The Bikes: A journey through my collection

The Bikes: A journey through my collection

“When the spirits are low, when the day appears dark, when work becomes monotonous, when hope hardly seems worth having, just mount a bicycle and go out for a spin down the road, without thought on anything but the ride you are taking.”
Arthur Conan Doyle

I left the house at 7am on Sunday morning to ride, my target being Rocacorba, the local mountain that sits omnipresent on the horizon from where I live.  It was a beautiful spring morning, I had earphones in and was listening to a podcast.  After 15mins I found myself more absorbed by what was going on around me than what was being spoken.  Everything was so still, the roads were empty and the air crisp yet not cold, the sun was rising and the light bright and long, there were clouds sitting low in the surrounding valleys and there was birdsong everywhere.  I stopped and paused what I was listening to and was reminded of how I used to never listen to anything when I rode, it's been a relatively recent habit of mine, I put the earphones in my pocket and said to myself, "Stop thinking about things."  In that moment I remembered the reason I loved riding bikes in the first place, as Albert Einstein once said, "I thought of that while riding my bicycle."

You may think I'm about to disappear into a philosophical investigation of why I ride, I'm not going to do that, we each have our own reasons, explanations and experiences; one man's panacea is another's penance.  Instead, over the coming weeks and months I'm going to show-and-tell all the bikes I own and ride, hopefully by sharing what I ride the why will be revealed, as much for me the writer as you the reader.

You may ask what’s triggered this introspection?  Well, I was contacted last year by Tom Sturdy.  We'd met many years ago when he was an engineer/analyst at the McLaren wind tunnel.  Since then Tom founded his eponymous bike brand, Sturdy, he is now making some of the most technologically advanced bikes in the world, all custom spec.  He asked if I'd be interested in him building a Sturdy for me, there was no catch, he simply wanted to make me a bike.  I have very close relationships with other bike brands, but nothing that stops me riding what I want.  I’m very aware of the privilege I have, yet I don’t think I’ve stopped and taken stock of the collection of bikes I’ve built up since retiring from racing.  Each has a story and a purpose, and only now while going through my cycling renaissance and riding daily on different terrains on my different bikes can I see with clarity my love of cycling.  This was a revelatory moment for me, I hadn’t really stopped and taken stock properly in a long time, and when I did it was the 15yr old me who’s eyes lit up.  I imagined him walking into the CHPT3 Studio and looking around, all the bikes, clothing, racing memorabilia, books, I think his head would explode.

Obviously I accepted Tom’s offer, although I can now see that it was mostly the younger version of myself who was so filled with excitement and gratitude, in fact when dealing with bikes I normally revert back to that same kid.  Then came the question from Tom, "What type of bike would you like me to make?"  And herein lies the motivation for sharing what I ride and why, because it was in considering Tom's question that I took a step back and considered all my bikes at once and individually.  I thought about why I had chosen each bike and how and when I rode it, I'd never really done this before, and in doing so a light was shone onto everything we do at CHPT3.  

There’s a reason for everything we design and make, and that reason can be found and explained through the bikes I ride.  I’ve got all types of bikes: racing, road, TT, urban, mountain, gravel, indoor, I ride them all, and each type of cycling brings out a different side of me.  I think this is why I keep changing it up, because I like the different feelings each bike brings, it reminds me of why it’s so difficult to answer the question, “What’s your favourite film/album/race?”  It changes from day to day depending on what we’re going through, I tend to pick the bike and ride on the feeling I’d like to find, the bike isn’t just about taking us places outside, it’s about voyages of discovery into ourselves.  So what bike is Tom making me?  You’ll have to stay tuned to find out…