‘Wiltshire’ worn by YOKO AOKI

Photography by Agnes Lloyd-Platt  |  Art Direction by Eve Izaak.
Yoko wears the Rapha + Liberty Cap featuring the ‘Wiltshire’ print.

The move from Tokyo to London didn’t keep Yoko Aoki from her love of riding. A freelance journalist, Yoko has been a member of the Rapha Cycling Club and its London chapter since it was founded in January 2015, and wants to encourage as many people to take up the sport as possible – especially other women.

Tell us about how you started cycling
I started as a commuter. I was a junior motoring journalist at the beginning of my editorial career, but as a person who majored in Biology, I was acutely aware of climate change and wanted to ditch the petrol burning aspect of my habit. I still love driving cars, motorcycles, anything really, and I thought cycling could be the answer to my problem. I pushed myself to try it, and started commuting to work in Tokyo.

Commuting in Tokyo can’t have been easy.
London and Tokyo are quite similar actually. They are both developing cycling cities, and have had lots of troubles with injuries and deaths in the past. I still fell in love with cycling, however, even on the hybrid bike I was riding at the time. Of course after a while I started looking at road bikes, which was 15 years ago. I’ve been committed to cycling ever since.

What else inspired you to take up cycling, besides the environment?
In Japan, women are forced to worry about their appearance, getting old, and everything ‘going south.’ With cycling, you can keep yourself fit, uplifted and happy. That’s what I like about it. I tell all my friends, everyone I meet, to start. I especially try and push women to take it up. When I came to London I brought my bicycles with me, but my cycling was never sporty until I found Rapha. I wanted to wear the gear, so I started taking my riding more seriously.

Have you noticed a change in cycling since you started?

I’ve noticed such a huge change in the numbers of women on the road. 15 years ago, there were virtually no sporty cycling women out on the road – both in London and in Tokyo. Now, there’s perhaps 100 times more. I’m glad I was one of the first, and that I helped to open the door. I like telling people I’ve been cycling for so long.

I have 11 bikes, from Bromptons to carbon fibre bikes. My partner also cycles regularly, and races cyclocross, which I have never tried. I might give the Rapha Super Cross a go this year, though.

Where has cycling taken you, apart from to-and-from work?
I’d never been to Manchester until I rode the Manchester to London in 2014 [a 220 mile Rapha ride raising money for Ambitious about Autism]. We had a pasta party the night before to load up on carbohydrates. These days there are so many difficult ultra events, but that was definitely hard – probably because my partner and I completed the challenge on a tandem. If you look at a globe, you can draw a line down the UK to show how far you rode – not many rides are long enough to show up on that scale.

For ten days leading up to the launch of the Rapha + Liberty collection, Rapha will be releasing a series of Rapha + Liberty caps, each carrying its own unique print from the Liberty archive. Modeled by influential women from the cycling community in London, the caps are a nod to the shared history between fashion and cycling, and will be available on rapha.cc, and in extremely limited numbers in the Rapha Cycle Club London and Rapha Cycle Club Tokyo.