SPIN London 2015: not your average bike show

In Interviews, London by Claire

SPIN London is a cycling show designed for humans: every kind, even for those not on two wheels. It brings together creative new products, DIY custom creations, indie brands along with the latest high street goodness. Throw in some coffee culture and live bike polo and you’ve got a good idea of what their three day two-wheel festival’s like. I spoke to Luke Mclaughlin, SPIN Director, about how their third show’s going down. Head down on 8th-10th May at The Sorting Office on New Oxford Street.

Hi Luke. How do you think SPIN’s different to these larger cycling shows, and what was your aim when you first launched SPIN?

Luke: My take on that is that we always wanted Spin to be something that gave you an opportunity to see stuff that you wouldn’t see anywhere else. From actual prototypes being developed to – smaller cottage industries I guess you could call them – with people doing things on a smaller scale. I think that with the huge rise in cycling, in terms of participation, the lifestyle aspect of it – for example, the collaboration with London Coffee Festival – I think that increasingly there are people who like cycling but are not kind of lycra-clad club riders. Obviously those people are fantastic – serious cyclists, people who really love the science behind it and get excited about nutrition and follow the pro racing scene or whatever it may be – they’re fantastic and I’m one of them. But then, there are increasingly brands like Velorbis, a brand from Denmark, they’ve been speaking about coming to the show in May. They’re very much a cycling/lifestyle brand. They’re about amazing design, fantastic fashion – very fashion conscious products that are also about cycling.

“The Sorting Office is a historic, atmospheric space and we’ll transform it into a Mecca for cyclists for three days.“ – Alex

Things are changing all the time – the industry is changing but I think there’s a proliferation of those kinds of brands and I think there are more people who like great design that may performance, lifestyle or convenience-led. That’s the twist for SPIN on the like of The Bike Show or The Cycle Show. I’d say those shows are more focused on the MAMILs or the lycra-clad club riders.

You want this year’s show to be orientated towards bigger brands. What does that look like?

I think in terms of brands, the model for Spin is definitely about more innovative products and creative stuff – design-led and fashion-led products. That’s why in May Rapha are coming along. We’re trying to get the likes of Canyon bikes along. Obviously Spin is a fantastic platform for people who have smaller operations and fundamentally smaller budgets, but then we want it to be something that incorporates the more mainstream cycling market as well. But you know, Spin is distinct to other commercial bike shows. That’s definitely how we’d like to stay, and always involve artist, design and fashion conscious people.

We still have some of the first sellers. For example, at the main show, we’ll still have Emma who does South London Saddles. I remember Emma’s stuff – it was one of the first things that really drew me in when I first attended SPIN when I was just a punter. That was one of the things I remember really going away and saying “yeah, that’d cool. That’s such a brilliant idea.” Increasingly I think people are after something unique, bespoke and something which is done with a lot of artistic flair that they wouldn’t be able to get from high street brands. Where else are you going to take a saddle and say “this is the design I want”? That’s the sort of thing that I think will grow in cycling because I think people want something a little bit different.

In theory we could say “SPIN is for cyclists of all kinds,” which is true – it’s for non-cyclists and cyclists. But then, I think the industry, as it grows, with more and more brands launching it’s becoming more fragmented. Rouleur have just launched a show which it looks like is going to be on the world tour bikes – pro team bikes – and the tickets, I think I’m right in saying, are going to be £50. It’s obviously going to be a massively different market to the one we’d look at. But I think SPIN will always be about giving a platform to startups and people who are doing fresh and interesting things in the industry. That’s certainly our hope.

What sort of stuff will be at SPIN London this year compared to previous shows?

As you may have seen we’ve got Rapha coming, who are going to be doing an experiential cinema essentially. They’re going to be screening a programme of cycling related films which is obviously exciting for us to have a brand like Rapha who really liked the show and were really keen to come along. In terms of other exhibitors, I’d say we’ve got a really good blend, from the Rapha and high street brands that have cycling elements (that we’re talking to at the moment).

This year, some of the exhibitors I am most looking forward to seeing are: Passoni [‘a niche luxury specialist Italian bicycle manufacturer’], Vélowland [a pretty artistic take on what the idea of a bike is] and Braasi [predominantly bag makers, described as “inspired by mountaineering equipment of the 80s”]. You can see a full confirmed list of exhibitors on the website.

Credit: Spin London

We’re getting a lot enquiries from people in the industry and I think people are respecting what it is. Alex has done a really good job in the last few years to establish SPIN as something that people are really aware of in the landscape of the cycling industry. It’s good to see people starting to engage with it more.

Tell me about the team behind it. How many people organise SPIN London and what kind of cyclists are they?

Alex Daw is the founder, the genius who actually founded Spin. He’s the driving force. I think Alex saw the opportunity and the gap for something like SPIN to exist, but he didn’t know too much about cycling when he came into it. He’s obviously learned a huge amount about it in the last couple of years. I came in to work on the Christmas show and the show coming up. My background’s in cycling. I was a journalist for ITV, then I did Face Partnership. I obviously have a bit of a experience in cycling, had a few contacts, and knowledge of how the industry works already. The day-to-day is me and Alex but we bring in a lot of different people to help on various bits such as the marketing or logistical side, like production managing.

Alex is a cyclist. He rides into work, and to meetings. But he’s also a keen footballer so on a Sunday morning you’re more likely to find him playing football than on his bike. Whereas I’ll probably be cycling. I’m a bit of a fair-weather cyclist – I don’t particularly enjoy cycling in the sub-zero temperatures and now it’s just a fantastic time of year. I cycled to Brussels last weekend. I cycled for two days with a couple of friends. I’m hoping to do something for the SPIN website and document it in some way. But yeah, Alex loves roaming about cycling. He’s increasingly passionate about it in different ways. Like the show itself – we want to cater to everyone but there’s a bit market for people becoming more interested in cycling. We’re a sport-mad country. I wonder what room there is for pro cycling to move into. Will we be glued to the spring classics in 20 years time?

So where are you likely to be cycling on a Sunday morning?

I cycle in South London. My standard route is past Biggin hill and then towards Seven Oaks. Toy’s Hill is a pretty fearsome hill to cycle up and down, and it makes a pretty decent loop. The really nice thing from where I live [in Forest Hill] is that if you cycle for about 20 minutes you can be out in the countryside, in the lanes, which is great. Really really nice, and a real bonus of being slightly further out of town.

When the weather’s good, it’s really nice just to ride down to Brighton and have fish and chips, and a couple of beer. The get the train back. If you want to, you can get really committed then you cycle there and cycle back but er.. I am very much more a social level cyclist at this stage and definitely prefer having a couple of beers and sitting on the beach at the end.

When did you really get into cycling?

When I was a kid I was always to be on my bike. Obviously not a road bike, like a Budgie or something. Then a few years ago I used to be on a mountain bike until it was stolen, as it’s London that tends to happen. I’m just trying to keep an eye on my bike out there, actually [looks out of coffee shop window]. So my mountain bike was stolen so I fell out of it.

Then I rediscovered my passion for it through the coverage of the the Tour de France, actually. I got my bike through cycle to work and started pedalling it really and that was it. I was out just before The Tour Ride in 2010 (Minehead to Teignmouth, for Prostate Cancer), in Provence so I tried and failed to ride up Ventoux as part of my training, which was tough. But I’ve actually sort of a passion for that area of it – I do go back to Avignon and cycle around and it’s fantastic.

That kind of unfinished business?

That’s exactly the term I used – exactly what I said the second time I went back. The first time I went there I was staying in Avignon and in my wisdom I decided to hire a bike in Avignon, cycle the 50-60K between the town and the foot of the mountain. It was a stinking hot day and I kept getting lost. So by the time I got there I was exhausted. I also was conscious that I had to cycle the 50-60K at the end of the day to get back to the town. So, it was a tough day. It just sort of went on from there actually.

Some people find the cycling culture in London can initially be quite alienating. What are your thoughts?

This is where I say that I wish something like SPIN had existed when I started out!

Well, I quite like cycling by myself. I’ve never been a huge fan, personally, of cycling in a massive group, so I’ve never gone in for the group rides. I’ve been on a couple of led-rides. One thing I do think there is now, is more provision for people who want to go out on the road with cyclists. So for example, Cadence Performance, down by Crystal Palace, it’s quite close to me and they do led rides and there’s that provision for people who maybe aren’t confident or don’t know the routes, or just want to try their hand at it.

Things like Peckham Cycle Club – you can find people who just send a tweet out that says “we’re going to go riding at 9 o’clock tomorrow, does anyone want to come?” There’s lots of clubs like that. Obviously club rides aren’t really for real beginners, but you get different kinds. Another thing for me – the road circuit at Lee Valley Velo Park is good for people who maybe don’t have that much confidence and are just starting to get into cycling. They want to go somewhere safe that’s not got any traffic on it, apart from your fellow cyclists. I think that’s a great place to just work on technique because there’s no doubt it is quite scary going out on the roads in London.

I guess my advice to anyone learning to cycle would be to take advice from a friend or someone at work who already commutes, or someone who cycles. And maybe get a second opinion. For example, if someone’s buying a bike you can ask ten people about “what’s the best brand?” or whatever, and you’ll get ten different opinions. So always ask people about safety or routes.

There’s one thing that Chris Boardman always says: in terms of 20 years ago, if you cycled to work you were regarded as a bit weird and a bit of a geek. Culturally, that’s completely flipped. If you ride your bike to work now, it’s probably the norm for people to cycle and you’re regarded as quite cool. In terms of the elite riders, there is a shift of how people think about cycling.

Thanks Luke.

My pleasure.

Check SPIN out at spinldn.com or on Twitter @SpinLDN, Instagram or Facebook.
Hit Luke up on Twitter @lukemclaughlin

ClaireSPIN London 2015: not your average bike show