From an unsupported solo bike trip from London to Cape Town, rowing the Atlantic – breaking two world records – to setting up a business during a pandemic. Adam talks about the skills gained along the way and how they translate to running a business.
You took on two incredible adventures, tell me about them, and how they shaped the person you are today.
The first trip was a 7-month unsupported solo bike ride from London to Cape Town which I did straight after university. Compared to my second trip this one was far easier; anyone can jump on a bike with a map and tent and start riding. It definitely had an impact on the person I am today: I’m very independent, I would much rather do things myself than delegate – not necessarily a good thing! – and I like to have time on my own.
University friends, knowing of my cycling trip, asked if I wanted row the Atlantic with them. Before they had finished asking the question I said yes. Ben Fogle and James Cracknell are probably the best-known people for crossing the Atlantic, and fully aware of their problems we thought we could do it better. It took months of preparation, physically and mentally.
It taught me a huge amount – it’s terrifying when you’re at the mercy of the ocean. Teamwork, planning and preparation were key, and the importance of these have stuck with me. Preparation is everything, whether it’s launching a business or rowing the Atlantic. With the rowing you have to make sure you have everything you need, there is no going back or ordering an item for next-day delivery!
I learnt to break tasks down into manageable chunks, and methodically working through them. Otherwise, it’s easy to be overwhelmed, get stressed and lose focus. I’ve worked with lots of endurance athletes over the years and most use the same technique.
Unlike the majority teams we spent a lot of time focussing on teamwork and making sure we were aligned on our priorities, to the extent of meeting with a psychiatrist who talked us through what was important to each of us. We had three objectives: Be safe, Be happy, Be fast, but our priorities were different from each other. Talking through those priorities in depth and having an agreement before we set off was a huge benefit and something we saw other teams fall down on when the pressure was on.
How did you keep yourself motivated, and others around you?
A rowing boat whether on the river for an hour or on the Atlantic for 6 weeks is the ultimate teamwork environment, I took a huge amount of pride and motivation from what we had achieved in getting our boat built and raising £100,000 costs to get to the start line, this motivated us all the way.
What were the two world records you broke when rowing the Atlantic, and do you still hold them?
First twins to row any ocean. Held the youngest team of 4 world record until Mad4Waves took it in 2018.
Do you think you will ever do another endurance event?
Yes, one day. I would also love to head back out and cross an ocean but probably on a comfortable sailing boat rather than rowing!
Tell me about your business that you set up recently.
It called Terra Cycling, we specialise in Bike Fitting and bespoke Titanium bikes. The majority of people need their bike adjusting to fit them properly. If you’re just cycling to the shops and other short trips, then it doesn’t matter, but once you start doing greater distance it does. A good bike fit will prevent injury and give you the right position for optimum power and efficiency. I take your current off-the-shelf bike and adjust it to fit you, or I can help you choose the right bike from all the different brands available. Alternatively, I can design a titanium frame bike tailored to you.
Why a titanium and not a carbon bike?
Titanium is light but super strong. Carbon bikes are lighter and can be very aerodynamic but very fragile. If a carbon bike hits a pothole or the rider falls at a junction it can easily be irreparably damaged, but a titanium bike will survive it which means that it will last decades. If you’re spending money on a custom fit bike you want it to last. Titanium bikes are easier to make too; carbon bikes are made from moulds and as such are hard to make to size but Titanium, like steel, can be made to any measurements.
Why wait until September 2020, in a pandemic, to start a business?
Prior to Covid I was working for a luxury cycling travel company, which I really enjoyed, but clearly Covid put a stop to that. It was the nudge I needed. The reason why I hadn’t gone down this route before was a confidence thing. I’ve been working around bikes for many years, and I could see mistakes being made by others but it took until last year to decide I really knew how to do it better.
What are the pros and cons of starting your own business?
It’s big and scary. You’re taking a gamble on success and putting so much hard work in, so there is a constant pressure. It can be hard to switch off. On the plus side the control is fantastic and the creativity is great. It does allow for a better work/life balance, especially as I have a 17-month-old daughter. In my previous jobs I would be away for weeks at a time which isn’t so great when you have a young family.
How did you decide where to establish your business?
All the best bike fitters – at the time! – were in London, so I wanted to set up elsewhere. We lived in London but I would always head out to the Surrey Hills to go cycling. It’s a great area so we chose to move there and that’s where I am today. I partner with my friend, Chris, who runs a café/bike repair and maintenance shop. We share the same premises but run separate businesses which works well as we bounce clients between us.
Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?
Certainly not taking over the world! I like to think I would have a small but thriving business with a couple of staff, designing more bikes and perhaps having a fitting studio in a couple of locations. I enjoy the bespoke niche work that I do and supporting customers. I’m not after a huge salary and dozens of locations, that sounds exhausting, my priority is the work/life balance.
What were your favourite jobs prior to setting up Terra Cycling?
I worked in a ski resort for over a year that was fun. My favourite is probably when I worked for Rapha as a Head Guide. They delivered high end cycling trips in the Alps, Pyrenees, and Dolomites. They were incredible trips and I enjoyed learning the languages, the culture, and local knowledge. It was a thrill to essentially ride my bike in the sun for a living and I was always super fit.
When you left Radley you studied Design/Electronics at Loughborough University, did you have a career plan in mind?
Not at all, I had loved my time in the Design and Electronics department at Radley and wanted to take it to the next level. I wish I had been able to take Design and Engineering with Sports Science but I think a lot of people would change their degree if they could go back in time!
Finally, what were your favourite times at Radley?
Not surprisingly I was a rower. It taught me a lot about hard work, pain, endurance, suffering … all of which help to make for a good cyclist. Academically, I enjoyed DT and I use those skills now for designing bikes. Electronics was brilliant too, the facilities were extraordinary and I feel so privileged to have been able to learn parts of my trade there.
To find out more about Terra Cycling Ltd click here.