I’ve known Keith for quite a few years now (and he’s still talking to me), and its been a delight to see him take his passion for cycling to the next level by setting up a local Performance Bike Rental business based here in Adelaide called VÉLO-PORTE .
Its with delight that I had the opportunity to spend a some time with Keith trying to digest a haggis and a cuppa tea talking about cycling.
Here is Keith’s story.
- You are a Scottish lad at heart, what can you tell me about how you got started in cycling in Scotland.
Although I was never off my bike from about the age of 4 cycling really started for me through BMX. I had a group of great mates in our town that all got bitten by the bug. That was where I started researching the best products through magazines and visiting shops. It’s also where my mechanical skills kicked in through the numerous breakages.
BMX eventually progressed into Mountain Biking. This gave us our first taste of exploring further afield and trying to find new trails to ride and connect to create longer loops with as much off road as possible.
Muddy wet weekends also meant bikes were stripped, cleaned and rebuilt pretty regularly. If you didn’t the simply fell apart. It was a lot of trial and a lot of error but I reckon that’s the best way to learn, just doing it.
- What are some of the more significant differences between cycling in Adelaide and Scotland.
The two obvious differences are the weather and the quality of road surface.
The weather in Scotland creates two kinds of cyclist, the one that rides no matter what the conditions are and the ones that don’t. I can remember mountain biking in -12° in a snow storm on the moors, which was interesting. Then there was the time we went out on Christmas Day and my mate crashed and broke his collar bone because the ground was so hard with the frost. We spent the day at accident and emergency….
The extreme shifts in conditions also impact greatly on the road surfaces. The roads are generally rougher to improve grip for cars but they also break apart in places where you get snow and ice
A few years back I borrowed a cousin’s aluminum road bike for our trip home. After the first ride I struggled to get my hands off the handle bars after hanging on so tight.
It always makes me laugh when the locals hear complain about the rough roads in and around Adelaide…. Apart from Montacute to Payenham Rd. That’s shit.
- You have a cycling business on the side, what finally pushed you over the edge into setting up the business, what is it and more importantly, how is it going?
VÉLO-PORTE was born out of another idea we had for a cycling business, which we still might develop so I won’t say what it was.
We were travelling back to Scotland and I was struggling to justify taking my bike with me for a family holiday but I wanted to get some riding in.
All the rental options, if any in our area, at the time were through bike shops and all pretty low spec’d bikes.
On a long haul flight you have a lot of thinking time, especially when you’re trying to figure out a way of begging, borrowing or stealing a bike.
We understood the problem because we were well and truly in it. Travelling with your bike is often expensive and a logistical nightmare. When you arrive at your destination, if you’re not there specifically for a cycling holiday, you may not use it as much as you hope to. Unfortunately sometimes it’s just not worth the pain.
There are also the issues of damage or loss of bikes in transit. A few friends had horror stories of snapped frames, bent derailleur hangers and chain rings that had pierced their big bags in transit.
We decided there must be a better and more convenient way to ride when you travel. Being based in Adelaide we saw the potential of having a great bike delivered to your door and great cycling literally on our door step.
So VÉLO-PORTE was built around three main ideas;
- Great cycling should fit in your hand luggage.
- It needed to be small on infrastructure and big on service. We decided on a mobile offer to keep our overheads to a minimum. This allowed us to spend more on better quality bikes and nothing on leasing shop space which probably would have finished us in 12 months.
- The best bikes we can possibly offer that match the quality of riding on offer. Life is too short to ride shit bikes, especially when the roads and environment is world class and only a few KM’s out of the city.
The business is going pretty well. We’re in our fourth year now and things have really settled in product and process wise.
We’ve spent a lot of time building our new website which will be filling out with more information over the next few months, when the winter sets in and we get time to catch up on a few ideas.
It’s been a rewarding first four years and we’ve met and ridden with a lot of great people from all over the world but it has been hard work.
Keeping 20 bikes clean and running smooth isn’t always easy and stress free, particularly in January when we had 100+ bike rental days over the Tour Down Under.
- Where do you see the business going over the next few years?
3 Main developments:
New bikes. We’re considering some gravel bikes as part of our next fleet. We’ve had our eye on the Cyclocross and Adventure style bike scene for some time now and feel this style of bike could replace our Sirrus bikes. The Sirrus were a bit of an experiment but in hindsight they’re not really where we’re heading next.
Products. We’re (slowly) developing a few pieces of kit. By spring we’ll have jersey, knicks, and vests available through the website.
We’ll also have a range of ‘forgettables’. These are items that clients seem to forget the most like gloves, arm and leg warmers.
Partnerships. Another part of expanding the business will be through partnering with other like-minded companies.
We’re talking to both cycling related and tourism focused businesses to see where we can help each other out and what opportunities we can develop together. There are two exciting cycling events being worked on at the moment.
- Are you just a roadie, or do you cross over to other disciplines?
I actually started road cycling to get fitter for mountain biking. Having a young family at the time it became easier to get out for a quick ride on the road rather than heading up to the Echunga Trails for half a day.
The group I used to mountain bike with has all gone through the same shift to road for the same reasons. We still ride together after 15 years.
I rarely get out on the mountain bike now, usually with my son Angus up at Fox Creek. I still love it.
- How many bikes do you personally own and what is your main go to bike?
I have 3 personal bikes.
My road bike is a Felt F1 with Dura-Ace and HED Ardennes+ wheels. I’ve had it for a few years now and do 99% of my cycling on it. I like having one bike that I can ride anywhere. It’s basically a pro level bike that is comfortable to ride to work, sharp enough to race (if I wanted to) and light enough to do the odd 3 Peaks….slowly.
I also have an Avanti Aggressor Mountain Bike that I bought to ride around with the kids. The problem is one of the kids has now claimed it for his own bike.
My other bike is a classic steel Breezer Mountain Bike.
Anyone who knows about MTB history will know that Joe Breeze was one of the guys who created the sport with Charlie Cunningham, Tom Ritchie and Gary Fisher. I don’t ride it anymore as Angus has converted it into a single speed….
I rode this bike in Scotland, USA and Canada. I’d probably never sell it as it means so much to me. I brought it out to Adelaide so it wouldn’t rust and get chucked out of Mums place back on Scotland, much like my old Haro Master BMX that would probably be worth a bit now.
- What bike do you covet?
I would class myself as a bit of a purist when it comes to bikes and I don’t really covet the really high end stuff, above $12,000. To be honest I don’t really see the point. I’m more interested in the perfect bike rather than the dream bike. I want one bike that I ride everywhere for any reason.
To answer the question though, an obvious one is a Tarmac S-Works Di2 DA. Having ridden our Tarmac Expert rental bikes and knowing how great they feel I’d definitely love to try the S-Works version long term.
The other would be a Canyon Ultimate CF SLX. I love the look of them. They just always look great on the road.
- Do you do all your own maintenance or do you use a LBS? If so, which one?
I do almost everything on both my personal bikes and the business bikes. I tend to stay away from wheels particularly on the rental bikes.
If needed we’ll take the Specialized Tarmacs to Bike Society who built them for us.
We’ve also used Mega Bike, BMCr and Norwood Parade Cycles who are closest to home.
I’d love to develop a better workshop with more tools to tackle wheels, bottom brackets etc.
Our rental bikes are cleaned, lubed and tuned before every client rides them so I’m really focused on mechanical issues. Our goal is that every bike looks and feels like a new one as much as possible when a client receives it.
- What cycling specific tools do you have in your “bike shed”?
I use BBB tools on our bikes.
They main tools we need are:
- Torque wrench for setting bikes up
- Chain whip and cassette spanner.
- Pedal alen key and spanner (we change a lot of pedals).
- Bike Mechanic Cleaner
- Ice Tools lube
- 2 x track pumps
- Park Tools mechanics stand
When I have more time (and cash) I’d like to get a wheel jig and play around with truing and building from scratch.
- What is your favourite piece of cycling kit or accessory?
My favourite piece of kit would definitely be my S-Works shoes. I’m now on my 3rd pair and as a product they clearly get better and better with every update.
On bike accessory would be my Garmin. I did suffer a little bit of STRAVA fatigue for a while and stopped looking at it but looking back over the last few years it’s been the one item that has impacted my cycling and fitness the most.
I‘d have to add in the humble Camelbak Podium bottle too. Having grown up cycling before BPA free bottles were the norm this product is probably bigger that it will ever be given credit for.
- What do you love about cycling?
Simple – Riding. I just love being out on my bike. I don’t really follow in great detail who’s winning races every morning. I watch the big races but am more interested in finding great road, fantastic scenery and hopefully some good company.
- What annoys most about cycling?
Commuters who track stand (poorly) at traffic lights, riding past someone with a bike that is making noises that could be fixed in under 30 seconds., and not being fit enough to get anywhere near my PR on Norton Summit. 16:01 for those playing at home. (Bastard – mines 16:29)
- Other than yourself, who is your favourite cyclist?
Alejandro Valverde. He’s always there animating pretty much every race he’s in whether it’s a one day classic or a Grand Tour.
- If you could have dinner with 3 professional cyclists, who would they be?
Lance Armstrong, Greg Lemond and Tyler Hamilton. That would be an interesting evening.
- What are your craziest/fondest cycling memories?
My combined craziest and fondest memory would be riding my first 3 Peaks in 40° heat. We stuck together and got each other through it. There was a lot of swearing, arguing and I think almost a punch up at one stage but we got there and will all probably never forget that day of riding. It’ll be the one we remember the most. (I see you didn’t mention another 3P attempt where you wore out your cleats and your stomach!)
- What is your favourite post ride coffee/tea spot, and what would you normally buy?
We tend to head to Tell Henry lately at the bottom of The Parade, I also like Rymill Park Kiosk in the warmer months, there’s always plenty room for bikes.
- Apart from Scotland in youth, have you ridden overseas? If so, where?
I’ve ridden in the US, Canada and Singapore. Mostly mountain biking as it was a few years back, although I’m actually technically overseas now so I’d count Australia in there too…
- Where else would you love to ride?
I’d love to ride Taiwan, Japan, New Zealand and the Dolomites in Italy. For starters.
- What is your favourite training route?
Start with Norton Summit or Montacute Rd, head down Pound, up Burdetts Rd, Range Road, Carey Gully, Spring Gully, Crafers, over Lofty and back down Norton. (I’d second that Keith – a beautiful part of the world – I’ve mapped the route for those unfamiliar – see here)
I did this with Steve Cunningham in 35°’s once, training for the 3 Peaks, and ended up dry wretching on the back lawn with the garden hose pouring cold water over my head. Happy days.
- What is the biggest cycling lie you have told your partner?
“I’ll never do the 3 Peaks again, I promise.” (Yep, I’ve used that one before, and if i recall correctly, it’s “still” out there in the cloud)
- What would you like your partner to buy you for your next birthday?
The new VÉLO-PORTE team kit which should be available by then…..
- Is there a local cycling outfit/company/cycling club/cycling group/person that you would like to plug?
We’re building a community of cyclists from Adelaide and beyond through our website.We aim to provide VPCC members with early access, and discount, on new products.
There is also a member’s only page that has ride calendars and member only content.
Sign up through www.velo-porte.com
- Is there anything else you feel like talking about?
Only that we really are focused on creating the best products and services for cyclists through VÉLO-PORTE. If anyone has any ideas, feedback or comments we really do want to hear from you.For the most regular updates please follow us on Facebook and Instagram.
Thanks Keith, great talking with you, but next time, keep you haggis to yourself!