I love stuff. Cool stuff, functional stuff, shiny stuff and nerdy left field stuff but mainly bike related stuff.
While I love stuff, every bit of it is carefully considered. I don’t want the same stuff that everyone else has, I don’t want to fit in. Every purchase or partnership is painstakingly researched using all available channels, the web, reviews and social media. What I desire and what I find cool the next person may not, but I’m happy knowing that I didn’t follow the herd and I did my homework.
Desire and lust plays a massive part in my purchases, but function is, I hate to say it, more important. [joke] Often I’ll point out I get paid to ride my bike, that makes me a professional cyclists doesn’t it? [/joke] 20 to 30 hours a week makes you a pretty good guinea pig and will soon show and faults or flaws in a product. The way my kit fits, it’s durability and ability to keep me comfortable in sometimes extreme conditions is critical. GPS units that actually work and don’t die mid ride, easy to use as I’m a simple man and scared of tech; a technotard apparently. Shoes that fit, whether I’m in a UK winter or 40 degree Catalan heat and the same goes for helmets, glasses and so on. Groupsets and wheels that I can get spares for and easily repair all over Europe.
My bikes, this is where the lust takes over from the function…ish. Custom, hand made but subtle. Those that know, really know. Tailored for me and my needs, my riding style and weight. My riding is varied, a crit bike’s no good for days on end in the mountains but sometimes I want to go out and tear it up with mates. I feel with Independent Fabrications attention to detail and frame building skills we achieved the right balance and the paint team nailed the finish.
I know the names of the people who built my bike, the man who makes my kit, Luigi at Q36.5, the team behind my GPS at Wahoo Fitness, Steve and Marc from Veloforte and now Johannes the owner of Evers Cycling Shoes have all been added to my list of suppliers, supporters and most importantly, friends. I bought into these brands because of the people behind them and the quality of what they produce. Tried, tested and built on experience, passion and attention to detail. They bought into us at Sommet because we share those same values and I hope our guests, clients and friends feel the same about Sommet and what we do for them.
I am an unashamed magpie and I do love shiny stuff, but there is way more to it than that.
Images courtesy of Ian Walton, Bobby Whitaker and me
Our Sommet Cycling 2017 kit is now available to pre-order.
We took the plunge on Nick’s design for the 2017 kit recently. We popped aside the numbers needed for the trips and then went about shooting a few to try and flog some to the eager punters out there…yourselves (email Nick to get on the pre-order for the next lot…).
Best laid plans, the kit just about sold out before we even shot the damn stuff. Word of mouth got it flying out but we still got out and shot some stuff, although it was more an abridged shoot before a ride or hijacking a ride.
We had dreamy Ramon fondling Christian’s Speedvagen (while he awaits his own hand built, but titanium, dream bike to arrive – this month!!) and playing air wheel on his very own Enve’s for said build. And we had the Swedish masseuse, Therese, riding up and down Rocacorba in preparation for some daft Everesting challenge. I was happy to be in the car shooting on that one, and hanging off the gliding platform and giving the ‘models’ heart attacks. All part of the job.
On the way to the Dolomites cycling trip in July (our long read here) we made the most of our time in Italy by visiting Rocket Espresso, on the edge of Milan. Our hosts, Nicky and Andrew Meo – the driving forces and owners of Rocket – opened their factory doors, showed us around and took us for lunch. If Nick and I didn’t have the Dolomites on the horizon, we may never have left.
One of the things I admire in people is risk taking, a leap of faith in life. Think of those who we look at and say, “you’re so lucky!” and often behind that vision is a big decision, a sacrifice, that leap of faith. Nicky and Andrew left a financially comfortable and successful food and coffee business based lifestyle behind in New Zealand and chose a new path; followed their hearts and dreams of oft said ideas to change their lives, and upped and moved to Italy.
In New Zealand, their story was the successful Wellington restaurant, Pravda and roasting house, The Immigrant’s Son and – in as much as there is in such a line of work – a good guarantee of success and income. But restaurant life compromises family life, and there were those dreamlike thoughts of going to Italy. The stars perhaps aligned, right timing, an opportunity, the right connections but then they still had to do it. And so, in 2007, plans were made to take over (with friend and colleague Jeff Kennedy) the struggling Italian firm ECM – parent company of Rocket – and moved the family across the globe.
Condensing 9 years does an injustice to the hard work ironing out operational issues, filling long standing back orders from ECM, aligning and an invaluable partnering with Daniele Berenburch (the son of ECM co-founder), bringing in a bit of Kiwi cultural approaches and re-marketing, re-naming and modernising the whole brand. But therein, plus more, is the overnight success. A 9 year overnight success.
That Kiwi culture has brought open plan offices and open door policies and a new world coffee culture. Melding that with the traditional Italian manufacturing excellence and pride and its own long coffee history of repute has been part of the change and challenge at Rocket.
That crisp clean, bright and relaxed, open plan office area lie within Rocket’s understated factory – from the outside, just another of Milan’s understated factories. On into the Rocket factory itself, even when we were there in a quiet period, there is a gentle hum of organised activity; again, a bright and relaxed environment. I guess that management adage about setting an example from the top rings true. Organised, yet relaxed. And above the factory space is an in house R&D area – itself developing and growing – and a maintenance area; these keep aim to keep them ahead of the game and on top of the existing products.
Most who know of Rocket, know they are tied closely to cycling. My friend Christian Meier, of La Fabrica Girona and Espresso Mafia (see our special October trip), through whom I was introduced to Andrew, is the Spanish dealer for Rocket and it seems the majority of the pro peloton has a Rocket…well, you are faster with a Rocket in your kitchen #fact. Andrew still races his bike, and son – Felix – races in the younger ranks. Indeed Rocket supports various youth riders around the world. I am not sure who is the stronger cyclist of the two, though, Andrew, a self confessed jack of all trades, is probably losing the Italian language race though. Dealing with overseas clients largely (Rocket is a predominantly export firm; Germany, UK and Australasia strong markets), he has a ready made excuse. Nicky is perhaps better, while Felix, practically fluent, is at the head of this New Zealand escape group. Together, clearly, a formidable team.
I am all for taking risks and chasing a change of direction. It’s nice to know that, when I save up for a Rocket, I will know it’s a machine built on dreams, on a risk and on a philosophy of doing things the right way. Life is worth taking risks, Rocket Espresso is a success story as proof.
All images supplied by Nick Frendo and Ian Walton