Back in April an e-mail dropped into my inbox entitled ‘Fred Perry x Bradley Wiggins – interview opportunity’, my heart started pumping. I opened it and read that Fred Perry wanted to offer me the chance of a face to face interview with someone who is not only one of my favourite cyclists but also a top favourite to win Le Tour de France this year, this was the big time!
What the hell was I going to speak to Wiggo about? Part of me wanted to decline the offer because it was almost too much to even comprehend but I knew that would be stupid. A week later I was on a train to London complete with interviewer’s notebook and Parker pen…
Having never conducted a formal interview like this before I didn’t know what to expect, I wrote down about a million questions on the train because I didn’t want to run out, I had a 15 minute slot which sounded like an eternity, I can’t even chat to my best friends for that long.
I arrived at the photo shoot at Sargent and Co. and met the Fred Perry team, they were all very nice and seemed really excited about having Brad on board, Brad on the other hand looked angry. I have seen his post race interviews, I had been wondering whether he was going to give me his trademark short answers and embarrass me in front of the Fred Perry girls, the look on his face during the shoot worried me.
This was on May 1st, he was probably just really tired having won the Tour of Romandie just three days earlier, that’s what I kept telling myself. About an hour later the shoot was over and my heart started pumping just like when I got the e-mail.
I shook his hand, I think, and tried to look important and cool by carrying my backpack on just one shoulder, I think. We walked to a coffee shop just down the street and I fumbled my way through this, enjoy…
How did your collaboration with Fred Perry come about?
It was around about the time of the 2011 World Championships, they did the cycle range last year which sold really well and wanted to do it again this year. So the connection with me and the whole Tour de France thing as well as the boom in cycling at the moment and it just went from there really. I jumped all over it as soon as they asked me.
Are you a big Fred Perry fan?
Oh, without a doubt yeah, since I was a kid, you know? If you’re into the brand and the heritage of the brand you can always remember where you got your first Fred Perry shirt and for me I was nine years old. If you’re into the culture that I was into growing up as a kid it sort of came with it really.
How involved are you with the design process?
Massively, right from the start. Since November I’ve been involved in most of the initial design meetings and then the early stages of coming back with the rough ideas and then tweaking it slightly, tweaking the length of the zip or the cut of the shirt or the length of the sleeves so right through the whole process really which has been the most enjoyable part of it.
I was doing a great job, I knew it, the Fred Perry girls knew it, Wiggo’s manager knew it but then it happened, Brad turned on me like he did with the terrible French journalists during Romandie - “I can tell this is your first interview” he said, my heart should have sunk but it didn’t, instead I fought back “I can tell it’s your millionth” I replied, he chuckled, I chuckled, the girls chuckled. The ice was broken and I stumbled on…
Does the range lean more towards what you like or what Fred Perry wanted?
A bit of both really, they know what sells and have an idea of what they want to put out there so it’s not completely self indulgent in terms of me saying ‘I want this’ or ‘I want that’. It’s not a performance range so there’s no worrying about whether ‘I’m going to get too hot in this, that and the other’. It’s a lifestyle brand with that whole kind of heritage thing tagged onto it so there’s a sort of retro feel to the jerseys and that and a nod to what Fred Perry is about, so it was a bit of both really.
Do you have any ideas for future seasons yet?
Yeah, we’ve already started to look ahead towards the next range, the winter stuff, knitwear to go through the seasons as it were. It’s a long project really and that’s what’s been so exciting for me, it’s not just a one off thing for this summer, it’s about looking ahead, thinking of other ideas and things and ways we can go so it will be an extension of the cycle gear.
Are we going to see a Bradley Wiggins signature suit?
Nah, no, don’t think we’ll go that far, haha.
At this point I started to dig deeper, I wanted to know what he gets up to when he isn’t trying to pull the chain back around his elliptical chainring on the tele.
Do you ride for pleasure as well as training and racing now?
Not anymore, no, it’s a business now and a day job you know? I still enjoy it, don’t get me wrong, and every day I go out on me bike, it’s what started as a passion and a hobby and has ended up with me making a livelihood out of it, you still get the same pleasure out of it but there’s always something to do so it’s not just stoping at cafe’s and things.
So there’s no such thing as going out for a ride along the seafront anymore?
Nah, those days are gone…
Oh well, I’m sure those days will come back.
Do you have a personal favourite of all the bikes you’ve ridden?
Not really, no, they change all the time, they’re continually evolving. Seeing that shop there (Sargent & Co.) and seeing how far they’ve come in 20 years, he called one of them vintage and it was from the 90′s, haha.
Do you think cycling has changed for the better as technology has developed in recent years?
Yeah, I think so. Just look at how big it is now, it’s evolved and it’s got to the level it is now, I think track cycling has helped that, the Olympics, everyone doing so well. It’s interesting now, there’s a lot of technology involved, it’s a lot more space age and that inspires kids to do it, it’s cool. You also have the likes of Mark (Cavendish) doing what he does on the road, sprinting, it’s inspirational and I think it’s gone away from that whole ‘men in lycra’ sort of thing. It’s booming and the Chris Hoy’s and Mark Cavendish’s have done that.
How much input do you get on the parts on your team bikes?
None at all, haha. We get given it and told to ride it. The team has sponsors and they pay money for us to use that equipment and we have to use it.
Have you ever had to race on a bike that you just didn’t like?
He smiled and I could tell he was thinking back to some bloody awful bike that probably made his bum hurt like mere mortals like us could never even imagine. Now that he was relaxed and I was bordering on not mumbling and saying ‘um’ between every word I decided to get all serious and find out what he thought about the hot cycle topic in the news at the mo, safety…
There’s a lot of talk about how to make London more cycle friendly, more ‘Dutch’, do you think that’s possible?
It’s a great idea, it remains to be seen whether it actually comes off. I think it’s very difficult to go from what we have to that, it’s not going to happen overnight and it’s not going to happen in a year or two because we don’t have the infrastructure like they have in Holland. It’s kind of a cultural thing as well, people aren’t brought up on it, London is a hustling bustling city. The idea is fantastic and that people are attempting it and thinking like that can only be a good thing.
What about the safety aspects that go along with that?
Cycling is fantastic, it’s healthy and everything but people have to help themselves a little bit as well and they have to realise sometimes that they are on the road on a bike and there is a certain amount of responsibility they have to take like wearing a helmet, not wearing an iPod and all those things. I think certain laws may have to be passed as well, maybe having a rear light, wearing a helmet, once cyclists start helping themselves like that then they’ll have more protection and rights against drivers. If someone gets killed in a bus lane on a BoJo (Boris Bike) with no helmet and their iPod on then they haven’t really got a leg to stand on.
Everyone seems to just attack the driver in cases like that.
Yeah, a lot of cyclists, or so-called cyclists, give real cyclists a bad name.
I had forgotten to set my stopwatch at the start so I had absolutely no idea how long I had been going for, my sub-questions were under wider themes across multiple pages of my notebook and and I’d been nervously flipping back and forth so much that I didn’t know what was going on by this point. I panicked and blurted out “I asked my readers for some questions”, very quickly he replied “Go for it”, I sensed that he enjoys this kind of thing so I jumped right in…
The main one was when are you going to get a hair cut?
Just now, I’ve just had one (for the photo shoot), haha. I find it fascinating that people find my hair fascinating, haha, half the reason why I don’t cut it is because you’re not supposed to have long hair when you’re riding a bike. I’ve always been a bit of a non-conformist, I’m a bit of an anarchist at heart.
Following on from that, what’s up with the long black socks…
Haha, that’s another thing, yeah. Again, it’s tradition to wear white socks so I like to wear black, it’s good to be different. The more people that bang on about it the more I want to do it, haha. But you’ll notice that a lot more people are wearing black socks in the peloton now…
Do you think that the pro peloton is a little bit too serious, maybe?
I don’t think it’s too serious, we all have our own individual characters but I think we’re all different, everybody’s different and it’s good that you can express that through your sport and not just be robotic like everybody else. That’s one of the nice things for me having Fred Perry because I’m not like Daley Thompson in an Adidas tracksuit or a typical sportsman you know? Sitting here now I could be anyone and that’s what’s really nice about it.
I think that’s part of the reason why you’re so popular. Track cyclists, for example, strike me as the kind of people that pump iron and wear tracksuits a lot, I may be wrong though…
Yeeeeeah, no, maybe. If I wasn’t good at cycling I’d be just like any other person in London or Manchester who is into music and buying records, I just happened to be good at cycling so it makes me really odd and different in the cycling world but if I went to a Rifles gig or something I’d be just like the other 3000 people there. I just find it fascinating, if I do an interview in France the first thing they’ll say is “so, you like music?” like it’s a big surprise or “your hair doesn’t look like everyone else’s”, haha.
Oh God! All I could think about now was music but he basically just said that interviewers that ask him about music are lazy, still, I had nowhere else to go…
That brings us on nicely to music, who are some of your favourite bands?
The Jam, Small Faces, Paul Weller. I grew up on Oasis, I was 13 when Definitely Maybe came out so I lived my whole teenage years through Noel Gallagher’s songs, you know? I grew up in Kilburn so I was a big Prodigy fan when I was a kid as well because they were from Camden. I just used to go record shopping in London, growing up in London it’s hard to not have an interest in music. I was big into The Smiths as a kid too.
I think your music taste is interesting to people because road cycling is always accompanied by terrible Euro-pop…
I grew up with a family that was into music as well so I was introduced to it at an early age. In London you see so many people that express themselves in different ways, the way they dress and stuff and that was just the norm for me, like, going to Shepherd’s Bush on a Saturday and seeing people queueing up for a gig at The Empire and whoever were playing there, whether it was punk one week or indie the next or whatever. And then being a teenager through the whole Brit Pop thing and you were proud to be British at 13-14. So I lived through all that and with the kids at school it was all football and music really, that was what you were into.
His manager was far more organised than I was, “one more” she indicated to me with her finger. According to my recorder this was after 15 minutes and 5 seconds, she was on the ball. Luckily, she had clearly taken pity on me so I scrambled through my book and blurted out…
One more? Would you prefer to talk about guitars or scooters?
Um, I dunno, both really, but guitars I guess, yeah.
Ok, What guitars have you got?
Haha, how long have you got?
About a minute, haha, and do you play a lot?
Yeah yeah, I do, yeah. I’ve got one of John Entwistle’s bass guitars which is one of my most treasured possessions; I’ve got a Gibson 345 from 1960, they are two of my favourites, I’ve got a lot, you know?
Do you write your own songs?
Nah, no, not really. I’m not creative enough really to have a go at writing and I can’t sing but yeah, I can play.
A lot of singers can’t sing and they do all right…
Haha, yeah, i know, I know.
You should write an Olympic Theme tune…
Haha, nooooo, I leave that to whoever’s doing it….
And on that bombshell it was over. I could tell that everyone wanted to give me a high five for making it through but we were all too cool for that, we just looked at each other for a second then shuffled our chairs and stood up. I feel like Wiggo had given me special treatment because it was my first bash at interviewing and I had made an effort to ask him some different questions from what he usually gets.
The Fred Perry girls and his manager discussed the rest of the days itinerary and as I shot a couple of photos and packed my stuff into my bag me and Bradley Wiggins, one of my favourite cyclists and top favourite to win Le Tour de France this year had a chat.
Without the audio recorder light glowing the heat was off, like he said earlier, he could be just anybody in a cafe. We chatted about riding in Wales and The Tour of Britain then he was off, back to the shop for more photos. I stayed behind to drink my cup of tea, I hadn’t touched a drop since I burnt my nose in it right at the start, I wonder if he had noticed.
I’d like to give a huge thank you to everyone at Fred Perry for arranging this interview, I owe you one!
The Fred Perry x Bradley Wiggins collection is released today, to view the full range click here.