Mr. Blick

photo by George Marshall

Mr. Steve Blick, cycle-sports marketing manager for Oakley, was in London for the Olympics, travelling across town on a special Beloved from Portland. Max Leonard rode alongside for an insight into the world of Mr. Blick.

Tell us about your London Olympics experience.
This was my sixth Olympics – Salt Lake City in Winter 2002 being the first. London was great because I managed to stay somewhat connected to my roots on two wheels, riding a bicycle. I was on the ground for a month, so it helped me keep some sort of a sanity level. Not riding a bike for that long will take its toll on you.

How was riding in London?
It was like a snapshot back to my childhood riding the streets of SF. Except for the tall buses, the giant red walls that just come out of nowhere and close in on you like you’re in a trash compactor in Star Wars. It was pretty fun. Just following other riders’ wheels in London was a great experience, a quick distraction from my duties looking after the Oakley athletes.

You come from a mountain-biking background, right?
And trials too! I think my trials background mixed in well with London, because you’ve got to look for holes, and stick your wheel through them. I’m riding a lot of ‘cross at the moment – I’m on a Rapha Focus – I love being on that bike, as it’s kind of the middle ground. You can go on the road, on the dirt, downhill, uphill, it’s the one bike I go to for everything. Mountain biking is definitely my first love, but ‘cross… if I had to tick one, at the moment it’d be that.

What were your responsibilities in London?
I’m global sports marketing manager and I look after virtually everyone on two wheels without a motor for Oakley. I was at the Tour de France, came home for a couple of days, recharged, then I was back in London, chasing down my guys at the side of the road and giving them the newest product – we brought out a whole collection of colours that resembled the colours of the Tube lines on the Underground map. Some wanted to match their country uniforms; some wanted combos that had nothing to do with their national colours! I was at the road race, time trial, velodrome. Then with the BMX riders, changing straps and lenses, making their goggles look nice. The BMX guys were crashing, coming in hard. I was looking at lenses coming back to me folded in half. I was at the finale of the mountain bike, too. A short race, but brutal. They were basically fighting on the front.

It must be inspiring to be at the Tour, the Olympics, with some of the best sportsmen on the planet, including the UK’s own Mark Cavendish.
It’s humbling and an honour to be there… staying focused and helping these guys with their needs for their vital equipment. It’s cool that the colour and the shape look good, but the fact that they have a choice, and they stick with us… At Oakley we like to solve problems, with science first, then wrap it in art, work with the best athletes and get it spot on. If it’s good enough for a win in the Olympics, it’s good enough for everyone else.

How did Designed To Win, your exhibition in conjunction with the Design Museum happen?
Two-and-a-half years ago Cuan Peterson, our director of performance sports marketing, went to London and found himself at Tower Bridge, thinking that this was where people would want to be during the Olympics. He turned around and saw the Design Museum and said, boom, this is our home. At first they said, ‘No thanks, we’re a museum, we’re not a party house,’ but we took a respectful approach and designed a 3D layout of what we wanted to accomplish.

We respected the museum space and made it comfy for athletes and their families, have a break from the Olympic craze. Then over the four floors of the museum, we worked with them to curate an exhibit, to make it appropriate. We’re involved in sports from Formula One to ski-ing, and so we gathered together the best equipment – the winning Le Mans car of four weeks previous, an Hour record bike, Schurter’s 650B world-champ winning mountain bike – not just Oakley products. We wanted to celebrate performance and design, and house our athletes all in one spot, and working with the Design Museum was an honour.

What’s next?
I’ll be at the finale [last Sunday – Ed.] of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge in Colorado, to catch up with Tejay [van Garderen] and George [Hincapie], and give my good wishes to George after his amazing career. We have a nice gift for him.

Designed to Win is on at the Design Museum until November 18.