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THE NEW GOLF: Tony Abbott And 8 CEOs Tell Us Why They Love Cycling

PM Tony Abbott

Cycling for businesspeople is like the new golf: it gets you out of the office, keeps you active, allows networking and business conversations, while being more time-efficient than an afternoon at the links.

High-tech road bikes are an increasingly common sight around Australian offices. Cycling NSW now has 12,000 members – triple what it was 10 years ago. And weekend cycling clubs whose members include high proportions of professionals are a common sight at cafes all around the country on a Saturday morning.

Business Insider Australia spoke to nine cycling leaders: Tony Abbott; Jacqueline Arias, CEO of Republica Coffee; Peter Schofield, CEO of Neuroscience Research Australia; Terry Gallagher, Managing Director of Otto Bock Australia; Klaus Bartosch, Managing Director of 1stAvailable.com.au; Sebastien Eckersley-Maslin, CEO of BlueChilli; Brett Wiskar, Managing Partner of Speedwell; Pauline Vamos, CEO of the Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia; Alex Unwin, CEO of Bicycle NSW.

Cycling has become an integral part of the Prime Minister’s regime in recent years. Abbott says it’s a great way to stay fit and keep contact with old friends.

One CEO uses a ride to confidentially kick around the day’s business issues with fellow cyclists. Others say it’s a great stress-fighting mechanism, improving quality of life and setting an example on how to lead an active and healthy lifestyle. Another CEO says bike riding gives him the stamina to sustain long working hours.

One CEO used bike riding to raise money, big money, for cancer. Along the way he was diagnosed with Leukemia. During treatment, he had a spin bike in his hospital room.

A few travel overseas each year with a group or on lone rides. And some of them say a job candidate who cycles is more likely to secure an interview.

Here’s what they told us.

Tony Abbott

Prime Minister of Australia

Tony Abbott

Why do you ride?
Well it was the Pollie Pedal – my annual charity bike ride – which initially got me onto the bike and into lycra but after a few years it became a key part of my fitness regime. It also doubles as a good way of staying in touch with people given that some of my very best friends from uni days have all become quite keen cyclists. So it’s the companionship as much as the fitness.

When, where and how often?
When I’m in Canberra, which is more often than not these days, I try to ride each morning for about 45 minutes to an hour. Red Hill is a short but steep climb just behind Parliament and I like to go up and down that four or five times to start the day. When I’m in Sydney on a weekend I tend to ride early with a bunch of friends around Sydney’s northern beaches and north shore. These rides are about 80 km if we have enough time.

What gear? What do you wear, type of bike?
I’ve collected a few Pollie Pedal kits over the years and I like to wear them when I can. In terms of bikes, I have a Cannondale which I keep at home in Sydney and a Hillbrick which I keep in my office in Canberra.

Is it a bit of a club or is it more a group activity?
As well as a physical activity, cycling is most definitely a social activity for me. I have a couple of friends who regularly join me for early morning rides in Canberra and a bigger bunch that I often ride with in Sydney. A lot of the people I ride with throughout the year are people who join me on Pollie Pedal each year. So in a way you could say Pollie Pedal has created a sort of informal cycling club.

If I told you I was mad keen at cycling, would it help me get a job?
I don’t think I have a bias towards cyclists but there are a number of them amongst my senior colleagues. Kevin Andrews has been riding and has regularly supported me on Pollie Pedal, as have Luke Hartsuyker, Stuart Robert and Josh Frydenberg. I understand Joe Hockey and Jamie Briggs have also taken up cycling more recently and hope they might be able to join us on Pollie Pedal later in the year.

Pauline Vamos

CEO, Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia

Pauline Vamos

Why do you ride?
It actually makes me exercise hard because there are so many hills in Sydney – I the same as everybody else in an office job need the exercise. But I really ride because it is fun and it helps with stress!

When, where and how often?
I ride weekly, all around the North Shore and across the bridge and wherever I go holidays. I love early morning before the traffic starts. It is also the best way to get around when you travel – US bike paths are awesome!

What gear? What do you wear, type of bike?
Women’s road bike and women’s hybrid bike, helmet, gloves (a few pairs) and bike pants. Just about to buy a speedo and lights. I also have a portable bike rack so I can take my bike when I visit my family or go away for a weekend.

Is it a bit of a club or is it more a group activity?
I ride alone, with my daughter or with a friend. I am not in it for speed or competition. I have enough of that at work.

If I told you I was mad keen at cycling, would it help me get a job?
Probably only because it means you have a life outside of work!

Brett Wiskar

Managing Partner and Executive Director of Speedwell

Brett Wiskar

Why do you ride?
Fitness, thinking time, problem solving, stress relief, better sleep, spending time with my friends, competitiveness, setting an example for my children on how to lead an active and healthy lifestyle, higher quality of life and health both now and in the future.

When, where and how often?
First thing in the morning 5.30 am. A couple of times each week. Around the Brisbane Rver, in mountains to the immediate west of Brisbane (Mt Coot-tha, Mt Neebo).

What gear? What do you wear, type of bike?
I’m currently riding a Felt time trial configuration and I’m in the market for a new road bike but haven’t found what I want yet. I’ve been looking at Scott and Pinarello road bikes. I’ve got a mountain of Lycra which occupies a lot of storage in my house along with various shoes and accessories for the wet or cold.

Is it a bit of a club or is it more a group activity?
For some people it’s a club but for me and my group it’s more welcoming and engaging. There’s a strong bond of comradery with more skilled, experienced and talented cyclists providing encouragement, support and coordination (coaching) to others in the group. And having great coffee at the end is important too.

If I told you I was mad keen at cycling, would it help me get a job?
No, but my company Speedwell have a growing culture on fitness and competitive companionship through our internal teams so if you were a mad keen cyclist you might find it more fun to work here.

Sebastien Eckersley-Maslin

Founder and CEO, BlueChilli

Sebastien Eckersley-Maslin

Why do you ride?
I love it. Riding is awesome for my physical and mental health and enables me to sustain long working hours.

When, where and how often?
I try to ride to and from work every day from the Northern Beaches to the CBD. On weekends it’s usually out to West Head or Berowra on the road or around Manly Dam, Terry Hills, Red Hill or Garigal on the mountain bike. Mid week I try to get in a night lap around Manly Dam too.

What gear? What do you wear, type of bike?
I have 7 bikes. For commuting I usually ride my old road Giant Carbon CFR1 as it’s the most durable on the road and the extra weight gives me an ‘incentive’ to push myself harder. On the weekends I usually switch to my mountain bike, a Cannondale Carbon Flash hardtail. I wear lycra top-to-toe for comfort – but I don’t shave my legs!

Is it a bit of a club or is it more a group activity?
Cycling is a fantastic group and social activity. For example, I recently completed an EY ride with Cadel Evans (Australian Tour de France winner) and met some awesome people in different businesses who all share a common passion. Competing is also a lot of fun and helps you push your body harder and further.

If I told you I was mad keen at cycling, would it help me get a job?
At BlueChilli we look for individuals who have a huge amount of passion in what they do – whatever it is. So if you have passion for cycling, then yes it will definitely help!

Jacqueline Arias

CEO, Republica Coffee

Jacquelilne Arias

Why do you ride?
It makes me feel good. Period. Half hour ride each way, door-to-door (home to work and back). It gives me time to de-clutter the busy entrepreneur mind and increases my heart rate.
I used to drive to work and I’d see these people on their bike having fun, it made me feel like a loser stuck in the traffic, inside four walls. And the bike riders looked so free, liberated and they were having fun. So 1st day back at work in 2014 I turned up on a my bike, feeling like I’m now one of the cool people, enjoying myself while riding to work.

When, where and how often?
Bought a bike the Sunday before coming back to work for 2014. The trip is Edgecliff to Waterloo and back and takes approx. 30 mins. I’ll try and do it at least three times a week sometimes more sometimes less depending if I have meetings scheduled before work. It took me a while to ride up the hills, 1st month there was a lot of bike pushing, but I’m almost there now, just one hill still to conquer.

What gear? What do you wear, type of bike?
It’s just a Fuji bike with 24 gear changes. I don’t need a fancy expensive bike just one that is comfortable and gets me from A to B. No special gear just my business attire and flats, I have the heels in the basked and change when I get to work.

Is it a bit of a club or is it more a group activity?
On my own but you’d be amazed as to how many other bike riders say hi as you pass each other, and it does feel like a community because you recognize you’re part of the same group.

If I told you I was mad keen at cycling, would it help me get a job?
It would certainly grab my attention, as the only Australian Food Company that is Carbon Neutral Certified by the Australian Government then cycling and public transport is something we value at Republica. It’s part of our philosophy and how we operate, we’re serious about being environmentally responsible.
So riding to work is definitely in line with my own personal views and as my company.

How does cycling contribute, what value does it add, to your role as CEO?
It’s a chance to lead by example and live by the values I spouse at Republica. It’s great to say we’re a carbon neutral company, but makes it really special when you can demonstrate that you as the leader, is not only talking but ‘doing it’.

Klaus Bartosch

Managing Director, 1stAvailable.com.au

Klaus Bartosch

Why do you ride?
Being fit and healthy is important to enable you to lead a company but it is not my only motivation to ride. I began cycling in 2011 completing my first Ride to Conquer Cancer (RTCC) in Brisbane and formed a team, the “Vision Crusaders”, 200km over two days. We raised $50,000 for cancer research. (My motivation came from beating a stage 3 Melanoma in 2000.)

Since then, I have completed the 2012 RTCC including the Toronto to Niagara Falls RTCC, 270 km over two days. In 2013 I wanted to complete the Grand Slam of all 6 rides across Australia and New Zealand: Brisbane, Sydney, Perth, Melbourne, Auckland and Adelaide. 25 other team members decided to join me from all over Australia. I completed the first Ride in Brisbane and then three days before heading to Sydney for my second ride, I was diagnosed with Acure Promyeloctic Leukaemia and was immediately hospitalised to start Chemotherapy. My team completed the rides in my honour and in honour of all survivors and those that have lost their battle. $250,000 was raised by my team in 2013 for Cancer Research.

2014 has grown beyond my imagination. My team for 2014, across all RTCC rides (so riders from all citifies) now stands at more than 370 members. The Vision Crusader has evolved into an amazing brand and following, that even Richard Branson has recognised. Our Facebook page now has over 15,000 followers – it’s an inspirational group of people now and is gaining a life all of its own.

And, oh yeah, I am in full remission Treatment has completed and am in great health and fitness. I never stopped cycling. I even had a spin bike in my hospital room.

When, where and how often?
I live in the southern part of the Gold Coast. I like to ride at least twice a week but business travel often messes with that objective. Its a beautiful part of the world to ride in. My favourite is what I call the “Rainforest to Sea” ride. Burleigh Heads to the back of Currumbin Valley. Totally glorious.

What gear? What do you wear, type of bike?
I ride a Cervello S2 with Ultegra Group Set. While I now have many jerseys from various Cancer charity rides, without doubt by favourite gear is my Vision Crusader jersey and our obligatory Black Milk leggings worn over our nicks. Lycra gone over the top! But you see, it’s for a reason – we want to stand out because our purpose, our mission, is so crucial to the lives of so many. I am expecting 2014 to attract some pretty interesting corporate sponsors too! Kauri Sports and 1stAvailable.com.au (my company) were sponsors in 2013.

Is it a bit of a club or is it more a group activity?
No, this does not do it justice. Its a “family”. All cyclists look after each other like one huge family. It is one of the most welcoming sports of new riders, established riders just about anyone into any group. That makes it quite amazing.

If I told you I was mad keen at cycling, would it help me get a job?
Of itself, probably not. It depends on why they are doing it. Cycling to raise money for charity or cycling in a competitive way would likely speak volumes about someone.

Professor Peter Schofield

Executive Director and CEO, Neuroscience Research Australia

Peter Schofield

Why do you ride?
For the sheer enjoyment. It’s a bonus that it also keeps me fit.

When, where and how often?
I’m a weekend warrior, so unless training for a big event, I ride with my wife and friends on a Saturday and then with a group of cycling mates, the FBs (fat bastards) early on Sunday morning. Typically I ride 100-120km per week.

If I’m overseas I’ll rent a bike and go for a ride, it’s a great way to shake off the jetlag and there are some great rides to enjoy, even if riding a ‘clunker’, eg along the Potomac River in Washington DC or the Minuteman Trail in Boston. And once a year, I try to get away for a big adventure. I’ve done the Tour de France in 2010 and saw Cadel win in 2011, and the Giro in 2012. With the FBs and our Women on Wheels, we organised a trip called Van Gogh to Ventoux in 2012 – no surprise for guessing where that one finished. This year we enjoyed the Tour Down Under.

What gear? What do you wear, type of bike?
I ride a Cervelo R3 with an Ultegra group set. I ride in full lycra, at the moment in the ‘Topbike Tours’ Italian made kit, including an Andy Warhol banana on the back. We did the Tour de France and the Giro with Topbike.

Is it a bit of a club or is it more a group activity?
The FBs are more a social group – we aren’t competitive (not by half). But its about the journey and the mateship.

If I told you I was mad keen at cycling, would it help me get a job?
It might not get you the job, but I’d be sure to speak with you.

How does cycling contribute, what value does it add, to your role as CEO?
When I started riding, I thought I would be able to think things over when I rode. I realised that that’s not the point, when I ride I enjoy the ride; but then I’ve had that intellectual down time and when I finished the clarity and the answers emerge.

Alex Unwin

CEO, Bicycles NSW

Alex Unwin

Why do you ride?
Mainly because I just love it! On a practical level it’s a great way to move about a bussling city and is a wonderful way to experience different countries and communities around the world. Throughout my career I have integrated a moderate exercise routine like walking, swimming or riding into my day that inturn helps my mental and physical productivity.

When, where and how often?
Bicycle NSW offices are at Sydney Olympic Park and I live in the inner west of Sydney so I commute a minimum of 10 km each way. The nature of my work means I am often out and about meeting people and advocating bike riding. I have found no better way to start those conversations than turning up on a bike or even better having the conversation on a ride and over coffee afterwards! I try and get a longer ride in most weekends.

I ride the Bicycle NSW Spring Cycle over the Sydney Harbour Bridge every October, and the Pollie Pedal charity ride every year which is a solid week of @ 1,000 kms on the bike. My ‘second job’ takes me to Europe every June/July where I guide for BikeStyle Tours riding up to 600 km/week, mostly in the spectacular mountains. I get a huge amount of pleasure from these extended rides – one’s mind and body tunes into a space that is both challenging and immensely satisfying.

What gear? What do you wear, type of bike?
Bike riding is booming in Australia so there’s a growing number of bikes and a proliferation of gear on the market and of course a lot of specialisation depending on the conditions and kind of riding you choose. If riding over any length of time or distance, quality bike wear, particularly at the body contact points with the bike, is essential. The trick often is to have gear which is multi-purpose and light. For short trips everyday street clothes work fine – my brother has commuted to work across London for the last 20 years and there is no lycra in his house (except when I come to stay!). For most people the things you need to ride a bike are arms and eyes to keep you heading in the right direction and lungs and legs to get you there.

Is it a bit of a club or is it more a group activity?
In a sense I ride with a big club called Bicycles NSW with over 12,000 members. I ride sometimes at weekends with the Dulwich Hill Club in the inner west of Sydney and I also ride at different times with groups in northern Sydney and the western suburbs. Bikestyle Tours and the Pollie Pedal are ‘informal clubs’ I guess you would say.

If I told you I was mad keen at cycling, would it help me get a job?
To me it means you are self-motivated, take responsibility for your health and you will get to work on time! All helpful as part of a team, though it is not a requirement to ride a bike to join the team at Bicycles NSW. Our work isn’t really about bikes. Our focus is to advocate and demonstrate the contribution bike riding can make:

  • to the economic viability of Australia by helping our transport systems function effectively and efficiently,
  • to the health of all Australians and;
  • to improving the liveability of the places we choose to live.

Terry Gallagher

Managing Director, Otto Bock Australia

Terry Gallagher

Why do you ride?
Keep fit, de stress, good company, great way to see new places.

When, where and how often?
Every Sunday morning for a few hours and usually a shorter mid-week ride, often with my wife. Each year we do a cycling holiday with the group (including wives), every second year this is usually a 3 week overseas cycling adventure.

What gear? What do you wear, type of bike?
I am a MAMIL, riding a Specialised Roubaix SL3.

Is it a bit of a club or is it more a group activity?
Just a group of mates who have been riding for a couple of decades.

If I told you I was mad keen at cycling, would it help me get a job?
It wouldn’t hurt. I like to see key staff keep fit and have an outlet other than work.

How does cycling contribute, what value does it add, to your role as CEO?
Apart from general health and fitness I like the company, the competitiveness and the fascinating overseas bike trips we do every second year. Also when traveling for business I usually know if my contacts interstate or overseas are cyclists so we often go for a ride (often better than the bar and a restaurant). The group I ride with on Sundays have diverse backgrounds and careers. We often chat about issues and it is surprising what we resolve. If one of the group have a work or other issue we often toss it about. There has never been a leak of info.

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