What Cycling Can Tell You About Your Co-WorkerPosted: May 2, 2013
As a cyclist I am biased to the viewpoint expressed in this recent article in The Economist. That said, some of the best moments of my life have been in the saddle; I can’t say that any business meeting will be in the top 10,000 moments.
Traditionally, business associates would get to know each other over a round of golf. But road cycling is fast catching up as the preferred way of networking for the modern professional. A growing number of corporate-sponsored charity bike rides and city cycle clubs are providing an ideal opportunity to talk shop with like-minded colleagues and clients while discussing different bike frames and tricky headwinds. Many believe cycling is better than golf for building lasting working relationships, or landing a new job, because it is less competitive.
“When you play golf with somebody you have to decide if you’re going to beat them, or let them beat you,” says Peter Murray, a former architect, journalist and chairman of the NLA centre dedicated to London’s built environment. “If they’re a client and you don’t want to beat them you have to sort of cheat in order to lose. That seems to me not a good way of doing things.”
In 2005 Mr Murray, who is a keen long-distance rider, founded the annual Cycle to Cannes bike ride. This six-day charity event brings together architects and developers who want to cycle 1,500km from London to the MIPIM property fair in southern France each March. It now attracts around 90 riders and has raised £1.5m for a range of charities in Britain and abroad. This year Mr Murray has also founded a more ambitious ride called Portland to Portland. A team will depart Portland Oregon on April 27th and they are due to arrive in Portland Place, London, 76 days and 6575km later. Along the way they will visit cities to discuss the benefits of urban cycling and raise money for several architectural charities.
Group cycling, and especially long-distance riding, is a shared experience, Mr Murray says. Riders often collaborate and help each other out, taking turns to be at the front so that the riders in their slipstream can save almost a third of the effort needed to travel at the same speed. Some riders selflessly volunteer to stay in the front earning them the awe and gratitude of the entire group.
How someone rides a bike can give you a real insight into what a person is like, says Jean-Jacques Lorraine, founding director of Morrow+Lorraine, a young architecture practice in London, and a regular participant of Cycle to Cannes. “Some riders are very single-minded, others more collaborative; some are tactical, others an open book. Some don’t mind being soloists whilst others prefer alliance and allegiance.” A day in the saddle, racing uphill and downhill, creates a bonding experience that endures. “If I walk into a meeting and somebody says ‘I’ve done Cycle to Cannes’ it’s a done deal really,” says Mr Murray.
Mr Lorraine estimates that as much as 75% of the practice’s workload (around 45 projects) has come directly or indirectly from contacts made on the road while cycling, in particular on the Cycle to Cannes ride. Why does he think cycle rides lend themselves so well to networking and making professional contacts? “Grabbing a quick lunch or drink after work, whilst great for different reasons doesn’t give you long enough to get to know someone,” he says. Mr Murray believes long rides break down conventional hierarchical barriers. “A younger rider can be cycling along with a chief executive and take their wind or help them in some way and you get a reversal of the relationship. This changes the relationship when they are off the ride too.”
Many long-distance bike riders say cycling, especially over long distances, simply makes them feel good; it lifts their mood and concentrates things down to the essentials. “The pattern of fuelling, riding, fuelling, arriving, celebrating, sleeping and fuelling again puts all the focus on riding and the company of your fellow riders,” says Simon Mottram, chief executive of Rapha, a premium cycling-clothes brand. The simple repetitiveness eases the stresses and pressures of normal life, making it a powerful counterpoint to our sedentary lives, he adds.
Mr Mottram believes it is easier to get to know people while cycling than in other situations. “There is an easy rhythm about conversations on a bike.” Mr Lorraine makes the point even more strongly: “The adrenaline rushes, the serotonin pulses and the surges of endorphin create a kind of high, a sense of euphoria. I feel open, honest and generous to others. I often find I’m saying things on a bike which I wouldn’t normally say, and equally I’ve been confided in when I wasn’t expecting it.”
Perhaps the most compelling reason why cycling is a good way to network is because, for many professionals, it’s a passion and a way of life. “Getting out on the bike is what we’re all dreaming of doing whilst we’re sitting at our computers,” says Mr Mottram. And a shared passion is a fantastic way to start any relationship.