(Photo: George Marshall for Rapha Survey)
Give us a brief idea of how and why CycleLove started…
When I moved to London I hadn’t ridden a bike for a decade or so. All my friends were cycling and eventually I caved in and got a crappy hybrid bike. It kind of snowballed from there and before I knew it I had three bikes in my bedroom. But when I looked online for websites about bike culture… just normal people doing cool stuff with bikes… I couldn’t find much happening. So I decided to start my own blog. It was good timing because I was becoming increasingly jaded about my day job as a graphic designer, so CycleLove became something I could pour my heart and soul into instead. I began by going out on the prowl around East London with my camera, looking for interesting characters on bikes. I then moved on to interviewing people involved in London’s bike scene and after that reporting on bike culture elsewhere in the world.
You launched with a screening of the inspiring ‘Bill Cunningham New York’ documentary - why is he such an influence for you ?
Basically I watched him tootling around New York on his bike whilst shooting this amazing street fashion photography, and it inspired me to dust off my SLR and start taking photos again myself. On top of being a great photographer, he’s also a supremely genuine and humble guy. Here’s one of my favourite soundbites from the film:
“You see, if you don’t take money they can’t tell you what to do. That’s the key to the whole thing, don’t touch money! It’s the worst thing you can do. Money is the cheapest thing. Liberty is the most expensive.”
Without Mr. C (I hope it’s ok to call you that Bill…) CycleLove wouldn’t have happened.
What’s this about you cycling 100 miles to meet your first customer?!
When I began selling t-shirts I wanted to do something to mark the occasion… having someone willing to part with cash for my products was a big milestone so I wanted to mark it accordingly. I made myself a promise that I’d deliver the first order I got by bike. And then I sat back nervously and waited for the emails to come in. Luckily for me (or not) it came from Peterborough which is around 100 miles north of London. I did the delivery on my own so it was tough mentally, and it was November so the weather was a wee bit nippy too. But the smile on the guy’s face when I got to the pub in Peterborough and explained the story made it all worth while.
What have been the best and most difficult parts of turning your passion into a day job?
The problem is that I haven’t managed to turn CycleLove into a day job yet — I’m still working as a graphic designer to pay the bills.
If anyone reading this is planning to make a living from blogging… remember that a blog is not a business. It’s really just a way to build connections, tell stories, and to gather a tribe of like-minded people around you. As for the business part… I’m not 100% sure how that is going to pan out yet. Selling t-shirts and prints has been fun but I don’t think I want to build a fashion brand. I get a real buzz from discovering new cycling brands and products so that’s something I’m going to carry on doing for sure.
Lastly, I saw someone wearing one of my t-shirts in the wild for the first time recently and that gave me a real buzz.
One thing I’ve noticed about the blog is the collaborative aspect - working with cycle brands/stylists/other bike enthusiasts etc. Has this been important to the growth of CycleLove?
Absolutely. Running the blog has opened so many doors for me and I’ve met a lot of cool new people in the short time that it’s been running. People who ride bikes are a pretty friendly bunch in general. I’ve not spent any money on promoting CycleLove other than on the Bill Cunningham screening, so I rely on word-of-mouth and the goodwill of my readers.
I’ve thought a lot about how I’d prefer to get around by bike but so far have been too scared! What are your top tips for cycling in London?
(1) Get a buddy who’s already cycling to show you the ropes. Then you can ride your commute to work on a Sunday and get a feel for it with less traffic around.
(2) If you’re not feeling confident about where you’re going or a turn coming up, there’s no harm in stopping. It’s not a race. Pull over for a second. If you need to turn right across a junction, try a “Copenhagen Left” (well, the opposite of this as we’re on the other side of the road from them) where you turn left first, and the turn your bike and straight
(3) Smile. Riding a bike should be fun. You’re not a commuter zombie any more :)
Do you have a favourite cycle ride / trip that you’ve been on?
I live on the north edge of Victoria Park at the moment which is the largest green space in East London. So my new favourite ride is just cruising around the park. I try to leave my phone behind and just enjoy the ride.
Tell us about your recent trip to the Alps and the training involved…
Training was difficult because London is short on hills. I was going up to Swains Lane in Highgate which is a mecca for road cyclists because it has a steep section of road which is one-way and doesn’t get much traffic. But it’s only a few hundred metres long so you have to do it on repeat. By the end of my training I was doing it 12 or 13 times in the row, which equates to about 1000m of climbing. On top of that I’d do interval training around Regents Park, and head out to Essex for longer rides at the weekend.
But of course not of that can really prepare you for riding up a mountain. It took me about three days to get in the right place mentally when we got to the Alps. The guys I went with had been training about 3 months longer than me so they’d disappear up the hill and I’d be left on my own having a freakout. There were a few moments where I wanted to just throw my bike off a cliff and go home. Eventually I got into the swing of things and began to enjoy the pain. I guess that’s what road cycling is about… pushing yourself mentally and physically and seeing what happens. You can’t do that behind a desk. And the epic views at the top of the mountains, down from amongst the snow onto these winding roads, made it all ok.
What’s next for CycleLove?
I’m working on some new product designs: t-shirts, jerseys and posters. One of them may or may not be Kraftwerk influenced. There are also plans for an exhibition next year and some exciting collaborations with other cycling brands on the horizon.
Lastly what 5 songs would you put on a road trip mix tape?
Ha, I don’t ever listen to music on my bike. And I can’t drive so I don’t do road trips. If I did though… maybe “A Real Hero” from the Drive soundtrack, Kraftwerk’s “Autobahn” (the 22 minute version obviously), some Johnny Cash for singing along badly too, “Jabdah” by Koto (dodgy Italo-disco) and lastly “Dry The Rain” by the Beta Band as we’d most likely be driving around Scotland in the pissing rain.
All photographs by James other than profile (George Marshall for Rapha Survey)
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