standards. People are writing all the time, as I say the best protection against you know, the elements when you’re riding bikes on as far as your head goes is where good hair gel. That’s what I do.

Carlton Reid 44:24
I didn’t see that in your book.

Andy Boenau 44:28
But that’s coming next. That’s coming in the 365.

Carlton Reid 44:33
The the tweeted a book that’ll be next. Okay, so who’s your book for Andy, who were you hoping to read your book and who you’re hoping to actually benefit from your book?

Andy Boenau 44:47
I would love for people who I was something I that I included in the beginning of the book was, if this provokes you, to challenge, one thing that you thought was true, then

Unknown Speaker 45:00
I feel like I’ve done something good. Even if you don’t end up agreeing with something that I put aside on purpose, you know, like you mentioned about helmets, I, I’m purpose include that in here and a little bit behind it and then some resources around helmets.

Unknown Speaker 45:14
I want people to challenge what they already believe, so that they’re stronger in their own belief. Or they realise, Oh, you know what?

Unknown Speaker 45:25
I don’t I’m not sure where I formed that belief. But now that I’ve now that I consider this other point of view, I’m leaning this way. If that just happens one time, then then I’m happy. And then the other type of person, if you’re just if you’re asking these questions, because you’re intrigued, and this comes up, you know, Bike Share, especially thanks to the dockless boom in the in the US especially were there. They were everywhere. So many people it’s a mainstream topic Bike Share. Three years ago, I had to explain to people what a dockless bike was or what a bike share programme how that could operate in a mid sized city.

Unknown Speaker 46:00
Now people just get it. They know what bike shares. So if this book can help you have one good conversation with somebody to try to bring, you know, introduce bike share or expand bike share in your community, then I’m going to be thrilled. So those are the types of people that people that are that have some kind of active interest, either they want to sharpen an idea and challenge the idea. Or they’re looking for an opportunity to make their community better. And so you know, whether that angle is public health, or strong local economy or freedom for your kids,

Unknown Speaker 46:37
then that’s, that’s the kind of person that I want to read this.

Carlton Reid 46:42
And when somebody who’s been inspired to put a system in, because they’ve read your book,

Unknown Speaker 46:51
and then they start putting stations in or they put in the hybrid models.

Unknown Speaker 46:56
They’re going to look at where does bicycle usages hi

Unknown Speaker 47:00
Right now, that seems pretty obvious. And then they might ignore certain areas. So they might ignore

Unknown Speaker 47:08
the non middle class areas,

Unknown Speaker 47:13
minority areas. So how do you get a city to put in an incredibly fair Bike Share system that isn’t just in these certain locations where they think it ought to be?

Andy Boenau 47:31
That’s a good question. And it’s something that that planners have been wrestling with for several years.

Unknown Speaker 47:38
for pretty much every types of service. The same, the same conversation has gone on for many years around transit around around mass transit and the bus, where bus stops are and where they aren’t. whether or not their sidewalks around bus stop. So this the issue of giving all people access is really important.

Unknown Speaker 48:00
I’m not the first person to say this, but I like saying it that the bicycle is the great social equaliser, we look back at pictures is great with places like, to be able to see pictures from 100 years ago where you could tell just from the clothing and the pictures, that very poor and very wealthy people were side by side on bicycles and walking in city streets. It’s fantastic to see that.

Unknown Speaker 48:27
So now, the challenge is the challenge, like you said, is actually implementing so the idea has been around. People have talked around this idea how do you make it accessible to all these different groups? And I think there are a couple of different issues that have to be

Unknown Speaker 48:43
worked out, head on. One of them is who’s operating the bike share programme? And one of the things I you know, I described different business models of bike share. I don’t say I don’t put a judgement value on this one is good and this other one is wrong.

Unknown Speaker 49:00
You just have to understand, wherever you operate in however you operate, you’re going to have a different way of reaching different communities. And especially if it’s a low income area.

Unknown Speaker 49:12
So if, for example, your local government that operates its own bike share, if you’re the city or the county that’s responsible for locating the bike share stations, and making sure that the bikes are there and all that sort of thing. You have to understand that just like mass transit, it’s not going to pay for itself. If you already know it’s just math, right? If you know that this is a low income neighbourhood or a moderate income neighbourhood, there’s just not going to be enough usage. So you might do things like

Unknown Speaker 49:42
for certain you know, if you live in a certain apartment complex or

Unknown Speaker 49:47
however you do if you if you come from a you go to the community college and you show your ID you get discounted passes you can there been measures in place for a long time to have that sort of system in place, discounted passes or you enter in

Unknown Speaker 50:00
code on the back of the bike, and you get free access. And those types of things can be done without any stigma. Nobody has to know that you’re paying less than the person next to you. So you can have, you can have the wealthiest person in your neighbourhood, check out a bike for $8 an hour, and then the person next to them is getting it for free. And the two of them don’t have to know what each other pays or doesn’t pay. So their methods to do that. What what happens, I think where we keep falling short in the us is we go back and forth between who’s operating and who’s making the decisions. Is it public, or is it private? And so, a public agency will say, we want you the private company that’s delivering Bike Share, we want you to service all these areas, which of course makes sense, right? This is these are all members of the community. We want you to cover all these neighbourhoods and we want you to stay in business for three years we have this contract with you. Now if you’re the private business you want ridership you it doesn’t matter

Unknown Speaker 51:00
You What type of person’s writing you know what their personal background is you want people to write, it’s good for business.

Unknown Speaker 51:08
If you’re in a neighbourhood where you’re just not generating revenue, if you’re then it doesn’t make sense to fill it with bicycles. So what cities need to understand is if it’s cut if coverage is the the important issue, which it is an important issue, then you have to take measures to make sure whether it’s your contract covers for that. So you the city are subsidising it, or there’s some other way to make this work for the business because most of the companies if you’re dealing with this on a on a private side, where it’s a private operator, they’re not a charity, they have to make a profit. If they don’t make a profit, then they can’t build bicycles, they can’t fix the bikes, they can’t put them on the streets. You know, they can’t provide Bike Share. So it’s it is a challenge. I think the way that it has to get worked out is is understanding and just talking frankly, about what

Unknown Speaker 52:00
What does it cost to operate bike share? bike share is not free just like driving a car is not free we have in our minds that it’s free, but there are so many expenses behind

Unknown Speaker 52:11
anything that we do related to transportation. One of my reasons for being so optimistic though about bike share and bike share for for everyone, wherever, whatever their socio economic background is, whatever,

Unknown Speaker 52:25
whatever their origin or whichever neighbourhood they happen to be living in, across the US or, you know, anywhere bike shares, is

Unknown Speaker 52:34
being part of mobility as a service to bring it full circle back to what you said at the beginning. Having modes mixed together is far more profitable than one offs. So

Unknown Speaker 52:47
it’s much harder for 10 different companies to be competing for customers, when they’re all providing different modes. They all have different apps. They all have different service areas and fee structures.

Unknown Speaker 53:00
So if you’re a customer, your head spinning, you already have a handful of transportation apps, you don’t want to have to download now a bunch of other ones. So the sooner we get to this, this,

Unknown Speaker 53:12
this opportunity with an a single app, being able to access all these things, the public bus, the private bike, share the public Bike Share,

Unknown Speaker 53:21
the train, food, all these things mixed together. The sooner the better. And it’s profitable for businesses when they can combine those different types of services. So it’s an it’s a perk for employees. So if you’re a big employer in a certain area,

Unknown Speaker 53:37
you can offer these mobility packages to your employees where you’re paying for the system. You’re You’re chipping in month after month to access maybe it’s a handful of cars, and then also bikes and scooters and all these other all these other devices. But that’s that’s one way where we’re going to be able to provide far more coverage for the underserved neighbourhoods is being able to combine these modes together.

Carlton Reid 54:02
Okay, thank you. Now where can people get the book? And how do people find you on on the internet?

Andy Boenau 54:12
Thanks for thanks for asking. It’s easy to find me online. The book is I made a short link that’s that’s easy to find, but it’s available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble if you search bikeshare book, it’ll pop up in both of those. Shockingly, there was only one other

and then this is the first pocket sized one it’s a digital one. So it’s gonna it’s going to fit in in phones and tablets of all sizes and abilities so it’s perfect.

You can find me at Andy beno calm that’s one a easy way.

You can also find me on Twitter.

And then the the short link for the book is fitly slash bite Bike Share book.

Carlton Reid 54:57
Thanks to Andy Boenau — he

gave the links to his book and his social media, but also place them on the show notes at And on the next episode, I’ll be talking with academic John Stehlin. Meanwhile, get out there and ride

December 4, 2019 / / Blog

Wednesday 4th December 2019


HOST: Carlton Reid

GUEST: Josh Reid (YouTube vids and Instagram pix “joshreids”)

MAIN PIC BY: Juan Bettoli

In this episode of the Spokesmen Cycling Podcast supported by Jenson USA I interviewed my intrepid cycle-touring son who is now back in the UK after his four-month journey from China.

Josh picked up a carbon gravel bike at the Giant factory in Shanghai, China, so I thought it would make a good story arc for Josh to almost finish his trip by visiting the Giant factory in the Netherlands. I rode across to Lelystad to meet him, and, after a factory tour, we cycled the 70 or so kilometres to Amsterdam where, the next day, I started the interview while we were riding on the famous cycleway that cuts through the National museum of the Netherlands. The rest of the interview was conducted in our living room at home.


Chinese cycle tourist 0:02
That’s called the Wonderful World? It was written in World War Two.

Chinese cycle tourist 0:07
Very beautiful.

Chinese cycle tourist 0:30
Okay, Do you recognise the song? Yeah.

Carlton Reid 0:34
That rather unorthodox opener was by a Chinese cycle tourist who spotted my son Josh in the Shinyiang province of China and decided to serenade him by the roadside with his little guitar to entertain his three fellow cycle tourists, all of whom were recording the episode on their phones. I’m Carlton Reid and in this episode of the Spokesmen Cycling Podcast supported by Jenson USA I interview my intrepid cycle-touring son who is now back in the UK after his four-month journey from China. Josh picked up a carbon gravel bike at the Giant factory in Shanghai, China, so I thought it would make a good story arc for josh to almost finish his trip by visiting the Giant factory in the Netherlands. I rode across to Lelystad to meet him, and, after a factory tour, we cycled the 70 or so kilometres to Amsterdam where, the next day, I started the interview while we were riding on the famous cycleway that cuts through the National museum of the Netherlands..

Josh in the Giant factory in Shanghai, China

Carlton Reid 1:47
So we went to the Giant factory yesterday, Josh, and you got bits and bobs on your bike. So what did you get sorted?

Josh Reid 1:53
I’ve got two new tyres. Quick look through my gears

Carlton Reid 1:57
Okay, so you left Shanghai — we are going to hear some music as we’re coming through the coming through the cycle path of the Rijksmuseum here. And Josh, you got some new tyres Why do you need new tyres?

Josh Reid 2:10
Because the delamination of the tube and the tyre on my tubeless tyres was coming undone of it and it has getting a bit of

Josh Reid 2:20
bloating. Okay,

Carlton Reid 2:22
We’ll go round Josh. So the tyres in fact, we’re just carry on going round, Josh. We’ll just go through that.

Carlton Reid 2:32
So the tyres delaminated for the tubeless tyres, you had no punctures in effect.

Josh Reid 2:37
Now I had my rear tyre was going down a little bit but it’s put more sealantand they seal.

Carlton Reid 2:42
So from now on, would you use tubeless tyres?

Josh Reid 2:44
Oh yeah, definitely, I’m a total convert.

Carlton Reid 2:47
So what you got on here? You got two front panniers.

Josh Reid 2:50
Yeah. Arkel. Yeah, brilliant brand.

Carlton Reid 2:55
And then you bodged on your front bag. You’ve got a you basically you’re carrying Northface

Chinese cycle tourist 3:01
duffel bag,

Carlton Reid 3:02
and you bought that to being a bikepacking bag.

Josh Reid 3:05
Yeah. So I just cut it up and zip tied o. It rubs on the tyre sometimes, but just tighten zip ties. It

Unknown Speaker 3:11
works. All right.

Carlton Reid 3:12
So what you got on the front there and what’s actually in there,

Josh Reid 3:15
Just clothes and my bivvysac.

Josh Reid 3:19
on the front, and then you also GoPro on the front.

Josh Reid 3:23
Yeah. And I’ve got a Restrap frame bag with

Josh Reid 3:29
And a Giant toptube bag.

Carlton Reid 3:32
And do they give you that at the factory?

Josh Reid 3:33
No, Giant they gave me that in Urumgi in Xinjiang. I was at a bike shop but they just gave me that and a load of oil and sealant.

Carlton Reid 3:42
Did you visit lots of Giant shops?

Josh Reid 3:44
Yeah. So all the way through China. I visited

Josh Reid 3:46
lots of Giant shops. In every big city there’s a Giant shop in China.

Carlton Reid 3:51
Let’s squeeze through here, Josh, get away from the traffic

Carlton Reid 3:54
Everybody else is squeezing through I think we ought to to.

Unknown Speaker 3:58
Of course the cars just get stuck when we go we get very nicely

Unknown Speaker 4:09
stuck by a traffic jam

Unknown Speaker 4:13
go right, follow the cyclists, go on

Unknown Speaker 4:16
We’re riding aimlessly around Amsterdam it’s nice to go through with all the cyclists.

Carlton Reid 4:22
And then on the back Josh, well, apart from the bags you’ve got a memento you’ve got, what’s that?

Josh Reid 4:29
I’ve got a Vietnamese hat which I got on the border of China and that’s lasted quite well cuz you’ve been in the back of your bike all that time starting to fall apart a little bit but gives more character.

Carlton Reid 4:43
You’d be wearing it as well or was it just decorative?

Josh Reid 4:45
No, I’ve been wearing it in the desert

Josh Reid 4:48
when it was very hot, but then it’s got cold so I’m not wearing it,

Carlton Reid 4:52
Why’d you want to do what you did? Why did you even think, where did it come from? Where did the idea come from? And why did you want to do it?

Josh Reid 5:03
Well, I’ve heard stories of your cycle tours. I want to do big one on my own. And what a better way to do it then cycling home you always getting closer rather than going away you if you cycling away from home, you always like thinking I’ll just go back now. Whereas if I’m always going home, so I’m always getting closer.

Carlton Reid 5:24
Yeah, so most people kind of the route you did we’ll go through that in a minute but you did you were kind of going the opposite way that most people would would would do it so people would normally cycle to Shanghai to China. Yeah. And you from Shanghai from China. So you’re going the opposite way to most cycle tourists. Did you see many in China?

Josh Reid 5:42
I saw two go in the opposite direction. Well, Western cycle tourists anyway. They were both going towards Beijing. Yes, I didn’t see many Westerners in China part from a few tourist spots. Terracotta warriors. There was a few in Shanghai not wasn’t many, many tourists at all. I saw more in Tajikistan along the Pamir highway. There was a lot of cycle tourists because

Carlton Reid 6:13
Pamir Highway is now like a magnet, fly in.

Josh Reid 6:16
fly into Djumbe which is the capital of Xinjianng. Then they cycle Pamir highway. There’s there’s three routes you can take, you can take one, the Wakan corridor, which I didn’t do was it was really sandy. And a lot of people push their bikes along that. But it’s it’s beautiful. Like the mountains are incredible.

Carlton Reid 6:35
You do that with a fat bike?

Josh Reid 6:37
Yeah, that’d be cool. It was very there’s a lot of corrugatations on the road because of all the trucks on there. And you’ve got the just the normal Pamir Highway which is the route I took. And then you also have the Botang Valley which the person who actually told me first about the highway in China. They did the Bontang Valley, which cuts off a bit, but like goes into the middle of nowhere. And is you need to take a lot of food with you. And I didn’t take any cooking equipment. So I decided to just stay on the main-ish road, which is still full of potholes.

Carlton Reid 7:15
And the Pamir ighway is is an attraction because it’s the second highest kind of road you can get to and it’s just beautiful mountains around why why people going out to do the highway.

Josh Reid 7:27
It’s just it’s beautiful scenery. It’s like next to Afghanistan for 300 kilometres.

Carlton Reid 7:33
The border Yeah, you can see over the river.

Josh Reid 7:36
And it’s like the roof of the world. People call it is beautiful. It’s very tough. You go up to I think the highest point I was on that trip was 4600 metres.

Carlton Reid 7:46
You mentioned Afghanistan. So before you did this trip, and you were sitting there on your phone or an iPad researching the geopolitics of the region. You’d ask me, can I go here? Can I go there? Answer was not really because it was war there, and there’s fighting here. So has this trip, giving you a better appreciation of geopolitics, then the fact that you can’t really go there? And here’s the reason why you can get go there?.

Josh Reid 8:13
Yeah, definitely. I also realise that there’s this friendliness everywhere. And in the news, you hear a few bad eggs, but generally, people are very kind. Yeah, I went to a lot of countries that probably wouldn’t have I didn’t even know Tajikistan existed until until I decided to cycle there. Originally, I was going to cycle through China into Kazakhstan. You stay in Kazakhstan, all the way across, but then this cycle tourist in China, and told me to go to Panir Highway, so I did.

Carlton Reid 8:45
So that was a detour? Yes. It wasn’t like being your route.

Josh Reid 8:48
Yeah, I took quite a few detours. Yeah, it wasn’t a fast and out route.

Carlton Reid 8:53
So let’s just stress that this wasn’t a record breaking attempt. This wasn’t raising money for charity, you weren’t doing this for a bet

Josh Reid 9:04
This was just fun. It was just enjoyment type two fun.

Carlton Reid 9:08
Yeah. So you could in other words detour so if you want to record breaking attempt you’re not detour you’re going to be no down. But did you do head down days as well?

Josh Reid 9:19
It’s not fun if you don’t do head down days. Yeah definitely push myself but I didn’t have lights that lasted long enough. So I do 260 kilometres and want to keep on going. But the lights are dying.

Carlton Reid 9:33
That’s a good point about equipment for a future trip. What would you take different

Unknown Speaker 9:38
to what you took on this trip?

Josh Reid 9:39
I definitely take better lights that lasted longer. Dynamo I’d get a dynamo. That’s that’s pretty much it though. I’d go a lot lighter.

Carlton Reid 9:47
Josh but you were light and you have no cooking equipment. You didn’t have a tent.

Josh Reid 9:52
I had a lot of souvenirs.

Carlton Reid 9:55
You had more souvenirs in your bag than anything else, you’re right. So the things that you You would maybe take different Europe because your electronics you had you had a fair bit of electronic you had a phone. You had a GPS tracker, you had a drone and GoPro

Josh Reid 10:08
I a GoPro two pros.

Carlton Reid 10:11
So that’s a lot of electronic equipment. So you were a bit stuffed there if you couldn’t get electricity. So how are you coping with no electricity,

Josh Reid 10:19
I had two battery packs. And then I’d stop in a hotel or hostel every week or two. And people offer you a combination or times you just charge up when you could.

Carlton Reid 10:31
But what about solar power? Do you have a

Josh Reid 10:35
Yeah, you can power a lot of people did like the cycle tourists on the Pamir highway had solar devices. But if you got Dynamo you don’t need that

Josh Reid 10:44
just allows you to keep on going a lot longer if you haven’t got a dynamo.

Carlton Reid 10:47
So that’s something you consider the future. Future trips will be just different ways that are powering you. Yeah. And how you gonna have you going to go lighter. I’m trying to understand

Josh Reid 10:57
I wouldn’t have the two front panniers on the front. I’d have just a frame bag, one on the handlebars, the rear, rear saddle bag,

Carlton Reid 11:08
but the I mean half of that front bag was probably the drone, wasn’t it?

Josh Reid 11:11
Yeah. and an air mattress.

Carlton Reid 11:16
Yes, it’s a very comfortable air mattress. Yeah, yeah.

Chinese cycle tourist 11:19
So that is that is

Carlton Reid 11:20
that’s your one big luxury isn’t it?

Josh Reid 11:22
It’s very, very comfortable. But when especially when you’re tired, sometimes too tifed to pump it up. It takes like three or four minutes to flow into it. And especially when you’re at altitude, this is no way you want to do that.

Carlton Reid 11:37
And just because you’re so knackered, you kind of you you’re falling off your bike and you just falling into bed

Josh Reid 11:42
you don’t want to be pretty much I was pretty lucky where my lights died most of the time that there was times where my lights would die and I’d be at look across the road and they’d be a watermelon stand. And I’d go up to it and they’d give me a watermelon for free. And then they have a like a bed in there and they just say I could sleep for the night.

Carlton Reid 11:58
Let’s talk about. well, let’s talk about the route. So we’re not looking at a map here. We’re not looking at your GPS tracker. Let’s just go from memory. So you’re in Shanghai.

Carlton Reid 12:09
Yeah. Do you know remember provinces

Josh Reid 12:11
Well, I beelined for Xijianng in like pretty much centre of China. It’s just on the way, way up to towards Xijiang It’s where the Terracotta warriors are. It was the old capital city of China.

Josh Reid 12:29
It’s where the

Unknown Speaker 12:32
the Silk Road starts.

Josh Reid 12:37
So I wiggled my way out there

Unknown Speaker 12:39
If I remember correctly the descend down into Xijiang was incredible to see like mountain mountains and through gorgeous, yes. Beautiful. That descent

Carlton Reid 12:52
and you only had a set time. I mean, you did get an extension but you only had like that was it 30 days visa to originally get out of China and 30 days, which is

Josh Reid 13:00
pretty tough. Yeah, so I got my Chinese visa in Bangkok, which saved me a lot of money. It was, like, half the price of what it cost me in the UK. And then I cycled from, like 20 days. And because I was I probably could have cycled through China in 30 days, if I’d been pushing it and like, going every day with because I was doing a few detours to different tourist sites across the last few days doing that, so I was like, I don’t want to risk having to pay a fine. And the border. I’m not I’m not racing, I may as well just and where I did get the, the visa renewal was where the Great Wall is. So I was like, I was spending a few days looking around here.

Carlton Reid 13:44
Okay, so you successfully didn’t go into Mongolia. That would have stuffed your whole trip, wouldn’t it?

Carlton Reid 13:48
Yeah, I’d gone into Mongolia because then you can’t get into other countries. But where did you go from from from China?

Josh Reid 13:55
from China. I went into Kazakhstan, and then into Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and then Uzbekistan? And then I went back into Kazakhstan.

Carlton Reid 14:05
Uzbekistan, were you not allowed to fly drones yeah

Josh Reid 14:07
So like so I smuggle some of my drone into Uzbekistan

Carlton Reid 14:11
If any of those Uzbekistan secret police are listening to this No you didn’t you didn’t have your drone at that point.

Josh Reid 14:17
They were very friendly at the border.

Josh Reid 14:20
They didn’t they didn’t scan your bag but they did. They there was there’s like one guy was like, no you don’t discount and let’s just go but this one army guy really wanted some bags count. So you just said awesome two bags. So I gave him the two bags that didn’t have the donor. So that that was pretty lucky.

Carlton Reid 14:41
Because you’re on a bicycle and yet yet, you’re really not very threatening. If you’re on a bicycle. Do you think you are given more leeway on searches on on just in general, in all parts of the world you’ve been in because you’re a crazy cyclist and you bet and of course you’re by yourself and you’re young. Giving you’re given a lot of leeway

Josh Reid 15:02
probably that definitely scan some countries definitely scan the bags like properly especially going out of China although they didn’t find the drone so

Carlton Reid 15:12
because you also had to GoPros you said so you what you were doing videos and you got more and more followers as you’re going along so people like to the like that 10 minute travelogues basically have you on the I’m assuming it was the iPhone you’re holding it

Josh Reid 15:30
down those things on the iPhone.

Carlton Reid 15:32
And then you are doing the video the cutting the video including dropping footage in from all on the iPhone. Yeah. So that is travelling light in that, you know, not carrying a laptop that you’re doing everything on the iPhone. Yeah, and that worked. Okay, could you had lots of extra time to be able to do that sort of thing. I’ll just

Josh Reid 15:51
when I got darker and spend a few days, like an hour or so every night. Where was the last one you’ve just said that

Carlton Reid 15:58
Tajikstan. So we’re from there?

Unknown Speaker 16:00
into Uzbekistan

Josh Reid 16:04
Yeah, and the buildings out there are really beautiful, lots of light blue mosaic mosques This is Yeah, the roads still pretty bad though all Central Asia, Asian roads are pretty bad. Yeah, the food is terrible. This is terrible. Yeah. Out there I was pretty much living on bread and tomatoes.

Carlton Reid 16:24
Because I want to say Here you are – at least you attempt to be – vegan. Yeah. So you’ve been a vegan for how long?

Josh Reid 16:31
Four years.

Carlton Reid 16:33
Okay, and how vegan was this trip?

Josh Reid 16:37
Like, almost the whole way. Like just there’s only a few occasions where I accidentally ate horse cheese.

Carlton Reid 16:45
How did you accidentally eat horse cheese, Josh?

Josh Reid 16:47
I was going down a descent and I saw these like balls and they look like date balls or something. Something like that really sweet and I was craving something sweet. So as I all I’ll try one of those Then I buy into it is really sour. And then a few miles down the road. I see someone milking a horse. Oops. Okay, yeah. And then when you eating with local families and you don’t speak the language and they’re quite poor, and like in Central Asia, you tend to have just one plate with lots of utensils around and you share the meal. So you just got to eat around the meat, but he actually might have a little bit

Carlton Reid 17:34
So when I’ve been touring in exotic places and you’ve been exactly that situation, and I’ve had like goats killed for me all sorts at you often find that you’re given the choicest cuts of meat, and they’re almost saying like, No, no, you have this is the best bit of meat we’ve got. You have this? Yeah, you didn’t get any of that. You could avoid eating meat?

Josh Reid 17:55
Most of the time. In Tajikstan we were invited – me and a German guy – were invited to for a meal with a family and we didn’t ask for any food they just set off a tea and then loads of soups were brought out. And I thought it was just vegetable soup but it was actually liver in there. And that night I was sick seven times. So I’ve been cycling all day dehydrate anyway and then being sick all night really dehydrated in the morning and like really dehydrated, like pissing brown.

Carlton Reid 18:29
That was the worst day or an awful day cycling after that. Is that the day you broke the glasses?

Josh Reid 18:34
Yeah, so I was leaning over to grab a plastic bag that is about to fly away and landed on my glasses. Cuz I didn’t want to get up as I was so out of it. And then the roads that were terrible as well. So I’ll just hang potholes constantly all day with a banging headache and then had food poisoning.

Carlton Reid 18:52
Was that you lowest day, mentally?

Josh Reid 18:56
Yeah, probably. That’s all you can do. No, it’s going to keep on going. Yeah. Especially with a German guy at that point yeah so I was just following this guy and just trying to hold on to the wheel

Carlton Reid 19:09
so you have cycled with with people here and there

Josh Reid 19:11
yeah i think that cycle with three people in total all along the highway me at the end yeah right damn yeah

Josh Reid 19:20
yeah so most of the cycle tourists on the on the Pamir highway and then not really many going through Europe either

Carlton Reid 19:27
so it’s off season yeah you’re coming through and really the back end of the

Unknown Speaker 19:31

Carlton Reid 19:33
not many cycles I mean we we we got the ferry from Amsterdam to Newcastle I mean there’s no other bikes no bad and there will be lots of bikes normally on that ferry service so yeah the season is finished for cycle tourists Of course

Carlton Reid 19:48
so which country we got to now well most cycle turn I think we got to where

Carlton Reid 19:55
we encounter the Caspian Sea yet.

Josh Reid 19:58
No. Okay. So where go backwards and where are we, um, I’ve been cycling through the desert and Uzbekistan and then I slept in a few abandoned buildings which was good. Give me a shelter was it gets cold and at night and then I’m cycling with a German guy still a different different German guy cycled two German guys and we we get to the Caspian Sea and we get to the ferry port and no one knows when the last part left no one knows when the next one’s going so we just I blow up my blow up and just sleep for three days while I’m waiting for a ferry to turn up.

Carlton Reid 20:34
So it’s not like the DFDS ferry were not

Josh Reid 20:38
can’t really call it a ferry. It’s more like a freight ship.

Carlton Reid 20:41
Ship that’s that happens to be taking people but it’s taken goods.

Josh Reid 20:45
Yeah, pretty much just taken. It was it was a new train on they’re going across. So I think Kazachstan maybe was shipping and then you were on the ferry for quite a while but you’re on so we left at night. And I went to sleep expecting to be almost in Azerbaijan by the morning. I poked my head out the window and I could still see Kazachstan. So we were stuck at sea for 30 hours just anchored up next to Kaxachstan because there was a storm out the sea apparently. So what should have taken 30 hours to 70 me got more food, but it was rationed. The food is good, but then I had to fill up on bread and tomato ketchup.

Carlton Reid 21:30
And then you got off the boat and where are you then?

Josh Reid 21:33
in Azerbaijan, which is good. Lots of good pomegranate.

Carlton Reid 21:36
Okay, so we’re now you were the pomegranate in Azerbaijan. Where’d you go from there?

Josh Reid 21:42
In a cycle through all of Azerbaijan, into Georgia. I get to Tblisi.

Carlton Reid 21:48
Christian now?

Carlton Reid 21:50
Yeah. So that was your last Islamic country?

Josh Reid 21:53
Yeah. Food is good in Georgia, huh? Lots of root vegetables and other stuff. Like that the Russians like really liked Georgian food. It’s like an Italian. They’re Italian basically, it’s Georgian. And then I went into Turkey after that. So I wasn’t in Georgia for too long for like a week. Right last

Carlton Reid 22:17
and then yet the north of Turkey Yeah, coming down south Mamaris anything you’re staying at the top. I stay.

Josh Reid 22:24
I hug the coast of the Black Sea all the way along and dissemble is great. You always always got tea in every place you stopped.

Carlton Reid 22:33
And tell me about the bike shops.

Carlton Reid 22:35
Yeah, you’ve, you’ve been to because you had to go to bike shops here and there for

Josh Reid 22:40
Yeah, for running repair. So China was brilliant. In every, every city there’s a Giant shop. So always just if I needed something, I just stopped in a Giant shop and they were always able to sort me out. So like my bolt broke in China. When I was in, in the desert in the Gobi Desert

Josh Reid 22:59
by Was cycled like 300 kilometres and in I think it was

Josh Reid 23:07
happy that

Josh Reid 23:10
they were able to drill out the bolt as they knew they know what they’re doing. And that was solid, but then it broke again on the border of Afghanistan and I tried a few times for people to drill out but because they don’t know what they’re doing and they’re using way too big drill bits and they’re not mechanics they didn’t do a good job and I was I was pretty scared for the bike. So I always got them to stop but then it like this you can’t see where that hole is anymore. So I just had to zip time and bodge it but ended up all right.

Carlton Reid 23:48
And then you had a bike shop in just outside Istanbul again, another Giant bike shop.

Josh Reid 23:52
Yep, they were very good. So I just turned up they were a bit curious. Well, why is doing with all the And where I come for come from explained and they gave me one of them mechanics in there. Let me sleep on the sofa for two or three days really helped me out

Carlton Reid 24:11
Was in Georgia where there was a was a restaurant called Bicycletta?

Josh Reid 24:15
That’s in Bulgaria

Carlton Reid 24:16
That was in Bulgaria yeah okay so I haven’t got there yet okay, let’s let’s let’s talk about that in a second.

Josh Reid 24:20
Okay, so you’re still in Istanbul.

Carlton Reid 24:22
And how do you get from because Istanbul we’re now Asia across across the Bosphorus and then you’re kind of Europe. Yeah. So how did you get across the Bosphorus?

Josh Reid 24:31
I got a ferry just the easiest way just a quick ferry Yeah. 10 minutes. Okay, so

Carlton Reid 24:40
10 minute ferry and all of a sudden you’re in your you’re in Europe, you’ve come across cycle Asia.

Josh Reid 24:44
Yeh, all the way across Asia into Europe.

Carlton Reid 24:49
And is that see across the Bosphorus and you saw in Turkey for a little bit?

Josh Reid 24:53
Yeah, so I was in Turkey for another two days. But it really rained quite hard that I didn’t quite get Rain day. We just had a few rain days along the Black Sea coast is known for its rain there. So I’ve gone through the whole of Central Asia without seeing any rain, and then going to take in getting rain again. It wasn’t so nice.

Carlton Reid 25:17
You were racing against the weather in many respects, yeah. You know, if you’re still coming through Europe in December, you’re gonna get lots of rain days. Yeah. So there was that aspect to it you were trying to get

Josh Reid 25:28
well, there was there’s lots of places in Turkey I’d love to go to. And that kind of Yeah. Along the Mediterranean, cool. But is getting cold in Europe. So I decided to skip it. And the issues with Syria at the time, as I said on the Black Sea coast, I can come back at some point.

Carlton Reid 25:47
So you’re in Turkey, where do you go from Turkey?

Josh Reid 25:50
I went briefly into Greece. I was in Greece for about an hour maybe. So I went across the border at 11 o’clock at night, and then cycle I was going to maybe sleep In Greece, but I just decided to keep on going. And then I went to Bulgaria. I slept under a service station that was closed for the night

Carlton Reid 26:11
to get Wi Fi there because getting Wi Fi in some odd places, are you? Yeah. service stations have got WiFi. WiFi cafes have got Wi Fi so you are ringing up on FaceTime and

Josh Reid 26:22
Yeah, so I don’t I don’t have as a never had a SIM card the whole way across.

Carlton Reid 26:26
You’re now in Bulgaria.

Josh Reid 26:27
Yeah, I didn’t sleep outside too much. Actually. I always was gonna sleep outside. And then people would just offer me places to say people you’ve just met in the evenings and yes, I was one night I was camping in a field while setting up my tent and then a guard dog started barking at me. And then this guy comes over security. I just asked me a few questions. He can’t really speak English but kind of understood I’d cycled from China. And then he gets a pad of paper out through the house. Draws person once at me, like, basically measn come to my house. So there’s a there’s a better open his loft or a warm shower. And he feeds me.

Carlton Reid 27:11
So were you worried at all that any of these people you thinking on these can be mass murderers and I’ve got no idea,

Josh Reid 27:19
I suppose but you just got to trust people sometimes.

Carlton Reid 27:23
Well, they’re trusting you, you could be a mass murderer. Yeah. So it’s trust on both sides, isn’t it?

Josh Reid 27:28
I didn’t experience anything, anything bad. So people are generally kind and you were sleeping in mosques. In Turkey I slept in a lot of mosques that you just turn up to a mosque, knock on the door and they’ll they’ll help you out.

Carlton Reid 27:40
Tell us about the village where you were where the guy said look, anybody in this village

Carlton Reid 27:46
will put you up.

Josh Reid 27:46
So in Tajikistan. I was

Josh Reid 27:50
cycling towards the Afghanistan border. I’ve not reached it yet.

Josh Reid 27:56
It was getting dark. And I was cycling through this village and there was a lot of guys and girls going to pray to the mosque and then one of them just comes up to me and asked him so I was all right. And I was asked to be Is there any way to camp around town? And he said there’s if you ask anyone in this village, you can stay in their house. So it takes me up to theseyobs you in like Europe, you wouldn’t not even go up to and he says, You got anywhere for this guy to stay. And he takes me to his grandma’s house and gives me an Uzbekistan kind of like Central Asian just basically sleeping on the floor. But it’s really comfortable your warm building I’m used to sleeping outside so that’s nice. And then feeds me all night and gives me a tour on around the area in the in the morning. And then sets me oh I see I need to be exotic. In

Carlton Reid 28:58
in land such as that beautiful Pretty exotic even into Europe, you’re still getting that people helping you out and you’re you’re no longer just a cyclist. Yeah, you could be anybody. And you’re still getting this kind of help from people that you’ve never met before. Yeah. Who were just that, you know, the kindness of strangers, even in Europe.

Unknown Speaker 29:19
Now, in

Josh Reid 29:21
Bulgaria, again, I was cycling past an Italian restaurant, and one of the waiters jumps out, says you want to try some pizza? And like, sure. And then the owner comes up to me, like, just me a little bit. And then he just says, the meals on the house have a three course meal. And then I’m about to leave and he asked what I’m gonna do, I’m gonna I was gonna sleep outside of town. And he’s like, No, no, don’t do that. I’ll get your hostel. Leave your bike here. Come back in the morning. And you know, we’ll make some breakfast, and you can have a coffee and he can he also told me a route to go in the morning. So follow that the next day. So, but we go out the restaurant and walking towards the hostel. And he’s like, I’ll just put you in this hotel. So he puts me up in a hotel for the night. Which is really cool.

Carlton Reid 30:10
Because we were also, you know, we were keeping tabs on you were bringing you and you were bringing us and stuff. We were trying to get you in hotels, and using look Josh we’ll get you in this posh hotel here. And you ever often actually said, No, I don’t want to stay there. I want to stay in a hostel. Yeah. So why do you want even though we were willing to put you up in a place, nice, comfortable hotel. Why do you then say no, I want a hostel

Josh Reid 30:37
Because when I’m cycling, hours and hours and hours in my own head and a hostel way easier to go and talk to someone. So it’s nice to like speak to speak to other people, especially through China and Central Asia where not many people speak huge amount of English. So it’s nice to speak to other travellers and usually find people who speak English in a hostel.

Carlton Reid 31:00
So in a hotel, you’re a bit more isolated, anonymous and isolated, you kind of shut yourself away.

Josh Reid 31:05
Yeah, I’m isolated all day. So yeah,

Carlton Reid 31:08
yeah. Okay, Bulgaria so this was a the restaurant was called Bicylterra. And where was that in Sofia, Sofia so that if anybody’s in Sofia. There’s a fantastic restaurant called La Bicicletta Trattoria —

Josh Reid 31:25
Yeah, yeah.

Carlton Reid 31:26
Cool. Okay, so from Sofia, we’re in Bulgaria. Where do we go? Where’d you go next?

Josh Reid 31:31
From Bulgaria and to Serbia. And the drivers were dreadful. I got hit one point by wing mirror – I cycled on like, not the highway to start with. And there was trucks and so much traffic on there, coming very close to me. So I decided to go on to the the toll road which just opened and there was like one car every minute. And I had a massive hard shoulder and I felt way safer.

Carlton Reid 31:59
So let’s let’s talk about that then. So what kind of roads have been on? Obviously in the desert there’s not a lot you can do you and I do on a corrugated road probably under a dirt road a lot of the times, but what about in China with a bike paths?

Josh Reid 32:14
The bike paths in China were very good. The roads are really good as well. You always if you didn’t have a bike path, he had a massive hard shoulder there was there was times where I’d cycle from one city to city and it would be a bike path all the way along. So there was a lot of mopeds on there and like little farm, yeah, pretty fresh. And I drafted them quite a lot of the time.

Carlton Reid 32:35
So the tractors were on the cycle paths?

Josh Reid 32:37
Not the tractors but like you’ve got little tuk-tuk’s kind of thing. So I’d cycle on them quite a lot.

Carlton Reid 32:43
And then the next time where you got just a tonne of bike paths basically the Netherlands or those you got all right and Austria.

Josh Reid 32:50
There were some good bike paths in Austria.

Josh Reid 32:53
You’re following the river. Yeah, the Danube

Carlton Reid 32:56
you if you were following parts of the the Euro velo route But in Hungary,

Josh Reid 33:02
it was way too wiggly. I didn’t like it. So I just took to the roads. And the bike routes went like that. Anyway, Austria got pretty good. So these are the bike paths your Eurovelo routes next to the river. Yeah. Yeah. And Austria and Germany. The route was good. But in Hungary and Serbia wasn’t so good.

Carlton Reid 33:20
So we were in Bulgaria. Where do we go after Bulgaria, Serbia? Where do we go after Serbia?

Josh Reid 33:27
Into Slovakia, and then into Hungary. So Budapest? Actually, no, I went into Hungary first from Serbia, and then into Slovakia and then into Austria. And then Germany.

Carlton Reid 33:42
And these are the countries are going you know, the the contrast to this.

Josh Reid 33:45
Yeah. So I was going to like, sometimes three countries in a day, so Austria, so you in Budapest. I spent a day off there, had my birthday in Budapest. So I went to the Budapest baths on the birthday and actually met another traveller from Vietnam, and he happens to be in Budapest at the same time. So it was nice to go just

Carlton Reid 34:06
by accident. You met in the baths or?,

Josh Reid 34:09
He messaged me on Instagram and like, said, you’re in Budapest. And I was like, yeah. And then went to the baths.

Carlton Reid 34:16
Wasn’t there somebody in Centeal Asia that I follow on Instagram. And you kind of somehow worked out.

Josh Reid 34:26
No, there was someone in

Josh Reid 34:30

Josh Reid 34:32
Some account that follows you on Twitter. They saw me when they were cycling around, and we were chatting for a bit. Yeah, very for me the couple cycling from England around the world.

Carlton Reid 34:46
Okay, so Okay, we’re now in Vienna. Yep. So the baths are in Budapest?

Josh Reid 34:53
Then I went to Bratislava. And then Vienna, and then my gears stopped working in Vienna, which is probably have been better if they stop working somewhere in Central Asia is cheaper, cheaper?

Carlton Reid 35:03
All the bike repair starting to get very expensive.

Josh Reid 35:06
Yeah. So I had to replace all my gears cables in Vienna.

Carlton Reid 35:14
Giant shop or was this just a

Carlton Reid 35:16
just a random shop?

Josh Reid 35:17
Probably should have gone to a Giant shop. It was closed at the time. I think

Carlton Reid 35:20
Vienna is where you also popped in to see Tubolito?

Carlton Reid 35:23
Yeah, that was cool.

Carlton Reid 35:24
So these are the guys who have got the very, very light, robust orange

Carlton Reid 35:32
tubes, inner tubes, yeah?

Carlton Reid 35:34
So you popped into there for me so you can take some photographs and stuff. Yeah,

Josh Reid 35:37
They were very friendly.

Carlton Reid 35:38
I’ll do an article on that at some point. Yeah. And that’s coming up.

Carlton Reid 35:41
So anyway, they are in Vienna.

Carlton Reid 35:42
Yeah. So they then because that was when we said Oh, Josh needs a bike shop. So they advise you where to go for the bike shop. Yeah. And only that was pretty rainy day wasn’t it was pretty

Josh Reid 35:51
Yeah. Yep. That was a good day to have off. You’re in Vienna. Where do you go from Vienna.

Josh Reid 35:56
from Vienna. I headed towards

Carlton Reid 36:02
To Germany? Salzburg you go through so yeah.

Josh Reid 36:05
So I went on a bit of a detour into Hallstadt.

Carlton Reid 36:08
Oh, yes. Yeah, yeah. And

Josh Reid 36:11
then to Salzburg where I stayed with my first Warm Showers. It’s just basically it’s like couch surfing.

Carlton Reid 36:21
Should we do this? Is it something, you know, to feed back into the global machine?

Josh Reid 36:28
I definitely I’ll definitely do it when I get my own place.

Carlton Reid 36:31
In Germany. You then tell me that tale about waking up in the morning.

Josh Reid 36:37
Okay, so

Josh Reid 36:38
the train passes. I was

Josh Reid 36:41
really tired and I was sleeping at 11 o’clock at night. I go down to to reach my bottle to get a drink. And I grabbed my tyre. So I’m like, maybe I should stop cycling. So I go in the next field set up my bivi .

Josh Reid 36:58
sleep Then get up in the morning.

Josh Reid 37:02
I go to the toilet. And as if in slow motion a train come past as I’m going to the toilet. You have no way basically. Yeah. In front of the train line. Yeah. And then I just basically panoramic a train. I continue packing all my stuff and then a police car rocks up and two policemen come out. Question me in German, I don’t I don’t speak German, sorry. And then they asked if that’s my bike, and what I’m doing sleeping in a field. I tell it tell my story, then they get very chatty after that. But basically someone had called up and said, it looks like there’s been an accident as a bike in a field in a body bag. In a field, but it was all right. So as soon as they realise your’re tame?

Josh Reid 37:48
Yeah, you’re free to go. Yeah, no problem.

Josh Reid 37:51
Yeah, police have been very friendly on the trip. Once they realise what I’m doing in Xijiang, like the the Muslim province of China. You can only stay in certain hotels in a town with foreigners aren’t allowed in certain hotels. But I was I was going to count this night but I went there’s a checkpoint in Xijiang every 40 kilometres that you’ve got to basically get get your passport out and like spend an hour telling them what you do and they don’t talk to each other so it’s like you’ve got to do it over and over again to the police forces in each cell each different area yeah talking to the elders of each 40 kilometres go tell the same story they don’t know you’re coming but I think China do that on purpose just to give it a control. But I go through this checkpoint and they escort me into town with flashing lights and if they can’t get my bike into the into the police car, so they get me to follow but they they take me they say I’m if I’m hungry, and so they take me out for dinner. So they basically brought me into this restaurant with two policemen and I’m sitting down, I’m eating with chopsticks not very well, and they’re not eating at all it is watching me. So I don’t know what these cooks are thinking all these people in the restaurant like this guy is getting arrested in that and the police are paying for his meal. But it takes them like an hour and a half before they find a hotel that I can sleep in. We tried a few that they the police didn’t even know today, which is the thing is there’s no tourists in this part China. Start booking this hotel it’s about to pay. And then two more police cars rock up and 10 SWAT guys jump out of these cars with bulletproof shield guns and batons and rush into the hotel and like, like saying, what are you doing here? Why are you in this town in the middle of nowhere in the province that China don’t like you go into and they start taking me away and put my bike violently, which I wasn’t too happy about into their into their truck and are about to whisk me away. And then one of them gets on the radio. No, you can actually stay there. So reassembled my bike, get out of the van and go back into the hotel. But it still takes like, an hour and a half, two hours before I get a hotel room.

Carlton Reid 40:08
Isn’t it two in the morning

Josh Reid 40:09
in the morning, I found this very funny to start with when they all rock up and it’s just me in the Lycra really smelly. Just like really wanted to sleep and they’re trying to like it’s really funny to start with and then it just didn’t happen you don’t get a hotel room till 2am It’s not funny anymore.

Carlton Reid 40:27
Was that the night when because President Xi was there in your you’re in one place where you were you didn’t actually know why the SWAT team were there. But was that the day the day that the President was there because it was not at the Rainbow mountains that the President next day and that’s why there’s loads of SWAT around

Josh Reid 40:46
no no this was further back. But this before I went into Xijiang this was in its there were the sand dunes are in

Josh Reid 40:55
Oh, I forgot. It’s

Josh Reid 40:59
It’s where the The Grotto. These are the really famous grottos in China with all the paintings on the wall. And that’s where the President Xi, there’s lots of police about but I didn’t went on a big detour to go I went on a detour in a Sunday in a sandstorm to get to these sand dunes and this these quarters, and then on the way back.

Carlton and Josh Reid, near Lelystad, Netherlands

Josh Reid 41:27
I slept under the road because they don’t like camping. So I generally went to set up camp when I was getting dark. So people wouldn’t see where you’re going. And then wake up when it before it’s like.

Carlton Reid 41:39
So we’re still in. Like, that’s where we’re back into China. Now. Let’s go back into into Germany. So you waiting in the morning this train passes. You’re in Germany. So where are you after Germany? How much of Germany even?

Josh Reid 41:58
So I stopped off in Munich.

Josh Reid 42:01
I have my second Warm showers, that very friendly couple from America who show me around Munich, which is really cool. It’s always nice when you have a local to show you around, they know where to go. And then I went towards Luxembourg

Josh Reid 42:20
and the Vennbahn.

Carlton Reid 42:21
On that note, we will stop there for a quick commercial break and we will cut across to David

Chinese cycle tourist 42:28
Thnakd Carlton. Thanks so much and hi everybody. It’s David, and I am here, you know why I’m here, I’m here to talk about our longtime loyal and fantastic sponsor, Jenson USA at Remember, that’s Now, what’s Jenson USA Well, if you don’t know by now you should. Jenson is the place where you’re going to find all the things that you need for your complete Cycling lifestyle complete bikes, mountain bikes, road bikes, gravel grinders, everything in between components, apparel, accessory, tools, shoes, really gifts, everything you can imagine that you would need for your cycling lifestyle. We’re not talking about off branded stuff. We are talking about name brands that you know, love and need for your cycling lifestyle. You’re going to find those name brands at incredible low prices. And that’s all going to be coupled with unparalleled customer service. If you haven’t been to Jenson USA before, I urge you to do it right now and every time you need something for cycling because they’re going to have it at great prices, and you’re going to be very, very satisfied with their customer service. Go ahead and check them out. That’s Our thanks to Jenson USA for supporting the spokesmen cycling roundtable podcast, and our thanks to you for supporting our sponsor, Jenson USA. Alright, Carlton, back to you.

Carlton Reid 44:08
Thanks, David. And we are back with Josh Reid, globe-girdler-extraordinare, as they used to say in the 1890s when people were cycling around the world at that point, so just you remembered

Josh Reid 44:22
So the detour I took was to Dunhuang, whether the big sand dunes on its Mogao caves where the

Josh Reid 44:31
Chinese president was.

Carlton Reid 44:33
Okay, so President Xi was there and you didn’t know at the time. Now there’s lots of lots of

Carlton Reid 44:38
security forces they were they were following you on an angle and that’s where the President’s just been, it’s always going to be a day or something. So that’s why there’s lots of security presence.

Josh Reid 44:49
So I, I go along the sand dunes but it’s fenced off. So I try and find somewhere where I could kind of climb over the fence, and I’m about to climb over this fence. And then a Chinese guy comes up to me and says, follow me. So I follow him. And he shows somewhere I can camp. And then he has a key to a gate. So he lets me through the gate and says, you can go up there if you want to take some pictures of top of the sand dunes. You can put the sand dunes or do you like come to the bottom of them. But he’s had Be careful because people have wandered in there and never come back.

Carlton Reid 45:22
That’s my funnest thing of cycle touring was going into place like the Sahara, and sleeping on sand dunes. And then you’ve got the sky. Yeah, and that’s one of the benefits when people think of sleeping in outdoors. We haven’t got a tent, but yeah, you just look up in the sky.

Josh Reid 45:40
Yeah, I slept under the stars every night. It is

Josh Reid 45:42
amazing just sleeping under the stars is just unbelievable. So I went from China. When it was at night it was still really humid. So I’d be in my bivvisac and I’d be sweating to go in through Central Asia and it’s actually all right it’s quite pleasant. Sleep in the baby except when you up on 4000 metres. It’s bloody freezing. And then into Europe when your toes are cold every night. I didn’t carry any warm socks, only thin cycling socks. So my feet were always freezing.

Carlton Reid 46:11
So we have reached the Vennbahn, because that’s how it’s spelled, but it’s called it’s the fen. It’s actually an F. It’s the it’s like the Fenlands, the Fenway. So you’re on the Vennbahn, which is this fantastic cycleway through Luxembourg. So you hit Luxembourg, basically. Yep. And there’s very cute photographs, which you kind of pre researched.

Josh Reid 46:36
I did my first cycle tour with you in Luxembourg when I was six or seven. So I asked you to find those photos. You send them across, eventually found them. And by accident, I go past the like little town that we got some of those photos in so I recreated them.

Carlton Reid 46:56
Yeah, that was really cute. So the photograph of you as a seven year old In front of this or the castle behind, and then you’ve you’ve asked somebody to take the photograph. Yeah, there you are in the exactly the same place. That’s amazing to see it. So it’s basically a press trip, but I

Josh Reid 47:12
did all those years ago. I didn’t try and go there though. That was just an accident. Okay,

Carlton Reid 47:17
so you’ve you get to Troisverges which is the start of the Vennbahn and you got 125 kilometres to do which goes into Germany and turned yep to Belgium. So describe what you’ve been doing on that route and

Josh Reid 47:36
Basically cycling and then taking footage for you.

Carlton Reid 47:41
Yes, to get me some drone photographs. I’ve got a Guardian piece coming up. So yeah, took some photographs. Good. I didn’t see Monschau in daylight.

Josh Reid 47:48
Yeah, that was that was highlight of that little stretch. Yeah.

Josh Reid 47:52
I did actually cycle past it. And then I had a nagging thing in my brain saying, My dad said that was that was the cute town. I was like, fine, I’ll go and then I’m really glad I’m really glad I went down there. But it was down into a valley coupled climb up back up. Yeah. Which was my legs are already hurting so I wasn’t too That’s why I wasn’t too keen to go down there and a lot of days it was a nice Christmas market down and cute village. Yeah,

Carlton Reid 48:19
yeah, yeah Monschau was nice. So mancell your then your next destination is basically Arkan

Josh Reid 48:28
Yeah. And then what did the next night? So wherever I would probably say an arc and I probably slept in a field in our can.

Josh Reid 48:37
Yeah, Yeah, I did. That was no, I cycled all the way into the Netherlands that day

Carlton Reid 48:44
to Heelen.

Josh Reid 48:45
Yeah. So I I wanted to get into the Netherlands which is my last country until England, really? Yeah. So I wanted to get into even though I did a little stretch into Belgium the next day. I wanted to get into another country, a little finger.

Carlton Reid 48:58
There is a tiny little bit isn’t Maastricht.

Josh Reid 49:00
Yeah, so I got into the Netherlands that day and then had my last night coming in, in the Netherlands. So I think I slept out in the open in every country went through.

Carlton Reid 49:10
And you stayyed with somebody in Utrecht?

Josh Reid 49:13
Yeah. An old school friend.

Carlton Reid 49:15
So from Heelen to Utrecht in like a day? Or two days?

Josh Reid 49:24
One day, just one day.

Josh Reid 49:27
One day, basically, yeah, that was my last day over 100 miles.

Carlton Reid 49:31
Yeah, that’s a good point to actually ask what kind of mileages are you doing? What’s your top mileage? What’s your lowest mileage? Your average mileage?

Josh Reid 49:41
My biggest days were in China. I was doing 260 kilometres.

Carlton Reid 49:46
You could do that or you had to?

Josh Reid 49:48
I just fancied it.

Josh Reid 49:50
I could have gone further but my lights always died.

Carlton Reid 49:53
Because you got more daylight at this time of year. So that helps

Josh Reid 49:54
and then Tajikistan. It was down to like 60, or 70 kilometres a day was just up and down. At 4600 metres altitude is good and bad food poisoning some days. Yeah. And then Europe is like 180 kilometres around the hundred and 50 to 200 kilometre mark that was doing each day for four months.

Carlton Reid 50:17
So the way you’ve described it is your your base fitness is really good now. Yeah. So you’re looking to go racing again and you’re thinking well, long distance races are not going to faze you really at the moment.

Josh Reid 50:28
Yeah. Well, the world feels much smaller now.

Josh Reid 50:31
You can get to China in four months.

Carlton Reid 50:34
True. So you are now in Utrecht? Yeah. And you’re staying with a friend from school. And then we’re now coming to where I meet you.

Carlton Reid 50:46
Yeah, because you leave Utrecht

Carlton Reid 50:50
In the whole of the Netherlands you’re on bike paths, yeh?,

Josh Reid 50:52
Pretty much. Yeah. There was a time when a mountain biker past me and then took me on some trails just by nature. So then I didn’t have to look at the map. I did have to back in Europe, I had to look at the map a lot more. I took a few lot more wrong turns, whereas in China Central Asia just

Carlton Reid 51:12
One road.

Carlton Reid 51:14
You can’t be wrong. Yeah. Okay, so you’re Utrecht, you leave. We then meet up on this this coastal bike path where, you know, it’s we I can’t miss you. And we’re going to be passing at some point we’re getting closer and closer. We meet up and then we go to

Carlton Reid 51:33
see the Giant factory.

Carlton Reid 51:35
In Lelystad. So basically, you’ve gone all the way from Shanghai, Giant factory to the Giant factory in Lelystad, which is the European hub where they’re making bikes, you know, they they’re shipping the frames. Yeah, sometimes they paint them, but maybe they’re shipping them in and to sell its factories. And that’s not just you know, it’s not jyst a warehouse. It’s actually in fact making bikes.

Josh Reid 52:01
So that’s pretty cool. And then Frank,

Carlton Reid 52:04
the second in command of that place takes us around. And then we he, he lives 25 kilometres away in Almere. And so he then takes us. Yeah. On his nature route and then of course that’s where we are in any crash. Yeah. And bring you down. break your legs. Yeah, that was that was going to be dodgy because it was a cattle grid. Yeah, it was a cattle grid. And he didn’t know is there is I didn’t know

Carlton Reid 52:37
you went into it sideways.

Riding the penultimate day, with Giant’s Frank Veltman

Carlton Reid 52:39
I did my Okay, what you need kit wise we know what I need is a bike with disc brakes. Because within rim brakes, I didn’t really and because a lot of dirt around and you know, I’ve got a road bike on dirt paths and it’s like I had no brakes. I just I almost had to stare that way because I couldn’t have stopped Yeah, that was that was quite dodgy. We are nearly crashed and you would have crashed into me and we were going on a fair old lick weren’t we?

Josh Reid 53:08
Well, you two are both on really light road bikes. With no front panniers.

Carlton Reid 53:14
I’m looking behind, Josh is doing all right.

Josh Reid 53:17
Hanging on, sticking out, really wide, I’ve got two front panniers on the front with20 kilogrammes of weight on a bike. Yeah, I was keeping up but it was an effort.

Carlton Reid 53:30
But at that point we didn’t know where we’re going to sleep – were we going to sleep in Almere because I know you wanted to get to Amsterdam and after we had to get to the to the DFDS ferry, but we didn’t know where we’re going to stay but we just were so close we might as well just keep on pedalling. So we ride through the dark. We just pedal through into Amsterdam and then we did stay in a in a posh hotel. You’re with me, now. Yeah. So I’m not gonna sleep in a hostel anymore. I’m way beyond that. And my bumming out days are over. I’m gonna stay in a posh hotel. So we turn up a posh hotel with two incredibly filthy bikes.

Josh Reid 54:09
Yeah I would have just squealed them straight straight in you you didn’t want to

Carlton Reid 54:14
well they were incredibly filthy yeah they were they were something else.

Josh Reid 54:19
Uou went up to the to ask you for you and take the bikes in and I was still outside freezing shivering and then you come out and say all can’t stay there and they won’t let us bring the bikes and if we just pulled them in nothing It would have been fine.

Carlton Reid 54:31
Yeah, just pay for it and then just walk in with felt the bike and go to the room. Yeah. Okay, so then we are pretty much we’re now in Amsterdam, we’ll say the night and then we’ll try to get back to – and then you get a rainy day. don’t you?

Carlton Reid 54:50
you get a

About the board the DFDS ferry from Amsterdam

Josh Reid 54:52
Nice getting to the ferry. It wasn’t very far but it felt further because the bad weather. Yeah, a headwind and not very nice rain. Straight into our face.

Carlton Reid 55:03
Yeah, but then we got the nice ferry trip. And then you met at the ship who who met you at the ship [in Newcastle]?

Josh Reid 55:09
My mother. My grandparents.

Carlton Reid 55:12
Yeah. And then then we cycle so your mum cycled out to see us? Yep. And we then cycle back and then what do you what do you do? You didn’t you didn’t come straight back with us, did you?

Josh Reid 55:24
I went to the bike shop.

Carlton Reid 55:26
Which bike shop?

Josh Reid 55:27
The Backyard bike shop.

Carlton Reid 55:29
And that’s the one under the Tyne bridge, yeah? So what you’re doing there

Josh Reid 55:32
I went to see Nick and had a good chat is on the way home so I may as well

Carlton Reid 55:38
And then and then basically when your way home and what have you done since you’ve been back at home?

Josh Reid 55:47
Broke a bike, got a massage.

Carlton Reid 55:51

Josh Reid 55:53
When it’s on is it

Carlton Reid 55:57
right now because I mean, you just bought around not doing a great deal is that is that something you want to do just like to chill out to like do nothing for a while or you’re itching to get away again What?

Josh Reid 56:10
Well, I’m in the process of entering for the Transcontinental, whether I get in or not is another thing.

Carlton Reid 56:16
So describe what that is.

Josh Reid 56:17
It’s a bikepacking race across Europe, basically self supported and you just go as fast as you can. But I definitely need better lights for that, and a dynamo.

Carlton Reid 56:30
So I know when I came back from my trips, I definitely had itchy feet. Do you do you still feel like that you want to be still moving?

Josh Reid 56:38
There’s definitely places I still want to go.

Josh Reid 56:40
I want to go racing and a bit.

Carlton Reid 56:42
So you may get into the Transcontinental, when is that?

Josh Reid 56:44
It’s and July August. So we just to two or three weeks of just riding nonstop.

Carlton Reid 56:52
Again bivvying or do people go in B&B’s for that?

Josh Reid 56:55
Bivvies. Everybody bivvies. I’m not sure about the stragglers but the top five will be in bivvies.

Carlton Reid 57:03
So basically you just ride until you …?

Josh Reid 57:06
yeah, it’s self-supported. Yeah. You ride until he can’t ride no more, sleep for two hours and then you continue riding.

Carlton Reid 57:13
So you have got this plan for the transcontinental. Yeah.

Carlton Reid 57:19
Potentially if you get it if you get it and it’s a ballot?

Josh Reid 57:23
It’s like it’s like, highly contested, they choose.

Carlton Reid 57:28
But you know, because you’re 22 and said we’re going to stress it this is a pretty young age to be doing what you’ve been doing.

Josh Reid 57:35
Yeah, people ultra-endurance tend to be a bit older. But yeah, it’s something I like racing and I like bike touring so Transcontinental is right up my street.

Carlton Reid 57:47
Okay, so that’s coming up in the in the summer if you get into that good luck with that. When you were I was certainly posting on Twitter, your your exploits and your videos and stuff. And so the Leicester cycling campaign said you must come and give a talk. So you’ve got a talk booked down there. some point, you’ve also got a talk coming up.

Josh Reid 58:11
Yeah. For the Tyne

Carlton Reid 58:13
time trial awards.

Carlton Reid 58:15
Because you’re not really done that before, have you?

Josh Reid 58:17
I’m going to be more nervous talking in front of people than II was riding along next to Afghanistan for 300 kilometres.

Carlton Reid 58:23
Thanks to Josh Reid there. The videos we mentioned can be found on YouTube and I link to them on the show notes at the

Carlton Reid 58:31

Carlton Reid 58:34
I’ll also link to Josh’s Instagram photos, he’s joshreids on that platform, which is Josh R E I D S.

Unknown Speaker 58:46
I’m really proud of his ride

Carlton Reid 58:47
and loving the fact that he’s sort of following in my wheel tracks. He’s now spent a couple of years riding and travelling and working abroad as I did back in the

Carlton Reid 58:58
ahem – 1980s

Carlton Reid 59:01
This has been show 231 of the spokesmen cycling podcast. The next couple of shows will be one on one interviews with American cycle advocate and academics. Meanwhile, get out there and ride!

Chinese cycle tourist 59:44
[Chinese audio …]

Chinese cycle tourist 59:49
That’s my point and I want to go to England one day to find you. It sounds good. Okay, give me five. Okay. Now okay. Hope to see you, Josh.

November 24, 2019 / / Blog

Spokesmen Cycling Podcast

Rags To Riches: Head to Head with Le Col’s Yanto Barker

Sunday 24th November 2019


HOST: Carlton Reid

GUEST: Yanto Barker, CEO and founder of Le Col cycle apparel.


Welcome to episode 230 of the Spokesmen Cycling Podcast. This show was published on Sunday 24th November 2019.

The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast is brought to you by Jenson USA, where you’ll always find a great selection of products at amazing prices with unparalleled customer service. For more information, just go to Hey everybody, it’s David from the Fredcast cycling podcast at I’m one of the hosts and producers of the spokesmen cycling roundtable podcast. For show notes, links and all sorts of other information please visit our website at And now, here are the spokesmen.

Carlton Reid 1.00
Hi there I’m Carlton Reid and on today’s show we’ve got a head to head interview with Yanto Barker, the former pro cyclist who rebooted a racing career to promote his fledgling premium cycle clothing brand, Le Col. As you’ll hear in this hour-long show, at first Yanto did all of the jobs in his startup, from designing to dispatching, but as Le Col grew he delegated to experts. Le Col now employs 33 people, including 8 in Italy — early in the company’s trajectory Yanto bought the Italian factory that had been making his high-end apparel, and it’s fascinating to hear how and why he did this. He’s affluent now, he says, but Yanto explains how he didn’t start loaded — his, then, is a rags-to-riches story.

I dig into the company’s financials, asking how Le Col raised money through crowdfunding as well as attracting venture capital. In the chat we don’t stop to explain terms so here are two acronym explainers: HMRC is Her Majesty’s Revenues and Custom, in other words the UK’s tax authorities. And EIS is the Enterprise Investment Scheme in which investors can claim up to 30% income tax relief on their investments, something that’s key to crowdfunding campaigns that sell shares in a business – so think Crowdcube not Kickstarter.

As you’ll hear, Yanto a driven individual and this interview was conducted for a profile I shall do on him for You can check out all of my Forbes articles at

Carlton Reid 3.00
That link, and a bunch of others, can be found on the shownotes for this episode at And as with all of the latest shows, that website has a full transcript of this episode.

Carlton Reid
So Yanto, tell me about your racing career before you started Le Col.

Yanto Barker
So I was a very single minded young man. And at the age of 16, I was pretty clear that I wanted to be a cyclist, and at 17 I was going to college and decided that – coming back from college one day – I didn’t want to go there anymore. I thought I could do a better job, racing my bike for a career. And that’s what I wanted to concentrate on. So I came home to tell my parents who have always been very open with me and and supportive of my choices as long as I understood the implications and seriousness and that I wasn’t overlooking any serious details, then they will support me to do whatever I wanted. At the time, I was I was in a very modest financial situation with my parents. My mum was a single parent and she brought me and my sisters up on her own, basically, and she was receiving Family Credit for me attending higher education. And she made it very clear that if I stopped then that that income would stop. And therefore I would need to pick it up and contribute it from a personal point of view. So I basically asked her how much that was, and I think was about 30 pounds a week. And I said, Fine. I’ll get a job part time, couple days a week and I’ll cover it, which I did. So I think I went to college one more day, picked up my stuff, told my tutors, that’s what I was doing. And from then on, I was 100% full time as a cyclist. I was a junior at the time, I was writing for the national team. So the GB national team, I was in a team with Bradley Wiggins, and I was actually riding and racing all around the world already as part of the junior national series, international series and you know, writers like Tom Boonen, Fabian Cancellara were my generation as juniors. And, you know, that was the world I lived in and I was looked after like an athlete, given bikes, kit, travel, expenses, you know, hotels and flights booked from from then on.

Carlton Reid
It’s still a hell of a leap though. That’s a very brave decision you took and your your mum, you’re taking that kind of decision at that kind of age that had, obviously financial implications.

Yanto Barker
Yeah, I did. It was brave, actually. And I look back and actually the bravery was probably overshadowed by naivety. And that theme we’ll come back to if you ask a few more questions of more recent times, I would say it’s a similar characteristic in that I am brave, almost a little bit too brave for myself sometimes, but luckily, I’m quite resourceful and determined, and I do love a challenge. And I’m often challenging myself. And that was the first one that was the first big occasion that was the first big challenges: can I earn my living from my passion, my cycling passion? And the answer was yes, I can. Can I, you know, look off myself financially and, and live that life that I really want to and I did and I’m very proud of myself that I was able to.

Carlton Reid 6.17
So tell me what years we talking about here

Yanto Barker
1997, 98, 99 and onwards basically, I mean 97 that was I was my first ride for a GB team was 1997. I remember it very clearly there was the Tamworth Two-Day in the Midlands, with Bradley Wiggins and a number of other riders who didn’t, didn’t continue as long as we did. And from that was from then on, I was looked after as part of the GB setup. And later I moved to France to ride for a semi pro team and continue my career that way.

Carlton Reid
And then when did you have the idea to start a clothing brand at the same time as as racing.

Yanto Barker
So they actually happened independently because by the time I was 25, I’d been on the podium of the Nationals the national men’s I was a junior national champion at 18. And then I’ve been on the podium and best British finisher at the tour of Britain. And I wasn’t getting paid and wasn’t getting the contracts for the next year that I really felt like I needed to to demonstrate that I was going to continue on a trajectory that would enable me to relax financially at the end of my career, which was sort of 35, 36, 37 depending on which age you choose to stop racing full time. And that made me really nervous and I felt like I wanted to stop and reinvent myself sooner rather than later. I think as a younger adult, you are a bit more flexible, you’re not so set in your ways. And as I described earlier, from the age of 17, I was looked after, like a little pop star in a bubble where pretty much everything was given or supplied to me.

Yanto Barker 8.00
Now, while that’s a real luxury to some people, it’s equally quite a institutional conditioning. That means when it comes to looking after myself on some basic adult grown up logistics like paying rent and bills, and you know, council tax and all that kind of stuff. I wasn’t, I wasn’t needing to do that it was all covered for me I was looked after. So at 25. I actually did the Commonwealth Games in 2006, on the 25th of March in Melbourne. And that was my last race from the first half of my career. I then took three years out, 2006, 07 and 08, where I didn’t race my bike or even exercise for half of that time at all, which was a real shock to the system actually. But I’m a very all or nothing kind of person. So when I stopped, I didn’t touch my bike for 18 months, I didn’t even do any kind of exercise for 18 months. And I was really keen to change my focus and create a gap in my life that was going to get filled from the next phase.

Carlton Reid
How did you make money?

Yanto Barker
Exactly, how to make money? And I never actually intended to come back to cycle so at this point 2006, middle of 2006 and 2007, I, I’m I’m ignoring cycling. I watch a little bit on the telly, but I’m really not intending to have anything more to do with it and actually researching what other jobs could I get? What other businesses maybe I could start? What ways can I earn my living and how am I going to, you know, look after myself financially going forward. So, get to middle of 2008 and I come up after doing a bit of a feasibility on a couple of different businesses. One, I’d had a couple of jobs and I didn’t like having a job. I like to be self-employed and like to look after my own my own time and responsibilities. So I did a feasibility on a couple different projects like cycling training/coaching, which is quite popular for ex-athletes at the moment. Travel which was another one and then the clothing equally bikes and and parts I also looked at, and the clothing idea was the one that felt like the most potential and the one that I thought could actually go the furthest. So I started to give that quite a bit more attention. So really middle of 2008, I was starting to focus on researching suppliers, fabrics, designs, brand names, I was going through the logistics of what it takes to set up a business, including registering at Companies House on domain names, you know, all the things that have to be done before anyone even knows about it. These are the things that I was starting to look at.

Carlton Reid
And when did you actually physically found the business then but when do you actually physically have your product, right? So

Yanto Barker
Get to the end of 2008 and I am missing cycling and I started to think to myself, well, if I’m going to start a cycling brand, then I could, why don’t I go back to cycling and use my own profile to promote the business? So by this point, I come up with a name; I knew what I wanted what I wanted to achieve in terms of the price point, the position in the market, a lot of the fundamentals as in route to market, the products that I want to improve from what was available in other brands. And I started trading properly towards the end of 2008. And I began racing again early 2009. So I started to receive products and samples in early 2009. And continued developing the samples actually for another year in a bit until we started trading officially in 2011. And I had to continue to race full time as well. So I was from the beginning of 2009, I was running in parallel, a full time racing career again, although I rode for myself, I sponsored myself effectively with my brand name on my jersey, even though we weren’t officially trading yet. And then I was setting up all the foundations of what needed to be done for the business to begin trading in 2011.

Carlton Reid 12.00
So this is why, in some company profiles I’ve seen it says 2011, others says, no, 2009. So basically both both are correct?

Yanto Barker
Yeah. So the idea was formed earlier than 2011. But we weren’t a company trading until 2011.

Carlton Reid
Right. Okay. And then I want to go backwards a bit. Did you put on weight when you’d stop riding and and how did you find getting back into into into cycling? What physiologically happened to you?

Yanto Barker
So, no, I didn’t put on any weight. And I actually tried for a while. So some people reading this might might feel like that’s not fair. But basically, I didn’t put on a single kilo. I changed my body composition. So I had a lot less muscle when I wasn’t doing any exercise. But I actually didn’t change weight, and then when it came back to racing, and training properly, I mean, when I first started I was I was riding very slowly compared to what I used to, but I was very clear that to get back to a strong condition, physical condition, I just needed to focus on intensity and the speed would come back naturally. So I went out for my first few rides at the end of 2008 in preparation for the 2009 season, and I just pushed as hard as I could, but I was riding three, four, maybe even five miles an hour slower than I was used to. But I ignored the speed. I just focused on my intensity, and I pushed as hard as I could and I knew if I did that I would get fit quickly. Like I said, I hadn’t put on any weight so I wasn’t losing weight. And the form came back actually within six weeks, even after just under three years off. I was you know, back to being as fast as any club rider and then within another three or four weeks, I was doing 25, 30 hours in a week of training in the UK in January. And I was fully committed to making sure I was as fast as I could possibly be and as good as as close to as good as I was before I started so up until the age of 25. I got back there by the time I did my first race, which was in February 2009.

Carlton Reid
Interesting. So then you’ve got the brand up and running in 2011. You then have about five years of running the brand and racing at the same time.

Yanto Barker
Yeah, that was I mean that I look back now. I mean, I didn’t have a family than I’ve got two children now. But it was just myself and my girlfriend, who is now my wife. And I mean, it was a seven day a week job. I trained every single morning during the week. Sometimes up to 100 miles, I go from London to Brighton and back. And then in the afternoons, I’ve come to the office. And I’d look at spreadsheets, I’d look at designs, I’d sign off samples, I do all the things that need to be done in the work environment to make sure that the business continued.

Yanto Barker 15.00
And then a little bit later, so 2015 and 2016. I was racing more internationally again. I was taking part in World Tour races like Tour de Dubai, Tour of Poland, Kuurne–Brussels–Kuurne, those kind of races. And on the team bus between stages, you do 250 kilometre stages. And I was trying to check my emails after those kinds of stages, and it was really, really hard work. And I look back now and I think I was really committed. I’m very dedicated. And I did that for a number of years, like you say from 2011 until 2016. August 2016 was my last race. I was working virtually seven days a week and often late into the evenings and definitely weekends every single week.

Carlton Reid
And you are farming an awful lot of stuff out. So you’re you’re you’re getting somebody else to do the designs. You’re basically buying in expertise. Is that how you did it?

Yanto Barker
Yeah, but I always basically I did every single job in this business before I hired the person that now looks after that department or that that specific role. So as a founder and entrepreneur, your role is very adaptive to what needs to be done. And at an early stage, you know, there was me and a factory. So an early early stage, there was me on my own and I had a part-time secretary who just managed my emails while I was out training or if I was abroad or racing, internationally. And then the interesting thing is, because I, I never worked a full-time job in the office, I was always racing my bike. So it was a bit like I always had a morning meeting that took at least four hours. So I’ve been very good quite early on being quite good at delegating; delegating the responsibilities, delegating the jobs, and making sure that I checked up on them rather than did them myself. So that is how it started. But I did do every single job. So I did accounts, I did design. I did branding. I did website building, I did planning, I did forecasting, I did finances. I did investment, I did people managing, you know, I did product testing, you know, this, this is really, you know, fundamental to me knowing every part of this business is that I did that job in the beginning. So when it comes to hiring, it’s actually quite a luxury because I have someone who’s a specialist in each department and each role and they do a much better job than I did. So actually, it’s testament to me that I could adapt myself with no qualifications, to run and do all those different jobs at different times, just just enough to get it to where it needed to be until I could employ the person to come in and take that on full time and with the training and expertise, they have in their experience to do it, like it should be done instead of how I was doing it.

Carlton Reid
And how many people are you employing now?

Yanto Barker
We’re just over 30 now. I think we’re 32, 33 not everybody’s on a full five-day week, but that’s pretty much where we are 33 people.

Carlton Reid
That’s UK?

Yanto Barker
That’s UK and Italy.

Carlton Reid
Let’s go to Italy then. Tell me how you how you first of all contacted that factory in Treviso. So and then how you ended up owning it?

Yanto Barker
Yeah. So good, good question

Yanto Barker
I was contacted by them. So at the time I was looking for samples, I was actually getting them made in Pakistan in China, Italy in the UK. And I was looking for someone that I could trust and rely who would deliver the products that I needed reliably, both in quality control and timing and then manage me as a relationship because I was about to spend the most amount of money I’d ever had at one time, and it was about to be gone on my first order. So I had been contacted by them to say that they could do custom kit and I contacted them back again and said, Can you do more than custom kit, could you do a brand for me? I’ll give you all the files. I’ll give you the name I’ll give you the CADs so you can see what the artwork looks like and then if you make it then we can start to develop some samples and see how it goes. So that was the first contact I had with a lady called Sandra Sartori, who was an Italian lady based in Treviso, just outside Treviso, a place called Castelfranco. And I developed a relationship with her, she delivered some samples for me, and they were pretty good. I thought they needed a little bit of work. And I asked her can I come and visit you? And she said yes. She was an account manager in a in a factory. And I went to visit her, I got on really well with her. [[[[[[She was very straightforward, not Italian-like more Germanic. So turns out, she’s from the very, very north of Italy, which is close to the Austrian border. And she has a very Austrian feel to her character. As in she speaks Italian, she, she she sounds Italian, but she looks more Germanic. And she acts in a very structured, predictable Germanic way which actually was really useful from my point of view, I could, I could feel like not wanting to operate the operating as a business.]]]]] So we developed a relationship. See, she looked after me as an account. And supplied me all of my goods from the very, very first jersey that ever got made. right up until today, actually, she has managed that process. And I used that process and she was an account manager for me, and they were my supplier for about three years, until early 2014. When actually, late 2013, I first went there to say, I’ve got some, I’ve got some issues with quality control. I’ve got some issues with reliability in terms of timings, there, I want to I want to see the improvements, and I want you to give me some assurance how that’s going to happen. And she said, I don’t think it can happen. She was very frank. And I said, Well, what what you mean? And she said, because there is there are disagreements in how the business needs to be run and we’re just not going to get invested into the departments that need to be invested into to service you in the way you’re looking to be serviced at the standard that you that you want, and I said okay. So what what do I need to do? I don’t really want to look for a new factory, you’ve got to run through all your definitions again, you’ve got to find out, you know all of their strengths and weaknesses. And actually, it’s a very destabilising process for a brand that is moving to change its supplier, and then line it all up so no one notices, and you get the right quality product at the right time to sell. And she said, Well, you know, you could probably make an offer to buy the business. And I was like, really? I mean, I didn’t, I didn’t go there to do that. But during this meeting, when I’m complaining about timing and quality control, she said, well, why don’t you buy or invest into the business? And I said, Okay, let me think about it. And I’ll need some details. So I asked her a bunch of questions. She answered a bunch of questions. And I said, give me a few months I’ll come back to you. And so I basically pitched to raise investment to buy them out and and take on the factory as a going concern and about six months later, that’s exactly what happened. So I bought an order book, I bought a management team. And I bought all the contacts and facilities I needed to service my product so as no one would notice the transition from the company being registered as it was when I first started to it being incorporated into my business, and it being a version of Le Col Ltd. in Italy that was the manufacturing department.

Carlton Reid
And how many people in Italy?

Yanto Barker
We have aout 8 people there. And we do have a flexible outsourcing process there as well. So obviously cycling kit is very seasonal. I was very cautious about taking on fixed overheads, because that just creates a very hungry beast of a business that needs feeding, you know orders all the time so we can do the minimum but actually we outsource the real flex in peak season. we outsource to a cutting department who is literally a kilometre down the road and a sewing department who helped make sure that we can cater for that flex in peaks and troughs of the seasonality. And then I also service a whole bunch of international customers who came with the order book from the original business. And were, you know, transferred across, and we service them continually as well.

Carlton Reid
And these are all cycle?

Yanto Barker
Yeah, there was a little bit of yoga wear, there was a little bit of ski wear. But actually, we’ve tried to sort of steer away from that, because actually, cycling is our expertise. And I think it’s important that we do focus on the things that we do well, and yeah, so that’s what we’ve done really. So we now you know, 98% cycling.

Yanto Barker
{{{{And, yeah, we just continue in that way.}}}}

Carlton Reid
So you’re seeing what other brands are going to be bringing to market, potentially?

Yanto Barker
Kind of. More like we service sort of international custom customers. And I wouldn’t say there are any big recognisable brands, there are a few smaller, maybe southern hemisphere brands who use our manufacturing. But we don’t really share IP very much. I’m quite protective about what we develop, I spent a long, a long time, and a lot of money developing very technical products that I don’t really want anyone else to have. And likewise, I’m not hugely concerned with what anyone else is doing in terms of product development, because, you know, I know what a good product should do. I know what I want it to look like. And I’m very focused on delivering that as opposed to looking around at what other brands are doing and maybe sort of incorporating a little bit of this, a little bit of that from other areas.

Yanto Barker
So the investment you got to buy the factory in Trevisio was before the Crowdcube investment?

Yanto Barker
Yes, correct. The factory investment was about a third, a third: My savings, a bank loan and seed investors.

Carlton Reid
Okay. And then talk about how you got into doing … well. you got a million, just over a million pounds from 344 investors. You started in 2016. But then it finished in January 2017. Yes?

Yanto Barker
Yes, it did, yes. So we did, I mean, we started actually on that project to pitch for crowdfunding investment in February 2016. We didn’t get to launch on the site on Crowdcube until the 17th of November. And then we hit Christmas holidays and all sorts of things. It was a really, really challenging time probably one of the most stressful times I’ve ever encountered. And I’ll add that my wife gave birth to our first daughter in the middle and I was in the hospital corridor or taking phone calls for £250 investment. a £1000 investment £10,000 investment while you know, we’re trying to get through learning how to breastfeed, and, you know, the complications of her birth, it wasn’t straightforward either. So that was intense. And, you know, it needed quite special a special attention. But yeah, we completed in January 2017.

Yanto Barker 25.46
We had an issue with HMRC, complying with EIS (Enterprise Investment Scheme) submission. So that was actually a real challenge and they wouldn’t release funds until that came through which it thankfully did in about February, so a month later, and all the time is quite anxious, you know about people — they are only stating an intent of commitment, they haven’t actually paid any money yet. So it’s not until EIS compliance confirmation come through from HMRC that that turns into a actual investment and the money gets paid. So that was quite a stressful time.

Yanto Barker
So other companies have — other cycle clothing companies— have gone to Crowdcube and and got investment. I mean, there’s there’s been a couple of crash and burn companies there — who I have done stories on — that took that money and probably didn’t use it terribly wisely. So what did you use that that that million pounds for?

Yanto Barker
Yeah. So I was very clear that I bought a factory. So when I said in the very, very beginning that I was brave, this was a stupidly brave move. Because I had no idea just how big a deal that was to actually incorporate an international manufacturing facility into quite a small UK cycling clothing brand. They were turning over more than I was turning over in the UK, that’s for sure. And, and luckily, I’m resourceful. I made it work, but actually it was very, very close for a long time and it was quite stressful. So the reason I say that is I was quite clear through the intent to go to Crowdcube and raise that money that was about a marketing play, to build the brand to justify having a manufacturing facility in Italy, because that facility was too big for the brand that I’d incorporated it into the early stage in the beginning, but I always believed I will grow into that factory. And that’s what we have done. And actually we’ve surpassed that now we’ve grown almost, it’s had to expand to accommodate us. But in the early stage, it was much too big. So I was really keen that we raised a million pounds we invest a million pounds into marketing and sales and I employed a very senior marketing executive from Sky called Simon Creasey at the same time as completing that Crowdcube phrase. And then the the money that was raised was very much about improving our systems, software and processes, a strong push into product development and a very big play into marketing, PR and social media.

Carlton Reid
And then so that was 21% equity that those those 344 have got some of them gone on to become quite

Carlton Reid
active and really using that that leverage they’ve got or are they all sleeping investors?

Yanto Barker
They’re all excellent investors I will say and I’m I think I’m very fortunate actually because there are horror stories of Crowdcube, you know, crowdfunding stories of, you know, investors that are nightmare or, you know, knowing what to do with the money, all that kind of stuff is is a bit of a bit of a challenge and when you haven’t taken really much investment, and then when you you raise, you know, what looks like quite a lot, but actually, if you if you think about what we’re trying to achieve with a million pounds it isn’t that much and that’s where the danger is actually, it’s a everything moves a lot faster with investment, and you have to understand what that means for the economics of the business, your income versus outgoings, your salary bill each month, your income targets they, if they don’t get met, then you have to be really clear about what you’re doing about it and responsive to making sure that you have the answers. Because all of the answers need time to get to, and time to implement and execute.

Yanto Barker 29.48
And that’s, I think, the main hurdle that a lot of businesses that raise money for the first time fall over on, they don’t realise that you probably are going to need more money as well. And you have to understand the size of the business you’re trying to create before it becomes either breakeven or profitable. And they’re all very fluid, those those forecasts and you have to be very, very on top of your numbers, very, very on top of your expenses and ready to make some strong decisions very quickly. And I think yeah, we I’ve definitely been very aware of that and made sure that I’m always very close to the numbers, fully clear on what our targets are, and if we’re hitting them, and if we’re not hitting them what that means and how we have to respond to it. So yeah, I mean, it’s, it’s a, it’s a good thing to have lots of investors, we’ve actually only got 17. In our in direct answer to your question, we really got 17 direct shareholders, including my original seed investors of the 344. I think you mentioned I thought it was 335 or something. But yeah, that’s the that’s the number. They’re all very helpful. They often send me links to interesting articles that are relevant in my space. And equally, you know, very strong advocates of the brand. Quite quite a few of them are active cyclists. And I manage them very, you know, carefully in that I give them the right information at the right time. I respect them all. I make sure that, you know, they’re informed of the decisions that we’re making the big stuff and when I need their sign off, which I do occasionally, you know, I give them a heads up that it’s coming and inform them of the context of why I’m making that decision, and the timings and requirements from their side so as they’re clear on what their contribution needs to be, and if they need to get back to me within a certain timeframe, they know what that is. And they definitely appreciate that. And that helps keep the investor relations really slick.

Carlton Reid
So a second ago, you said that, even though you’ve raised a million pounds, you’re going to need more, so then talk about Puma Private Equity. So that raised £2.35 million from them, yeah?

Yanto Barker
So that’s where Puma come in. And quite quickly after raising the Crowdube I mean, I have financial consultants who helped us put our pitch together for Crowdcube. And I immediately after the completion of Crowdcube, kept them on a retainer because there are another set of eyes on the the numbers, there are another set of eyes on the trajectory of the business. And, you know, my job as founder and CEO is to make sure that I source the resources that this business needs to deliver its targets or its potential. And one of those is money. The other is, you know, the right people and expertise, and the other other projects and partnerships that we set up to, you know, really expand the business and get our names out there. So I kept my financial consultants on a retainer immediately after Crowdcube, because I could see the trajectory that we were going on, and it was likely that we were going to need more money. So I pre planned that in my, in my actions and kept them on board. And that’s exactly what happened. But you know, I think it shouldn’t be seen as a negative that we needed more money. What I was doing was I was negotiating really strong partnerships that need, you know, finance and investment to fulfil them. Because if you’ve got a really, really big strong partnership, but you can’t activate it, then it’s not really worth its full potential. And you’re wasting the money if you don’t join up all the dots to connect that partnership to the business and in turn to increase in sales. So I’m very, very black and white around what we do has to deliver growth in turnover. And if I can’t see that in a really obvious way, then either failing or it’s either failing in its contribution to the business.

Carlton Reid
So when was Puma brought on board?

Yanto Barker 33.36
Puma, we started talking to them in March, April 2018. And they completed their first tranche, so they actually committed to raise more money. They and they divided it into two tranches, so tranche one was October 2018. And tranche two was just this October just gone. And both for £2.35 and £2.5 million. So we’ve raised quite a lot of money now. And I think that gives us a really strong platform to push [[[[[COUGH]]]] continue to push up into our potential for the next coming the next couple of years. And I combine that with the partnerships that I’ve signed. for next year are also very strong. They very much warrant the investment, they very much warrant Puma’s financial contribution to us to be able to deliver those partnerships to their full potential and in turn allows as a business to reach our full potential in the cycling apparel market globally.

Yanto Barker
So when you said 2.5 million, was that a top-up to 2.5 million or was that plus 2.5 million?

Yanto Barker
No 2.35 million plus 2.5.

Carlton Reid
Right so they’ve got 5 million basicallyso what’s what’s the equity they’ve got? {{{{COUGH}}}}

Yanto Barker
Good question. I haven’t got those numbers of top my head but they raised on pre money valuation of tranche one of 5 million I think, so their 2.35 was

Yanto Barker
20 something percent, and then our pre money valuation for tranche two was based on a turnover metric 2.5 times our turnover. So I think our pre money was nine, just under eight and a half million. So the 2.5 and 8 and a half million valuation. So it puts us about 10 and a half million [pounds] now valuation, post completion of tranche two.

Carlton Reid
Now when I look at that Crowdcube video, yeah, it’s got it’s got you on there very nice. But it’s also got all of the headlines with you know, the Financial Times and with The Times and stuff saying how cycling is growing and you know, cycling is a new golf, all that kind of stuff, which was probably true at that time. I think they were lagging a little bit behind the curve. But that isn’t the case now. I mean, cycling has absolutely gone into a quite a bit of a trough. So how do your investors … how are you coping with that? Quite apart from your investors, how are you coping with that trough?

Yanto Barker
It’s a really good question and I actually was asked this recently as part of a Rapha article from The Times.because that journalist quoted the same kind of stat, and I don’t disagree with it. But actually from a trading point of view, I mean, if you’re going to try and win, you have to try and win against everybody, not just the first couple of people that you think are your competition. And what I mean by that is, when there’s a lot of excitement in the market, and it’s growing, there are a lot of people trying to service that excitement. So there are a lot of new businesses coming in, there are a lot of people thinking, ‘Oh, I’m going to jump on that bandwagon’. And ‘I’m gonna, I’m gonna make my fortune in that industry, because it’s exciting and it’s growing.’ And we’re, you know, we’re all sort of running on the back of the success of the GB cycling team in the Olympics and World Championships over the last 10 years. So actually, it gets very fragmented the market and as a brand, like we are now at the size we are you end up competing with lots of very small businesses. And this is the same for all the big established brands, they’re competing with lots of very small businesses, who are selling quite as a limited amount of product to their direct network, people they know, friends of friends, you know, but it doesn’t really expand much more than that, because they don’t have a proper marketing budget. They don’t have proper marketing and sales planning. And they don’t have the money to reach a wider audience of people to sell beyond their direct network. Now, when you get to a stage like this, and we are definitely in as you know, there’s a bit of a dip, but equally, I don’t think it’s a dip. I think it’s a slow down of acceleration. And I think it causes a lot of problems for brands that haven’t established a strong foothold with an ability to talk to a wide audience on a sustainable basis. And we’re past that now. So actually, what it what it turns out for us to happen is there’s a consolidation process and now I’m competing much more back to Castelli, Assos, Rapha, instead of the literally infinite number of very, very small brands trying to get a foothold in the apparel market by turning over £100,000, £150,000 to their friends, which is possible, which is what I did at the very beginning. And you end up having to compete in a very fragmented market. So it’s not, I don’t think it actually changes our need to be strong as a brand, have a far-reaching marketing message with a very clear link to why we are better, why we are good and why you want to buy Le Col cycling clothing. It’s just happening now in a slightly more consolidated market, if that makes sense

Carlton Reid
Do you think Puma are surprised at that? I mean, I’ve described as a trough you described it as a deceleration. Either one of those. Do you think they’re surprised at what’s happened with cycling?

Yanto Barker
I mean I’m not surprised, and in some ways it makes it a little bit easier, you know, because you’ve got less people to worry about. And, you know, I think if you can ride out, I think times like this, and if they are deceleration or a trough, I don’t mind You know, it’s only my opinion. I could be right, you could be right, I don’t mind. They really test the business. And actually, I’ve always run my business like it has to be optimum all the time. So that actually doesn’t make any difference. If it’s a decleration, a trough or a real boom phase in the market, it doesn’t make a difference because you have to run best practices all the time. And if you’re winning customers and market share, you know, we’ve grown 150% between last year and this year and 200%, between the year before and 2018. So actually, we’ve proven with those performances, those turnover performances, that we can win and achieve very strong growth in what anyone might describe as either a deceleration or a trough, and I intend that to continue because ultimately you know I’m trying to win customers off Rapha, Castelli, Assos, Santini, Attaquer, MAAP, you know all those brands, I just need to win a little bit, just a few percent of their customers and we grow another 150 to 200% next year. That’s exactly where our intentions are.

Carlton Reid
So you you’re always going to be you’re always be focused on premium, you’re not talking about bringing in lower levels of Le Col?

Yanto Barker
So I think that’s actually a good question for me to be able to answer like this: yes, the brand is premium because I am quite a perfectionist and an expert at cycling to know how to spec either a jersey, shorts, jacket, tights in a really quality way so you get value for money and it is at a high level, but I’m not a snob, I’m not a cycling snob. I’ve been involved in cycling since I was a junior before junior and I’ve come through every level of cycling on my own racing career, and I’ve, I’m now you know, a fairly affluent business owner, but still active keen cyclist with a passion for the sport just as much as it was when I was 17. So I really want the brand to be perceived as not snobby, not too premium, but quality. But equally, we do try and generate product development. That means we have the second tier and the third tier of price point that is more affordable. We try and deliver as much value and quality into those price points as we can within the margins that we have to work to. And ultimately, you know, if you start with our lowest level product, you should still feel positive about it. And you know, your aspiration is to work up into the higher quality products, but we embrace all cyclists at all levels. You know, there are cyclists in my office who ride to work only, and they’ve only just worn Lycra for the first time this year, yet they work for a cycling brand and you know, they love wearing the products as well as someone like my friend of mine like Jeremy Hunt, who’s ex Team Sky, ex-GB, professional for 19 years at the highest level at World Tour living in Australia and wears the product almost every day, you know, those are the ranges of cyclists that that are embraced by the brand and I think that’s really really important.

Yanto Barker
I think if I was going to use the simplest way to describe who Le Col is, is it’s genuine. You know, I am a cyclist. I was a cyclist. I left school at 17 to be a cyclist. I put my, you know, excuse the term, but I put my balls on the line to buy a factory to service my desire and ambition to create the best product, and I needed control of my manufacturing to be able to do that to the highest degree. And I am CEO and founder currently running the business er, you know, other turnover we’ve grown to and adapting my skill sets to what’s required of me every single day. And that’s exactly what I did in my own cycling career. And that’s exactly what I value in, in qualities of all sorts of different areas is about being genuine, being honest and having integrity and wanting the best for all of our customers. You know, that is central to when I come into the office, what am I thinking how can I deliver the value that I need to deliver to this business? So I would really be upset if people felt like it was snobby or premium in a way that was exclusive. Excluding sorry. So we are exclusive mainly ecause of a price point, but but we’re not excluding. And genuinely if you have any reader has a passion for cycling, then they share that passion with me and we have something in common. And I think that’s really a nice way to look at it.

Carlton Reid
US market you went in with was it like a separate company that that was taken on board on in 2015? Like a distributor, how did you get into the US market?

Yanto Barker 44.31
The US market started as connection on Linkedin of a distributor who felt like they could represent the brand and service the US market.

Yanto Barker
It was conversation that went on, and we went through a lot of detail and I was convinced that he had a network big enough and was able to do what he said. And so we basically funded an expansion plan in to the us, we did it through a subsidiary, so a US based company that was owned fully by the Le Col limited, UK company. And we began trading with on a distributor retail model into the US because we were still very small in terms of marketing spend from head office, and so we weren’t really generating reach to an audience internationally like we are now. And I felt like the distributor model was probably the right way to start and that would get caught up with by the direct to consumer model and route to market a little bit later, which which we’re doing more of now. It turned out, I my character judgement was off on the person, the individual that I backed to service that department. We also under under invested into the territory and underestimated the size of the US in terms of geographical size, and simply for a travel budget to get around the country to see all tour retailers, you probably need about $50,000 a year. And we just weren’t at a level to be able to sustain that without generating a higher level of sales from those retailers. And so we did the first year, but I had to stop and consolidate our expansion plan through a more direct to consumer model after about 18 months of trying to make that work in the US, it’s a bit of a scar to be honest, of one of my decisions that didn’t work. And you know, we unfortunately did waste a fair bit of money trying to get that up off the ground.

Carlton Reid
Yeah, fair few UK bike brands have had very similar story it’s just it’s a tough nut to crack. Two very different halves of the country two different coasts. So now you no longer have that kind of distribution in the US. It’s basically your website.

Yanto Barker

Carlton Reid
Okay. So what is your expansion plans then? Is that online? Brick and mortar? Where do you you see there?

Yanto Barker
Yeah, so you saw the winding up of the US subsidiary in terms of it trading was happening in parallel to the Crowdcube raise in terms of timings and the hiring of Simon Creasey as a marketing director to build a stronger backbone to the business which is the direct to consumer market. So we’ve since really backed that channel, and grown as a proportion of sales, the direct to consumer volume of sales considerably across more so than the other departments so custom as a channel and retail as a channel. So the three main channels customer, we sell them online, and we will continue we have grown considerably on the online it will continue to back that as the main channel of income for the business for the foreseeable future, but that is not to say, we are not looking at international distribution again, but obviously with a bit more experience and a bit more resource behind the business, plus a lot more recognition internationally, which we’ve done a great job with our marketing over the last couple of years. So we are having conversations with Spanish distributors, Australian, we have an Australian distributor which has been up and running for the last couple of years and has grown considerably in that time. And like I said, with with a with a lot more experience and a lot more resource, we’re able to actually do justice to all those conversations.

Carlton Reid
And how do you cope — and this is absolutely the same for all online brands, certainly, clothing — is just it’s very, very difficult to sell clothing online because of the sizing issues. So you’re going to get an awful lot of returns. So how do you cope with with the demands there?

Yanto Barker
That’s a good question and it sizing is one of the most scruffy subjects I can think of and I explain what I mean by scruffy. Every single person has a slightly different shape body. And that’s just the fact that the medium is not a medium a medium is like six foot one or five foot nine, but one is, you know, nine stone, one is 11 stone, and you know, there could be three or four inches difference in height. Plus, we all have slightly different expectations of preference around what we want a product to feel like. And, and those are all things that need aligning for a brand to connect to the customer in the way that the customer is either expecting or wanting. And a lot of that is also down to the message.

Yanto Barker 49.47
So the brand has to be very, very clear and obvious about what you’re getting in terms of size and fit to make sure that the customers’ expectations align with what they will receive in the post. So we do have retailers, we don’t have a huge number. But we’ve found a way to connect to that consumer with the message that means actually, our returns are very, very low. So in terms of returns, because they’re not satisfied, they’re extremely low. Returns for exchange of size are vary between product and you know, worst it’s 15 to 20%. And on really good core products, it’s as low as 2 or 3%. So actually, those sort of numbers we can we can manage with and we could definitely service a very quick turnaround to exchange sizing for customers who didn’t quite get to the right size first time.

Carlton Reid
But then once you’ve got your in inverted commas, your Le Col size, you then know what to order from then on or does it go across the different categories and you’re you’re still going to have different sizes across the different categories?

Yanto Barker
Yeah, so basically, yeah, so we do. So basically, once you got your Le Col sizing dialled in for what you like and what you want, then yes, absolutely that’s easier for the return customer to know what they should get. I designed every product to mean that if you’re a size medium jersey, you should also be a size medium long sleeve and jacket, and gilet and under-vest, they should all be the same size. That’s not to say that everybody is but that’s how they’ve been designed. That’s taking into consideration there are race fit pro jerseys and there are relaxed fit luxury jerseys. You should be the same size in each but it will feel different. Now not everybody fully gets what that means and what that feels like. So sometimes they get the pro jersey and they want to size up because they wanted to feel like their luxury jersey. But there’s been a very purposeful design process and sizing process that means that really you are the same size. So an example of this would be someone in front of me puts on a jersey, zips it up and says, ‘oh, it doesn’t fit.’ And I say what you mean it doesn’t fit? They say ‘it’s too small’ and I’m like, it’s not too small you’ve got it on, and you’ve zipped it up. So it fits. And they say, ‘yeah, but what do I look like?’ And I say to them, you look aero, which is exactly what that jersey was designed for. And they say, ‘but I’m too big for this,’ and I’m like, but that’s your concept. That’s your own body concept. That’s not that’s not the product. So that’s just a classic interaction of the way I would describe how the jersey was supposed to fit and how someone, a customer of less experience would say, oh, it doesn’t feel right. And I’m like, well, you know, tight is aero, and that jersey is a pro jersey, they’re supposed to be aero.

Unknown Speaker
Mm hmm. {{{{{OUT}}}

Carlton Reid
Do you suffer from counterfeiting?

Yanto Barker
Not really, yes, in that there are counterfeit products out there. But we own our own factory so I know there are absolutely no grey products in the world, as in gone to one territory and then actually get transferred to the other through a no buyback from someone else to someone else. There are a few Chinese products on the market but in terms of volume and in terms of risk to the business it’s extremely small.

Carlton Reid
So you don’t take a proactive approach and trying to close them down with, you know, the standard solicitors that are out there doing that in the bike industry.

Yanto Barker
You’re talking about And it’s something it’s so small, it’s almost almost not worth the time to even send the letter.

Carlton Reid
Because I’ve talked to some brands who, while they want to combat it also kind of semi pleased in that ‘well, if we’re being counterfeited, it must mean we have some brand recognition out there above and beyond what we think we’ve got.’

Yanto Barker
Yeah, I mean, I think it’s easy to see both sides to that, but ultimately you don’t want it to happen. But you know if, like I know Rapha have had some issues with counterfeit, I was with one of the founders of Rapha on a photoshoot, a separate photo shoot, not Le Col, not Rapha. And he was talking about someone he saw with a Rapha jersey on that wasn’t the right colourway, as in the bands didn’t match, you know, the embroidery logo. And I think it turned out this is just hearsay but this is an example they obviously don’t own their own manufacturing. So they use suppliers, and the supplier had accidentally made, you know, a couple hundred jerseys in the wrong colourway. And then obviously they wouldn’t be accepted, but he’s not going to waste the stock of a brand that’s got such a strong, you know, recognition in the cycling industry. So they were getting sold on eBay for 25 quid You know, that’s something that is a challenge if you’re using suppliers, but again, it’s a lot tighter when you own your own manufacturing because I can control that and police that much more closely.

Carlton Reid
And this is gonna be a sort of a double edged question here but was life better as an athlete, or as a running a business, but of course you do, it’s double edged because you did it both at the same time, you can actually see both sides of it at exactly the same time.

Yanto Barker 55.05
No one’s ever asked me that question before. So you’re the first, well done.

Yanto Barker
It is a difficult one to answer. So really keeping it simple. When people ask me, do I miss racing? My answer is a resounding ‘yes.’ If they say, do you want to go back and do it again, it’s a resounding no. So it’s a bit of a conflict inside me when it comes to my career. Now, I also didn’t get paid very much in my racing career, not entirely because I wasn’t good enough, but there’s a little bit of politics and a little bit of, you know, wrong place, wrong time kind of thing. I mean, I lived off my racing career for a long time, but I wasn’t affluent. And, you know, my business has provided me, or the business that I’ve built, has provided me a much better opportunity to make more money if I can keep doing a good job at it. So while it’s much more complex to run a business, because being an athlete is very singular, it’s, literally about you and your performance and your psychology and your physical performance as opposed to in the office, I’m thinking about every other person and their psychology, their, you know, satisfaction, their contribution to the business, the way they interact with each other, making sure that, you know, everyone gets on and everyone’s clear about what we’re trying to deliver. It’s very, not me. And actually, the business started to grow and we started to employ people at the same time as I started to have kids. And not that I look at my employees as kids, but, you know, there is a sense of responsibility to every employee, it’s my job to make a positive working environment. It’s my job to supply all the resources that every single individual that works for Le Col needs to do their job properly. And if I don’t do that, they can only do as well as the ingredients that I give them. So I do take that very seriously and actually it is a lot like having kids in the, you know, you’re looking out for them, you can’t do it for them but you obviously work your hardest to give them everything they need to be able to do the best job they can. You know, I view parenting in a similar way.

Carlton Reid
And is your mum happy that you took that decision to forego that 30 quid family credit?

Yanto Barker
Yeh, think so, I haven’t actually asked her directly. I mean, I’m laughing about it. But my mum is an interesting character in combination in comparison to me because I’m one of the most driven and ambitious people I’ve ever come across. I’ve met a few of me, but I’m one of the absolute highest. And I kind of make the caveat that my, my standard as a cyclist as a competitor wasn’t represented by my level of commitment and ambition. It was you know, the body I’m born into is only as good as it is kind of thing. So I didn’t win the Tour de France like Bradley [Wiggins] and you know, I’ve not won 30 stages of the Tour, like Cav [Mark Cavendish]. But I don’t believe they are more keen and more committed to achieve their results than I was. So my mum is like the opposite of that. She’s as as unambitious as I as I am. And she’s as undriven as I am. So she would never have a judgement about whether I made the right or wrong decision. She just wants me to be happy.

Carlton Reid
That’s a lovely place to end, I would say Yanto. Thank you very much.

Carlton Reid 58.23
And that was Yanto Barker, the founder and CEO of Le Col cycle clothing. Links to Le Col and more can be found on the hyphen

The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast is brought to you in association with Jenson USA.

The next episode will be another head to head interview. I’ll be chatting with my son Josh, who picked up a gravel bike from the Giant factory in Shanghai, China, and has ridden it solo back to the UK. Well, at the moment he’s in the Netherlands and I will be joining him there next week so we can ride back together. The plan is to meet at Giant’s EU HQ in Lelystad and then to ride to the port of Amsterdam for the DFDS ferry back to Newcastle. I’m really looking forward to seeing Josh and finding out more about his many adventures. With a fair wind, that show should be out in the first week of December, meanwhile get out there and ride.

November 12, 2019 / / Blog

Spokesmen Cycling Podcast

Riding a Brompton Along A Belgian Bike Path In Germany

Tuesday 12th November 2019


HOST: Carlton Reid


Vitali Vitaliev, author of “Passport to Enclavia”, London.

Gilbert Perrin, technical lead, Chemins du Rail, Brussels.

Yes, the Vennbahn rail trail is a long, thin stretch of Belgium inside Germany!

TOPIC: Cycling along the 128-kilometre Vennbahn rail trail in Germany, Belgium and Luxembourg.

Part of the Vennbahn is a ten-metre-wide, 25-kilometre-long part of Belgium inside Germany. Bonkers!

I travelled to the trail by Brompton folding bike via the DFDS ferry at North Shields and then a series of trains to Aachen in Germany. An article about this journey will be in The Guardian soon.

Thanks to @Revchips for sending me a link about this very odd bike trail. Sadly, I didn’t get a chance to ride on a bicycle-based bogie on the Rail Bike attraction. Next time.


Carlton Reid 0:20
This is a cycling podcast so why start with audio of steam trains? It’s all to do with a very long sausage.

Carlton Reid 0:31
I’m Carlton Reid and in this episode of the Spokesmen Cycling Podcast brought to you in association with Jenson USA I’m on the road again. Well, bike path. A Belgian bike path. In Germany.

Vitali Vitaliev 1:01
It’s very interesting to see what satnav does, satnav goes absolutely crazy, the flags

Vitali Vitaliev 1:05
keep popping up. That’s Belgium, that’s Belgium.

Carlton Reid 1:08
That was Ukrainian-born journalist Vitali Vitaliev, an expert on enclaves, those bizarre bits of countries that are fully enclosed by other countries. And here’s Brussels-based Gilbert Perrin.

Gilbert Perrin 1:23
Sometimes you are in Belgium, except on the left. It’s Germany. Sometimes you are in Belgium, but the street is German. It changes 11 times along the route.

Carlton Reid 1:34
Both Gilbert and Vitali were talking about a ten-metre-wide Belgian sausage squirming for 25 kilometres through Germany. It’s a bizarre yet unmarked part of the historically-important fennbahn trail. I love mixing quirky history with my riding so last month I left Newcastle in strong Autumn sunshine, got on a big boat and had a little adventure …

Carlton Reid 2:07
So I’ve arrived in Amsterdam, and I travelled on the DFDS ferry from Newcastle overnight, absolute fantastic trip. Gourmet food actually, almost from the Tyne across the North Sea, looking out the window fantastic. And of course I can see lots of bikes here in Amsterdam. I am outside the central station, and I am going to get a train from here to Boxtel and then a bus from Boxtel to Eindhoven and from Eindhoven I got another train and I go to

Carlton Reid 2:38
Heelen, and then from here and

Carlton Reid 2:39
I might get another train, couldn’t buy a ticket to that, or I shall get the bus. No I shan’t. I’ll get my bike. I’ll take my folding bike. I’ll just unfold my Brompton and then I’ll ride from Heelen to Aachen, which will then be the start of the Vennbahn trail.

Carlton Reid 3:04
The full Vennbahn trail is 128 kilometres long but most of those who ride along it probably don’t know that a 25 kilometre stretch that they think is in Germany is actually in Belgium. It isn’t Belgian because of bikes, it’s because of trains. The Vennbahn trail is the former Vennbahn railway, a minerals line built by Prussia in the 1880s but ceded to Belgium after the First World War … to the victors, the spoils. I’ll let Gilbert Perrin explain some of the history. (I should also add that Gilbert was one of the prime movers behind turning the partly derelict line into a long-distance rail trail.)

Gilbert Perrin 3:54
it was built by the German Empire at that time. And then after the Versailles Treaty after World War One they part of this region became Belgian. So the Belgian community, present Belgian community. Part of it remained in Germany, but the railway was Belgian even across Germany. So it’s it’s very strange. It’s a kind of corridor, Belgian corridors through in some places through the German territory and what is very funny is that the border changes 11 times along the route. So sometimes both the ground is it totally in Belgium or totally in Germany except the railway. So if you are on the Vennbahn you are in Belgium, but on the left on the right, you’re in Germany. Yeah, sometimes you are in Belgium except or the left it’s Germany. Sometimes you are in Belgium but the street is German. It changes 11 times along the route.

Carlton Reid 4:59
This switching of borders was once very obvious, with barriers, border guards, and checks. For locals, back in the day, just getting to the shops or to school meant crossing international borders twice in just a few metres. Enclaves are bizarre , as Vitali explained in his book Passport to Enclavia.

Vitali Vitaliev 5:22
But on both sides it’s all surrounded by Germany you know in the places of enclaves so that’s that’s pretty bizarre situation and that’s that’s one of the attractions if you don’t know you know you have to find out the little signs.

Carlton Reid 5:36
And quite literally, those little signs include border marker stones, place there in the 1920s and which, on one side have the letter D for Deutchland. On the other the letter B for Belgie. The stones can be found in the undergrowth five metres away from the bike trail, marking where the board was placed by international commissioners in 1921 and where technically, it still is, but don’t try and find this 10 metre wide Belgian sausage with Apple Maps. The 25 kilometre long bit of Belgium inside Germany doesn’t exist, according to Tim Cook and crew, but it’s there on Google Maps in all of its glory. Maybe Apple just doesn’t like enclaves? They can be pretty confusing on the ground, on maps, and in terminology. For starters, depending on where you’re looking from, enclaves can also be exclaves. Here’s Vitali.

Vitali Vitaliev 6:41
To me enclaves is the same patch of land as an exclave. It depends which countries use them – for example, just try to give you an example. So, there is a German enclave on sides to Switzerland — Busingen, a German village totally surrounded by Switzerland. So, for Germany, it is an exclave but for Switzerland it’s an enclave. That’s that’s how I define it, you know, it depends whether it’s viewed from the mother country, or the host country.

Carlton Reid 7:15
Despite the fact it’s an enclave — er, or exclave — the Belgian sausage, that 25 kilometer stretch of the Vennbahn trail, isn’t marketed as long, thin stretch on one country inside another. Apart from the period marker stones, set off to the side and which only make sense if you know what to look for, and why you’re looking, there’s nothing on the ground to flag the fact you’re riding through a ten-metre-wide country. The Vennbahn trail starts in Charlemagne’s capital city of Aachen, in Germany, crosses over to Belgium, and ends in northern Luxembourg. It’s the longest rail trail in Europe. The Belgium-in-Germany part of the trail starts a little north of the German town of Roetgen which, incidentally, was where the first allied troops entered Germany in the Second World War. The Vennbahn railway was of major strategic importance back then with many of its bridges blown up by German sappers as the Wehrmacht retreated. In Roetgen, the Vennbahn crosses the road from Aachen, with trail users negotiating a dog-leg road crossing to get from one side of the trail to the other. Do so and you stay in Belgium, but divert a few metres and you cross into Germany. On a bend in the road, motorists are in Germany one moment, Belgium when they reach the crossing point of the Vennbhan, and Germany again a second or so later. I didn’t linger in Roetgen because I was racing against the light to reach medieval Monschau, reached by a dirt track down from the trail. It was dark by the time I got there, and only had a look around while trying to find my hotel. And I was up again early the next morning, when it was still dark.

Carlton Reid 9:06
I’m in the little mediaeval town of Monschau, you can hear the river in the background and I haven’t actually seen this place in daylight yet, because I got here late last night going on the Vennbahn trail and I’m going up again to the Vennbahn trail to see the Rail Bike operation, which is like bogies with bikes on that you go about 7 kilometres and you pedal along. And that’s part of the Vennbahn trail system, although it does kind of go a bit away from the actual old railway trail, but Monschau is in Germany. And of course where I’m going up the top of the hill there

Carlton Reid 9:47
is in Belgium, that 25 kilometre

Carlton Reid 9:50
Belgian sausage inside,

Carlton Reid 9:54

Carlton Reid 9:56
I’m now climbing to the Vennbahn trail via a little, well it’s no longer cobbled, it was cobbled in Monschau. Then there was a bit of tarmac. And now it’s back on to dirt, following a river, up through some woodland up onto the hill, which is where the Vennbahn trail takes over again. I was heading for the former station at Kalterherberg, which as well as having a train carriage cafe, hires four seater rail bikes for a seven kilometre pedal along the rails to a deadend and back. The original Vennbahn line was a double track affair, and along much of the trail, the redundant rails are still in place, some of them possibly waiting for the line to be resurrected. The rail bike place had yet to open for the day when I passed, but according to Gilbert Perrin, it attracts customers year round

Gilbert Perrin 10:48
Because it was a double track it was possible to have the the rail bike just behind the Greenway or the Greenway beside the railway, I had a meeting with the Rail Bike owner, and he was afraid of having a greenway along the rail bike. Because he said, nobody will come for the rail bike, they will all come with their bicycles, and they will forget us. And finally I went back two years after, and he said, Oh, it’s very nice because they come with a bike. They stop. They use the rail bike, they come back and they take their bike again to go on.

Carlton Reid 11:27
Like many other rail trails around the world, the Vennbahn boosts the nearby tourism-related business. For instance, annual occupancy rates in local hotels increased by a fifth soon after the Vennbahn trail opened in 2013.

Gilbert Perrin 11:41
It was really abandoned almost everywhere except one section, who was used as tourist steam historical museum railway. But after that the steam runway stopped because it was too expensive to renew the track. And then the Vennbahn was almost totally abandoned, except some short sections, and the director of tourist resources of our German community said we should do something we organised a tour with our association to show the potential of one of the sections and the local press was there and they were very interested — it’s around 2004 or something like that. And, and the press was present and they said, yeah, it’s impossible to leave this abandoned as it is now etc, etc. And the Minister for tourism of the German community read this in the newspapers, and he said, we have to have a meeting with you, you have to explain what you can do. And we made the first feasibility study for one of the sections between Waimes and Saint Vith. And we made a feasibility study. And then he had some money to help the municipality to build the first section as a greenway. About 17 kilometres was the very beginning. And after that, all the regions said yeah, we we would we need this greenway., we also need a greenway.And after that, it was a very important project with many people with a lot of money coming from Europe and from the partners.

Carlton Reid 12:52
And here’s Vitali again.

Vitali Vitaliev 13:43
You know, I think it’s great, it’s a great story, and it tells you a lot about Europe as well, if you kind of look deeper into it, so good that they tried to preserve it.

Carlton Reid 13:54
I agree, it’s a great story, a great rail trail and I’ll be back to do the full 128 kilometres at some point. I turned around at Kalterherberg and rode back to Aachen so I could catch a series of trains to Amsterdam and the ferry home …. And I got to Amsterdam from travelling from Newcastle, and I travelled from Newcastle on – I’m sure you can probably hear this – on a very loud ship DFDS ferry from Newcastle to emerged in, in in Amsterdam. And it was a fantastic crossing. I’ve got to say if you can get across the North Sea this is a brilliant way of getting across – and I had a restaurant meal. Fantastic to sit there in the evening. And instead of a train journey where the country’s whizzing by,

Carlton Reid 14:49
Details about the Vennbahn trail and how I got there can be found on the show notes at There will be an article about my fennbahn trip in The Guardian soon. This was show 229 of the Spokesmen Cycling Podcast released on Tuesday 12th November 2019. Here’s my co-host David with a short message from our show sponsor.

David Bernstein 15:16
Hey, Carlton, thanks so much. And it’s it’s always my pleasure to talk about our advertiser. This is a long time loyal advertiser. It’s Jenson, USA at I’ve been telling you for years now years, that Jenson is the place where you can get a great selection of every kind of product that you need for your cycling lifestyle at amazing prices and what really sets them apart – because of course, there’s lots of online retailers out there -but what really sets them apart is their unbelievable support. When you call and you’ve got a question about something, you’ll end up talking to one of their gear advisors and these are cyclists. I’ve been there I’ve seen it. These are folks who ride at lunch who go out on group rides after work because they just enjoy cycling so much. And, and so you know that when you call, you’ll be talking to somebody who has knowledge of the products that you’re calling about. If you’re looking for a new bike, whether it’s a mountain bike, a road bike, a gravel bike, a fat bike, what are you looking for? Go ahead and check them out. Jenson USA. They are the place where you will find everything you need for your cycling lifestyle. It’s We thank them so much for their support, and we thank you for supporting Jenson USA. Alright Carlton, let’s get back to the show.

Carlton Reid 16:38
Thanks, David. Oh, and thanks also, to Twitter’s @Revchips for sending me a link about the Vennbahn trail which by the way is Vennbarn, as in Vennbarn, it means it means fen way or venn way in German, but it’s pronounced with an F. Anyway, that’s a wrap for today’s show. And like the Gino Bartali and cycling-in-Cambrils stories on the previous episode, today’s show was more engineered than the usual roundtable ramblings.

Carlton Reid 17:13
If you like this, make sure to give the show a shout out on our podcast or leave a comment on the show notes at and we’ll do more of them. However, the next few episodes will be one on one interviews starting with Yanto Barker,

Carlton Reid 17:32
founder of the high-end cycle clothing brand Le Col. That’ll be out in a week or so.

Carlton Reid 17:38
Meanwhile. get out there and ride!

October 29, 2019 / / Blog

Spokesmen Cycling Podcast

Tuesday 29th October 2019


HOST: Carlton Reid

Cycling club fam trip day one

GUESTS: Cycling club secretaries from Svarta Haesten cycling club, Lecarrow Lazers of Ireland, University of Bristol Cycling Club, and Redford and District Cycling Club recorded out on the road in Costa Dorada or at the Cambrils Sport Village.

Jaume Rue of Cycling Costa Daurada.

Music is Mussara by Carles Ribot.


The spectacular view over Siurana


Carlton Reid 0:39
That croaking came from a large reed-covered pond beside a tumbledown church in the ghost village of La Massara in the high hills of Catalunya, 55 kilometres from the seaside resort of Cambrils, and 1000 metres above the Costa Dorada … Cataluyna’s gold coast. The music is by Catalan musician Carles Ribot, from his spooked-out folk-rock album Massara.

The tumbledown church at the abandoned village of La Mussara. The frogs are in those reeds. Somewhere.

I’m Carlton Reid and in this episode of the Spokesmen Cycling Podcast, brought to you in Assocation with Jenson USA , I’ve not just been pointing my microphone at frogs, I’ve also recorded club cyclists, breathing heavily as they climbed on a short fam trip to Spain. Two members from each of 14 clubs were invited out here in mid-October by the holiday company Cycling Costa Daurada based out of the Cambrils Sport Village, an hour south west of Barcelona. When the club cyclists went home I stuck around and did some solo exploring, riding an Argon 18 on some spectacular hair-pin bends to get to the ghost village I mentioned at the top of the show. I had La Massara to myself, except for those croaking frogs. The village was abandoned in the 1960s and is believed by some to be not only haunted, but also other-worldly. There are multiple reports of people disappearing from the locale in mysterious circumstances, and not only during those times when fog bubbles up out of nowhere. Close to the entrance to the village there’s a boulder which local legend says is a portal into a parallel universe. It’s not the only legendary place I visited last week in this beautiful part of the world. On the day after somehow surviving the ghosts, ghoulies and potty portals I rode up another serpentine climb to reach the fairytale fortress village of Siurana. Again, I had the place to myself. That’s the thing about this part of Spain in the off-season: it’s so incredibly quiet. It’s still warm and sunny, but there are only 9,000 people living in the whole of the UNESCO world heritage region of Priorat. The roads are wide and butter smooth, but there are very few cars to spoil the party, or the view. And even when motorists do pass you they make sure to leave plenty of space, thanks in part to Spain’s 1.5 metre passing law, signs for which are peppered along the roadside.

David Berling 3:24
This is a dream come true for me and Anders because we never been on climbs like these. We thought climbing were short and hard, but this is this is the best.

Anders Madin climbing to the “Hermitage of the Mother of God of the Road”

Carlton Reid 3:33
That was David Berling from the Svarta Haesten cycling club of Stockholm in Sweden. He was on this fam trip with his bushy bearded buddy Anders Madin. The club has 28 mostly male members, and I asked David how many of them would likely come on a winter or spring trip to the Cambrils Sport Village. Anders also explained why the Costa Dorada sunshine would be so enticing to shivering Swedes.

David Berling 4:02
I think probably like seven or eight or and maybe they a few of us will bring our families because we that kind of come. So this is said this would work pretty well with the with the family type of riding that we do.

Carlton Reid 4:16
Yeah, kids can stay back in the pool. Everybody’s happy. Yeah,

Carlton Reid 4:20
yeah. And then mum and dad can go

Carlton Reid 4:23
riding up the hill.

Carlton Reid 4:26
And what time of year are you thinking of coming?

Anders Madin 4:31
I think would be the beginning of the season, maybe March April, when it’s still snowing, harsh weather in

Unknown Speaker 4:41

Olly Beresford and Sam Tiller 4:49
I’m Olly Beresford. And I’m Sam Tiller. And we’re from the University of Bristol cycling club. So we’re out here in Spain for a two day tryout session with, with this bike company here. Yeah, we’ve had a really, really nice day today. So the first day is a longer ride about 125 kilometres with some nice climbs, I think we had six in total beautiful gradients really, really nice. So nothing really steep, like we have in Bristol, which is which is good. I definitely prefer the longer shallower stuff. But I know some people prefer it the other way around.

Carlton Reid 5:27
And then no traffic because we were going down those descents and we were we were lapsing in the fact that we were kind of going on the wrong side of the road, because we hadn’t seen any cars. So we’re just naturally just drifting across and taking the whole word for the ride. And that’s amazing to have.

Olly Beresford 5:43
While I was at I was we were talking to each other on the way back into Cambrils where we’re staying. Just saying that imagine if you had 25 people in a group in Britain like that would just be chaos on the

Olly Beresford 5:54
roads like people just trying to storm past you, like crashing into people. So I mean by that is I mean a part of Spain really and even large parts of France, the roads much quieter than they have in the UK. Just definitely reasons come see the roads

Carlton Reid 6:10
I recorded Olly and Sam in the sport village, but I also recorded riders as as we climbed the local hills. Sorry for a little bit of wind noise here. As I talk with Mary and Ashley, the Secretary and Assistant Secretary of Ireland’s Lecarrow Lazers Cycling Club

Carlton Reid 6:23

Carlton Reid 6:23

Ashley O’Gara 6:26
I am Ashley O’Gara. I am with Lecarrow Lasers cycling club and we’re based in the centre of Ireland, near Athlone. We’re heart of an organised trip where they hope to promote Cambrils to the Irish as a cycling destination. Some of the clubs are coming already, our club hasn’t been, and we’re basically here just trialling it. And as far as last three years, we’ve gone on cycling trips to other destinations such as Wales and Scotland. And we’ve gotten approximately 24, 25 members to come. But unfortunately there’s about six or seven women that’s it.

Unknown Speaker 6:58
Very male dominated.

Carlton Reid 7:00
Ashley was out here in Catalunya with Mary Lennon, the friend who got her into club cycling in the first place.

Mary Lennon 7:08
We have to have a look at costs and viability of getting 20, 25 members out here and all of that kind of stuff. We tried to kind of keep it to two to three days over a weekend so it’s reasonably you know, affordable because some of our members will be couples so and some will still have young kids and stuff like that so you want to make it that it’s accessible to everybody.

Carlton Reid 7:33
Of course the young kids are gonna be kept at home because Ashley was telling me this is gonna be an adult-only event.

Mary Lennon leading the charge

Mary Lennon 7:37
Oh yeah, it’s adults only, but you kind of want to make it that you know everybody can access it. That is not just for people that have loads of time on their hands or loadsof money.

Carlton Reid 7:47
So what’s what’s the things you’re actually looking for on this ride? Are you looking for just rides like this, where there’s lots of variety. Are you looking for, like, extra destinations that non cyclists can go to what, what’s your criteria?

Mary Lennon 7:59
We tend to look for, you know, a nice ride that’s suitable for different abilities. We’d have some very strong members who love hills. We’ve others, like myself, that can get up and have something that’s accessible to different levels and bit of a challenge, but you know, not so, so much that people don’t enjoy it.

Mary Lennon 8:20
And you know, we can tend to have 120 and 130 km cycle rides on our trips.

Roger Pennington 8:25
I am Roger Pennington, and I’m with Redford and District Wheelers cycling club.

Carlton Reid 8:30
Roger, we’re standing here, we’ve had a beautiful lunch after after that few climbs, we’ve got a few climb still to go. Is this convincing you to tell your club, yeah, we’ve got to come here chaps?

Roger Pennington 8:44
Yeah, definitely. With the experience I’ve had, with the smooth roads, lesser traffic on the road and the climbs, I think it compares very well to Mallorca but without the traffic and a massive amount of cyclists that you get in Mallorca.

Carlton Reid 9:00
So Mallorca is where your club has been for a number of years?

Roger Pennington 9:04
Yes, many years, yes.

Carlton Reid 9:06
You’re kind of now you’re used to the roads there and you want somewhere different is that why you’re thinking here?

Roger Pennington 9:12
Yep we want to change because we know the roads so well and it’s the same old every year so we want some where different

Carlton Reid 9:20
The piece I’ll do about this trip on will be headlined something like “Move over Mallorca, Cambrils is Coming.”. The Cambrils Sport Village has recently hosted pro teams such as Bahrain Merida, and Wiggins Le Col, and I think more teams will migrate for their offseason training from Mallorca to the the Costa Dorado. There are 1000 kilometres of lightly traffic roads and plenty of photogenic hairpin bends. Here’s me from the top of one of them.

View over to the “golden coast”

Carlton Reid 9:51
You know those Top Gear kind of roads, sinewy, serpentine? Well, I’m on one of them at the moment. And you probably hear a few cars coming past but there’s not that many cars in this region at all, but they are coming to this particular road. So if you’re familiar with Sa Calobra in Mallorca, places like that, well, it’s another one of those. It’s a really twisty, twisty road and it’s going up to the abandoned village of La Massara. And here comes a car. Now I’ve seen about four cyclists so far this morning, and the car drivers been pretty good, they’re not going crazy. I’ve seen four cyclists, I was the first one up because I got up pretty early. I wanted to get out here. I can see the Mediterranean off in the distance and it’s golden off in the distance there. And of course, that’s why this particular region is called Costa Dorado, which is Gold Coast. And that’s because of the Mediterranean across there which at the moment is looking really, really golden off in the distance and I can see the flat land,

Unknown Speaker 11:01
the Catalan flats. So you got to do about at least

Carlton Reid 11:07
15 miles out from the coast to start coming up hill, and the gradients are really quite gentle, which is why these these these twisty roads are so twisty because in the UK and in other parts of Europe, they would go up the hill, really quite steep angle, but here it’s probably about 6% at most. So it just goes round and round in these wonderful, wonderful hairpin bends. And I’m going to go now to the abandoned village which is a village that apparently is quite popular on Halloween because it’s got a an abandoned church. They abandoned it in the 1960s this particular village, La Mussera. The road the kind of the hill that goes on above it is La Mussara so the village is La Massara. And it’s been abandoned since 1960s. So this graveyard is meant to be quite spooky and people come up here on on Halloween. So let’s go to La Massara and check it out.

Carlton Reid 12:27
La Massara was forcibly abandoned in the early 1960s. Its population had declined from 3 hundred or so in the late 19th century to just 36 in the 1950s, some of whom clearly still yearned for the place because the tiny cemetery — quite the draw on October 31st — has some relatively recent burials. The hardy villagers who lived here way back when were known by others, disparagingly, as “frogs”. The ground wasn’t ever as fertile as further down the mountain, and the high village was infamous for its mists. A regional ditty went:

Hanna Reid 13:04
Mother, if you give me a husband/Don’t give him to me from La Mussara/There is always fog there/And I don’t like the soil.

Carlton Reid 13:14
I captured audio of croaking frogs, but others who visit – at night, when it must be a lot spookier – say they have recorded the sounds of things that go bump in the night. As you’d therefore expect, La Mussara is a hotspot on Halloween. And it was the village’s other worldliness that attracted Catalan musician Carles Ribot to visit. He wrote a folk-rock album about the paranormal paranoia that surrounds the village. I played part of a track from his Mussara album at the top of the show and will close with it, too.

Carlton Reid 13:48
Carles hasn’t recorded an album about the mountain village of Siurana, 30 kilometres from la Mussara but if that place — tiny, high but very much not abandoned — had to be accompanied by a soundtrack I’d use something dramatic and aerial, like say, Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries. Dramatic because Siurana is spectacular — it was built on the edge of a cliff FFS — and aerial because, did I mention? it’s built on the edge of a cliff.

Carlton Reid 13:48
Here I am sitting on a slab of rock at the periphery of this vertiginous village, just after taking a spectacular drone shot of the place, which you can see on

Carlton Reid 14:34
I can’t quite believe I’m by myself at the moment because I have got this stunning view over an old church looking down into a massive valley with a huge huge rock overhang. This is actually a this is the town of village of Siurana and it’s actually a beacon for rock climbers. So when I was climbing up here this morning, lots of camper vans camped out and they weren’t tourists, they were here for the the climbing around here. So the rock faces are just wonderful. The views are just stunning. And yet there isn’t anybody else up here. I think it’s I’m here quite early. So I left Cambrils in the dark. And I left about half past seven because I wanted to get the boring 10 miles out of the way quickly and get up here in some nice light. And it is beautiful. Here, it’s it’s quite chilly. It’s nice in the sunshine, but it was very cold on some of the descents. But this particular town is literally on the cliff edge. And it was a fortress town, the Moors, the Saracens, the Arabs basically, when they had this part of Spain and this part of Catalonia, this was their last stronghold in the 1150s, or something like that, and they held out to here. And then apparently, there is a hoof print in the rock. No doubt that’s been chiselled in by people wanting to get tourists here, but that’s meant to be the hoof print of the Moorish queen who didn’t want to be taken by the the Christian knights who had besieged and were taking over the town. So she leapt off the cliff face with her horse and that is where the horse is meant to have thought, hang on, I’m not jumping over there as soon as it realised where it was going and they fell to a rather obvious death. Today, Siurana is a sleepy place — well, it was when I visited it, I guess it gets busier in peak tourist season — and I was here early enough for many of the climbers to be still asleep in their camper vans. By the time I left all were awake and I saw dozens of climbers on the 200+ routes hereabouts, one shouting when he lost grip, and enjoying the echoes he made in the valley below. Now riding without arm warmers and a jacket I legged it back for lunch in the Cambriles Sport Village. Afterwards I spoke with Jaume Rue, founder of Cycling Costa Daurada, and asked him why he had invited club cyclists to the resort.

Jaume Rue 17:44
The main thing is to have a new clients and new groups to to come in Cambrils Park in the in, in the region Costa Daurada, whatever because you know some some of the some of the groups

Unknown Speaker 18:01
Some of the all groups that we have, they want to change in in of the destination so it’s necessary at this moment to to have a new a new clients and new new groups.

Carlton Reid 18:13
So maybe people who would have gone to Mallorca?

Carlton Reid 18:17
Like pro teams?

Jaume Rue 18:19
Exactly, the the, the majority of the of the clubs and the groups of the country they go to Mallorca before and they want to change of destination for for his trip next next season.

Anders Medin

Carlton Reid 18:37
Thanks to Jaume Rue there of Cycling Costa Daurada, and thanks also to Victor Goitia, the cycling product manager of Costa Dorada tourism who extended my time at the Cambrils Sport Village so I could get out and find my own stories. Permission to play the Mussera music was given by Carles Ribot. Links to his work, and links for Cycling Costa Daurada and details for Cambrils Sport Village can all be found on this podcast’s show notes which, as always, can be found at If you want to know more about La Mussara make sure to check out my spooky story on due to go online on Thursday October 31st, Halloween that is. All of my Forbes stories can be found at This was show 228 of the Spokesmen Cycling Podcast and it was recorded on Tuesday 29th October 2019. Here’s my co-host David with a short message from our show sponsor.

David Bernstein 19:48
Hey Carlton, thanks so much. And it’s it’s always my pleasure to talk about our advertiser. This is a long time loyal advertiser. Its Jenson USA at, I’ve been telling you for years now years, that Jenson is the place where you can get a great selection of every kind of product that you need for your cycling lifestyle at amazing prices, and what really sets them apart, because of course, there’s lots of online retailers out there, but what really sets them apart is their unbelievable support. When you call and you’ve got a question about something, you’ll end up talking to one of their gear advisors and these are cyclists. I’ve been there, I’ve seen it. These are folks who ride at lunch, who go out on group rides after work because they just enjoy cycling so much. And and so you know that when you call, you’ll be talking to somebody who has knowledge of the products that you’re calling about. If you’re looking for a new bike, whether it’s a mountain bike, a road bike, a gravel bike, a fat bike, what are you looking for, go ahead and check them out. Jenson USA – they are the place where you will find everything you need for your cycling lifestyle. It’s thespokesmen. We thank them so much for their support and we thank you for supporting Jenson USA. Alright Carlton, let’s get back to the show.

Carlton Reid 21:10
Thanks, David, and that’s a wrap for today’s show. Like the Gino Bartali story on the previous episode, today’s show was more engineered than our roundtable ramblings, and, to be frank, more time-consuming. If you like this editorial approach, make sure to give the show a shout-out on Apple Podcasts or leave a comment on the show notes at The next episode, due out early next month, will be another travelogue, this time from a Belgian cycleway in Germany, a what-did-you-just-say show that will be accompanied soon by a piece in The Guardian. Meanwhile, get out there and ride.

October 8, 2019 / / Blog

Spokesmen Cycling Podcast

Gino Bartali’s Secret Heroism & The Cycling School Inspired By It

Tuesday 8th October 2019


HOST: Carlton Reid


Holocaust survivor Paul Alexander

Canadian journalist Aili McConnon, co-author of Bartali biography, “The Road to Valor”

Gino Bartali’s granddaughter Gioia Bartali

Yuval Markovich, Bartali Youth Leadership School

Dr. Ilana Tischler, director-general, Ben Shemen Youth Village, Israel

Former pro cyclist Ran Margaliot, co-founder of Israel Cycling Academy and Bartali Youth Leadership School

Bartali 180 jersey


A 77-year-old secret, a new, cycling-based boarding school that commemorates it, and the kick-off for a 180 kilometre bike ride that retraces its roots.

This episode of the Spokesmen Cycling Podcast is about Gino Bartali’s 1948 Tour de France victory, his secret wartime rides to smuggle fake IDs for Italian Jews, a new Israeli cycling-based boarding school launched in his honour, and the Bartali 180 commemorative cycle ride from Florence to Assisi, retracing Bartali’s mid-1940s training-cum-smuggling route.


1948 Tour de France music 0:01

Carlton Reid 0:16
This is the story of a 77-year-old secret, a new, cycling-based boarding school that commemorates it, and the kick-off for a 180 kilometre bike ride that retraces its roots.

Welcome to episode 227 of the Spokesmen Cycling Podcast brought to you in association with Jenson USA, I’m Carlton Reid, and the audio you heard at the top of the show was from a period Italian film about the 1948 Tour de France won by Italy’s Gino Bartali. On the day before the climb which clinched it, Bartali was staying at the Carlton hotel in Cannes when he was called by the future leader of Italy’s Christian Democratic Party and told he had to win a stage or two because it would prevent the outbreak of bloodshed following the attempted assassination of a Communist politician. “I will do even better than that,” promised Bartali. “I WILL WIN THE WHOLE TOUR.”

That Bartali’s against-all-the-odds victory possibly prevented an Italian civil war would be an amazing claim to fame, but more recently, something even more amazing came out about Bartali, a secret that the devout Catholic had kept to his dying day. During the war against Hitler, at great risk to his own life, and that of his young family, Bartali used his fame, and, indeed, his bicycle frame, to smuggle documents that saved perhaps as many as 600 Italian Jews from the gas chambers. We don’t know the exact number, because – for obvious reasons – no records were kept. Despite being one of Italy’s most famous sports personalities, the subject of countless newspaper and magazine articles, and in his later years, a pundit on Italian TV, Bartali never talked about his war heroics, not even with his family.

In this special episode of the Spokesmen Cycling Podcast, I talk to Canadian journalist Aili McConnon, co-author of a Bartali biography. I also speak with Bartali’s granddaughter, as well as a bicycling Holocaust survivor, a bunch of Hebrew and Arabic speaking school kids connected by their love of cycling, and the former pro cyclist who brought all of these folks together in Italy last month.

The Basilica of Saint Francis in Assisi at the end of the Bartali 180

I met them all at the inaugural Bartali 180 which is a new commemorative ride planned to be held annually to celebrate the great man’s deeds. The one-day ride – 180 kilometers if you do the full distance – uses Tuscan roads that Bartali would have trained on close to his home near Florence, and it follows his smuggling route to the monastery city of Assisi which he would have ridden many times during the war, braving Nazi and fascist patrols to ferry counterfeit identification papers for people fleeing what would have been almost certain death.

Paul Alexander 3:40
On this day, the seventh of September 2019, 80 years ago, the Second World War was four days old.

Carlton Reid 3:59
That’s 81-year old Paul Alexander, a Holocaust survivor sent to England as part of the kindertransport, a pre-war rescue effort that separated 10,000 predominantly Jewish children from their parents in Nazi Germany, Czechoslovakia and Poland , placing them in foster care.

Paul Alexander 4:19
It was a war in which close to 20 million men, women and children around the world lost their lives, including 16 million of my own people

Paul Alexander 4:42
The cost of this horrible war would have been considerably greater had it not been for heroes like Gino Bartali, who, at great risk, put the lives of others before their own lives and they enabled countless people to survive the Holocaust. My connection to the Bartali ride is coincidental but it is a very significant event in my life. I’ve always loved cycling since I was a child.

Carlton Reid 5:32
Paul was speaking in the Palazzo Vecchio, or “Old Palace” in the medieval centre of Florence, and he was one of those to launch the Bartali Youth Leadership School on the day before the start of the Bartali 180.

Paul Alexander climbing the final stretch from the town of Assisi to the Basilica of Saint Francis without battery assistance

Paul Alexander 5:45
We are eternally grateful for the opportunity for having done this wonderful ride.

Carlton Reid 5:49
Paul rode the Bartali 180 on his Pinarello electric road bike, and I rode next to him on the steep climb up from Assissi to the Basilica of Saint Francis – his power had run down by then (Paul’s not St Francis’) and yet he climbed without battery assistance. Also on that climb was Aili McConnon and earlier she told me how she and her brother revealed Gino Bartali’s secret.

Paul Alexander with Aili McConnon at the Bartali memorial at Terontola station

Aili McConnon 6:21
You know, many in Italy, really, up until most recently haven’t talked about what happened during the war. So we started thinking, you know, what did Bartali do during the war? We found a small mention in a Florentine newspaper that he’d helped the Jewish community we said, well, that’s interesting, you know, was he a part of the partigiani was he a part of the resistance, what was he doing? And tracked down his son and reached out to him and you know, he gave us a little bit of a nugget of the story that, yes, he helped the community, he carried documents. And I think it was at that point we realised that this is sort of the story of a great sports hero, but then also a humanitarian.

Carlton Reid 6:56
Gino the pious, as he was nicknamed by contemporary newspapers, is lauded in Italy as a legendary sports champion, famous for his fierce rivalry with Fausto Coppi. Then, and even today, many Italians identified as supporters of either Coppi or Bartali, there was no middle ground and no love lost between the factions. Since the gradual unraveling of his secret from 2010 or so, there has been a non-sporting reason to favour Bartali as the more historically significant of the two but Gino the Pious never spoke about his wartime exploits.

Aili McConnon 7:32
The reason why he helped, or at least my best understanding, came from his widow, Adrianna Barteli, who was alive when we were researching the book, you know, and she said that, you know, he was so aware of the immense contribution so many Italians had made and, you know, many had been tortured, many had been killed, you know, and he thought he did his part, but he didn’t want to overshadow you know, those who have done so much during the war. So, I think, you know, he was happy to be known for his cycling accolades, but did not want, you know, his cycling fame, you know, consequently to, you know, then make him into a bigger war hero, and, you know, some very regular people who did so much but wouldn’t be you know, as widely publicised, because they’re just everyday citizens

Carlton Reid 8:27
I asked Aili whether Bartali’s secret story – fighting fascists – had resonance today.

Aili McConnon 8:34
It is, you know, very, very concerning, you know, the sort of pockets of anti-semitism that you see popping up around the world and, you know, the fact that you do have a choice, and it certainly would have been much easier, much more convenient and safer for him not to do anything. You know, he was certainly risking his own life, his family’s life, you know, and yet he kind of stood up to do what he felt was right.

Gioia Bartali kick-starting the Bartali 180 ride at the old synagogue in Florence

Gioia Bartali 8:54
Because of my grandfather, he, he think … sorry, for my grammatical verbs is …

Carlton Reid 9:04
That’s Gioia Bartali, Gino’s granddaughter, and as I told her at the time, her English is far better than my Italian.

Gioia Bartali 9:13
He don’t say any words with the son and with his wife. Okay? Because if you make good to other person, you take it in his heart.

Carlton Reid 9:34
Gioia was also on the Bartali 180, which, as well as continuing next year as an annual ride, was the launchpad for the multi-faith Bartali Youth Leadership School, a new, cycling-focussed boarding school that opened its doors last month.

Gioia Bartali 9:51
I am very happy because we don’t forget my grandfather, I think it is a beautiful project.

Carlton Reid 10:00
The school, based at the longstanding Ben Shemen youth village in Israel, has started with six students, ranging in age from 13 to 16.

Yuval Markovich 10:11
It’s very fun to live together.

Carlton Reid 10:15
That was Yuval Markovich, a 14-year-old from a village on the Israeli side of the Gaza Strip.

Shimon Amir 10:20
My name is Shimon Amir. I am 16 years old, and I am from Gush Etzion.

Carlton Reid 10:28
The kids got mountain bikes on the first day of term, and before, during and after their academic studies they ride together in the Ben Shemen forest close to the school, which just so happens to have a 32 kilometer singletrack mountain bike trail snaking through the trees. Interestingly, these aren’t all Jewish kids: there’s Adan Ziadane, a 15-year-old from a small town near Nazareth – her father didn’t want her to leave home, but, bravely, she insisted. And there are kids from Israel’s Druze community, a close-knit Arabic-speaking sect. The plan is for the kids enrolled at the Bartali Youth Leadership school to use cycling as a way to bridge cultural divides and celebrate diversity, imbibing life skills such as self-discipline and teamwork. The kids are also taught the importance of caring for others, the same sort of selfless humanity practiced, in secret, by Bartali. Despite varying abilities, they stuck together on the Bartali 180, riding as a team. In the Palazzo Vecchio I learned more about the boarding school’s campus from its director-general Dr. Ilana Tischler

Dr. Ilana Tischler 11:41
The village was established in 1927 by Dr. Siegfried Lehman who came from Europe with a group of kids to Israel. He looked at three main goals: quality education, love to the land of Israel and values of work and pluralism. And since then, till today – we’re talking 92 years – we have quality education, we have love to the land, we are an agricultural farm, and work and we have pluralism: we have Jewish students and non-Jewish students. We have excellent students, and we have learning disability students, so we accept each child as long as we can give him the right venue to succeed. And the six children are here participating in this event are three Arab and Druze kids and three Jewish kids. These six are in different groups in Israel that we know they like to cycle we know they practice, and in order to become champions, they will need like an American college support, you know, enough practice, enough academic support, enough sleep, the right nutrition, sports psychologist, whatever you need in order to make them professional sports cycling.

Carlton Reid 12:56
And some pay, like the full amount, and then some got like scholarships that sort of thing?

Dr. Ilana Tischler 13:04
Our village is supported by the Israeli Ministry of Education, and the tuition is determined by the income of the parents 50% of our children do not pay.

Bartali 180 riders greeted at the end of the ride by Assisi mayor Stefania Proietti

Carlton Reid 13:16
The founder of the Bartali Youth Leadership School is former professional cyclist Ran Margaliot, who was also the co-creator of the Israel Cycling Academy, the Pro Continental team which has recently taken over the Katusha-Alpecin squad, bumping it up to WorldTour status, and therefore becoming a shoe-in for the world’s major stage races. Wadee Asakly, a 13-year-old from the Druze village of Maghar, wants to ride in the Tour de France, he tells all who will listen, and his dream is perhaps now more achievable thanks to the support and coaching he’ll get from Margaliot and other ex-pros at the Bartali Youth Leadership school. Former Team Saxobank rider Margaliot never got to ride in the Tour de France.

Ran Margaliot 14:01
My own life dream when I was young at their age was to ride a Tour de France one day, you know, I thought this is the greatest thing a cyclist can do and no one from Israel has ever done that. And I got somehow this crazy dream in my head that I’m going to be the one who will do it and then somehow break a path for next generation. I chase that dream for some years. We didn’t have any, you know, real support system in Israel back then for cycling; cycling was not a major sport in our young country. So I had to travel to Europe at a young age, and you know, learn, you know, everything by myself. And obviously, I had many, many people who supported me along the way. And, you know, I always find small teams to rider with, but I had to learn it all. And I made it you know, to a certain level, but I wasn’t good enough and will never achieve my dream to race the Tour de France.

Ran Margaliot lending a helping hand at the end of the Bartali 180

My, my second, the second version of my dream of making the Tour de France and if I couldn’t make it myself as a rider, so I going to start to Israel’s first pro cycling team, we gonna make it with the next generation.

That was the end of 2014. We’ve launched the project of Israel Cycling Academy, which nowadays is one of the largest in the second tier of the sport.

You know, my original reason I wanted to become a cyclist and Tour de France myself and the reason I started the team was not what was needed to to make this team successful anymore, you know, and what I saw as a young 16-year-old guy coming from Israel dreaming to be in the Tour de France is that by doing so I will be able to inspire other young cyclists and by inspiring those cyclists I was aiming that maybe they will be able to follow a similar path that I that I’ve I’ve had that they will be able to experience what I felt that cycling did for me, you know, it completely changed my life, I owe everything to cycling really, I met the most amazing people in my life to cycling, through cycling I, I went through life changing experiences, you know, I got I got to learn so much about myself through the sport and I knew I want to focus on the grass-roots, you know, I wasn’t sure what I’m going to do whatever you want to do with new grass-roots matters to me, it was what inspires me in the first place to help shape the lives of young people through cycling through the sport.

And I had that crazy idea that I want to turn cycling into an accessible sport, you know, as opposed to what it is such a logistical expensive sport that only people, only kids who you know has the means can practice. Since it was a sport of the kids will discover through school, you know, you’re coming to your school every day is an obligatory you know, mandate mandatory learning learning facility or institute that every kid has to go through, day in day out.

So I came back to the planning board and I was I started consulting with a few good friends of mine said you know, if you really want to put bring cycling into schools, it will not happen with a regular school system. Because you know, kids go to school from let’s say, eight to three o’clock, you know, you have no room for any any other activity really, if you want to host you know, even just want to store a bike in school is going to be so complicated, how are you going to maintain them.

And then from, from friends from word of mouth, we got offered to start a programme in a boarding school – in Israel we call them Youth Villages.

Some of those kids are not coming from the best backgrounds, you know, so like, if I tell them, you know, there’s that maybe even an Israeli Pro Cycling Team that is racing in, in, in, in, in when you when you can get there when you’re 19 or 20 or 21 that’s for ever for them, you know, they’re 14, there’s you know, there are kids are there, they wake up maybe at 6am in the morning to train, which is an achievement, their friends wake up at 7.30 and go smoking, you know, if if you don’t give them something that they can do tomorrow, then forget about it, really, I mean, 19 is who knows what’s going to happen til then.

So we knew we have to start a programme that is focusing on excellence, which will be accessible for those kids that and we knew that we want to put that the main narrative should not be how how it creates racers, you know, we should we should be how, how we how we can really use cycling to change youth lives.

And I think it was a natural decision to name the programme after Gino Bartalli, you know, based on those those assumptions that we are not looking to create champions, it might be added value, yes or no. But we’re really looking to create champions in life.

Carlton Reid 18:26
As a kid growing up, Margaliot didn’t pay much attention to the Holocaust, despite the fact his grandfather, Avraham, was one of the world’s leading Holocaust scholars

Ran Margaliot 18:37
He was, I believe, one of the first or the first researcher of the Holocaust he was he was born in Germany moved to Israel just before the before the war. And before Israel was established in 1948, already in 1947, just when the war the war ended, he decided he has to start documenting, gathering evidence so it won’t be erased.

So he travelled to Germany, which was not allowed at the time, it was dangerius obviously, to start research. There’s a department in Yad Vashem called on his name, his name is Dr. Avraham Margaliot.

I didn’t know him, he passed away a year before I was born. And but but I think the crazy thing is I didn’t want to know anything about the Holocaust. Until I found out about Bartali. Despite what my grandfather, you know, focus was, I mean, he, he dedicated his life to, to, to remembrance of the Holocaust, I mean, he was he was a professor, and he was, you know, he was a researcher, and he wrote books and, and this this was his thing and I didn’t want to know anything about it because, for me, it was that sad story that happened so many years ago and and as a kid, or you know, or even as a young adult, we don’t want to learn you don’t want to hear about it at all. I mean, I thought, you know, this is nothing to do with me.

The only the only reason I started asking myself questions and learning about wanting to learn about the about the Holocaust was Bartali because he was a hero I could relate to because I was a cyclist. The mission is to get people to know and to ask questions to ask themselves. You know, for me the just the perfect question, I would like to ask, would I do the same thing as Bartali?

Would I be willing to to, to get up out of my comfort zone to help a person you need to do the right thing, would I risk my life for someone that don’t even know, that I have nothing to do with?

Carlton Reid 20:25
Five years ago, 13 years after his death, Bartali was recognized as “Righteous Among the Nations” an honourific given by the State of Israel to those non-Jews who risked their lives during the Second World War to save Jews from extermination by the Nazis..

Ran Margaliot 20:42
This is special for me, this is part of what Bartali did, you know, he was riding alone on those roads, delivering fake documents, fake IDs, inside his bike tubes on behalf of someone who, who thought he might be the right guy to do so. We in one way or another, we’re delivering his message too today to thr world, doing the right thing.

Carlton Reid 21:12
If you’d like to learn more about the Bartali Youth Leadership School there’s a video and a bunch of links on the show notes at

While the inaugural Bartali 180 was staged in September, the 2020 ride will be held in mid-June. It’s a multi-day, non-competitive event that includes warm-up rides in the Chianti hills near to Florence and, at the end of the 180 kilometre ride on the Sunday there will be a guided visit to the monastery and print shop where Bartali picked up the fake IDs to stuff into his frame.

Approaching Corciano

It’s a special ride, fully supported with team cars from high-end cycle holiday company Chronoplus, and the 180 kilometres fly by.You can opt to do short distances, with everybody joining together for the final climb from Assisi to the Basilica of Saint Francis.

Thanks to Ran for inviting me. The next episode of the Spokesmen Cycling Roundtable podcast supported by Jenson USA, will be out in two weeks or so. Meanwhile get out there and ride.

September 29, 2019 / / Blog


Spokesmen Cycling Roundtable Podcast

Sunday 29th September 2019


HOST: Carlton Reid


British pro cyclist Ben Swift

Greater Manchester’s walking and cycling commissioner Chris Boardman

Helen Pidd, The Guardian

Fundraiser Steve Craddock


The Mens’ Elite road race at the World Championships in Harrogate, Yorkshire; plus Chris Boardman’s (latest) helmet controversy.

Interview with Help For Heroes top fundraiser Steve Craddock.

Top pic of Mads Pederson winning the Men Elite World Championships 2019 by

“I just love cycling,” says Steve Craddock on his Dassi bicycle.


Carlton Reid 0:13
Welcome to Episode 226 of the Spokesmen Cycling Roundtable Podcast. This show was recorded Sunday 29th of September 2019.

David Bernstein 0:23
The SpokesmenCycling Roundtable Podcast is brought to you by Jensen USA, where you’ll always find a great selection of products at amazing prices with unparalleled customer service. For more information, just go to

David Bernstein 0:42
Hey everybody, it’s David from the Fredcast cycling podcast at I’m one of the hosts and producers of the Spokesmen Cycling Roundtable Podcast. For show notes, links and all sorts of other information please visit our website at And now, here are the Spokesmen.

Carlton Reid 1:08
Hi there. I’m Carlton Reid, and I’m bringing you this episode of the Spokesmen Cycling Roundtable Podcast shortly after the finish of the men’s elite road race at the world championships in Harrogate, Yorkshire. Excuse the audio but I’m recording just outside the media room, and I’m just about warmed up after today’s race, and I was sheltering in the press tent.

Today’s show is a two-halfer. I’ll start with two bits of audio I grabbed at the world championships, and that’s a swift interview with, OK, Ben Swift. Listen carefully, and you’ll hear his teeth chattering. And I also caught up with Chris Boardman as he came away from the BBC tent. As well as talking about today’s racing, I also asked Chris about his controversial – it really shouldn’t be controversial – his controversial decision not to wear a helmet when cycling on an ordinary bike on telly. For the second half of the show. I’m dropping in a pre-recorded interview with Steve Craddock, an inspirational fundraiser for the Help for Heroes charity, which is still pretty much bicycle based. But first here is Ben Swift, seconds after finishing today’s wet and cold race – by the way, he came 31st out of 46 finishers. And that was about 120 hundred and 30 DNF’s – race was brutal. And he was six and a half minutes behind the new world champion, Denmark’s Mads Pederson.

Ben Swift 2:41
Yeah, definitely it was a really tough day out there. I

think it probably looked quite cool on some of the photos as the flyer

actually got really cold there as well towards the end and you know, when it’s already cold like that, you know, you need to start stripping off getting ready to the finish and stuff but uh, yeah, we gave it out good shot so

Helen Pidd 3:02
Was it hard even by Yorkshire standards as Yorkshireman?

Ben Swift 3:05
Yeah, no, it definitely was, it was cold, I’m pretty freezing now. And no, it’s quite windy in times. And it was a lot of big deep puddles out there, which made it quite quite difficult and this climb here, this finishing circuit, sorry, was was really difficult – with the steep climb is it Old Bank Road or something was? Yeah, that was really hard.

Helen Pidd 3:28
And how does it compare to other world championships races you’ve done?.

Ben Swift 3:34
Er, I think it’s probably the hardest one that I’ve done. And each one’s been a little bit different. You know, Qatar was pan-flat and the crosswinds in pretty warm weather. The thing you had here was really short punchy climbs which in this weather made it really difficult.

Journalist 3:54
What was the support like out on the road?

Ben Swift 3:56
Oh, it was incredible.

I think it was just the atmosphere was building and building on I think it was amazing to so many people in during this sort of like pretty bad weather. So yeah, thanks to that.

Helen Pidd 4:12
Did you think about giving up any point? Hardly any riders finished.

Ben Swift 4:16
You don’t want to, you don’t want to give up, you go until you can’t go no more and that’s pretty much what I did …

Carlton Reid 4:24
One of the other voices you heard asking questions there was Helen Pidd, The Guardian’s north of England correspondent. Because she covers Manchester she does lots of stories with BBC commentator and Greater Manchester’s walking and cycling champion [commissioner] Chris Boardman, who I managed to grab as he finished his BBC stint from the world championiships.

How’s that gonna do for Yorkshire’s PR around the world, a bit of a brutal day wasn’t it?

Chris Boardman 4:48
I think he was dramatic. It was like how we like to refer to it. How we come to refer to it all week. And depends how you want to think of it. I mean, it was dramatic scenes for the whole week. We’ve had a bit of everything but some great racing. It’s not like we haven’t seen rain in a world championship before. I think it’s the first time it’s ever been shortened befoe, I don’t recall it happening before. But ultimately, 250 million people watch this around the world. And it was great. Some surprise results some fantastic sporting achievements.

Carlton Reid 5:16
Because they gave up at the end they didn’t they the peloton they gave up quite quickly, they were so cold coming through talking to them..

Chris Boardman 5:22
Yeah, I mean, World Championships, something like this. It’s always the same … I thought they’d be about 50 finishers, because there’s nothing in it for you. There’s no stage tomorrow. Why would you? And these are vast majority of these are pro riders, they don’t do it just for the honour of. They’ve done that already. But it’s fascinating, the way the tactics worked out, there’s a lot of similarities throughout all the road races where fatigue played as big a part as the form book.

Carlton Reid 5:47
Because of the punchy hill?

Chris Boardman 5:49
There was just no flat. There’s nowhere where you can get I’ll get over this climb, and I’ll sit in the wheels and recover. There’s just nothing. And so it was incredibly hard. But I think it Lizzie Deignan summed it up when she said, ‘I know I’m going to feel awful all day, because you don’t feel good on these roads.’ And I think it’s an advantage, that I’m prepared for that. And she was right.

Carlton Reid 6:10
Cos Ben Swift was through there. And his teeth

Unknown Speaker 6:12
were chattering.

Chris Boardman 6:16
I know what it’s like being that cold, but they barely couldn’t get any words out. And everybody was just completely spent. And it’s a course where there was, something of a cliche, there wasn’t anywhere to hide. You know, you as soon as you’re fatigued, there’s just things that are going to push you out the back and it’s over.

So there you go.

Carlton Reid 6:35
One last word, the helmet thing that’s kicked off again on Twitter

Chris Boardman 6:38
It always will. It’s it’s it’s hard position for me to take. I’m anxious about it every time because if I just conform and do what everyone else does, then I’m promoting something that I don’t – not only do I not believe in – I think it actually does harm. But as you know, it’s a nuanced argument in unintended consequences, we just need to be in a place where you ride a bike in normal clothes, doing normal things. And that’s not seen as a terrible thing. It’s what I want for my kids. And that’s why I’m going to stand up for it. I had conversation with my wife on the phone and just said, ‘I’m gonna have to find a way to do this work without wearing a helmet, but also without having to go and ride a bike or do something else.’ And oddly for her, she said, ‘No, keep doing it. If you actually look at the feed, people are starting to realise it’s not just black and white.’ And it’s really important that we make this look safe. And we’ll save more people if we do that. Um, so that made me do it, stick with it.

Carlton Reid 7:40
Thanks to Chris Boardman there. And now here’s the second half of the show, an online interview I did with Help for Heroes fundraiser and N+1 cyclist Steve Craddock, and we did that interview about a week ago. But before we get into that, I have a two points to raise if I remember rightly, at one point, Steve mentioned Weebles, now Weebles were a 1970s, perhaps 1980s toy which you couldn’t push over because it had a fat base. We also talked about The Likely Lads, a 1970s comedy set in the North East of England.

Hi, Steve. Your nickname is Geordie Steve, but you’re not in Newcastle. I’m in Newcastle. You’re not in Newcastle. Where are you, Steve?

Steve Craddock 8:26
I’m down in Chatham in Kent.

Carlton Reid 8:28
Okay, but the Geordie means you were born in the North East.

Steve Craddock 8:32
Yeah, I’m a Geordie, I was born up in Newcastle. And I lived there from ’57 to ’74. When I joined the army

Carlton Reid 8:40
Likely Lads time.

Steve Craddock 8:42
It was likely the Likely Lads time. Absolutely.

Carlton Reid 8:46
And you joined the army to do what, what was your, what was your original dream about going in? What do you want to become? And then what did you eventually leave as?

Steve Craddock 9:00
Well, I just wanted to get away from Newcastle.

Carlton Reid 9:05
Don’t say that, it’s a lovely place!

Steve Craddock 9:07
It is now. Beautiful now. It wasn’t when I was there.

Carlton Reid 9:17
I joined the Royal Engineers

Steve Craddock 9:18
I spent almost 15 years in the Corps and left as a sergeant.

Carlton Reid 9:27
And I was reading your biography. You’ve got some pretty grisly stuff there about you served in Northern Ireland, and you were basically with the bomb squad.

Steve Craddock 9:37
Not the bomb squad. As a Royal Engineer, party of a search. We would do the search, find any weapons or IEDs [improvised explosive devices] or anything like that. And then that would be handed over to the silly buggers who want to go down there and try and disarm it. So we weren’t bomb squad as such, but we were what’s called search teams.

Carlton Reid 9:59
But reading the biography, you did see some pretty horrible stuff.

Steve Craddock 10:04
Yes. Anybody who really, I did multiple tours in Northern Ireland. One of them was a two year tour. And anybody that served there, during the mid 70s, through to 1990 will have seen some pretty horrendous things. You mean, when a bomb goes off.

And people are caught up in it, it does tend to make a mess of them.

Carlton Reid 10:28
And we’re kind of hoping that we don’t go back to those days at the moment. That’s kind of resonant politically right now. I won’t get into that. But this is a cycling podcast so we’re not talking about your your army career as such, we’re talking about what happened after your army career. So give us a thumbnail sketch of why we’re talking to you on a cycling podcast. So how did cycling change your life?

Steve Craddock 10:57
When I came out the army

I sort of carried on, I did very well in Civvy Street. And I had lots of transferable skills as a as a Royal Engineer in Civvy Street and ended up as a director of a security company, and was doing very well. But there was something that was always in and in my mind something wasn’t quite right. And then I had a real bit of bad news where my brother committed suicide, and it it triggered something inside me. And it fired off a real bout of pretty bad mental health with a lot of what I saw in Northern Ireland and in other places, flashing back into my mind. And it created an awful lot of problems for me. It. Although I was operating, I had a real mental health issue. And which was causing me real problems. And I tried to drown those problems away and alcohol and that sort of stuff. And I ended up getting to about 19 stone [120kg/266 pounds]. Now when you’re only five foot six, and you’re 19 stone and you’re you’re a bit of a Weeble. And I was in a bad bad way. I was diagnosed about 12, 13 years ago with what they called PTSD. It’s just a mental health problem. You know, you call whatever you want to call it.

Carlton Reid 12:21
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Steve Craddock 12:23
At the end of the day …

Carlton Reid 12:24
So this is a common a common thing for ex-squaddies to have, somebody who’s been through some rough things, yeah?

Steve Craddock 12:32
I wouldn’t say. Yeah, lots of lads have problems, can we say? You know, PTSD is it’s a terrible four letters to explain huge amount of different mental health issues. So really, that’s the only way I can put it because it people can understand that. But really, I had a mental health problem. I was in a real physically bad state, which has made me even worse when you remember how well you were and how fit you were when you were in the army. I was in a pretty, pretty low place, pretty low place and Help For Heroes was formed. And I picked up on that and that it was formed by having a bike ride through the battlefields in northern France, and they got 300 people to go and cycle through France as a way of raising funds for Headley Court, which was the army rehabilitation centre near Leatherhead. And I saw this, and I thought ‘do you know, I wouldn’t mind doing that’. And the reason why I said that, to myself, was because I knew that my physical state was making my mental health far worse than it was.

And I thought I’d like to do that. I was too late for that ride.

But I saw that, and I bought, I went out and bought myself a bike, I thought I’m the only one that’s gonna be able to sort myself out. Because at the time there was no real help for veterans with the problems that I had. I bought a bike. And I started riding, it was horrendous. It was really hard. But there was something a bit special about it because suddenly, I was out on my own and I and I was out in the fresh air and I was looking around at things that really I hadn’t seen for a long time. I’d gone past them, but I hadn’t seen them because you were buried up in your own mind and your own problems. The following year, Help For Heroes did another bike ride, which I took part in. It was 350 miles from Normandy to Paris. And it killed me. It absolutely killed me. I couldn’t get up most of the hills and, and everything you know, I mean, the normal climbing thing, but you know, I was still about 18 stone and, but there was something about again I really absolutely loved. And from there, I just started pushing myself on my bike and got into the the normal N+1 thing. And just love bikes. And as I was doing that I found my weight started to come off, my mental health started to improve.

And the harder I pushed myself the better I felt in my mind.

And starting to find where, yes, it was still tough going up hills and you still quite heavy. But it was making me feel better. And maybe the pain in the legs was taken away from some of the pain that I was feeling in my mind. And that went on. I think it’s been, as far as my mental health is concerned, it’s been an absolute saviour, and it’s something I absolutely love doing. It’s just, to me, it’s just the best thing I’ve ever done in my life. And what really gets me is I wish that I’d discovered this years ago, but I was 50 when I discovered cycling, you know, I’m 62 now and I love it. I just can’t think of anything better than belting along the road with the wind in the air and looking out through the beautiful Kent countryside or through Normandy or as I’ve cycled through Burma, I’ve cycled in Zambia, you know I’ve cycling in a lot of places around the world and it just makes me happy.

Carlton Reid 16:31
And your N+1 syndrome that you’ve got there, what did you start with and what have you got now?

Steve Craddock 16:37
I started I bought

I can’t remember what the thing was. It was steel like

and I started enjoying it and I bought myself a special Specialized

cyclo cross bike, which I liked. And then I bought myself a – I was always getting better and better – I bought myself an S-Works Roubaix with Roval wheels and everything.

Carlton Reid 17:03
Oh, OK, you are going N+1 here!

Steve Craddock 17:09
And then I bought myself a Cube mountain bike

to do some off road stuff and really enjoyed that. And then a couple years ago, I bought a Dassi Interceptor Graphene.

Which is just the most beautiful bike in the world.

And I love riding it.

Carlton Reid 17:31
So these are obviously lightweight bikes. Tell me about your weight. So you were 18 stone. Tell me about the progression? How did you lose that weight? And if you don’t mind me asking, where are you now?

Steve Craddock 17:43
I’m now just under 13 stone [82kgs; 182 pounds].

And the progression really was was just and how I did it was really just being a little bit sensible about what you’re eating, and not cutting anything out? And I don’t think not, you know, what’s the point? You know, one of the greatest things on a ride is finishing off and having a pint. And enjoying your food while you’re doing it. And, and just being sensible about what you eat, and enjoying yourself, but just making sure that you get out on the bike. But also, you know, I mean, that doesn’t just, it’s not just bikes, that loses weight, you’ve got to do a bit of resistance training and stuff like that in the gym. And of course, getting fitter on the bike makes it easier for you to go to the gym, although I really detest it. But I use it to develop my muscles and everything. And I find it makes it easier for me to get up the hills. You know, I’m not fast up the hills. But there isn’t a hill, now, that I don’t believe I can’t get up.

Carlton Reid 18:40
When you go out riding, to others or to yourself, do you say I’m going out for a training ride? Or do you say ‘oh, I’m just going out for a ride? How do you consider it?

Steve Craddock 18:52
I just say I’m going out for a ride. And then, you know, I mean, I know what I’ve got to do, there’ll be times where I’ll say right, okay, i’m gonna go for a bimble around. And then I’m going to do a bit of hill training. So I’ll do some hill repeats. I’ve got a nice hill, which is on a military road, it’s very lightly trafficked. It’s about five and a half, six percent average for about 600 metres.

And that’s a cracking one. So I’ll go and do five

repeats of the hill, in a relatively light gear so, I’m spinning, and then I’ll go off, do about 15 mile, come back and I’ll do three or four repeats in a heavy gear. So I do a little bit of weight training on the bike and go off and then other times I’ll just ride and I’ll ride really slowly. And then every hill I’ll hit it as hard as I can. So I make it up as I go along really.

Carlton Reid 19:46
Yeah but you’re thinking about it, you’re not just bimbling along.

Steve Craddock 19:51
If you want to learn how to ride up hills, you’ve got to ride up hills. There’s no substitute for gravity trying to pull your back and you pushing against it. It’s and I’ve been out there with Hot Chilli in the Alps and, and things like that. That killed me, you know mean, they’re proper hills. But you know you it makes you feel good. And next month, I’m off to Portugal, I’m going to cycle the length of Portugal, from north to south, and there’s something like 30,000 feet of climbing on that. So we’ll be doing that in five days. So that’s gonna be good fun.

Carlton Reid 20:31
And you said ‘we’ there? When you ride locally are you just by yourself? Do you go out with people? What do you do?

Steve Craddock 20:40
Most of the time I go out on my own, actually, I really enjoy that. But I set up a group, a cycling group a couple years ago called No One Left Behind. And it’s a Sunday morning group where I encourage anybody, no matter what their weight, what their physical ability or anything is come and join us. And we ride at the pace of the slowest. And one of the things we try and do is to build up their confidence on the road, build up their fitness. And one of the aims is because every year I have my own sportive that I put on, I’ve just had this year’s was the fifth I’ve hard in support of Help For Heroes.

We try and build them on to do that first sportive, it’s only 50 mile, but it’s a massive landmark in a lot of people. And we’ve had probably, on average, about 10, 12 people come. We get regular people come have never been really done anything on a bike before. And we we welcome them and say like, okay, we’re going to go at your pace, and you’re gonna enjoy your ride. And so we just try and make it sure cycling becomes accessible to people and they’re not worried or ‘I can’t keep up with those people,’ you know what you can be like in, in some cycling clubs in and whatever, they get the train going in as much as they say and nobody, you know, nobody, no drop policy, they race off to the next junction and then wait and to have the same person has to keep keeping up and feels bad about themselves. This way, I control the pace at the front, I have a few guys along along the line. And if if if I’m picking it up a bit too fast, or they’re dropping back, I’ll get a shout and I’ll just drop the pace off and so that they enjoy it and feel that they’re part of what we’re doing. And it’s several of those people have not just completed my my sportive, but there’s another ride which I part organise, which is called the Great Kent Cycle Ride, which is a three day tour of Kent.

And we do 70 mile a day.

And several of those people have completed that three day event. And it’s something they wouldn’t have done if they hadn’t joined that group. So it’s really good that you see people, you know, it’s really killed them doing that three day ride. But the smile on their faces at the end, realising you know, I can do it. It’s such a, and I love it because I love seeing that and people come up and saying ‘cheers, mate’. But again, it’s about just making people feel good about themselves. And if you feel good about yourself, you know, it’s likes a lot easier. If you like yourself. And for many years, I didn’t.

Unknown Speaker 23:20
Tell me about. I mean, you’ve raised a stonking great amount for Help For Heroes. So tell us how much you’ve raised over these years.

Unknown Speaker 23:29
£486,000. I’m in my …

Steve Craddock 23:33
My goal to get 14 grand to get to the half million, which is I’m hoping we get this year.

Carlton Reid 23:38
Yeah, that’s that’s, that’s really really impressive. That’s an enormous amount of money to have raised.

Steve Craddock 23:44
You know, I mean, yes, it is, I’m not I’m not trying to decry it or anything but raising that money – and most of that’s been done on a bike, and organised events around that sort of thing – when you see what that money’s been done used for by Help For Heroes to help and support guys who’ve been horrendously injured in Afghan or whatever, or guys have got really bad mental health issues and how Help For Heroes has helped them. My way of recovery was my bike and raising money and knowing that that money is being put to good use. That’s actually it’s been my recovery pathway. I haven’t really asked for help from anybody. It’s been the way that I felt good about myself that I was doing something for somebody else. And at the same time, it was making a difference to my life. So and I could almost say it was selfish, because it was really about me and me getting better. And that’s the way I found it

enabled me to to move on. Not

not. What’s the word?

And just get better. They get it just me get better.

Carlton Reid 25:12
Now that 14,000 that you’ve you’ve got to raise to hit that magic figure looks as though it’ll be pretty easy to reach on your next challenge, which not the Portugal one, but the one where you’re going across Europe. So tell us your your your plans for that in 2020.

Steve Craddock 25:33
Yeah, I have a pal of min – Lee Patmore – who, five years ago never been, first of all, he was medically discharged from the Royal Navy for a pretty severe back injury. And in the time, when he came out, he then developed fibro, fibromyalgia, which is a pretty debilitating


And he because of that, he developed mental health issues and everything and he had contacted me when I did my first Cycle for Heroes, my first sportive the first year and said, ‘Look, I’ve never done anything like this, but I can borrow a handbike, can I come along with you’? And I said, ‘alright, mate’, and he he came along on the day. And I didn’t know he’d never done more than five k’s on this bike. And it was a 60 mile ride. And he got through it. When he told me halfway around it, he never done more than five k’s on a bike before like, and I did not half clip him around the back of their heads like, lucky he had a helmet on. But he got it got through it. And when he went home a couple days later he contactws me and says I want to do Lands End to John o’Groats. I said ‘you’re joking, son’ and you know mean that that’s a big, big challenge. He went, ‘no, I want to do it.’ I said ‘All right. let me think about it, I shall come back to you’. That was a couple years ago when Help For Heroes was in its 10th year. And I thought well, let’s do that. And we’ll do Joh o’Groats to Lands End but we’ll visit all the Help For Heroes recovery centres en route. And the following year we did it and we actually rode 1400 miles from John O’Groats to Lands End, visiting down the northeast coast of the UK and and down to Chatham in Kent and then whatever. So we did 1400 miles and the last year I took him on an 800 mile ride. And and so this year or for next year, I’m looking for challenges to do. And there’s a cycle route called the Eurovelo Six. And it goes from Saint-Nazaire on the Atlantic coast of France to can’t remember the name of the town but to the Black Sea and it passes through nine European countries. And I thought

That’s the one, Constan?a. On the Black Sea coast of Romania.

Carlton Reid 27:59
Is it Constanta?

Steve Craddock 28:02
Constanta, like. [Laughs]

I thought, you know, I mean, that’s already fully sign posted. It takes us on quiet roads, and on cycle paths and everything. And for Lee, couldn’t take him up in the Alps. So it’s relatively flat, but it means we’ve got a we’re going to do it in 22 days, it’s, it’s 2175 miles long. I’m going to do it in 22 days, so about 100 mile a day. And we’re going to go and ride it. And

Carlton Reid 28:35
How is the riding between you too, because a hand cycle and an ordinary bike, they’re different machines clearly? And different speeds? Yeah, how do you cope with with the differentials there?

Steve Craddock 28:50
Well, on the flat, once, once he gets this thing up to speed, because he’s so low down, he’s got very little wind resistance. And they move. They really shift. And if you go on a downhill, you know, they fly. When we were coming out of Scotland, out of Glen, not Glen Shee that’s in Northern Ireland, but I can’t remember. But he was hitting 50, 55 mile an hour. And once I get over 40, 45 mile an hour, then I’m starting to panic a little bit. So I can’t keep up with him downhill. And then when he hits the flat, he just maintains that speed, and I’m having to chase him down. When he hits a hill, then he slows down, gravity really pulls on him. But on the flat we can we can bowl along and I’ve said to him ‘look what we got to do, we will look at riding 8 hours a day, at about 12 and a half miles an hour average. For the first few days, let’s see how we get on. If we can pick up the pace a little bit, we’ll do that. But we really aiming to say we’re gonna be in the saddle every day for 22 days for 8 hours. That’s what we’re going to do. And if we can stick to 12 and half, 13 mile an hour, we should be flying. I mean, the real difficulty of that challenge is not 100 mile and then next day hundred mile it’s 6 days down the line, a 100 miles. Remember, he’s using his arms to power his bike. But you know, it’s a challenge to what’s the point of doing the challenge of is not going to push you? And it looks absolutely beautiful, the cities in the area we’re going through. Looks absolutely gorgeous. We have a support group, two guys. Yeah, it looks absolutely gorgeous.

Carlton Reid 30:31
Yeah, Budapest, Vienna. Yeah, looks lovely, does’t it? Lots of I can see.

I mean, you’re basically going through a lot of river valleys there.

Steve Craddock 30:41
We go along the Loire.

Carlton Reid 30:42
You look so you get to the

Steve Craddock 30:44
Yeah. And we end up but we will go through the Danube and whatever. So it literally is following the river valleys. And it to me it just seems you know, I mean, the challenge isn’t isn’t, you know, mean, it’s not a massively hilly route. I mean, it’s a getting on a bike every day for 22 days. And seeing how Lee’s body manages. So yeah, we’re callng it the 2020 Challenge, or Cycle2Recovery.

Carlton Reid 31:10
That’s in May, is it?

Steve Craddock 31:13
Two thousand and twenty miles in 2020, two veterans cycling to raise £20,020 for Help For Heroes.

Carlton Reid 31:26
And I believe Steve, I believe you’re the biggest fundraiser for Help For Heroes.

Steve Craddock 31:33
Individual, yeah, individual fundraiser. Yeah, in in the charity’s history. But it’s because it’s been it’s been, it’s what really what made me better. You know, that’s simple fact. It just made me, that’s been my recovery. And I will continue doing it. Because I enjoy raising money for them. I enjoy my cycling. I enjoy putting events on. In fact, in on the first of November, I’ve got Mark Beaumont, you know, Mark Beaumont, who broke the world record for cycling around the world in 78 days and 14 hours. And I’ve got him down here to do a talk on that ride. And the other things he’s done like the World Penny Farthing Record and cycling the length of Africa, world record holder. So he’s gonna come down and that’s another event in in support of Help For Heroes. So he’s going to come and do that, which is excellent, he’s also agreed to be one of the patrons of the ride. And along with Dame Kelly Holmes, our double Olympic gold medal, middle distance runner. So yeah, it’s we’re just trying to push it so we can get beyond the £14,000 and hit the half million.

Carlton Reid 32:46
And what does Help For Heroes? What does that do with all that cash? Describe its work.

Steve Craddock 32:51
Its work is based around recovery.

When a guy comes back from a war zone, or an accident, while he’s serving, or whatever, and he severely injured, maybe an amputee or he’s got a crush injury or whatever, the first thing they’ve got to do is rehabilitation. And they go to the defence rehabilitation centre, there’s a new one, I can’t remember where it is, but it’s somewhere in the Midlands. And where they are, if they’ve got to use prosthetics, they’re shown how to use the prosthetics get fitter, and stronger. So that they can operate with prosthetics, because if you’re, if you’ve been your legs come off above the knee, you’ve got to learn a different way of walking. So they have to get fit and going to so that’s rehabilitation, Help For Heroes comes in on the recovery pathway. Because once that’s been done, and you you you’re walking again or you’re operating, we’ve got a huge amount of problems, from there, recovering from the mental trauma, and everything that goes with being severely injured or having mental injuries because of what you’ve seen. So Help For Heroes is there to support guys through that, that pathway. And one of the big things they do is sports recovery. Because they’ve found that if you can get people stronger and fitter, they feel better if you get them cycling, and cycling with other people because sometimes some of these guys can feel quite isolated. If they’re cycling, and these are girls as well like it when I say guys I do mean guys and girls, it’s not just the blokes, but they feel better about themselves and they’re sharing their experiences, some may need some education or other courses that will help them with move through into Civvy Street and whatever but that money is spent at our four recovery centres where guys and girls can go to their run courses and everything like that to enable them in their future lives which the vast majority will be out of the military to be able to move over the light and live a full and productive and healthy life.

Carlton Reid 34:57
See it is a charity that I know about – my dad was actually he was pensioned out of the army in the 1950s. He was there he was actually stationed in Germany, this is after the war, obviously. And and he was blown up in a in a gas station, in a petrol station explosion when he was driving a petrol tanker and he survived but he was in hospital for many, many months with with serious burns. And now obviously Help For Heroes didn’t exist back then but he’s been through that rehabilitation process when it wasn’t quite as as formal and as you know, helped with Help For Heroes right now. So you know, he’s very aware of that, that charity and the cycling angling for me, I’m very aware of the charity.

Steve Craddock 35:52
There are many sports that that Help For Heroes use to enable people to recover from their physical and mental injuries. But cycling’s been one of the biggest one. Of course, that’s our our premier event of the year is the Big Battlefield Bike Ride where we cycle through the battlefields of France and Belgium. And you know, mean, earlier on this year, just after I’d come back from cycling from Lusaka to Victoria Falls, we did this year’s Big Battlefield Bike Ride. And that again with this year was Normandy to Paris. And so Help For Heroes has built up over the years this thing of cycling in it and so many guys have taken up on it, because it’s relatively easy to get into, you don’t need a massively lightweight bike, you just need something that’s decent, that you can get out on and you can ride. And the beauty of it is is because you’re outside you’re moving your body, you’re talking to people, you know, you’re you can just go out and enjoy being out in the fresh air. And I think a load of what cycling is about is it is that, it’s being out in the fresh air and hearing and listening and smelling different things and that sort of thing. It’s more than just riding the bike and getting fit. It gives you so much more. And you know to me, you know, I average even if I’m pushing it harder, I might average 15 mile an hour. So I’m no fast bloke or anything, but I don’t care. I don’t care. I love cycling. And I just try and encourage as many people as possible to come along in and join us and get the benefit of what cycling is given to me.

Carlton Reid 37:41
Thanks to Steve Craddock there. He can be found on twitter at Cycle2 recovery, which is ‘cycle’ two the number two to recovery. And he has a justgiving page which I will place in the shownotes which, as always, can be found at Thanks for listening to today’s show. The next one will be out in a week or so and features the Bartali 180, a new long-distance, one-day bike ride. Meanwhile, get out there and ride.

September 15, 2019 / / Blog


Spokesmen Cycling Roundtable Podcast

Sunday 15th September 2019


Carlton downhilling in The Epic Bikepark Leogang.

HOST: Carlton Reid


Katharina Auer, downhill mountain biker and marketing for Saalfelden Leogang tourist board, Austria

Nico helped me nail some berm-riding techniques

Nicolas Wegs, downhill racer and mountain bike instructor, The Epic Bikepark Leogang

TOPIC: Riding–and learning–in The Epic Bikepark Leogang, Austria, venue for the 2020 UCI Mountain Bike Downhill World Championships.


Carlton Reid 0:14
Welcome to Episode 225 of the Spokesmen Cycling Roundtable Podcast. This show was recorded on Sunday 15th of September 2019.

David Bernstein 0:23
The Spokesmen cycling roundtable podcast is brought to you by Jenson USA, where you’ll always find a great selection of products at amazing prices with unparalleled customer service. For more information, just go to spokesmen. Hey everybody, it’s David from the Fredcast cycling podcast at I’m one of the hosts and producers of the Spokesmen Cycling Roundtable Podcast. For show notes, links and all sorts of other information please visit our website at www.the- And now, here are the spokesmen.

Carlton Reid 1:08
Hi there. I’m Carlton Reid. And this show is a mountain bike special recorded last week in the Epic Bikepark Leogang, Austria. I scared myself witless tearing down some world class downhill trails. But at least my technique was a little bit better than usual. Because I had some pre ride lessons from 20 year old Nico, one of the bike parks full time instructors. I mentioned Nico’s age, because I’ve been mountain biking for the best part of 35 years. That’s a long time. But you’re never too old to learn new stuff. And Nico taught me how to ride berms higher and faster than I’m used to. And instead of slinking back on the bike during a root- strewn descent, he showed me how I’d have more control of the front wheel by keeping my centre of balance over the bottom bracket.

This episode of the Spokesman Cycling Roundtable podcast is brought to you from Leogang in Austria, which is mountain bike Mecca, and I’ve been riding in the Epic Bikepark, but right now I’ve just had breakfast at the Mama Thresl hotel, which is a boutique hotel, wonderful hotel, in Leogang and at the back of the balcony here at the hotel are a bunch of cows because they are munching on grass right in front of me. You might be able to hear the sound of cows moving and munching and right up above them are the Steinberg mountains, so Stein/stone, Berg/mountains, and that’s the foreground really to all the mountain biking that you do in this area. So this is the Saalfelden-Leogang area. And I can see the cow is actually quite full of milk. Local milk. So the breakfast I had today was said it was all local and you couldn’t get much more local than these cows. Anyway, the Saalfelden-Leogang area is as I said before a mountain bike Mecca. Now I’ve been a mountain biker since 1984. Yesterday, I had my first ever bike lesson. And Nico, who’s not a local downhiller, but he’s from Germany, but he is an expert downhiller and he took me out on some of the amazing trails here at in The Leogaqng Bike Park, the Epic Bike Park has been renamed that and I can I can see why it’s called that it’s pretty steep. So it was it was very much out of my comfort zone on many of the steeps, so Nico taught me some stuff that I probably will have never been taught before. Especially on berms, and how to ride berms, and there are a tonne of berms here in Leogang. And he then took me out on the on the trails. And I didn’t crash, I didn’t kill myself. I survived much to my surprise on a on a rental bike from the resort. And even though I’ve been riding for the best part of 35 years, I learned loads. So after yesterday’s wonderful day in the Leogang Bike Park, I came back to the hotel and went in Mama Thresl’s unbelievably scenic spa I’ve ever been in – that’s a car leaving the hotel, there’s not cows – the most scenic spa I’ve ever been in. So the sauna is just got this amazing vista of the surrounding mountains. Incredibly hot sauna. And what a great way to to unwind after a hard session on the Leogang Bike Park. But now right now, I’m off to meet Katharina Auer who is the Saalfelden-Leogang bike expert. And she is at the Bike Festival, which is an annual event here and I’m going to chat to her there.

Katharina Auer 5:44
I’m Katharina Auer, marketing manager at the Tourism Board Saalfelden-Leogang.

Carlton Reid 5:50
Okay. Well, thank you for meeting me

today. Because we are sitting in the stands we can hear

the gondola

Carlton Reid 5:57
going over mountain bikers coming back, and then some bike washing in the background. And also across the road there. You’ve got a bike festival going on. So tell me first about the bike festival. what’s what’s happening there?

Katharina Auer 6:11
The Bike Festival is taking place the second time this year. And there are about 80 exhibitors who present the bikes from next year already. And you can actually also test them. So this is kind of the big thing here. You can just come around, test the new bikes from next year and then ride them next year.

Carlton Reid 6:32
Eurobike has just finished. So bikes from there have come

here and now you can test them. Yeah,

perfect. And that

costs or that people just come along and

Katharina Auer 6:46
just come along. They can test bikes, they can test backpacks, they can take part in enduro races, or pumptrack races – its festival for the whole family.

Carlton Reid 6:59
Now, tell me your background. So you, you are from promoting the mountain biking here and you also a mountain bike yourself?

Katharina Auer 7:06
Yeah. Well,

I’ve worked in tourism boards for seven years now. And taking over the mountain bike marketing and also product development in the region for a couple of years. And I’m a biker myself. So basically, just perfect job.

Carlton Reid 7:25
Wonderful. And do you get out on the trails? Like at the end of the day? How do you or do you like you’re always in the office, you can never get out.

Katharina Auer 7:32
Now? Well, I try to get out as often as possible. So just catching the last gondola up on the mountain and then doing for example, the new Steinberg Line by Fox, which is a really nice flow line. And a long run so good run in the evening and or in the afternoon after work.

Carlton Reid 7:51
So how long is that particular trail, how long is that from the top?

Katharina Auer 7:55
It’s 10 kilometres long approximately. So we didn’t finally measured yet because it was just finally opened. A couple of weeks ago. We had a lot of snow this winter. So everything got to be delayed with building all the new trails. But I think everyone loves it. And kids can go on it the whole family can go on it. And even experts are having fun it.

Carlton Reid 8:19
You’d have to be pretty good kid to go down that. But then again, he here, I’m guessing you’re going to have lots of very good kids from a very early age, because you’ve got an amazing world class facilities here.

Katharina Auer 8:31
Yeah, well, we try to instruct kids and beginners of all ages, like you learn skiing in winter. So you start with the carpet, down in the valley, just doing small trails with the bikes cool. Then you go on a T bar. And when you’ve done that, you go up in the mountain. And so it just takes away all your fear. And you can learn downhill biking, safe in safe way.

Carlton Reid 8:58
What about schools, local schools do they have as part of our lessons that they have mointain bike lessons, and then ski lessons later on.

Katharina Auer 9:06
And we are actually developing a bike club right now trying to get more kids into mountain biking just like they do skiing in the winter. It’s kind of a cooperation between the cable car company, the bike school volunteers Tourism Board, trying to motivate kids to go biking.

And one of the big motivating things I guess coming up and I know there’s it’s very big here is what’s happening next year. Yeah. Well, you tell me what’s what’s happening next year?

Well, we are hosting the Downhill Mountain Bike World Championships for the second time next year in September. We’re really looking forward to it. We’ve been hosting loads of World Cup events in last years. So yeah, I’m excited already. To see as many people as possible coming here.

Carlton Reid 10:03
That was my next question. How many people are you expecting to crowd into into Leogang next year?

Katharina Auer 10:09
Well, we had on the World Cup events we had about 25,000 over the whole weekend, in the last years, and I guess it’s World Championship. So it’s going to be even more people being excited about the sport,

Carlton Reid 10:25
There is a very, very extreme World Championship route already out there, which you can you can right now. But that is being changed, you’re going to have a brand new route rail for next year.

Katharina Auer 10:41
It’s going to be probably going to be the same course. We always every year trying to make some adaptations, building new things, changing the route slightly. So we see it’s going to be a surprise for everyone.

Carlton Reid 10:56
And when people who come here when mountain bikers come here for like that week holiday as part of that, the World Championships coming to watch that they can ride all of the trails at the same time, or will there be that that World Championship route will be closed off to them for that week?

Katharina Auer 11:15
Well, the World Championship route of course is closed and couple of trails which cross the World Championship track, of course. But anyway, there are a lot of trails open still. So you can just plan your day go hiking, watch the world championships, go to a concert in the evening. go biking on one of the single trails also which are outside of the bike park or even do yeah, I don’t know, pedal up in the morning, if you want to.

Carlton Reid 11:49
And to tell me about the lift access, so you can hear they get the gondola here behind us. But you’ve got this too. So there’s two lifts up from the from the town.

Katharina Auer 11:57
Yeah, this was one of the innovations this year as well. Well that we opened a second cable car all the way to the top, on the weekends from Thursday to Sunday. And the cable car is actually open from mid May till beginning of November, which is a really long season. So every single day. So yeah, you can go biking and then start skiing right away. Probably we we even had this this Easter because Easter was quite late so people could ski to the middle station and then biking a bike park, from middle station down into the valley.

Carlton Reid 12:35
And you’re already attracting an international audience here. I mean, Leogang is famous around the world. And you see that from your figures, you can see that you’ve got – where’s your biggest overseas markets

Katharina Auer 12:50
Well, it’s actually the UK because of the biking, probably this is one of the main reasons and also when not overseas would be for example, Czech Republic because they are really sports interested. And then of course first places is always Germany and Austria. Those are the main people coming here, but we can see an increasing. Yeah, UK people for example.

Nicolas Wegs 13:21
Just watch where am I going in the berm, most people go straight into it. But we want to go as high as possible. Right in front of the berm. Okay?

Carlton Reid 13:48
Nico? What’s your full name?

Nicolas Wegs 13:51
I’m Nicolas Wegs . I’m from Germany from West Germany next to the border of the Netherlands.

Carlton Reid 14:01
And you I mean, I’ve been I’ve been mountain biking for Well, I’m not gonna do the arithmetic here. But since 1984. And this is the first time I’ve ever had a lesson on how to mountain bike.

So how old are you?

Nicolas Wegs 14:18
I’m 20 years old.

Carlton Reid 14:19
Okay, so I’ve been mountain biking roughly double your life.

But you know far more than me even though because you’re an instructor Yes,

Nicolas Wegs 14:29
yes, I am a bike guide since for years

and before this for years, I was racing downhill

Carlton Reid 14:37
So describe Nico where where we are right now because we are in a we’re in a little cabin. We’re going up the mountain but behind us describe what what mountains Am I seeing there? Nico, we are in Leogang. Yeah, we’re living in Austria. But what are those mountains there behind us?

Nicolas Wegs 14:53
This mountains right there called the Steinberger. So it’s translated should call stone mountains. Yeah. Just because not necessarily which whether you will always see this big rocks. In the winter, there’s no snow just rocks.

Unknown Speaker 15:14
And this is the the Leogang Epic. Nothing has now been changed. The name has been changed.

Nicolas Wegs 15:19
Since this year. It’s called the Epic Bikepark Leogang.

Carlton Reid 15:22
Yes. And this is going to be the venue in 2020. Of The World Championships. Yeah, right. So that’s what that’s what the leading up to here. Yeah. You said there is a world championship course here, which we’re not going to do Nico,

Nicolas Wegs 15:35
Just over here is the World Cup track, the Downhill World Cup track? Since I think 10 years already. And next year, they are the world championships and the data.

Carlton Reid 15:46
Okay, what’s what’s siren we’re hearing? We’re hearing what’s what’s that?

Nicolas Wegs 15:49
Let’s look on the clock. Okay, it’s thinking, I hope it’s a test alarm, which is

once a month, I think,

Carlton Reid 16:00
telling us telling us what, what if it went normally, what would it be telling us

Nicolas Wegs 16:06
It would tell us that is something wrong, but it would tell the rescue team that they should go somewhere and rescue something. And someone

Carlton Reid 16:19
Describe what we’ve got here in the Bikepark here. And I can describe it. And then there’s lots of North Shore, chicklen wire. These look pretty extreme from my point of view, it would, it would scare me coming down some of these but you’ve got I mean, we have lots of steep ground here. So many of the routes down can be for beginners, or is this all really for experts, and pros?

Nicolas Wegs 16:42
Much tracks are already for beginners. So we got I think 13 tracks in Leogang. For from the top to the middle station. And from the middle station to the bottom, we got all the rest of the tracks. From the top station to the middle station, we got the Steinbeck line, which is the first track we’re riding with beginners. And then the Hotshots line is, which is the flow line with big tables, big jumps, big berms, and the Hangman I, which is by technical step downs, many rocks many roots. And from the middle stage, and we got the Flying Gangster and the World Cup track, which this one we can see from the gondola

Carlton Reid 17:22
And you’re not going to take me on those, no?

where you get it where you gonna take me because I’m, I’ve been doing it for a long time. But as you can see, because you were teaching me today, I’m not the best mountain biker in the world. So where you going to take me?

Nicolas Wegs 17:36
We’re going to ride the Steinbeck line from the top station to the middle station. And after this one, we’re going to go to the Flying Gangster, which is this route saw down there. But the other part is not that difficult, like down there. And then I think we’re going to go to the Schwartzleo trail, which is a nature-based trail, and not very much shaped and not this flow line. Like, yeah.

Carlton Reid 18:04
And how much is it costing people to get into the bike park and then rent a bike and then then and then rent somebody like you? What do people would have to pay for that?

Nicolas Wegs 18:14
Okay, in the beginning, we need a lift ticket, which is around about 30 euros per day. And if we want to go with the downhill bike, so not this bike not this bike, but the downhill bike will cost you around 100 euros a day. And private lessons at the bike school costs 65 euros per hour. And 20 euro plus if you want to get a friend into it or something if you if you’re more people than one it’s 20 euro more

Carlton Reid 18:49
per person. Is that normal for you than to do what you’re doing because you got your day, Nico. I’m very lucky. Is that normal? Or do you just literally go out for some day?

Nicolas Wegs 18:59
Mostly we got bigger groups like group training, which is not this expensive. So you’re paying like the same price for the whole day. But you have a group of six to eight people. And yeah, just private lessons over the whole days. Not the usual day for me.

Carlton Reid 19:18
And then we have got some events happening this weekend. So there’s a there’s a bike festivals and more. More mountain bikers are expected to come in this weekend. Yeah,

Nicolas Wegs 19:29
There are really two big events in Leogang. The first one in June is the World Cup of the Downhill and now this event is the Bike Festival which is with was already in Ria del Garda and Wlling in Germany now it’s the last stop and we got enduro races, mountain bike races since until two years ago, there was a European downhillcup here too, theere are kids’ races, theres an Expo area so quite big event. Yeah,

Carlton Reid 20:03
Because I can’t see many mountain bikers here now because we are we are midweek but also it’s a huge, huge area. So I guess mountain bikers will be spread everywhere.

Nicolas Wegs 20:14
Yeah, if you go down to the gondola station, you will see okay, now today, many people on the track. But on the track itself, you won’t see this much biker because we have 13 tracks and split up quite well.

Carlton Reid 20:28
So we’re now going through the mittel station, mid station. And we are going to go all the way to the top. Yes, yes.

Nicolas Wegs 20:36
Right. So we could go out here and ride the Hangman to the downhill track and many other tracks but we going up just because we have much more fun and much more to ride if we go all the way to the top. And what

Carlton Reid 20:51
are they cabins do we have here was this this is we now have the cabin. That’s it for the bike park or there are other means of getting up to the top?

The Asitz gondola was until last year the only way to go up the hill. And since last year, you can go up the hill from Thursday to Sunday on the Steinbeck vantu. It starts one kilometre down the road and ends up on the same level and it’s the same point as this one. So it’s not not important if you take this one or the other one you will get up to the same point.

And why are you here? What are you doing? Because you were telling me before that you’re a student, you’re doing mechanical engineering, but this is something that you do in the holidays, you you you you’re qualified by guide and then you come and do this in your in your holidays.

Nicolas Wegs 21:44
Yes, just because I love to teach something I can do and I love to see it if people get what I want them to do. So have a smile after the lesson I’ve done wanting to do

Carlton Reid 22:02
And have you mountain biked in many places in the world?

Nicolas Wegs 22:05
Yeah, just as I said just before I started guiding here leaving I raced for three or four years and raced European downhill cups, German downhill cups, and local downhill cups …

All over Europe to race my bike. Yeah.

Carlton Reid 22:28
And now we’re getting very steep again here. So this is the mid station and then it’s basically from the bottom it’s 16 and a half minutes all the way to the top. What kind of height are we going up to?

Nicolas Wegs 22:41
We start around 800 metres of height down there and we’ll end up at under 2000 metre height

Carlton Reid 22:53
Okay, and what is the season here when when does it start and when does it finish?

Nicolas Wegs 22:58
You can ride your bike here in Leogang from May to the end of October. And it depends on how much snow days and if there’s much snow in October they close up earlier if there are no snow in October maybe you can go and ride your bike until November.

Carlton Reid 23:16
So just describe this compared to other places where you have mountain biked What is special about here?

Nicolas Wegs 23:26
I think the most special part of Leogang is that you only have this one gondola and have this much tracks for example in comparison to Saalbach which is on the other side of the hill, you have five or six gondolas and less drag so you going around the city all the time to go into the gondola and here in Leoganf you can go with a gondala and you have all these tracks right in front of you.

Carlton Reid 23:51
And then if you are much more sedate mountain biker and not a downhiller roundabout you have many many trails for just cross country cycling you don’t have to come into the into the park you can go on the trails which are free.

Nicolas Wegs 24:08
Yeah, for example, you can just get one ride with the gondola and many many trails around Leogang and many many tours. Even for beginners you can do like the panorama trail panorama to which is mostly on forest streets. And it’s getting difficult more difficult and more difficult until you doing for example the big five so you can get your big five ticket go up this gondola and too big to around this five highest mountains around and you’ll end up here again.

Carlton Reid 24:48
You saying before that you like these conditions because we’ve had some rain overnight. So it’s it’s stickier, it’s less dusty so this is what you prefer these are the conditions for you ideal conditions

Nicolas Wegs 24:59
Yeah, I love these conditions firstly because there are no people in the Bikepark so you have the tracks for your own and if there’s rain overnight and it’s dry over the day there’s not this loose gravel in the berms so it’s much more grippy, the roots starts to dry so you have enough grip to read over roots and yeah, just I said by focus for your own know people out there and you’re the best conditions to ride.

Carlton Reid 25:28
And a bit of a pro tip there is don’t touch any of the wires because they are electrified day I presume with me because this is a very agricultural area so to keep the cows out and I’m I can see that as we’re just going over some sheep. Yeah. So the wires are to keep the livestock in not to stop the mountain bikers going off-piste.

Nicolas Wegs 25:49
Yeah, right, the wires up just for keeping the the animals inside the area. So some of the tracks for example, Hangman 1 is going through areas through the area of animals. So is it possible to drive over the track and at any point there is a cow in the middle of the track. So on top of the hill, there’s a sign Be careful of animals, Be careful of cows or sheeps, or even horses or something. So

yeah, you have to give way for animals.

Carlton Reid 26:22
Thanks to Nico and Katharina there of the epic Bike Park, Leogang in Austria. You can find out how and when to get there at and Nico’s photos of me nailing if you can say that way – nailing some downhills can be found at the same place where you can access this podcast’s shownotes, which is, as always, at Now, the next episode of the Spokesmen Roundtable Cycling podcast is road-bike themed as I ride – I’m a lucky guy- as I ride the Bartali 180, a 125-mile ride from Florence in Italy to the hilltown of Assisi.

This was the first of an annual pilgrimage ride celebrating the World War Two heroism of Tour de France winner Gino Bartali. Meanwhile, get out there and ride …