Issue 55Cycling Culture

From the convenience of an office Brompton to networking in the saddle, FCBStudios Partner Simon Carter looks at the deep-rooted cycling culture at FCBStudios.

From the convenience of an office Brompton to networking in the saddle, FCBStudios Partner Simon Carter looks at the deep-rooted cycling culture at FCBStudios.

"It makes me happier, more satisfied and gives my day more meaning. Cycling is the answer to many things." Simon Mottram, Founder of Rapha, speaking at 'For The Love Of Bikes' Dinner at FCBStudios

Cycling has grown in popularity over recent years and the culture around cycling has also evolved. However, for most people at FCBStudios cycling is still much more about getting easily from A to B in a time-efficient way which is environmentally, socially and economically sustainable, rather than being any sort of lifestyle choice.

Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of riders here who love their high-end road bikes, and love talking about them even more.  There are even a couple of nutcases who like to do the occasional Audax event, but you’ll find relatively few Mamils riding here in head-to-toe branded lycra.

We pride ourselves on being a diverse bunch of people, with a wide range of interests, who come together in a collaborative open studio.  Our approach to cycling is no different.  Some people will cycle on any old boneshaker as long as they end up at the pub, whilst at the other end of the spectrum, some will manufacture their own spokes and bike parts to achieve the perfect ride.

Brompton bike parking enjoys a prime position in our London Studio events space but this isn’t really about celebrating the bike as an object. Rather, this is the best place to store our fold-ups so that people can get on them and go quickly.

The folding bicycle has been part of our daily way of life for decades. The TV series, W1A, has probably done no favours for the image of the Brompton commuter. Most people think of Hugh Bonneville’s inept efforts at folding his orange Brompton outside the BBC.  However, most FCBStudios architects can fold their battered old Brompton (or possibly Birdy) in under 11 seconds.  It comes naturally to us.

For many at FCBStudios, including our Senior Partners Keith and Peter, the bicycle is the logical choice of transport for getting to meetings quickly and easily – especially in London.  Ian Taylor, our Managing Partner, is one of the fastest people I know on a foldup and can get across London from desk to meeting in an impossibly short timescale.  Few people, no matter what mode of transport they’re using, can keep up with Ian when he’s on a mission.

It’s been fascinating to see how cycling has become much more talked about within the wider construction industry community.  Our discussions about cycling used to be mainly between ourselves. The FCBS Bike Club has been running for many years and as well as arranging cycling events it provides a popular forum for cycling conversations within the office.  We hold our annual Office to Office bike ride from London to Bath, or vice versa, over one, or two days. This is a great way for people from our four geographically diverse offices to get together and get to know each other.

However, as cycling has become more popular, a plethora of groups, events and forums has emerged which brings together cycling, education, architecture and social activities.  We now engage with the wider cycling community in a myriad of ways.

We host cycling discussions and events in our London Events Space, such as this week’s ‘For the Love of Bikes’ hosted by Peter Murray and Velocity Magazine.  We’ve been involved in discussions with people like TfL about how to improve the cycling infrastructure in London through the introduction of the Cycle Super Highways and are active members of the Construction Industry Cycling Commission (CICC).

Cycling has become one of the best way to network within the construction and property industries. We’re regular participants in industry events such as Club Peloton’s 1500km Cycle to MIPIM and these events and others, such as the recent Forcia Life Cycle team race along the South Downs, are a great way to meet people and make new contacts.

Cycling is an important social activity and good physical exercise, but it also has proven benefits for our mental health.  Architecture is a demanding and a sometimes stressful business. I rely on my cycle commute to reflect, rebalance and then return to family life at the end of a day, as well as weekend rides with friends to catch up on news and banter.  A recent article in The Lancet concluded that although all physical activity is linked to better mental health, cycling is particularly good because it often includes a social element as well as physical activity.

In the 40 years of FCBStudios, and the 20 years of our London Studio, cycling in the UK has changed beyond all recognition.  But our passion for cycling, both as a mode of transport and as a social activity, has always been inextricably intertwined with our values and culture.

Simon Carter

Images

1. Participants in this year’s 2-day ride from the London to Bath Offices.
2. This is not a bad montage!  The Brompton bike racks in the London office also double up as a models exhibition stand.
3. Associate Ernst ter Horst sets off from the Manchester office to a client meeting on his Dutch ladies’ shopper.
4. FCBS Bike Club try out the Olympic Velodrome.
5. FCBS Bike Club in action.
6. Cycle to MIPIM grand Depart. Simon Carter rode the 1500km to Cannes in 2018 – Read his blog here.

All photos © FCBStudios