Hosted by David Bernstein & Carlton Reid since 2006 Posts

February 9, 2020 / / Blog

The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast

EPISODE 237: In conversation with Peter Harrison on 30-mile bike ride in Northumberland 

Sunday 9th February 2020


HOST: Carlton Reid

GUEST: Peter Harrison, Cyclone Festival of Cycling

Peter Harrison has been staging races in Northumberland for many years, and he’s the founder and organiser of the Cyclone Festival of Cycling, a challenge-ride-based weekend of cycling that’s now been going for 14 years. Peter is also an industry veteran — he was Shimano-man for many years and owns a Newcastle bike shop. 

This is rolling audio from a bike ride following part of the route of the Cyclone.


Carlton Reid 0:14
Welcome to Episode 237 of the Spokesmen Cycling Podcast. This show was published on Sunday 9th of February 2020.

David Bernstein 0:24
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 Jenson 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 1:09
The Spokesmen cycling podcast is proudly internationalist. We had an urban planner from San Francisco on the previous show. And in a forthcoming episode, I interview South African bicycle activist and academic Njogu Morgan. But this focus on speaking to interesting folks from around the world often means I’m guilty of neglecting interesting folks local to me. I’m Carlton Reid, speaking to you from my home town of Newcastle. And on today’s show, I go for a bike ride in Northumberland, with a cyclist very well known in the North East of England. Peter Harrison lives about a mile away from me and when I go on club rides, not that often, but it’s with his club, the Gosforth Road Club. Peter has been organising cycle races in Northumberland for many years, and he’s the founder and organiser of the Cyclone festival of cycling, a challenge ride based weekend of cycling has now been going for 14 years. Peter is also an industry veteran. He was Shimanoman for many years, and he owns a Newcastle bike shop now. On our bike ride, following part of the route of the Cyclone, we discuss all of this and much more.

Peter, we’re standing outside the Falcons, the rugby ground and we’re actually at you covered here on a car. I’m not gonna hold that against you, Peter. But you got a sponsored car and I’ll mention your sponsor, so they get mentioned here so it’s sponsored by Wingrove Motor Company, and then a big panel on the side there says the Cyclone festival of cycling. So Peter, how can you get a car?

Peter Harrison 3:04
Well, I don’t actually get it for free to be to begin with let’s put it that way but I do get it at a discounted rate. And the That’s right. Yeah, the

the car is supply because I need it for the event on the event that I created 14 years ago. I would have a request from Newcastle city council to put on city centre racing, which I’ve done for South Tyneside Council

Carlton Reid 3:30
for 15 years. Yeah, yeah,

Peter Harrison 3:32
yep. 2006 I put on a city centre cycle race

for South Tyneside Council, and called the Geordie Grand Prix. And that morphed then into the Cyclone, where after I approached and approached Northern Rock to see that we’re interested in putting on me putting on an event that was a combination of the idea I had was a combination of an event. All rights for non competitive people plus competitive races, which was already putting on the bomont trophy, and also creating the city centre credit. So that’s where it started from 2000 2006 was just the criterium. 2007 was the first Cyclone. So this year will be the 14th Cyclone.

Carlton Reid 4:23
And it started this is why we’re at the Falcons. It starts and finishes here. And I’ve done this at least two or three times, that’s even four times out of those 14. So you start here and how many people do you get starting here?

Peter Harrison 4:36
Well, we get a very between about two and 4000.

What are the what the idea that I had when I created was I sort of had the idea of looking at the Great North Run and thinking right? I want people to ride their bikes instead of running but I’m not going to just give them one distance to do and everybody doing the same thing. So I created four different distances all who are The same route and then peel off at different places. And, and so all abilities all ages, and all levels of fitness could take part in it. But unlike Sagan, someone like the one where you’ve only got the one distance,

Carlton Reid 5:13
so I tell my kids so kids can do it, you know, little seven, eight year olds can

Peter Harrison 5:19
well, interesting you say that because the 34 mile, right? The youngest person ever to do the 34 mile ride was four years old, and young Jake Parker. And so we’ve had them we’ve had some very young kids do it. And the oldest of course, to do the hundred and six was 92. To date, it’s not 92 is that up there? No, no, not quite. I’m getting there, but I’m not quite so yeah, so different distances. I originally that was three distances. And then I took it up to four distances and have an for this year we got 34 miles, 65 miles, 93 miles and 116 hundred and hundred and eight miles. But it’s always stress it’s not a race. And we don’t give positions and its people out to enjoy themselves for the day. And the only caveat as opposed to some other events or some running events is you’re not allowed to wear fancy dress because I don’t want people to know someone dressed as a gorilla and having to be rescued

Carlton Reid 6:23
let’s let’s go from there then because people who don’t know the walls of Northumberland when you say the walls are not permitted, you mean the walls are not familiar. It can get pretty ropey out there and you’re in you’re in pretty pristine countryside with not a lot of cars around which is a huge attraction of course, to describe the route and describe how remote it can get for the guys doing there.

Peter Harrison 6:43
Right if we take the the hundred eight mile route, we’re heading out from from Newcastle from the Falcons and we’re going up and through dinnington up through the towards frontierland but then heading up through Walton once you get up to Well know you’re up to ball and you’re starting to get bolam late you’re starting to get out in the countryside once you pass there then you don’t through Nether when and down towards rough buddy through rough buddy. So you’re getting that little bit more into the country and some spectacular scenery and drug side and of course where you know a very famous place and and then we you head off towards oh and by this time of course you’re up into the achievements and you’re right up and really getting into some remote countryside. From there you’re heading over towards and

just gonna think about this year

Carlton Reid 7:46
14 years Peter Come on I know that I

Peter Harrison 7:48
know. I know the road to well I know so many roads. I’m trying to think where I am and you’re up from Alwinton and you’re over towards towards Elsdon through towards Otterburn and over all the ranges, the army ranges and then you’re up into the Kielder forest and eventually dropping down towards Humshaugh over the Tyne and then back down towards Stamfordham and Stamfordham. And before that, of course you’ve got the last little sting in the tail I put on this one they’ve already done a heck of a lot of climbing that once you get into Stamfordham, but I just before Stamfordham, I mean you’ve got the Ryals, and which are notorious in racing circles as well as

Carlton Reid 8:35
that that killer little, little climbs but they’re killing

Peter Harrison 8:39
Well, it’s a one point it’s a 1.3 mile claim. And the middle section of it is 33%. And evidently I get called a lot of choice names. And on that particular that particular part of the route, but three of the four rates converging go back up the the the rails this The shortest 34 miler doesn’t go up there and we will keep the families and kids away from their small ruling the way that they go so they’ve got an agenda right we’ve got feed stations and situated and village halls around the and the whole of the route and and then there are some unofficial ones such as the one that Whalton where the school bakes cakes and everything else they do an unofficial one and they normally make quite a bit of money for the for the school each year just doing that I just allow them to do what the one and so there’s plenty of places to stop round goal of the roots there’s plenty of the scene is very good but yes, it can get it can be beautiful and sunny and warm down here at the farm. Let’s Let’s go Yeah, yeah. And then we get once you get up into the wilds

Carlton Reid 9:55
because what what time of the air is it?

Peter Harrison 9:57
Well it’s a it’s the end of June. So it has been known for it to be beautiful and sunny down at the Falcons and then actually hail stalling around into the achievements and the key Akilah. And so writers are always warning and it says all in the end the advice and instructions for people taking part making sure that they’ve got a road where the bike

properly dressed

and that they’re doing a right that

they’re doing the right within the capability. So that the we don’t get people getting into real distress, hopefully, and that’s what happens. But of course we do have ambulances stationed at all the different feed stations in case of any emergencies. We do have paramedics going around in cars, we’ve got service vehicles from Shimano going round in case of any mechanic goals. And we also have the Danny g the national Escalade group, which are motorcycle outriders who basically patrol the whole route. And they make sure that the everybody is safe and obeying the rules of the road. And if there are any difficulties can report back and then we’re all linked up by and radio comes back to event HQ.

Carlton Reid 11:26
So you don’t write it down assuming

Peter Harrison 11:29
I’ve written to every one of the root cause but not but no,

Unknown Speaker 11:35
no, no, no, no. My my weekend starts. Well obviously starts weeks before and but we start on the Friday night with the family right down on the time. The time six bridges starting and finishing down here the US burn and right just 10 and a half miles and and 15 and a half miles for kids and families. Just a enjoy themselves it’s all all off road. And when I say off road it’s actually the strange route. So the traffic three and we get very young families taking part and, and we also and people who are just real novices

Carlton Reid 12:19
so like the London to Brighton and rides like that this is something that probably a lot of people this is that one big ride of the year.

Peter Harrison 12:27
Yeah, for a lot of people it is.

I mean, but we do get people who take part in a number of these different I call them challenges. I don’t call them sport ease. I don’t like the word. I think it’s too elitist. But we call them challenge rage. And yes, some of the nican one big right of the year, particularly the families and kids and making it and of course before we

Carlton Reid 12:53
were gonna go right okay, (some of the kids) we’re on the Ponteland road here.

Gonna go past the airport. Is this part of the route?

Peter Harrison 13:02
it well, it’s part of the coming back in. Coming back in Yeah, yeah. So the so we’ll start off on the Friday night to see with the family right. Then the sadhya, the four different rides that I’ve been talking about.

And, and then on the Sunday we have

and races and for some of the top right and in fact some of the top riders in the world. I mean, for example, in 2011 Bradley Wiggins won the Beaumont trophy when it was when it was actuallyg the national road race championships. And Lizzie Armistead, Lizzie Deignen as, she is now she actually won. She won the women’s race and in 2018 both the Beaumont under covers your call it with the men’s and women’s national championships.

Unknown Speaker 13:59
And it was One man’s event was won by Connor swift, Ben Swift’s cousin.

Carlton Reid 14:07
Is the Beaumont part of the Gosforth?

Peter Harrison 14:10
Well, the Beaumont trophy. Is it? Yes, it’s, it’s owned by the gospel through a clip of which I’m chairman. And it’s been. It’s the longest, longest running road race in the UK. And it was it was created 1952 by m, and the trophy was awarded or given to the godless World Cup by a guy called Rex Beaumont n a cycle wholesalers in Newcastle. And it’s it’s been running now, for a while this will be the 69th year, every year every year, we know break and I’ve been putting on for the past 43 years. So it’s been it’s a very well established road race. As I say, we’ve had some of the top. The top writers in the world writing, Wiggins Cavendish, even going back years ago people like Malcolm Elliott, one is m. m. The person who was one of the most actually is a guy called real weather or who’s a ne Lord and re one at five times in in the 60s in the 70s. And he rewrote for JP and he wrote the milk race and everything else. So it’s, it’s so And finally, the very first year it was run. It was won by a guy called Stam blend that was done. Blair was a professional for Viking cycles. And he wanted and in those days that this actually started and finished in Gosford Park and came out, you wouldn’t believe it could do it now, but actually came got the high street and out into the wild from from from there. And that was, of course, the early 50s Very few causes about

Carlton Reid 16:01
when there’s also a lot of conflict between British cycling and the road time trials Council.

Peter Harrison 16:06
Well, well, well, well, no, no.

Carlton Reid 16:11
tandem has gone past Yeah. And

Peter Harrison 16:18
and the British cycling Federation was formed in 1959. And as it was a split it had been the old British legal rate racing cyclist vl RC and they, they they sort of splitting away from the ncu who the time filing because the ncu didn’t want open road races in UK. So for the first it would be the first seven years at the Vermont run. It was actually run under BLC rules.

Carlton Reid 16:57
That event was basically smack bang in the middle of that Particular icon.

Peter Harrison 17:00
Oh, yes, yeah, yeah, very much so. And then, of course, in 59, British, the British cycling Federation was formed. I actually became a member of British cycling in 1961. So two years after it was formed, and I’ve been a member ever since. So, so let’s go

Carlton Reid 17:23
into that long history, Peter. Because I know I take the Nick out of you when your events and stuff and I say you know, you were there in the bone shaker days and stuff. But yeah, have been around a long time. So 61 thing a BC member? And what about a gossip row club man?

Peter Harrison 17:42
Well, that was the era joined the Gosforth Road club. Yeah, I joined it. I joined the Gosforth Road club. It was about the April of 1961.

Carlton Reid 17:50
And I’m going to

date you here. How

old were you?

Peter Harrison 17:53
Well, I was when I was 14. When I joined.

Carlton Reid 17:55
I why’d you join? What is that family thing?

Peter Harrison 17:58
Ain’t no no Wish I was already at school in Tynemouth most played rugby was quite.

Carlton Reid 18:06
You’re not from Newcastle?

Peter Harrison 18:07
No, I’m from Edinburgh. Exactly. So how

Carlton Reid 18:09
let’s go backwards. So why why is a Scot in Newcastle at this time?

Peter Harrison 18:15
Well what happened was and I was born just after the last war and in Edinburgh 42 killed Dr. x still remember the address and and my father was a captain in the Royal Artillery in the last war. He got demobbed in 1946 and my mother and he got married. My father was working, got a job working for OSHA’s brewery in Edinburgh and and became a brewer there. He then got offered a job working and as head Brewer at Robert geocache which is now on Sunday for God is that so No, not no flatter. No. Yeah, yeah. So we came down from Edinburgh. In the early 60s I’d, I’d want to kill the whole of my young life until we came to the castle and fight the first year. Warren New Castle I was sitting the crowd site Primary School wearing a kilt. So So, so anyway, then I went to Kings. And there was a crowd of us kings actually, and some of the friends hadn’t gossip with by this time. And when you heard about the, the Satan Club, which was actually based in the old conservative club rooms, and other conservative party rooms at South Casa and so we went along. Oh, howdy. pretty inexpensive bites. I think mine came from Northern mode as second hand road bike. And because I was playing rugby in the winter, and doing stuff that took care of that, but there was no sporting stuff to do in the summer because I wasn’t really in there, and a cricket and a king’s at the time, there wasn’t athletics. So we joined the gospel through club, and I got immediately hooked. In fact, I’ve still got some school reports where my PE teachers knowing that I was pretty sporty. Sort of lamented the fact that I wanted to race bikes, as opposed to take him any form of athletics because I was a reasonable runner as well. So yeah, it went from there. Did you 14 years

Carlton Reid 21:00
So you joined the club to race

Peter Harrison 21:02
where no club lunch. It was a social thing. It was something to do on a Sunday.

Carlton Reid 21:07
Because this in this 1961 you’re basically this is when Cycling is absolutely dying. Cycling is you know, like Dutch levels of cycling in 1949 by 1969 1970 you’ve got the 2% 1% we’ve got now so it was dying a death so you

Peter Harrison 21:29
No, no, I disagree. It wasn’t dying a death in fact.

Club a very vibrant because it was something for kids to do on it on a Sunday and for all the people that do on a Sunday, because it was it was very little the cycling done on the Sunday. It was always on a Sunday in your Sunday club. Right. And, I mean, we used to be out all day on a Sunday at the age of 15. And I was doing sort of hundred and 20 miles every every Sunday with a club

Carlton Reid 21:56
and how many how many people are going out and he runs how many is in the club right?

Peter Harrison 22:00
Those days there was about about 30 or 40 in the club from as far back as any member. And yes, it was a Racing Club. That’s why it was called the Gosforth Road club. It was actually a spinoff from the Ridley cycling club. Because clubs zoning, and races were only allowed to put teams of four in any one race. And the young lads in there really couldn’t get a risk. So the form the Gosforth Road club, and it

I took his colours actually, which I’m wearing today.

Carlton Reid 22:32
Very white and green, green.

Unknown Speaker 22:35
And it took it those colours from Gosforth urban district council, and the badges actually got urban district council as well. The club badge. So we started on code runs. And there was a there was a few other clubs at the time. There were pretty vibrant around the time the Gosforth was formed or just after, for example, the Barnesbury CC See, the bonds we see see was named after. That was the street that used to meet and in Byker, Barnesbury road, and that’s how the Barnesbury really got its name. The Tyne Electric, who were electricians at Swan Hunters, and that was how that clip gotta stay. We had the Tyne Olympic, then some clubs would try and use continental name. So we have things like the Tyne Velo. There’s a myriad of clubs at the time. Some of them pretty big, but it was all about long social rides in the winter, and then racing in the summer so I started the race as a school boy at the age of 14.

Carlton Reid 23:53
So this is when you’re learning the roads of Northumberland basically, you’ve been taken out into the

Peter Harrison 23:58
wild Yeah, we used to have a guy in the club then Spud Tate and sport would have a map, but he’s back pocket. And we would go where we’re writing and get us to, to remember pubs around where we’re writing it. And you learn all these roads. There was no, obviously no satnavs, no Garmins. I don’t know I still don’t use Strava. And there was nothing like that. On you just you got on and you went down roads. I wonder where this goes. All right, this comes here. And it got ingrained in every single road and no fumbling. No just not familiar but Durham as well.

Carlton Reid 24:41
And you knew exactly

Peter Harrison 24:44
where to go, how long it would take the distances between every every road, every village of

Carlton Reid 24:53
DO you know Peter just noticed that that looks quite new. There’s like a green cycle strip on this major roundabout at the airport. And potentially that’s today with the you got here on the Cyclone?

Peter Harrison 25:05
Well, yes, you do without that British trip accesible is farcical the thing of

Carlton Reid 25:10
it is this is ridiculous. I’ve never seen it before. And it’s crazy, but still it stays there. So that’s that. Yeah, yeah.

Peter Harrison 25:16
Yeah. I mean, I, along with one of the other members of the Gosforth Road road I rode the Tour of Ireland when when I just turned 20 in 1967.

And continue to race through university

and continue your,

Carlton Reid 25:35
what were you doing in university Peter, subjects subject?

Peter Harrison 25:39
Well, actually originally turned to be a teacher. After being a teacher for a few years, I went back to uni again. And by then there was a degree in, in education so I did a Bachelor of Education. The club itself went through a period by by the early. Yeah, the very early 70s. The teenagers who have been in the club together and had all decided to, for various reasons, give it up and or others went to join other clubs. And some of the older ones just popped in. And at one point, I was the only member of the Gosforth Road Club for a number of years and kept it going.

Carlton Reid 26:32
Truck behind (Yeah, yeah.)

On that cut, either. David. David, take it away.

David Bernstein 26:40
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. You all know what I’m talking about. It’s Jenson USA at spokesmen. I’ve been telling you for years now years, that Jensen 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 who ride their bikes to and from work. 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. JensonUSA, 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. All right, Carlton, let’s get back to the show.

Carlton Reid 28:06
So now come through Ponteland and we are away from the road on the road that we just left the face of the road that’s gonna go up to Scotland. So this road here, Will inferi be slightly less busy, should have slightly irate motorists as we get past the little town of pontoon. So Peter, you were telling us about your teaching career before we came through content and then we had stopped talking? So we’re here to turn your teaching career then? Is it so Newcastle?

Peter Harrison 28:37
Well, I started I started my teaching career teaching in northwest Alberta teaching Indians, Blackfoot Indians neski mosun you name it. Now burden

Carlton Reid 28:49
that while you add that you like you emigrated or

Peter Harrison 28:52
and I technically I immigrated as a London Canadian immigrant, but I was only out there for just over a year because I couldn’t ride the bike during the winter. I was still a member of the gossip. And but I yeah, you said my mother used to send out my cycling weekly every week in the post they used to get every two weeks later. And yeah, so I taught there for just over a year. And then I came back. It went over the east to Canada to meet my brother but he decided to go to Australia. They have a long story there. But then then I went from there. And and then in the UK, I taught at various schools, Newcastle. I mean I was head of head of biology at World world will not least. And then in 77, my brother had come back from Australia and decided to change his direction. And we are the restaurant and some health food shops. And you can So we’re way ahead of that time at the time in what we did. Country Fayre, people still remember how to create these little Empire. shops around Newcastle girl says Jasmine, big restaurant sending your castle. And then we sold out. And brother went off to he went off to America at that point. I put money into buying M. Steel Cycles, because that’s what I learned in my lot of my craft, about working on bikes when I was a kid. Because I work for Geoff Dobson at M. Steels when I was a young teenager.

Carlton Reid 30:42
So this bike shop no longer exists to explain. Now that file did a few years ago, when I had been going since the 1890s. A very, very old shop.

Peter Harrison 30:52
Well, yeah, originally it was it was it was the M steel. It was a guy called Matthew steel. Who was attract right the turn of the century and a guy called geoff Dobson. Geoff bought it and the it would have been a very well the late 50s actually asked me give up the RAF and I started work there as a kid on a Sunday when I was about 15 because that’s what we used to go to get our cycling stuff


Unknown Speaker 31:30
and and move various places but yeah, it’s no longer there. But I came out from

Peter Harrison 31:42
the restaurant and health food shops.


Unknown Speaker 31:54
And then I am a full money buying M Steel’s because Geoff wanted and I wanted to business with Dave Yates and Joe Waugh, and we’ll set up a factory building frames and and have the retail side not on the retail side. And then in 86 and I was headhunted by Erol Drew of Madison to go on, really set up the Shimano side of it in the UK.

Carlton Reid 32:22
So he was Freewheel. He was the guy who started Freeheel he then left eventually for america and i believe he’s still in the industry. He’s at Delta Corporation.

Peter Harrison 32:32
That’s right. He’s got Delta Corporation.

Started off him and Brian Stewart started off with a secondhand bike shop. And in West Ham said, no free will. It was three wheel Yeah, yeah. And then he, the booth could come from LSE, London School of Economics. And a little Brian was an accountant. Actually Did all the design work? So when they had the freewheel shop, they started a small catalogue of stuff to sell, not online, but to sell through the catalogue. And they started to import stuff from the UK. So from the US

Carlton Reid 33:19
kind of stuff.

Peter Harrison 33:20
Yeah, yeah. And they started doing a lot of their own branding. They would rebrand stuff. very innovative in the way that they did that Aztec. Yeah, Aztec. Yeah, yeah. Red S. Yes, NuTrak. Lots of lots of stuff like that. And once they got free, we’re going to their new wholesale side of the business. And an 86 middlemore’s had been the same auto import as for the UK, but we’re doing that didn’t have the code to do it. Very well an adult persuaded Shimano that he could do a better job. And this is still

Carlton Reid 34:05
when SunTour and Shimano I would probably equal a

Peter Harrison 34:10
notion to be bigger than Shimano in the UK. Yeah, for bigger I mean some job provided all rally with all our bikes with them when I’m SunTour. And Ron Kitching was the the important and he was a very astute operator was wrong then and then.

So they took

so so when

when the on the wholesale side of it, they decided to call it Madison after Madison Square Garden spent the first six years in part and I went to work for them in 86. And when I was there 20 years we’re a pretty small company. There was this relatively turn over about a million pounds a year. I turn my left it was like 6070 million a year.

Carlton Reid 35:02
So you were Shimanoman for a while. Yeah. Literally your your your job title, but you were like branded as a Shimanoman.

Peter Harrison 35:13

very much so.

Carlton Reid 35:16
And what was that, what was Shimanoman?

Peter Harrison 35:18
Yeah, well, I was in charge of all the technical side, ranging the products and doing trade shows. I mean a jack of all trades at the time working on event, of course, that sort of morphed into working on major major events, and liaising directly with Shimano Europe.

Carlton Reid 35:41
But this time, Shimano is rapidly accelerating past SunTour. SunTout becoming very small. And so Madison stroke free will, is basically riding that wave. I mean, this is a global phenomenon that’s happened and they’re right about it. They’ve got the right brand at the right time. Yeah, you have Sean as you know now you’ve got some honour you’re there you’re the leading distributor because everybody tonight

Peter Harrison 36:07
yeah I mean Raleuigh still had some and Terry Bowles my old boss suddenly now dead Terry and I I took because I knew everybody in the industry or a lot of people in the industry and from retail one thing or another and I took Terry to meet rally and various other people and you know gradually got stronger and stronger hold on Shimano in the UK because first the agreement Shimano had with and with Madison Riley was at rally would handle all the low end stuff. And Madison would only have the middle and high end stuff. But we gradually wean him away from that and of course, having been associated We’re bikes all the time. And interested in the technical side. I wanted us to be not just distributors of the product, but provide that technical backup. And that was why and we’re, well, I sort of with it. The leading person for one of a better word on this. This is how we actually set up a Shimano server send this to me to make dealers have that technical knowledge and expertise. So set up the Shimano service centres, and roll that out through the UK to company dealers, who had already been going to see and somebody who I knew from a racing days and everything else, and then we took a term and of course that’s now being rolled out around Europe. And further.

Carlton Reid 37:55
And then you left Madison. Yeah. Where’d you go from

Peter Harrison 37:59
that? Well, was it What happened was, I was doing technical training because actually, myself and a couple other people in the UK and created the site tech qualification for cycle mechanics. I use my expertise as an ex teacher.

Carlton Reid 38:15
Outside of it sounds Albert shopsmith. Yes. From the association socrata is one of them.

Peter Harrison 38:21
Yeah. I was doing the technical training side of it. And and when it became an envy Q, and Terry, Terry both decided that I should do part of the work for Madison and part art and thought with the Aylesbury Training group, as a trainer and assessor, and I sort of had to live with it. I wouldn’t say I was particularly happy about it, but I had to live with it. So did that for a few years. And then try Charlie around the UK trying to train certain mechanics Who wouldn’t? Interested in businesses they weren’t particularly interested they just won the qualification and got over actively doing not about

12 years ago now.

And Cyclelogical the cycle shop, came up for grabs a number of reasons. And so I just have bought that. But by this time, of course I was

I was over 60

and then

59, 60

and have the business running under my running into management began with wasn’t helping you it was going control back on there. And then of course, in 2011, by which time I’d already created the cyclone been going for four years. So I was very much involved with that. And then it caused a major crash.

Carlton Reid 40:06
Yeah, tell us about that. Because that was abroad on a .

dealer trip

Peter Harrison 40:13
was actually Yes, I was on a

trip to the Orbea factory, cuz you’re distributing Orbea. And

we’re on a big descent we’re on bikes in the factory. Now whether it was because I wasn’t particularly used to that bike. And just outside Bilbao in the, in the Basque Country, and I am I always be known as a very fast descent. No one was a racing cyclist, very fast. In fact, an ex World Champion said it was a bloody maniac. And he didn’t quite use those words. He said it was very fast. And the break I was on and we don’t know why. And nobody knows why to this day. It happens bike went into a Speedway when I was doing 60 miles an hour. Consequently I came off and ended up in intensive care and Bilbo.

Carlton Reid 41:11
You had a lot of broken bones 30 broken bones. So you’re in hospital across there and then you were medivacced out?,

Peter Harrison 41:21
no, I was it. I was in intensive care and buildbot I was flown back to the UK. I was in the RVI for several months. I mean, I had obstruction vertebrae in my neck, shattered my collarbone. 21 breaks my ribs and broke my pelvis in two places. So I did a pretty good job of it.

Carlton Reid 41:45
And without wishing to say too much, but at that age, they’re pretty major injuries at that age. So looking on the bright side, the fact that you’re a dead fit cyclist probably helped you anyway. Yeah, recovery.

Peter Harrison 41:58
Yeah, it’s Certainly dead. And, and I’ve also had this

I suppose I will do things

and get back from injuries. I mean when I played rugby I was used to injuries as a racing cyclist and I did racer 20 we’re on the road racer 23 years. So quite used to injuries. Yeah. And then I raced as a as a veteran when mountain bike first came in. And in the days of rigid forks, and we read mountain bike race is no days, what about three hours long and will reject folks and I raised a national level four years ago as a veteran, but then from that I had to trade as much as when I’ve been training as a youngster for the road when I wrote race the track as well. Road trucks across.

Carlton Reid 43:02
So you’re dead fit, you still go out on the rides with the Gosforth every every weekend. Your fitness probably helped you with the crash even though the crash was caused by cycling right. But I can’t have been very good for your business and not to give it up in the hospital

Peter Harrison 43:17
for a while for about four years. I couldn’t do anything in the business. In fact, I couldn’t get rid of it because I wasn’t there. And I’d have stuff in it haemorrhaging money for a number of years. We’re going through a pretty lean patch.

Carlton Reid 43:35
Now and this has been a pretty lean pack pizza, it’s it’s been a rough four years, everybody

Peter Harrison 43:41
very rough. And then an actual fight is one of the reasons of course, as you know, some why some have gone down and some of the bigger change. I mean, I used to carry 100 bikes in stock. I think I’ve got four in stock now. I get them in to order.

The one thing that of course it

Unknown Speaker 44:04
costs industry such as online kind of do is to kind of prepare you

Peter Harrison 44:10
for the main stage Oh yeah.

And we’re talking about quite technical stuff.

I mean, just recently did a course on

and the Shimano steps e bikes and do bike fitting

di to diagnostics and all of this stuff. Still, I still get people in the industry, particularly on some of the older stuff. Follow me up and asking me how about this how do you do this comfortable?

Carlton Reid 44:44
Well as the first thing he asked me this morning when you when you turned up and you sold me on this by examiner Specialized Diverge that Specialiaedvery kindly sent me and the first thing you asked me it wasn’t like hi can’t hide. It was like so what Alright, so he’s asking us technical questions about a particular hydrolyze exam go on here and it goes I’m an absolute Luddite when it comes to learning by x i don’t mean by as I get into a bike show I make you I make bikers money Peter on the idea of customer well yeah yeah yeah

Peter Harrison 45:21
i mean

you know my workshops are some of the well both at home and at work some of the best equipment around and I’m always getting I’ll go for the latest tools and we should have got the best

Carlton Reid 45:38
says that the saving grace for the bike industry in that you’ve got to have the specialist tools because a lot of stuff you can’t do at home. No, no, you can’t have Yeah, absolutely going to invest in tonnes of stuff and then then, you know, the latest bottom bracket standard comes out your stuff does a home consumer doing these things, whereas like John’s gotta invest in everything.

Peter Harrison 45:57
Well, they give you some idea my tools – and this is apart from things like the cabinets and the benches and the compressor, stuff like this – I’ve got about 25,000 quids worth of tools in the shop. I mean, some of the tools are over 1000 quid

Carlton Reid 46:14
for 1000 quid was a tool that’s 1000 quid,

Peter Harrison 46:17
and some of the bottom bracket tops. Thompson faces. Yeah, so I mean, the tooling is an integral part of it and, and of course the knowledge how to use it. It’s no good having, you know, and what always makes me laugh is I get people coming in the shop. pretty regular basis. Oh, I’ve done this and it didn’t work. But instead, this is how you do it on YouTube. And I go I right fine. YouTube’s one of my greatest allies because people are always going to destroy things watching amateurs shown what I do different jobs on YouTube, then I mean, there are some good YouTube’s on some people like showing you how to actually use the tools that a lot of people won’t want to buy those tools, as I said, because they’re very expensive. And, and then, of course, the latest technology and me, I’m just your bike there, I know you’ve got internal cable routing for your hydraulic brakes. Now, Joe public, knowing how to first of all, read, put a new hose it never gets damaged. First of all, they’ve got to have the tools to really feed the horses through nowhere to go and how to do it, then they’ve got to have the tools to actually reflect the the colours and the persons, etc. and how to bleed the brakes. And the reason I was asking about those mixes smoting was because the brakes that you’ve got on there, you should be what they call the closed system using dot for fluid, which I believe this still are. Shimano is an open system using mineral oil. And there’s a whole load of health implications, particularly with adult fluids using them and because they are highly corrosive, that’s what you’ve got gotten car braking systems, open systems are easier to work with. And Shimano has got patents on a lot of that stuff. So other manufacturers have developed their own systems, as I say, some core systems. I mean, the old avid ones absolutely horrendous to work on doing a reverse bleed with to two sets of

injections systems, just

absolutely different syringes. Sure, there’s a lot to know that what you do.

Carlton Reid 49:05
So the more tech that bikes get it’s harder for consumers. But better for bike shops.

Peter Harrison 49:13
Yeah. And this is a way that the independents have gotten it are the ones who in this savvy,

Carlton Reid 49:20
but does that not also make it that consumers go “oh, sod that” too difficult now? Or do you think it’s like cars? Well, people just do not know how to do a car. They’re quite happy putting it into a garage that’s the way it’s got to go?

Peter Harrison 49:33
Well, yeah, I mean, if you if you bought it, you know, let’s face it, a two or 3000 pound bike, which isn’t uncommon now. And something goes wrong. You don’t go Oh, just took it away. It was a 200. Goodbye. Yes. Not 2000 quid bike, and about like your car. You don’t go. I’m not using it because I don’t know what to do.

And I kind of fix it. You got it fixed.

Of course, a lot of people think that having a bike repaired should be cheap. Whereas, you know, they’ll pay 50 quid for someone just to come out and look at your washing machine. Nevermind do anything to it.

Carlton Reid 50:20
But people pay cars they don’t seem to mind the expertise that like car mechanics are supposed to have. And yet they look down their noses some people do at bicycle mechanics as well you can’t be as as proficient so I shouldn’t be spending 50 quid an hour for this. So you’re going to have that for a long time or don’t change.

Peter Harrison 50:42
That’s it’s an interesting comment that that was a vision because comic comics know for the most part. Yes, you call them mechanics, but a lot of them I just mean is guys, the replace the whole unit whereas with bikes Because of the mix and match, as the school there, were there the kids are gone from. And when it’s mix and match, then the body mechanic has gotten a workout. Whether it’s compatible, if it does work, if it doesn’t work, why all of these problems he’s going to solve. car mechanics don’t do that. If the computer says no, in a car guy in a garbage, then the mechanic goes, don’t know what to do. Whereas a bike shop, you kind of plug in, but you can’t be a DI to diagnostics. You’re kind of plugging your bike to find out that your hangar is bent into Mills, or a chain that you’ve got 10 to chin, because you’ve been clever for you being clever and potentially Chin on a nice v system and wonder why it doesn’t work. More often than not, I’ve only had this chain on three years. Yes. I’ve only had this chain on three years. Why are the gear jumping? Surely change should last forever. What did you said your car? Somebody in a garbage? If they say yeah come belt needs changing it so many miles. You go okay fine. It has to be done.

Yeah, no bike mechanics are undervalued.

Carlton Reid 52:43
Thanks to Peter Harrison. You can get more information on the cycling festival of cycling at The 2020 event takes place over a weekend at the very end of June. Thanks to you listening to today’s show. There are 236 others in our gargantuan back catalogue. Subscribe in your favourite podcast catcher to get future shows. Meanwhile, get out there and ride.

February 6, 2020 / / Blog

The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast

EPISODE 236: San Francisco To Wymondham

Thursday 6th February 2020


HOST: Carlton Reid

GUESTS: Geeti Silwal of Perkins Will, one of the prime movers behind getting cars off Market Street in San Francisco; “Dr. X” — the cyclist who was swerved into by a Norfolk motorist for not using a duff cycle path, a road rage incident captured by a following motorist’s dash cam.


Carlton Reid 0:14
Welcome to episode 236 of the Spokesmen Cycling Podcast. This show was recorded on Thursday February 6 2020.

Carlton Reid 0:14
Welcome to episode 236 of the Spokesmen Cycling Podcast. This show was recorded on Thursday February 6 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 the 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 1:09
Hi there. I’m Carlton Reid and on today’s show, I’ve got interviews with an India born American urban designer and a Norfolk hospital doctor. The connection? My recent articles on

The anonymous Dr. X is the cyclist involved in a shocking road rage incident captured by a following motorist’s dashcam.

But first row the interview with Geeti Silwal of Perkins Will. She was one of the prime movers behind getting cars off Market Street in San Francisco.

This initiative is just over a week old and boosted bicycling from the very first day.

First of all, congratulations on on

getting Market Street. I’d like to say I wouldn’t. I’m not going to say closed. Because it’s not closed. It’s only just closed to motor vehicles. It’s not actually as many people say the road is closed, is it? Right?

Geeti Silwal 2:14
That’s right. And it’s not closed to motor vehicles, too, it’s just closed to private cars. So you have, you have the transit and you have commercial vehicles, you have emergency vehicles, and you have taxis still plying. So there are vehicles it’s not all it’s not all vacated for people as yet.

Carlton Reid 2:40
Was there much doom and gloom from media beforehand of saying well, this will cripple the city? Let’s see what happens you know tomorrow and then everybody’s surprised? What’s what’s been the media response before and after?

Geeti Silwal 2:54
Well, the media definitely I think it’s there’s a lot of excitement and there’s a lot of buzz

about really we are reclaiming our streets and we have an opportunity to kind of experience our city in a completely different fashion. To be honest, I personally think that it might not have changed the experience of pedestrians because we have stolen our sidewalks and there are still vehicles kind of moving in the on the lanes. But if you were to walk Market Street today compared to what it was even last week, it just is a huge change because the number of vehicles in the lanes are so few. And fortunately for people like me who love to jaywalk, I could just cross even when there was a red light and not feel that I was going to be hit by a vehicle but just felt so peaceful, so comfortable and just a completely different place. And I think what I’ve noticed is people are actually talking about it on the streets likeif you want to eavesdrop on pedestrians then

And people that are just crossing the street . Everybody’s talking about, ‘oh, I took transit. And you know, this was so fast, it’s so much better.’ So there’s a positive kind of vibe and a response from media and people in general.

Carlton Reid 4:01
And then on social media, I saw lots of photographs

of the day it actually happened with lots and lots of cyclists. So has that carried on as the cyclists have have carried on coming along the street?

Geeti Silwal 4:33
I think we’ll we’ll definitely Market Street has always been a very popular street for bicyclists. So during commute time you do see a lot of people, a lot of bicyclists. I think people will start getting used to the fact that ‘Oh, this is so much more safer’ than trying to kind of avoid Market Street and find other routes to get around. And I think in coming days, we’ll probably see the

bicyclists mass grow in number that Market Street has always been popular so and during commute hours. there’s always heavy

bicycle traffic.

Carlton Reid 5:12
And I better just ask because Market Street is not like some minor side road Market Street is like a spine road through the centre of downtown San Francisco, isn’t it?

Geeti Silwal 5:25
That’s right. That’s right. It is our It is our it is the identity of this of the city and it is the main spine and it had a lot of challenges primarily because there was just so many demands on that street. It needed to serve as a commercial corridor with a whole lot of retail and different segments. It was the main street for financial financial districts, of course, so a lot of vehicles and

and the number of transit routes that actually touch Market Street is phenomenally large.

I can get back to you on the number I don’t have it on the top of my head. But if you consider the entire corridor both at grade and below grade because the BART tunnel runs,

runs along Market Street underground and the Muni, there are a lot of transit routes that run along this corridor. So they’re a lot of people getting in and out of the subway, in the BART and on Market Street itself. So it is there’s definitely a lot of demand on Market Street.

Carlton Reid 6:33
So you’ve been working well, how long have you working for Perkins and Will?

get 6:37
I have been working for Perkins and Will for over 18 years now.

Carlton Reid 6:42
So you’ve been involved with this from the start, because it was like 10 years ago when Perkins and Will got the contract to make changes?

Geeti Silwal 6:50
That’s right. So Carlton, let’s let me just make it a little clear here in terms of our involvement, Perkins and Will was definitely the lead urban design.

consultant that had brought a team of designers and engineers and landscape architects and refining experts together to kind of compete for the Better Market Street project back in 2011, 2010, 2011. And that was that basically did

start the whole item, the whole project was with the premise that Market Street has to get redone because the utilities on the ground are need to be replaced. They are they have lived their life. So why don’t we take this opportunity to kind of rethink the image and the experience of Market Street. So that’s how it really got started. And the city’s agency, they’re different departments of Public Works, the planning department and the transportation department all kind of came together, and collaborated to kind of really rethink all of these different facets of Market Street. What does it

What does the utility want to be? And how can we make it such that it takes advantage of both the grey infrastructure and the green infrastructure? What do what does it mean for transit efficiency on the streets? And how do we improve that? And from an urban design planning perspective, really, it was about what is the look, feel experience and character of the street. So the city kind of brought together a team that could address all of these aspects. And when we were engaged, we were looking at we will not chargeed to come up with one solution, we were asked to really explore the possibilities. So few years of work actually led to

proposing three potential paths for Market Street. And my engagement, to be honest, was not from the very beginning. There was a large team and you know how over three years of full life project people come and go, I was kind of engaged

on the on the latter half of the project.

And I was project managing it at Perkins and Will, along with Gehl architects out of Copenhagen and CMG Landscape Architecture here locally. We were the key design players helping really think about the possibilities and come up with the options of ‘what if we were to prioritise transit on Market Street?’ and ‘what if there was a dedicated bike lane that basically was sharing some kerbs, some kerb to kerb space with transit and vehicles versus bicyclists be sharing space with pedestrians versus cars being limited on Market Street’ — there were very many options we explored. So sorry, this was a long answer. But the whole idea was that we explored a number of options and we came up with three alternatives which then the city agency departments, kind of

chewed on edge and took out another RFP (request for proposal) primarily to look quite look at multiple permutation combinations of these three alternatives and engaged in environmental planning teams that was a large consultant team. We were not involved in that. But that was a second phase to really look at all the fatal flaws and kind of really look at all the trade-offs. So that’s the more recent Better Market Street work that you’ll probably see the website but it really started with urban design explorations back in 2011, when we led the team.

Carlton Reid 10:35
So the people that can really put a kibosh on these kind of projects are retailers because they often underestimate how many people arrive by by transit, by foot, by bike and overestimate how many people arrive by car, very possibly because they arrived in the morning by car. So was any kickback from retailers or perhaps have retailers been

wanting this?

Geeti Silwal 11:02
Right. You know where the Market Street project really concerned itself from building phase to building space and really phase two building phase and we weren’t really talking so much about the ground floor users. But it was it was a known fact that on Market Street there are segments of Market Street where the retail is really not thriving the Civic Center area, the Mid Market area is kind of

not the most active area and we this was actually an opportunity to really look at the experience of the Market Street. So I would say the project did not necessarily concern itself too much with the ground floor retail use but our hope was that the whatever changes we propose what actually work well and these and work in synergy

with the ground floor use to for the regular use retail users or whatever active users you have on the ground floors, they could find a chance to spill out onto them on Market Street and, you know, right now for before last Wednesday Market Street was never a street where you would just sit and linger and enjoy just passerby or watch people and just hang out because it has a lot of traffic and a lot and a lot of movement that

now with the changes of course people will definitely look at an opportunity to kind of really linger, socialise on Market Street. So the hope is that it’ll actually help the active users on the ground floor. And you know, Market Street did not ever have parking so retailers like to have on street parking, because they say that helps them with people

as they are kind of travellers thing, or commuting on Market Street and they want to kind of stop by and call into an on street parking and hop off and run their errand that Market Street never had a parking lane. So that aspect wasn’t there at all to start with so

not a whole lot of conversation around retail pushback as much because I

hope as I did this is actually going to improve the situation for where it is right now.

Carlton Reid 13:32
Yeah, interesting, like a redevelopment. So years ago for Island press of Washington, DC I wrote a book called Roads Were Not Built for Cars. So this particular sentence in your blog, then jumped out to me because I’ll read it back to you said ‘Streets were never meant to be just streams of vehicles. But unfortunately, somewhere down the line streets became synonymous with cars.’ And of course everybody thinks you know that roads were


brought out of the ether purely for motorcars. But of course, as you know, and as I know, because I’ve written a whole book about it, that’s absolutely not the case.

Geeti Silwal 14:12
Absolutely, I have to read your book. I am definitely interested in

reading it. But you’re right. I think, Carlton, you bring up a good point. You know, as urban designers, and urban planners, we have these metrics about streets ingrained in our head about travel lanes need to be 10 feet to 13 feet, parking lanes need to be eight feet wide. And this is the space we need for trees and a five feet wide tree well will actually provide for a healthy, mature trees. What we don’t have in our head is the space and the metrics for human beings. What are the humanist humanistic metrics that we need to keep in mind as we design streets?

For some reason, that’s not given any importance or not given any weighting and we need to kind of rethink that we need to understand what does it take for a large group together, what does it take for a vendor to sell their wares and also have enough space for true pedestrian traffic or movement on the streets and space for somebody to enjoy and watch passers by, just sit and enjoy passers by so

it would be great if we really start qualifying these dimensions and start

making streets about people and and not to kind of I’m not a strong advocate of saying no vehicles at all; vehicles are important. I just feel strongly that these our streets need more democratic spaces and they need to be about

all modes, all ages, all ability, and we need to start designing that way.

Carlton Reid 16:07
Mmm. So this is a manual problem in that the design manual say these things and that’s if you can’t break out of that. So is this something you can break out of this if you want to? You’re working within the current design manuals. How do you get round the manual problem?

Geeti Silwal 16:28
You’re right, you’re right? I think this is codified and street manual design manuals and requirements of bureau of engineering and public works, or everybody seems to have their ask of the space that as urban designers, we haven’t been assertive enough to put our manuals in our kind of ask of the space as strongly so that’s what gets compromised. You get the travel lanes and you get all the flow of traffic.

And you get the you have the space for the utilities. We need to strongly kind of really have advocate for and champion and together some of clear metrics about people and human beings and what is an enjoyable space and where, what space feels constrained, I mean, there are streets around here.

And not necessarily San Francisco, but in general there were, there are four feet sidewalks, that’s just inhuman.

So you’re right, I think there’s definitely a need to, erm.

And there are guidelines, there are guidelines that organisations like NACTO have put together and have come to come up with really good and clear street-design manuals for different varieties of streets. But we need to kind of embed that in our thinking and

Pick that up and practice that more more


Carlton Reid 18:07
And then you also need politicians to go out on a limb here. So, you said that the Better Market Street project, you know, was was set in train, for want of a better expression, 10 years ago

But the very fact that set in train is important, and you can only set these things in train by political positions by by municipal leaders actually wanting to change their streets.

Geeti Silwal 18:34
Absolutely. Political leadership and political will is is very important here and we definitely had a champions on this project right from

head of city planning, John brown, when when he he was leading this project to

I can come back to you with names that not on the top of my head right now, but the head of

EMTA and public works. They were all coming together and they themselves were at …

… were hoping or one kind of having a lot of debate and discussion to make sure that each of the demands, from a utility perspective, from transportation perspective, and from a design perspective, were being kind of met and there were trade offs and conversations around that. But you’re right. I think it needs to be.

It needs, the train needs to be set off, needs to kind of be initiated by a whole lot of political kind of

insight on a political kind of leadership and stewardship and

Carlton Reid 19:41
Including, and especially the mayor?

Geeti Silwal 19:46
Yes, absolutely. Yeah. And there have been very many mayors that have engaged been engaged in this projects in the last decade. And absolutely that it has to come from the mayor but

I would say a lot of responsibility is shouldered by the city agencies and they’ve done a tremendous job in kind of really staying on top of it and making sure that where there was a pushback either from community organisations or if there were either political leaders that were not aligned, they kind of continued to build support around it and and move it forward.

Carlton Reid 20:26
Now I do seem to be doing stories on a rather frequent and rather pleasing frequent basis about you know, the next city to to close streets to motor vehicles so there is there’s absolutely a zeitgeist here isn’t there? There’s something in the water right now that this is happening around the world.

This is not a San Francisco thing, not a New York thing, not a Copenhagen thing. It’s just everywhere, almost.

Geeti Silwal 20:52

And this is not something that is

pioneering or trailblazing in

any way, I think it’s just a little bit of thinking out of the box. It’s existed in Europe for for ever. Streets that are prioritised for pedestrians and bicyclists in an approach and giving them a priority. There are examples outside Europe. I’m and I come from India and the city I grew up in, is Shimla. Which used to be the summer capital of the British Raj and what you all actually did put in place back in Shimla is still is still in place and the main streets in the mall and lower mall area are all pedestrian and closed to traffic. And

those are such enjoyable spaces. So we don’t necessarily need to be kind of really pushing ourselves to think differently. There are really living, beautiful examples all over. It’s just that we need to kind of open our eyes to it and really see the manyfold

benefits of streets that are less about metal boxes on four wheels and more about people and social connectedness and, and finding ways for urban forests that invites the birds and the bugs and the pollinators and really

about making it a place that is connected.

Carlton Reid 22:29
So if you had a blank sheet of paper or if say let’s say you were made mayor tomorrow, and you have a guaranteed a guaranteed 20 year term in which to transform the city, you the absolute dictator of the city and you can do what you want. What What would you do now?

Geeti Silwal 22:49
Great question. Yes, absolutely. You know, I strongly believe in streets

actually being places that create or

leave people with the image of the city they are experiencing. So they are they are the ones that provide the identity of the street. Go to Barcelona or go to whichever city even in Europe or anywhere else, as a visitor your image of the city is your experience on the streets. So streets are occupy about 25% to 30% of the city area. So

finding ways to kind of really figure out how, what is that connective network that needs to prioritise transit and needs to prioritise pedestrians in people is something that all cities should kind of think about. What is that network? It doesn’t mean all streets need to be about really moving away from private vehicles. But what is that what are those corridors or what is that really rich robust network of streets that is that focuses primarily on

transit and focus focuses primarily for making it more walkable for pedestrians and finding ways to put energy and put time and money and invest in those because

beyond parks, streets are the streets ore the public spaces where

city life unfolds itself. So how do we make this a more enjoyable and more pleasant and more comfortable for more people

is something all mayors should focus on irrespective of the length of their term because you’re able to impact positively impact more lives by just making streets more places that instil a sense of pride and dignity in all users, residents and visitors.

Carlton Reid 24:53
I couldn’t agree more but there is this this the tech bros want autonomous vehicles, want driverless cars

in cars in cities, but it does seem that,

going back to like a European ideal, seems to be what’s actually going to get there long before autonomous cars are allowed to drive in cities, you’re going to have civilised, people-friendly cities first, would you agree? Or do you think the driverless cars will will, in effect do what early motor cars did to cities which is rip out their heart?

Geeti Silwal 25:27
Right. You know, I strongly believe that a problem that involves cars cannot necessarily be solved by cars. So yes, autonomous vehicles will be here pretty soon and we need to find ways to how to leverage the positive aspects of that, but

interventions or technology that enables us to experience our streets as pedestrians and bicyclists in a much more pleasant comfortable way

is something that needs to be priortised.

The app based ride hailing

ride hailing apps and and the autonomous vehicles and all of those all of that movement is still focusing on motor vehicles, I feel and yes, there are e-bikes and e-scooters that are providing people other more active modes of kind of getting to their last mile. But

my hope is that the tech world focuses more on active and low carbon kind of modes of intervention and

not have a focus more on on vehicles because the more you focus on one aspect, you get more of it. If you try to make it smoother for vehicles to move around, you’ll probably get you’ll still have a lot of motor vehicles in the street if you focus on other modes and try to prioritise your intervention and

technology on making it much more comfortable and, and safe for other amounts, you probably get more of it. So

we’ll see. We’ll see where this where it goes. But I do think that

problem or challenges that involve cars can’t necessarily be solved with cars no matter what the tech

Carlton Reid 27:25
Thanks to Geeti Silwal of Perkins Will, San Francisco. Before the second half of the show, and that interview with Dr. X. Here’s my co host, David with information on our show sponsor.

David Bernstein 27:39
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. You all know who I’m talking about? 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 who ride their bikes to and from work. 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 29:06
Thanks, David. And we’re back with Episode 236 of the Spokesmen cycling podcast. I often record interviews with people for my pieces on And then I put the audio on this show, but with my next guest, the recording came afterwards. For the second half of this podcast, I’m speaking with a guest who wishes to remain anonymous he got in touch after reading my Forbes piece headlined “Driving ban for motorist who steered into cyclist not using shared use cycle path.” This story came from a tweet put out there by Norfolk Police, which went a little viral on Twitter, probably because the shocking incident in question was captured on camera. Now, as I’m not naming names I shall call the cyclist Doctor X.

Because well you’re a doctor,


Doctor X 30:04
That Yeah, that’s right. Hello Carlton I am cycle for pleasure and for for exercise for sport for competitive sport. And I also when possible

use my bike to cycle to work and it was on one of my regular commutes to work where the unfortunate incident


Carlton Reid 30:33
So tell us about that unfortunate incident so we’ve I mean I’m gonna guess a lot of people have seen the video but let’s let’s have the radio walk through of that video what what happened?

Doctor X 30:45
So, essentially cycling to work and if I can paint the picture, I this is this is regular exercise for me and so I’m as you’ll see in the in the video

cycling at around 18, 19 miles an hour, and in a in a 30 mile an hour zone when a car pulls up alongside me,

single occupant, driver opens the passenger window and starts

shouting and sharing his displeasure that I was on the road when I should have been on the cycle lane

and that’s what it’s there for, you should use it. And,

and I just started to suggest to him actually that I had every right to be on the road.

And at which point he slowed down and then made a deliberate attempt to, er

I’m not sure whether he was trying to knock me off physically or whether it

was just trying to barge me off the road but he essentially aimed for me

whilst cycling along at a reasonable speed,

Carlton Reid 32:12
And you evaded him basically. So it was that evastion that saved you from harm.

Doctor X 32:19
Absolutely. And you’ll see from the clip that I had to take significant and quick, evasive action. I was quite fortunate It was a low kerb. And so that didn’t trip me over, I was able to go right to the edge of the road and, and avoided contact

aware that if I had contacted his car that I’m sure weighs several terms and a cyclist in Lycra was going to come off worse. And so it was just quick thinking, dived off to the left, and managed to avoid it. He clearly didn’t stop, and er

drove off up the road.

Carlton Reid 33:04
But there was a motorist videoing it on a dash cam.

Doctor X 33:07
well, and I didn’t I didn’t know at the time so I turned to

I don’t know, I suppose in such amazement that somebody had done this. And the gentleman in the car behind waved at me and then and then overtook and I thought,

nevermind, he saw it but there’s nothing that either of us can do about this and it’s only a mile further up the road. I find him stopped in the lay-by

and such is my opinion really of riding along that road. I thought ‘here I go again, we’re going to have yet another heated debate about shared cyclepaths’. But, no, he stopped me told me that he drove for a living

He’d got dash cams and was prepared to support me contacting the Norfolk Police, which I did, I’m very grateful to the Norfolk Police, they took a statement.

And used the dash cam video to secure a prosecution.

Carlton Reid 34:21
We’ll kind of get onto the prosecution in a minute in that that potentially wasn’t the best outcome

considering it was, you know, violence with a with a weapon but I’d like to know about that particular cycle path because it was formerly a pavement. It was formerly a sidewalk it was normally where only pedestrians would go and then the council changed it?

Doctor X 34:46
Absolutely so so

it’s a 30 mile an hour zone

and with houses either side and it it is a pavement.

The council

painted, put some top dressing on it, repainted it and all of a sudden overnight it has become

a cycle path lane, and in in the

general public’s eyes. Unfortunately it really isn’t fit for purpose and it stops and starts at every road junction you you have absolutely no priority.

And along this footpath at 7.30 in the morning when people are trying to cycle for exercise, cycling to to work.

There are pedestrians,

walking children to school, you have people walking dogs with extendable leads. You have people queuing at the bus stop and, worst of all, you have

cars coming out of their homes, out of their driveways that they cannot see across the footpath into the road. So you can imagine that trying to cycle along that bit of footpath at anything more than walking pace is unsafe, both for the cyclist, but also for the many pedestrians that use the footpath as a footpath.

So, sadly, it’s not used and as cyclists we use the road, much to the displeasure of a small group of motorists. Now

Carlton Reid 36:48
If that if that was miraculously made better, you had priority, there was protection, you would use that infrastructure. You’re not against using infrastructure.

I mean there are bits of this that route which are good.

Doctor X 37:05
So so a mile up the road, the cycle path

takes a 20 metre detour away from the edge of the road

and is wide, is is protected from vehicles. And all the cyclists use that use that bit of cycle path, because it’s safe, it’s fit for purpose. And it protects the cyclists and allows the traffic to flow on the road and allows the cyclists to cycle at their speed

safely, without detours, without

any concerns really.

Carlton Reid 37:53
So that aggression that you faced on that day

We can pretty much lay the blame of course at that

driver who shouldn’t be doing what he was doing, but also at the Council for doing a bit of a duff job?

Doctor X 38:08

Yes, it does feel as though

that bit of the cycle lane is very much an afterthought and very much aimed at, erm, I don’t know who because if all the cyclists

came off the road onto the cycle path, I am absolutely convinced that we would have complaints from those people trying to walk their children to school, from those people trying to stand waiting for the for the bus to work. Sadly though, the very presence of the cycle lane appears to have given

a small minority of motorists

almost a licence to either use verbal abuse or hooting of the horns; every day, somewhere along there, someone takes exception to a cyclist using the road, and it’s turned what used to be a very stress-relieving, enjoyable ride.

Often I get I find myself getting more wound up, not de-stressed.

Carlton Reid 39:33
What do you think about the fact that the driver got a 12 month driving ban, but not a conviction for assault using in effect a weapon?

Doctor X 39:45

I, I’m not a lawyer, and I haven’t. So I haven’t studied the law and I don’t

know the definition of a weapon. What I do know is that

If he’d

shot a gun out of the window and missed, or thrown a knife out of the window and missed

I’m pretty sure that he wouldn’t have been dealt with with a driving ban.


using a vehicle, as he did,

is an offence is in my layman’s terms using his car using his car as an offensive weapon.

Now, don’t get me wrong, and I’m very grateful that the Norfolk Police have taken some action

based on the dash cam footage. I’m very grateful to the member of the public who submitted that footage but i just i do

wonder if

we need some clarity on whether a vehicle is a weapon or not. And looking at that footage, it clearly does look like one.

Carlton Reid 41:14
Now on that particular stretch of cycle path, do you think the solution to stopping that kind of aggression from that motorist and others will be just to take away the the cycle markings there? Or do you think they could if they wanted to actually put some good infrastructure in there instead? What what what what would you like the council to do?

Doctor X 41:38

I as as

someone who cycles, a lot of miles, I’m reasonably confident sharing a road with other users.

But there are a whole spectrum of cyclists and

if I had

I wouldn’t I wouldn’t be comfortable with my young children cycling along that that path as it is cars, you know cars can come blind out of their driveways and disaster could strike. So

catering for the

majority of cyclists, I think, that we do need a cycle lane there; it is a potentially quite a busy road. It has been slowed with speed restrictions, but it is a busy road and it is a commute route from

Wymondham in towards Norwich past Hethersett. So it is a popular cycle route and so there is absolutely no reason why with some proper planning – yes, it will be more expensive –

but we should have proper cycle facilities from Hethersett all the way into Norwich. It’s been demonstrated that they can do it, there is a section that we’ve already alluded to that’s fantastic. The reason why that bit is

so good is because there’s a historic oak tree with all sorts of protection orders on that they couldn’t bypass any other way other than spending

a significant amount of money to produce a proper proper cycle path

Carlton Reid 43:39
Because the council did, I was looking at the press reports from a couple years ago, which which said that the council actually downgraded the plan. So there were there were better plans in place for this particular stretch, and they downgraded them.

Doctor X 43:55
Right And well, this

is a classic example of of what happens when you do that. And if you turn the camera

180 degrees from the view that you see of me, you’ll see that I’ve just cycled past a brand new housing estate that’s being built.

And so the, er

For starters they could have, there’s a lot of people they’re building. Could we have done something before? Once the housing estate is built, I can understand it becomes very much more difficult, but we are actively building in that area.

There’s no excuse for not building proper infrastructure.

And two, secondly, and there are going to be more houses, which means more people, and those people are going to be commuting into the main areas of work from Wymondham.

Carlton Reid 44:59
How far is it from Wymondham to Norwich even though I know that …

Doctor X 45:03
it’s a, it’s a perfect distance, it’s a 10 mile cycle ride.

Now, I understand many people may see that as quite a long way but with the e-bike technology and I am either pass or am passed

several times on my journey by people on e-bikes. So, that is the future we have to look at sustainable transport. But if we are unable to share the road

and you know, let’s face it, we are entitled to share the road. But if we are unable to share the road safely, either because of the perception of drivers or because of the physical size and congestion on the roads, then we have to have proper cycle infrastructure. What we can’t have is footpaths with with bicycles painted on the tarmac

Carlton Reid 46:00
Thanks to Dr. x – hjis story was picked up by the local press and I was invited to discuss the case on BBC Radio Norfolk with presenter Chris Goreham.

As you’ll hear, my opinions of the incident aren’t terribly dissimilar to Dr. X’s.

BBC Radio Norfolk 46:20
And now a driver in Norfolk has been banned for a year after deliberately swerving into a cyclist that police have tweeted footage of the incident which happened to be recorded on a dash cam by a following vehicle. It is quite a shocking incident. You can see a car on the Hethersett road between Wymondham and Norwich pull alongside the bike stay there for a little while, and then deliberately swerve into the rider, many have responded to a Twitter post with anger at the leniency of a driving ban and the £300 fine but some have decided that the bike not being on the cycle path which runs next to that road was more upsetting. Let’s talk to Carlton Reid who runs the website BikeBiz [nope!]

And writes on transport for the Forbes website. Thanks for coming on this morning, Carlton.

Carlton Reid 47:04
Good morning, Chris.

BBC Radio Norfolk 47:05
Good to talk to you. This this incident in particular very shocking, very extreme. But from from your your followers, the people that get in touch with you, how typical is this of what cyclists have to face on roads up and down the country?

Carlton Reid 47:21
Well, I guess 10 years ago, it would have been as common as it is now. But you wouldn’t have had the evidence. So nobody believed cyclists that this was happening. The prevalence now of dashcams, both by cyclists using them, and in this case, motorists using them is showing that cyclists were telling the truth all the time, and that they’re having these kinds of awful aggression shown to them for absolutely no, no, just cause so it’s, it’s it’s frighteningly common, unfortunately.

BBC Radio Norfolk 47:53
The issue seems to be that there was a cycle path next to the road that the cyclist quite within their rights.

decided not to use. So I suppose from a, I’ve had this situation recently as a driver and not a cyclist where I’ve been driving along, and I’ve seen a bike on the road when there is a cycle path. And it does make you go wonder why they’re not using the cycle path. But obviously you don’t then take take things into your own hands, because you know, you’re worried about hitting them as it is. So why would a cyclist not using a cycle path when there is one available?

Carlton Reid 48:23
Let’s let’s put a different way first of all — if there’s a parallel road next to a motorway, would you get really annoyed with a motorist who chose to use the parallel road and not the motorway? Of course you wouldn’t. It’s just the choice is there to use the road or to use the motorway. It is the same for the cyclist. There’s no rule to say that you must use that particular bit of infrastructure. This particular bit of infrastructure, as it happens, is poor. That’s why the cyclist wasn’t using it. So it’s called a shared-use path. So it’s not like a dedicated protected cycleway at all. It’s a it’s a

pavement and in fact a sidewalk is as I would say to my Forbes readers and the cyclist who was a fast road cyclist who’s very capable of doing 25 miles an hour, really shouldn’t be on a footpath in effect shared with pedestrians so that cyclist was absolutely correct to be where he was because if there’s pedestrians on that that that path do you really want to be on a footpath, which is a common complaint of why are cyclists on footpaths, well here the cyclist is not on the footpath

and has chosen to ride on the road. Also, because there are lots and lots of driveways coming out. There’s lots of side roads so that cyclist will be impeded the constant length of the Hethersett road if he didn’t go on the on the road, and motorists I’m sure would not want to be impeded every five metres so that’s why the cyclist was there.

BBC Radio Norfolk 49:58
I think it’s really interesting. So

point to this is that we have lots of cycle lanes being put in, in in Norfolk and they’ve been loads of roadworks in Norwich to put them in. But sometimes they’re not necessarily that well designed, are and they’re not actually fit for purpose?

Carlton Reid 50:13
Exactly. If If you design the infrastructure, if you design that the cycleway to be wide, protected with kerbs, for instance. And critically, if it goes past junctions and allows the cyclist to carry on in safety, then I guarantee cyclists will use them, of course they’ll use them. It’s when this infrastructure is poorly designed. That’s why people don’t, don’t use them. So in London, for instance, and I live in Newcastle, actually I used to live in in Norwich, but I now live in Newcastle, but in London when when you go down there and you see the incredibly well behaved cyclists now using the cycleways and they are flocking to the to the wide, protected kerb protected

cycleways and they’re no longer using the roads quite so much. Because they have got very, very good infrastructure. So cyclists will use the infrastructure if it’s good. This particular example in Wymondham is terrible. That’s why the cyclist is not using it. And the fact that the motorist has taken it into his or her own, I’m assuming to him that’s that’s that’s a big presumption and took it into into his own powers to somehow demand that a cyclist use this very shoddy bit of infrastructure and did not get a custodial sentence is amazing because if that motorist outside of his or her car, used a knife to do the exact same thing they’ve done, a car can be a weapon, then they would have had at least six months, perhaps a year in jail, and all they’ve got and I know people think this is an incredible sentence. It is not all that person got was 12 months driving ban, which is

I think to any reasonable person is a travesty of justice.

BBC Radio Norfolk 52:05
That’s the view you’ve had from I know from a lot of your followers on social media, isn’t it that actually when things like this do happen, cyclists are not protected enough and there are a lot of people who would like to have seen a more stringent sentence here.

Carlton Reid 52:19
Well, you’ve got to use the example of a car can be used as a weapon, they frequently are; you often hear people actually being killed deliberately by somebody driving into them,

in many incidents in around the country, so as a weapon, if you wield that weapon, deliberately try and harm somebody, in this particular example, perhaps the cyclist wasn’t actually hit. But just imagine that person was using the weapon of choice was a knife, that that I’m sure all of your listeners will be saying, well, that person should be in jail. If it was a car and then half your listeners may be saying that was that that was perfectly fine for that motorist to do that. They wouldn’t say

thst if that person was using a knife so that the analogy you’ve got to get your head round

BBC Radio Norfolk 53:05
Yeah, I don’t think we’ve got many people saying it’s perfectly fine for the drivers to do that but I take the point Carlton, thanks thanks for joining us I know this has prompted a lot of reaction and not switch join us on the line.

Carlton Reid 53:16
That was me with BBC Radio Norfolk’s Chris Goreham.

Thanks to my guests, Dr. X and San Francisco’s Geeti Silwil of Perkins Will. Show notes including full transcripts and relevant links, including to our show sponsor, Jenson USA, can be found at and you’ve been listening to Episode 236 of the Spokesmen cycling podcast, which has been bringing you eclectic cycling-themed audio since a positively antediluvian 2006.

Thanks for listening. If you’re new to the show, please consider subscribing in your favourite podcast catcher

Meanwhile, get out there and ride.

January 29, 2020 / / Blog

The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast

EPISODE 235: In Conversation With Rémi Clermont, co-founder of Apparel Brand Café du Cycliste

Wednesday 29th January 2020


HOST: Carlton Reid

GUEST: Rémi Clermont, co-founder Café du Cycliste.


Carlton Reid 0:14
Welcome to Episode 235 of the Spokesmen cycling podcast. The show was recorded on 29th 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 the 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 I’m Carlton Reid shivering here in frozen Newcastle but to warm us all up I’ve got a toasty interview with a cafe owner. Well, sort of. Café du Cycliste started as the promotional cycle clothing of a French Riviera-based cycling cafe, but it soon became a brand in its own right, a rather upscale brand. Via some internet audio I spoke with co-founder Rémi Clermont. Tell me, for a start, what’s the weather like where you are?

Rémi Clermont 1:45
Right now it’s quite nice. A few clouds but it’s, it’s sunny. It’s the coldest month of the year though, so it’s not as warm as as we have in spring and autumn but it’s still quite nice. I’m going to go on my bike at lunchtime to ride

Carlton Reid 2:00
It’s kind of nice where you are because it’s really Nice. So so it’s so why are you based there for a start?

Rémi Clermont 2:07
Yes, I forgot to mention, I am in Nice. I’m based there because this is where this is where I lived even before I started cafe basically as my previous job was there. So I was, I was actually already there in nice when I started catalytically. I moved there for a job not a thoughtful person, I moved from my previous job, which was in it, nothing to do with cycling, and I stayed there.

Carlton Reid 2:32
In IT? Tell me more about that. Then what were you doing?

Rémi Clermont 2:38
In IT?

Rémi Clermont 2:40
I was working for a company called Fortinet, which is essentially doing cyber security software on appliances. They’re they’re Silicon Valley based, but the headquarter for Europe, Middle East Africa and Asia is is close to nice. So I moved there. I was doing marketing for them. So very Far from what I’m doing today, it was a first it’s business to business. So it wasn’t talking to my end users. I was talking to entreprise and I was in a field that was very different. And that’s essentially quite far from from who I am. So this is very likely why I ended up leaving this world and started to disappear.

Carlton Reid 3:22
So so so what was the trajectory from being in the world of it and forming an apparel brand?

Rémi Clermont 3:35
It’s not an obvious one. But I guess like a lot of things in life as there’s always opportunities or things come a bit randomly and you never expect what’s going to happen in the next 10 years. I guess it’s it’s a guy I was cycling with who was called Andre who was my business partner today. And it happened he was the head of this company, at least for the for this region. The world and we were riding at lunchtime or weekends together. So from being my boss, he became a riding mate. And then he left that company and he was in between jobs. And I was a bit, let’s say bored with what I was doing and I wanted to move on to something else. And we had the same passion and, and then, and then it started cafe disabused, he actually invested in a cafe in the hills above nice. And he renamed it cafe music list. And at some point, I joined him and I said, I want to do I want to change something in my life. Let’s start with the job. Because I think that’s that’s what makes me not so happy these days. So I want to do the cycling apparel for your cafe. And this is how it started. It was really a small, small project. No, no plan to take over the world. Just do a small range of clothing. Essentially one big short and two jerseys for the cafe and then the clothing became bigger than the cafe and we moved on to something bigger but initially was just a friend and a shared passion an idea to do some different looking cycling government for our little or for his little Catholic.

Carlton Reid 5:18
See, you saved me asking the question there because that would have been the obvious next question, of course. Why did you name it? Okay, so let me when was this, what year was this, Remy?

Rémi Clermont 5:31
That’s 10 years ago. We started in 2009. Actually, I left my job in it in 2009. And we starting selling caffeine basically some and selling Yes, selling in our coffee in the heels in 2010 to 10 years ago, okay.

Carlton Reid 5:48
And so nice is that when there’s lots of pro cyclists there, there’s clearly going to be a very strong amateur scene so you were selling to those kind of people originally.

Rémi Clermont 6:01
Locals well initially we were selling to to whoever would want to come in the cafe. And very quickly with the website we were it people so this one thing we knew how to do is to build a website and I wasn’t actually a 90 people person but and we started selling online quite quickly so we sold to a few of the customers of the cafe but the cafe was not as cycling centric as you see today with satellite like concept like we have in nice or you see all the world in other places in the world. This cafe was really we call it cycling cafe because it was really on a beautiful road to cycle and it was in front of the front end where everybody stopped to get water but it was like a village coffee place with some tourists, some locals some cyclists It was really a mix.

Rémi Clermont 6:55
don’t even remember what question I’m trying to answer now.

Carlton Reid 6:57
Well, who are you selling to original was it was it the pros who lived there

Rémi Clermont 7:02
was nothing.

Rémi Clermont 7:04
We were selling to the few cyclists stopping in that cafe and we were selling online very quickly. And actually not necessarily in France because what we were doing the aesthetic or the vision of what we were doing was not necessarily appealing a lot to the French origin cyclists in the beginning. So we are selling online first year to the rest of the world, I would say, but that was really a small, small, small scale business. So you know, when we had one or two orders a day, we were happy

Rémi Clermont 7:33
to describe your asset, but that’s what we started out so.

Carlton Reid 7:38
So let me just describe your aesthetic. So this is obviously like a radio programme to tell people without looking going to look on your website to see what your clothing look like just just describing audio terms, the the aesthetic of capital, please.

Rémi Clermont 7:58
Okay, well First thing I would say that I’m not from a cycling background. I mean, I’ve cycled a lot in my life. I’m pretty much Simpson. I’m a kid, but I’ve never raced in cycling, I’ve raced in kayaking, I’ve done all the stuff, but I’ve never been a competitive cyclist. So the aesthetic is not driven so much by the heritage of cycling. And by by by the racing part of cycling. So it’s inspired by all the things the other things are mainly who we are. So we are French, and where we ride and we ride in this beautiful French Riviera, which people might not many people obviously know the French Riviera for the Cannes Film Festival for Monaco, for the beach, the sun and the sea. But the French Riviera, which we call the back country, the VFP is actually the reason why the pros live here and train here is because from this you have 500 metre flatland and then very quickly, your heels and then you are montagnes and then before you’ve done 100 kilometre you’re in the highest mountain, you’re on the corridor ablenet which is the highest paved road in Europe. So basically the playground here is a bit of flatland by the sea, which is beautiful. And then every sort of cycling you can imagine from hills to very high mountain. And this is what drives who we are. And this is what drives the aesthetic of our clothing. So clothing is, is a is very inspired by the outdoor by the montagnes. And by by friends in general. So we also look at the heritage of French government making things like the which you’ll see a lot now in cycling and the what we call the brown stripes, for example, things like that we find inspiration in also sport in other areas, and pure cycling, essentially. And we try to also of course, do it with the other thing we were decided to do is to not necessary City use the same fabric and the same material that’s been useful a long time in second garment and go a bit more premium using all the fabrics, bit more premium fabrics. So the I would say the inspiration and the material we use drive our aesthetics. So when you see someone on the road with our government, and it doesn’t look like the road racer of the weekend, we try to have the technicality of, of the cycling government but not necessarily traditional race aesthetic.

Carlton Reid 10:33
And that if you haven’t, didn’t you as a cyclist as such, and you didn’t have a background in fabrics, or in clothing design, but you founded a company. So how did you actually research all of that side, the design side, the fabric side, and where did that come from? And how long did you spend doing that?

Rémi Clermont 10:59
Yes Good question. It’s a lot of walk essentially it’s it’s the word is research. So I have no background in in. In cycling, I have a background in sport. So I’ve been a an athlete in kayak. So I know what a technical government is. And I understand the technical aspect, but I didn’t know about the fabrics. I didn’t know what garment making. So I just went to ask a million questions to a million different people and spend a lot of time researching visited and getting contact with different factories, talk to them, visiting them, went to all the fabric trade shows, I could find, discuss with every single fabric maker ask all the stupid questions and after 10 years, I hope I ask less stupid question but I still ask them a lot of questions. So essentially starting from the ground and did my research and Learn from all those people that’s that’s how I learned like pretty much like every job but this one I had to I had to learn it very quickly and I had to put a lot of effort so the first three years of the company This was most of my time I would I would spend it on that

Carlton Reid 12:18
and that but I learned from scratch then you before we go into the the kind of the business of your your company anyway, but you mentioned almost in passing that I would like to delve into this is your kayak background. So you weren’t just somebody who went out on the weekend you were a world champion.

Rémi Clermont 12:35
Yes, I did compete in kayak for a long time. I started when I was nine years old. And I raced until I was 27 2003 if I’m right so yes, I racing kayak which is a may very likely whitewater kayaking, so we’re talking kayaking in worldwide water in the mountains which is amateur sport so it’s not like cycling and it’s it’s very likely also what shaped my my love for the outdoors and and also very likely part of what cafe basically is is the way I see cycling for me Cycling is a is an outdoor activity rather road racing is a part of it and it’s a really beautiful and fun part of it to watch and or to do if you if you’re racing, but it’s only a small part for me it’s all about being outdoor. And that’s come from my background, I guess of kayaking. So yes, I’ve kayak for many years. I was in the French team for many years. And I spent initially a lot of my early early years in in that and this is very likely I wasn’t so comfortable in a nightie at a pure IT world because I was very very far from. From who I am. I feel much more at home. Running recycling company in rtsp in Nice.

Carlton Reid 14:04
Any ever ideas to do something in kayaking or is it you found your niche you want to do cycling you’re not gonna do anything for kayaking?

Rémi Clermont 14:15
No, I don’t really want to do anything for kayaking. But, but

Rémi Clermont 14:21
I mean clearly the way I see our sport, as I said is is outdoors. So for me, all of those sports, which I when I was kayaking, I was training in the winter. This is why I fall in love with cycling first because my dad’s a cyclist, that’s always been so I still ride with him today every time I see him. So it comes from my dad and it comes from the fact that as a collector had to add to train for longer hours in the winter and it’s difficult to do pure aerobic training in kayak because the muscles get tired very quickly the upper body with within the contract so you have to do all those things. I was doing a lot of cycling cross country risking and for me all of these sport, have the same route. It’s It’s It’s being outdoor. So I don’t really want to do kayak government in the future but but when I do what I do today I feel like I’m not that far from from from that world Anyway, when I cycled with my dad aka montane and we’re chatting and we’re having a good time together. I feel closer to someone who is actually hiking in the mountain with his dad. Then I feel from Chris room or my racing friends, when actually racing for me, for me, this is what we do when we cycle so I have no ambition to do kayaking, but I have ambition to belong to the same old Mm hmm.

Rémi Clermont 15:48

Carlton Reid 15:50
I’ve seen pictures of so you were telling me that you are not online. But you have the wonderful Emporium you have a wonderful shop in the I’ve seen the photographs of this and it looks amazing and inside. So is that something that is like literally a shop window for your brand? Is that how you see it?

Rémi Clermont 16:15
Yes this is our base. I mean you can see it as a base as a flagship store but you’re right with the way you can see it is. The brand is something very subjective and it’s difficult to put especially on the radio defining a brand is very difficult and but anyway it’s difficult in the cafe in our place, you can actually touch the brand like this is you know, this is the flesh around the bones which was which is what we call the brand but here you can see the body. You can see the you can touch it. So this is this is the most important retail store for us because we have all the one we have one in London one in Majorca but this one is really where you see what this is about, is about so it’s a place when you see we have a cafe. It’s nothing new and The only one in the business to have a cycling cafe. But obviously a cycling cafe means you come and you talk on your chart and you made before the ride, and you meet after the ride. And the social element for us is very important in cycling. In this place, you can get your bike fixed, you can rent premium bikes, which is a new agreement with cervelo. And this year, we’re going to have our rental fleet are going to be beautiful high end cervelo, gravel and road bikes. So you can come and enjoy the French Riviera, on your bike on our bike, and we’ll give you all the advices we have big maps of the region. And we have everything you need to know where you’re going. We have the showers, when you rent a bike from us or where you come for a ride you can. You can get change, you can take a shower there. So it’s really about the experience of riding in our region. And I think that’s a strong part of what the brand is about. So yes, you’re absolutely right. You’re smaller shop. Of course it’s good to have a shop and it’s good that people Touch the product. But it’s also it’s more. It’s more than that.

Carlton Reid 18:04
And this is a different location from where it was founded. Yes.

Rémi Clermont 18:10
Yes, absolutely. The initial one was a bit higher in the mountain. So you have to see you have the hills and you have the mountain. The first one was on the heels. This one, when we simply moved at some, at some point, we wanted something bigger. And we found this place in me. So we moved. We moved it in this.

Rémi Clermont 18:28
But it’s a different place. Yes, absolutely.

Carlton Reid 18:31
And then I mean that some of the photographs I’ve seen you have a large table in the middle with like a 3d relief map of of the area.

Carlton Reid 18:41
So well with all the mountains.

Rémi Clermont 18:44
Yes, that’s one of the beauty of what

Rémi Clermont 18:48
the map makers in France do. They do these 3d maps of pretty much every region of France. So we have this as a central piece in our cafe so that people can actually is easier we can share The people were not going to ride on people immediately understand what the terrain is like the what I just said about the 500 metres of flats and then you in the heels, then people realise because very often people like the the idea of everybody about the French Riviera is only the sun under see that on realise what’s behind. So this map really immediately get the things into context. It’s very important for us.

Carlton Reid 19:27
I guess a lot of people are going to be exploring this and finding this out in in end with end of June, isn’t it? The Etape is coming to your Yes. Are you planning to ride?

Rémi Clermont 19:43
I would love to ride but that I have a very good excuse. I don’t have my ticket to ride. But no, we write this every day. So I’m happy to I’m happy to not write it even it’s not a big issue. But yes, this year this year, our region with I truly believe is the best and if not one of the best area in the world for cycling is going to be the centre of the cycling universe because the Etape du Tour is coming here – it’s starting here with through two stages around nice and then there is the tab the tool which is obviously you know one of the biggest secret supportive in Europe or in the world and and it’s also it’s also a nice so yes, we already we can’t wait to welcome everybody and help everybody out here and enjoy this party with everyone.

Carlton Reid 20:36
Very possibly me also because literally 10 minutes before you we started talking I actually got an invitation to come across on and ride I have done it for I’ve done it once before. But this one I mean you’d look at the the park on this one is like a looks unbelievable where you ride every day and we’re very I’m very jealous, but I’m not gonna be able to see long Because that the attack is coming here and it just looks unbelievable for an attack course it’s just incredible.

Rémi Clermont 21:09
Yes, it’s it’s it’s a tough one. It’s a tough one. But usually the attack the two secrets motive is always always a tough, tough stage. But yes, I think it’s good because in the area, we have so many I mean, the only one that’s really famous worldwide is a Col de Bonnet. Because the two went through it quite a few times. But a lot of the clients here I’m not so famous, maybe it’s good because they’re not so crowded. But we’ll really have world class. You will see when you climb to really this is, this is like serious, serious climbing. Everybody know about alpha us but clearly for me to release is more interesting. It’s more fun, it’s as difficult and there’s five or six different ways you can plan to renew. So there’s a lot to discover. So I’m happy that the tourists coming here because this will put the light on this on those clients on and I think a lot of cyclists will will enjoy discovering those diamond and coming this year or the following years because really we have we have the best here

Carlton Reid 22:15
Remi, you must be very happy this is this is coming you’re going to have the week before the tour you’re going to have 20 30,000 hardcore roadies descending on your on the Riviera I’m presuming you’re a lot of them are going to be coming into your your emporiums. You must be ecstatic that the Etape and then the Tour of course the following week.

Rémi Clermont 22:39
Yeah, the Absolutely. It’s very it’s very, very exciting. Of course. We have to plan for it because that that will be logistically maybe a bit complicated but it’s it can’t be better for us. It is lovely and and really what we like about Cycling is is really is a social thing. So whenever we go to the cafe and we have people coming, we always love to ask them where you going, where can we help you? Where did what did you do? What right did you do? So this is going to be just amazing. And there will be people from from around the world coming just for that. We’re ready to have them and we’re ready to chat with them and to ride with them. We’re going to very likely organise rides every day every morning from the cafe.

Rémi Clermont 23:26
We’re going to do activities obviously,

Rémi Clermont 23:30
a few evening drinks will will publish everything we do in the in the coming months. But yes, it will be really like a big party for us.

Carlton Reid 23:41
So those who are unlucky enough not to be able to come and see you on the Riviera. They can see you in either New Yorker as you said, or in London so that that’s your three emporiums New Yorker, London. Knicks. Yes,

Rémi Clermont 23:56
yes, absolutely. For now we have those three flagship We’re also sending through a few number of selected number of retailers but we have our own shops Yes. in Majorca and nice and London. So everybody’s welcome Of course to visit us.

Carlton Reid 24:13
Nothing in Americas? No, no plans for opening in Portland, Oregon?

Rémi Clermont 24:21
We’d love to be opening there. We have no plan for this coming year. We’ve been growing quite fast lately. And for this year, we had to spend a bit of time on investing into our back office. So things that are a bit less visible from the outside than opening a shop in Portland for example. But that is very important for us to to deliver good service whether it is in in the ordering because we sell a lot online, so a lot. We sell mainly online. So from the logistic point of view The shipping the customer service, a few thing that we needed to improve, to have some solid base to be able to continue to grow because we’ve been growing fast in the last five years. So this year, we decided to essentially focus on on on all the things and opening new place, but for sure, it’s a possibility if we are to open more, I think more and more. We want to be where the writing is happening. London was great because London is always been in the UK and London’s gonna always be a big customer base for us. So it’s very good to be able to be there on the ground and meet your customers in London. But if we are to open more, I think the format of Majorca a nice is maybe more interesting for the brand, which is to meet the customers where where the action is. So if we are to open more, I think it’s going to be more in the like of Majorca but Not for this year.

Carlton Reid 26:04
I’m assuming you’re big in Asia.

Rémi Clermont 26:08
We’re big in Asia. We’re we’re not a big company. So I can say we’re really big anywhere. But part of our market is Asia. Yes, yes. Yes. Yes. I mean, one of the positive for us is that our market is quite widely spread. So we sell in unit for a startup. I think it’s a sample a lot of cycling company. We’re not the only one. But generally speaking for a startup, it’s really good to have a such a spread market, because there’s a lot of opportunities, and you’re not so affected when, let’s say it’s raining in, in Germany, but in the UK, but but yes, Asia represent solid part of all of our sales and mainly Japan.

Rémi Clermont 26:55
Korea, just Japan, Korea and Taiwan Quantum yes

Carlton Reid 27:00
yes not gonna matter because I interviewed the guys from Festka who check bicycle a cell virtually not in Czechoslovakia but and loads in Bangkok is is their biggest overseas market in that the there’s this incredible sky around the airport track a 21 kilometre road circuit basically, and all the rich roadies flock to there and they’re all on $10,000 bikes. And I’m assuming they’re all very nice apparel as well. And because your brand is its high end, it’s it’s it’s up there with the very all of the brands at a very high end. So I’m just assuming that that’s the kind of place where you’re selling quite well where people are buying high end apparel for riding high end bikes.

Rémi Clermont 28:01
Yes, absolutely. It’s happening. We have a retailer in, in Bangkok and we see some online sales in Bangkok and similar things is happening in Indonesia. And that’s all the countries in Asia but yes, also, as you said, Asia has invested a lot of Singapore a lot of cities are massively investing into cycling infrastructures. So of course, this can only help and it’s happening as well in Europe, but not at the same scale sometime it looks like in in Asia, it goes quite, quite fast. So yes, yes, yes, high end bike high end apparel is is clearly is clearly something that people buy pretty much everywhere in the world. So we see there, not so much because we really want to be high end but because because we it’s essentially the cost of what we produce we produce in. In Europe mainly we produce with with European fabrics. European supplier all of our fabrics have trends. We’ve made a few few exceptions but are from Europe and everything is is made within Europe we want to try to avoid as much as possible producing in the Far East. And of course we don’t produce millions of PCs every year. So of course, the cost of work with produce is a bit higher than some of the product you see on the market. So let positioners yes as a you could say a high end brand Yes. So

Carlton Reid 29:31
that that high end market is relatively crowded and then you’ve got people who would wear casterly kind of you know, they had to wearing Castelli and you can see them going around with the huge great past any logo on there that one basically and then you’ve got the Rafa road. And then you’ve got Nicole, so describe you that kind of that, that, that middle you that that The brands that you’ve got in your circle Where do you see yourself fitting in with those kind of brands?

Rémi Clermont 30:08
Hmm there’s a lot of them today. But first I think the overall I think that for the customer it’s really good because one of the reason we started cafe music list and rough I was already existed with existing when we started but there was very limited choice in what you could buy if you didn’t necessarily want to buy a very performance oriented brand. So I find it really good that today as a customer, whatever you like, and whatever your vision of cycling is, you will find something that’s for you. You can buy you know from a source ex Bionicle Castelli or you can buy jersey with for your pineapples on them or you can buy totally understated and beautiful government. There’s something for everyone. One, this is very positive a fine. If I, if I’m honest, if I’m a customer, I’m really happy that I have that much choice. Now from a brand perspective, of course, there is a lot of competition. But I think its first it’s, it’s good because I have been a competitor in pretty much all my life so I have no problem with that I find it quite quite positive. I think what’s important is that as a brand, we have a genuine reason for doing what we do and a genuine story. I think that’s the most important when we when I say the markets to be crowded, the problem is when brands just are just sitting there with no no real there’s no real reason there’s no real differentiation and nothing really new. So I think that’s where that’s when it starts to be a bit difficult because the customer is nice. He doesn’t know why he shouldn’t These brands are these brand everybody’s saying the same thing. Everybody’s pretending they’re having the best possible product. So I think the most important is that that the customer can buy you for for four reasons. So obviously the most important one is the quality of your product, you’re doing quality product, technically efficient, and they’re going to last long. But they also are going to pick a brand because they believe in the vision of the brand that you know, they believe that this is what they want. This is how they see cycling it’s this is who they are. And that’s that’s almost as important for me when I when I buy a product as an actual product both sets together in in the in the decision making for me. So I think the good thing is in cycling, there’s obviously we’re not sitting in the same for example local is a is an interesting Ground is beautiful. It’s founded by by pros, or x pros. And, and, and they’re very dedicated to racing. And it’s, I totally respect that. And it’s very interesting. But that’s not necessarily who we are. So I think that’s very good. There’s different options, different different visions, and the customers can can decide what what he wants or maybe he wants both and you have a bit of one on a bit of the other or maybe he feel what he who is is more caffeine suffused or is more record, this is beautiful. So I think as long as all those brands have a different identity and reason and a story for the customers, then it makes sense, obviously to date as a bit more than that, and it’s competitive. But I think this will this will settle sooner or later so I’m not too I’m not too worried.

Carlton Reid 33:52
And it’s part of your story but that people are buying into is the French Riviera is the the kind of mountains behind you that the whole cafe culture they’re imagining when you’re in you’re going into auction you’re you’re riding out into Box Hill in Surrey, or whatever but you’re also buying into you have I could be on the French Riviera and they’re having coffee in nice is that jumping? That’s part of it.

Rémi Clermont 34:22
Yeah, that’s that’s clearly part of it. But it’s not only that when in cycling, you can cycle for many different reasons. You can. The most obvious one that everybody sees and that’s been the main driver in the market for a while is racing, which is one of the reasons to psycho rate whether you race, you know, competition or world class level or local level. Still racing and even a lot of people who are doing see close 14, in a way racing at their level. But you can you can cycle for all the reason you can cycle for social reason. My dad was 70 years old, or more than 70 years old. Here at rides every other day. You know, he’s not riding for racing, but whenever he rides he goes out and he is chatting with his mates and that’s the same as what I’m doing every now and then I like to ride on my own but I love to ride with people because you know, it’s a social club activities. So you can write for fitness or for health because you want to lose weight because you want to stay fit, you can ride for to travel for adventure, you can write for transport reason, because you need to go to work or you need to go to see grandmother has a million different reasons to write. So I think, the way the way I see it is is caffeine basically is trying to basically appreciate all of those reasons to ride and not just one. So when you it’s not just about the trend, it’s not just about the French Riviera, it’s about the fact that Cycling is bit more speed more than just exercising on your bike for two hours. It’s it’s really, it’s really a lifestyle. That’s that’s more than just racing.

Carlton Reid 35:58
You mentioned a minute ago, transport You’ve just that second there mentioned lifestyle so combine those two I believe you’ve got a cargo bike is that right and that’s how you get around a nice is in you take your you got a son take to school and account yes

Rémi Clermont 36:15
it’s quite a yes I do it’s quite a funny story because when I was kayaking one of my training made from the same region as me he’s starting his started a cycling cargo company in the US called Cuba and I lost track of him for quite a few years and then 12 years down the road suddenly realised one of my best kayaking mate is actually running a cargo bike company in in San Francisco. But anyway this is all I when I get to have a cargo bike and that that’s amazing. Yes, I bring my I know he’s psycho so I don’t need to bring my son to school with a cargo bike anymore but the cargo bike is how we is how we turn the For goods from the warehouse to the shop in Nice. That’s how we replenish the stock in nice but that’s also how I do my groceries. That’s it’s, it’s lovely. You can carry your friends on the back of your bike. It’s we should just stop using cars on your you and use cargo bike.

Carlton Reid 37:17
Thanks to Rémi Clermont of Café du Cycliste. The next episode of the Spokesmen Cycling Podcast will be a rolling interview with Shimano-man. Meanwhile, get out there and ride.

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.