I have always enjoyed making things which is why I started my working life as a carpenter.
Having an idea, then seeing it materialise out of a block of wood was a deeply satisfying experience, for me if not my employer (Pete’s Furniture Emporium). Like most teenagers, I had aspirations way beyond my capabilities and couldn’t bring myself to follow a prescribed plan. The results of my over-reaching were often, unsurprisingly, mediocre - the only upside (because it certainly wasn’t great furniture) was I learned how to learn:
Have an idea and try it out.
What did I want to achieve?
What actually happened?
What caused the gap between the two?
What do I need to do differently?
It was an approach that kept/keeps me both curious and passionate, and I applied it to everything including my cycling career.
Peter Keen, my coach and I looked at cycling not as a sport but instead as a series of physical, tactical and technical puzzles to be solved. We had plenty of failures but the approach also allowed us to let go of the shackles of history and instead focus on the demands of the event. Over the course of a decade, we broke several world records, took Olympic Gold in 92, attained win 3 World titles and led the Tour de France on as many occasions. The method might have been effective but it it was also all-consuming. By 2000, I was exhausted and ready to hang up the wheels.
We invented a fitting swan song - an attack on Eddy Merckx’s 30-year-old world hour record- and immediately after beating the Belgium legends record (by just 10 meters) I stepped off my bike and into retirement. I was bored within six weeks.
Lots of exciting experiences followed: writing for magazines and working with the GB Olympic team, as a senior manager, director of coaching and leading the famous Secret Squirrel Club. While all this was going on, I was approached by Former British Ironman Champion, Alan Ingarfield with an unmissable proposition.
Alan had an infectious enthusiasm and a big idea: he wanted to start a new bike company. The prospect of making bikes - something I had already dabbled in even as a pro - was an exciting one and I bit his hand off (figuratively not literally).
Slowly, we fleshed out Alan’s idea and designed our first machines. In 2007 as the Tour de France rolled out of London, Boardman Bikes sold their first bike in Halfords. It was the right product at the right time, and within 2 years, we were the fastest growing British bike brand ever.
It isn’t just racing bikes that I’m passionate about - in fact it’s possibly the smaller element - but the bicycle as a concept in all it’s forms.
These days, I spend most of my time either riding the tracks and trails of my native Wirral peninsula (at the moment, on a CXR 9.0) or on a 29’er MTB exploring the wilds of the Cairngorms in Scotland, where I spend several weeks a year. I’m not so interested in going fast these days, although it was something I enjoyed, now it’s more about exploring, keeping fit and as always, making things. I still enjoy having ideas, often just a sketch on the back of a napkin and seeing them turned into real-life products.
I’m a firm believer that the bicycle is one of the most remarkable and flexible devices ever created by man. It enables us to ride to work or around the world, to socialise with friends or deliver goods. It is a machine used by pensioners to go to the shops and by youngsters to find their first independence. This deceptively simply machine has the potential to be a huge part of the solution to three of the biggest problems facing our planet today: pollution, health and congestion. For me it isn’t simply a bicycle it’s a philosophy and I’m determined to see it become THE default form of transport for all of our short journeys. That’s the legacy I want to leave my children.
Exploring and making things are the two common themes in my life, and it’s the bike that ties the two firmly together. So if you see me out and about on a trail, be sure to wave and say hello.