For the very first interview on Merci Vélo, I’m glad to introduce to you Norbert, a passionate cyclist who was first practicing triathlon. After several years working in the cycling industry, he’s now starting a new adventure. He’s sharing with us his motivations, his vision about cycling and performance. And a lot of interesting stuff.
Hi Norbert! Could you please introduce yourself to our readers.
Hello! Sooo… I’m 31 year old man living in France. I’ve just quit my job in the field of cycling after 5 years. I was doing mechanics and selling. And I’m the admin of la déchetterie du cyclisme, a Facebook page dedicated to bike mechanical howlers. People are sharing stuff and some nonsense that are hilarious.
What is the most stupid thing about cycling you’ve ever seen?
I think wearing underpants under your bibs. That’s pure madness 😉
Totally agree! So you were first a triathlete and doing especially long distance races, right? And now you’re mainly cycling, surfing and playing golf. Why?
Absolutely. I did it some times and various distances. But I stopped due to a lack of time and desire to share. I mean triathlon is cool, but when you’re swimming, you can’t share anything. About running, except for a few long sessions at low intensity, it’s the same. I wanted an accessible sport, and that allows me to discover the countries. And especially I wanted to leave Parisian landscapes. And go further.
Do you remember your first bike? Not the one with the training wheels 🙂
A carbon Look bike with an aluminum fitting, with its speeds on the frame because I could not afford to buy a bike with speeds on its handlebars.
What do you like about cycling?
Cycling has really been for me a way to spend time with my friends. Sharing roads and adventures, which for me is currently the most important. Then gradually, it allowed me to discover regions. Despite my lack of training, tomorrow if I’m asked to go climbing a mythical col, I don’t think twice and I rush headlong 😀
If you had to sum cycling up but especially your practice in a word, you would say ….
Adventure or discovery.
And what can cycling bring you in your daily life and to your mental?
Cycling, and especially vélotaff (ndlr: French word for Bicycle commuting) allows me to breathe and relax in my life. It gives me time to think especially, but also to leave the “bubble” related to my work environment. It’s a chill moment, except when fucking drivers barely miss me with their car.
Let’s talk about drivers … Do you have regular problems with cars? Did you see a difference between Paris and other regions where you’ve been?
So I live in Loire Atlantique, which is not in Brittany (that’s for unnecessary regionalist debates). I had several problems with cars, I had 3 accidents when I lived in Paris. About situations of lack of respect for the cyclists, I had plenty of them, and in almost all the regions. After, I had a few arguments many times, because cyclists are also “stealing” the road from drives …
Since I arrived here, I drive less, but it always happens, which is the most dramatic in my opinion.
And what do you practice? Road, gravel, pedalo?
Road, commuting, and a first trip in Omnium.
A discipline you prefer?
Aaaaah and what is your favorite col?
I loved Lizarrieta, a small col of the Basque country where there is no car, and which is super comfortable! I’m going back to school now, so I’m not going to travel on my bike right now, I think. However, I would like to make the mythical French cols.
Can you tell us about the bikes you own?
I currently have two bikes:
-A Giant Defy Advanced Pro 0 that I ordered when I was in the Basque Country. It is a typical bike endurance, with a comfortable balance. I’ve chosen it because this bike looks sexy with the effect at the level of the typo. After, considering my current practice, I wanted a comfortable bike more than a sporty one. I mainly go out on my saddle. I waited for 10 months, but I’m happy. I did not bring him to the mountains yet.
It has a Shimano Ultegra DI2 just because I treated myself. I have neither the level nor the requirement to see the difference between a 105 and a Dura-Ace (except the handjob) but I wanted a beautiful bike mounted in electric. This bike comes with tubeless carbon wheels which I mounted by my former colleague (Yann Bike 64, Bidart) a pair of light wheels for the mountain. It has also Mavic Open Pro on Hope hubs always in tubeless. It’s the first pairs of wheels I have in tubeless and frankly, I’m really happy. We find the comfort of tubular tire and hopefully we have less problems.
-An Omnium Mini Max to avoid using the car. I find the car completely anxious. So, its frame allows me to carry my shopping or anything else (I even moved in with it in Paris) and it’s really great. He has a monoplateau, and disc brakes. Minimum maintenance with reliable and robust parts.
Difficult question: what is the most important element in a bike for you? This choice is personal and does not need to be shared by others. The wheels ? The frame materials?
The bike has to match with your practice. That’s the most important thing for me. Know your needs and the bike that responds to it. After, the rest is a matter of money and taste. A good frame and good wheels make a good bike. But a pure race bike for a guy who doesn’t need it is almost counterproductive …
Like many cyclists, you are using Strava and you have a GPS meter and / or different sensors. How do you incorporate all metrics into your cycling and sports practice in general? How important are they?
Today, I’m having no sport goals, so I don’t really give a shit about data. I’m just trying to track my annual mileage. Today, even if I go out with my cardio belt and have a power sensor, I do not really look at the data.
After, if you’re looking for performances (like me when I was doing my long distance triathlon), everything is different. Data such as power or heart rate become tools for the progression and construction of workouts.
Do you think that the development of Strava and social networks has change our relationship with performance and self-esteem … by inviting us to challenge ourselves perpetually and to compare ourselves to others?
The bike has always been a dick-measuring contest. To be honest, and my own experience in cycling stores has confirmed that. Who has the biggest ratio, who has the KOM, who gets better, who has the lightest bike, who has the most expensive …
It’s just become even easier to compare yourself via the networks. It’s also what made me leave the world of cycling as a professional activity. I will not find myself in all his competitions.
A good thing or not?
Frankly, all that is shit, it brings nothing. The only thing that matters is enjoying the moment. The rest is only futility.
You did several competitions including an Iron-Man. What is your relationship with performance and competition?
It’s like Gollum with the ring. I love it as much as I hate it.
I was educated in the culture of competition, from a very young age. I love competition because it exerts myself a lot and above all helps me to surpass myself, to see the limits of the body.
But I hate competition and its ungrateful sides, the requirement of competition in some ways. When you’re not training yourself for competition, your progresses are less quickly, and it’s harder to stand it too. And long distance requires a lot of sacrifices, far too much for me now.
You worked in the sports and cycling industry. Can you tell us more or is it confidential? What is your point of view about cycling industry and its backstage? It’s shiny or not?
Honestly, I could talk about it for a few hours, with lots of anecdotes. Cycling industry, the brand relationship (or supplier) and point of sale, I think it’s like any kind of business, it’s filled with hypocrisy. On top of that, you add old professionals who become commercial, but who are not good at it and you have the table …
The relationship customer/shop is really special, that’s what is disgusting me the most. You must keep in mind that it’s a bike, it’s a hobby.
How did you come to work in sport and cycling? Do you have special training? Because you do not come from the bike at the base?
I have a designer draftsman training. I had a bad experience that ended badly in the field in Paris. I had a break, a friend had shops in Paris, he asked me if I wanted to be a seller, I said that I tried.
But I’ve always been a bike fan.
What disgusted you in the relationship customer/shop?
It’s the customers’ attitude. I like helping people. Really. But today it’s too complicated to make it clear that not everything is free, that you must pay for mechanics. And no, people working on cycling are not millionaires. You mix a new model of consumption based on Internet with an aging sport practiced by people who can have old mentalities, and that makes a mixture which is not necessarily for my taste.
To Who or what would you like to say thank you?
Thank you to all those who are fighting for women’s cycling to develop. It’s really a necessity in this old sport. I can thank all the people who waited for me at the top of the cols. To those who supported me when I complained that it was hard.
And thanks but no thanks?
The lack of elegance of the cyclos in France.
(Even if you’re bad at sports, at least be elegant)
Public authorities that don’t do anything for the development of the bicycle as a means of transportation. And drivers who have big problems to share their roads.
And cyclists to share who inspire you?
Alberto Contador because he’s super elegant.
I am a big fan of the golden era of cycling. Golden meaning the amount of peroxidized hair, but also for me the cycling with panache. The time when you saw the Festina put the peloton in a single file. The time when Franck Vandenbroucke attacked in Liège-Bastogne-Liège in 1999 on big ring.
They were doped, not more than today, but it was hot stuff. The guys were beating other cyclists hollow. It was beautiful to see. Today with the headsets, we have quite killed the races.
One last word or advice / books / films / etc. you would like to share with us?
Have fun on your bike.
Thank you Norbert!