Just one thing
Simon Mottram is the founder and CEO of Rapha, and the driving force behind Rapha Travel. On the road throughout the year, Simon is lucky enough to ride his bike in some of the world’s most spectacular destinations. We decided to pin him down to select just one destination, one climb, one bike and so on. His answers might surprise you.
A destination: Provence. It’s where I spent a lot of time as a child. It’s where the idea for Rapha came. It’s where Saint-Raphaël originates. I used to go there every year on holiday and I spent a year there at university. It was everything I thought was exciting when I was young. Provence is what road cycling is all about. It has the right terrain as, apart from Ventoux, it’s mainly rolling. It has the right tarmac – perfectly smooth. The place just smells right. It’s warm. The food’s good. And it has all the history and culture of France.
A climb: Ventoux. I think it has to be, as obvious as it might seem. It’s where I want to end up one day when I’m 60 or so. That’s where I want to be when I’m pedalling around for three or four hours every day with my friends.
A bike: My Explorateur, because it’s different. It’s steel, and the paint job is based on a Rapha Race Cape. My parents used to say it was a bit crass to want to be different, but there’s something about this bike. When I’m surrounded by people who have great bikes, it’s amazing to be able to turn up on something that nobody else has. It’s my travel bike and symbolises so many great riding destinations. I love arriving at the hotel, pouring a glass of wine and getting it out the box and putting it together knowing I’ve got a great ride the next morning.
An item of clothing: I was torn on this because obviously there are so many that I like, but I think it has to be my all-white Rapha Climber’s Shoes. I keep them in my Explorateur case so that when I travel they’re already there. When I’m travelling I tend to ride in places with nice weather, which suits all-white shoes. I never got the black shoe thing. Never. I know it’s authentic and old-fashioned, but for me white shoes and white socks is just the best look – with brown legs, of course.
A book: The Rider by Tim Krabbé. The whole of road racing is in there. We give it to members of staff at Rapha when they join, and I re-read it every year. Another is Levels of Life by Julian Barnes, which he wrote shortly after his wife died. It’s the most beautiful book. It’s about hot air ballooning and exploration and coming crashing down to earth.
A meal: When I used to live in the south of France there was a moment when everyone would sit outside the café at about 5pm and start to drink rosé. They’d bring out these little bowls of chickpeas with ginger and herbs and a little bit of spice. So my meal would be grazing, while drinking rosé on the side.
A drink: I love red wine and Côte Rôtie is my favourite. It’s from northern Rhône, in a very small area that’s got a very particular south-east slope. It’s very gravelly, temperamental and pure, making the most beautiful wine. It’s delicate and quite hard, and you have to get a good one. I buy it whenever I can.
A ride companion: Ben Lieberson [Rapha Travel guide] or Dominique Gabellini [co-founder of the Rapha-Condor team]. I ride with Ben at least twice a year, and each time he reminds me of what Rapha is all about. He just has a way of talking to me about what matters. It’s similar with Dominique. He’s been around since before day one and he has dragged me around the roads and tracks of Hertfordshire every week since. He’s a lovely man and part of my riding history.
A Rapha Travel trip: I’m doing a Rapha Travel Bespoke trip in the summer. It’s going to be a loop of Sicily, starting and ending in Palermo with Ben as our guide. I love the rhythm of the Rapha Travel Randonnées. A lot of their original routes were based on trips that I’d been doing with a group of friends for years.
A dream destination: I’m really keen to go riding in South Africa. It’s a cycling place and looks amazing. New Zealand as well. But now I’m riding more cross, I really fancy doing a great cross randonnée, across Utah or something. It doesn’t even have to be a far flung place like the Outback, it could be in the middle of Europe, just as long as it’s away from the crowds and along off-road tracks.