Getting to know Rapha founder Simon Mottram

ARCHIVE: The founder of the upmarket cycling-gear brand on hill climbs in 30-degree heat and weekly four-hour rides to the Home Counties.

by Adam Gale
Last Updated: 08 Aug 2017

The cycle clothing and accessories company Rapha has just been majority acquired by RZC Investments, a private equity firm controlled by Tom and Steuart Walton, of the Wal-mart dynasty. Rapha was founded in 2004 by Simon Mottram, who remains its CEO.

Here's MT's interview with Mottram from June 2015, when we visited him at Rapha's snazzy HQ.


WORK

Starting a day without coffee is impossible. I'm no snob - a smooth Lavazza Crema e Gusto is best. Grooming's easy as I have very little hair and the same beard since 1992. I use Kiehl's moisturiser and our own shaving cream fragranced with the flora of Mont Ventoux for my neck. It's 15 minutes from our Queen's Park home to my office in King's Cross, but I often go for a longer ride with friends. Cycling is very social. We used to go to the pub; now we ride our bikes. I wear my own gear because I made a product range to perfectly fit my own life, but my signature's a pair of white Tricker's brogues. I own four pairs, and a drawer full of yellow Lamy fountain pens with purple ink. Every Wednesday, most of us go for a four-hour ride to the Home Counties. Rapha probably isn't a good place if you're not obsessed with cycling.

PERSONAL

Weekends are for the family. Our eldest son, Oscar, 20, is severely autistic and needs constant care. We often take him to nearby Regent's Park. Having loved cars and worked in the auto industry for 20 years, I now own a Motability Ford Galaxy. Music's constantly playing in our house. I couldn't live without Stevie Wonder and acid jazzman DJ Giles Peterson has been a part of my life for 30 years. I love classic French food from Zedel or the Wolseley, and a nice glass of Chateauneuf-du-Pape. My colleagues would call me a Luddite, but I am a big fan of my MacBook Air and iPhone 6. I'm currently reading the harrowing novel The Narrow Road to the Deep North, but I intersperse fiction with cycling books. I have no interest in getting a Kindle.

TRAVEL

Wherever I fly, I bring a Goruck gear bag and an Explorateur bike which I dismantle and put in my suitcase. In January, I go to Adelaide for the Tour Down Under, and hit the hills in 30-degree heat. It's the best cure for jetlag. Tokyo is just life affirming. On the surface, it's so civilised, unlike here where everyone's so selfish and rude. If you get up early, you can ride past the neon signs of Shibuya in peace, visit a temple or eat tofu from the roadside. The south of France has special memories for me, as I met my wife while living in Provence, but until recently holidays were harder work than being in the office. We've got more care for Oscar now and last year we went to Croatia. It was amazing, waking up with nothing to do but what you want.

INSPIRATIONS

At the beginning of my business plan, I used to have a quote from Lance Armstrong. We don't talk about him any more. We couldn't have built Rapha if he hadn't existed, but what an arse. Every year, I do a charity ride from Manchester to London for Ambitious about Autism. When Oscar was little, all we wanted was someone who knew everything to tell us what our options were. For 15 years, we've sent him to TreeHouse, the autism school co-founded by Nick Hornby. He has to be taught incredibly slowly, but now he can wash his hands and use the dishwasher. At Interbrand, founder John Murphy bred in us this confidence that if you believe, nothing can stop you. If no one believed Oscar could do these things, they wouldn't have put in the effort.

Main image credit: Tom Campbell

Body images: Douglas Mason/Getty Images; Aurora Photos/Alamy; Shutterstock

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