Carbon Concepts - bespoke cycling-inspired items created in the Peak District
PUBLISHED: 00:00 04 March 2020
Triple Olympic medal winner and British Road Racing Champion Rob Hayles has turned his attention to ‘Carbon Concepts’, creating bespoke cycling-inspired items from his Peak District home. Mike Smith reports
How do you follow up a 27-year career as a leading member of Britain's highly successful cycling squads? As I discovered when I visited Rob Hayles at his Peak District cottage in the foothills of Kinder Scout, the triple Olympic medal winner and British Road Racing Champion has come up with several answers to this question, including one project that is particularly unusual and highly creative.
Before taking up cycling as a full-time occupation, Rob had served an engineering apprenticeship near his home town of Portsmouth. During his cycling career he had also become proficient at carrying out cycle repairs and modifications, including altering the shape of the handlebars on his racing machine. Using the skills he had acquired whilst working with the various materials employed in the manufacture of racing bikes, such as carbon fibre, titanium and steel, he came up with the idea of 'upcycling' these substances to produce bespoke jewellery.
Trialling his idea in the small workshop in the grounds of his cottage, his first efforts included various key rings and an all-black carbon fibre watch. He even made paperweights using wood he had salvaged when the Manchester Velodrome was resurfaced. Each paper weight sits at an angle of 42 degrees to correspond with the banking in the velodrome and features coloured stripes inspired by various markings on the track.
Emboldened by these first attempts, Rob has come up with some very clever ideas for making cycling-inspired costume jewellery, which he is marketing as 'Carbon Concepts.' A ring which he dubs 'Toxic Swamp' is made from scrap titanium offcuts and is cast in a special resin that magically comes alive after dark, producing dazzling coloured effects. He has packaged a carbon fibre ring in a neat case made from a cycle-steering tube and he has made a striking ball-bearing-inspired ring coated in blue resin which incorporates a dozen glowing tritium phials. Another of his distinctive products is a 'spinner ring', also known as an anxiety ring, made from titanium and bronze.
Explaining the manufacture of a psychedelic-looking ring called the 'Mario', he said, 'The ring is made from Damascus steel and comprises different grades of steel folded together to produce flowing patterns similar to those that decorate the outfits worn by the great sprint cyclist Mario Cipollini. As with my other rings, I don't hold any stock in my workshop, other than the odd sample, because my aim is to fashion each piece according to the requirements of the individual customer, with regards to size, width and profile, with some people wanting a flat surface whilst others prefer one that is bevelled.'
The manufacture of bespoke jewellery is just one of the activities that has been occupying Rob since his retirement from racing. Other projects include collaborating with Professor Louis Passfield on a book called Training with Power Meters and the writing of his own book called Easy Rider, in which he takes 'a look behind the scenes at British cycling and how it has developed over the years.'
Rob's love of cycling was triggered by his father, who was an amateur cyclist, as well as a professional wrestler who fought bouts all over the world as 'Killer Kowalski'. One of his father's opponents was the American wrestler Hulk Hogan, who has remained Rob's greatest sporting hero, notwithstanding the many great cyclists he admires. In the 1990s, when he first rode for Great Britain, he had to supply his own bike, wore a hand-me-down jersey and had to rely on just one spare tyre. As he acknowledges, the changes that have taken place in British cycling since then have been phenomenal, particularly in terms of financial support, nutritionists and back-up staff.
During his long racing career, Rob concentrated on riding in 'team pursuits' and in 'Madison' races. Explaining these two events, he said: 'Team pursuits consist of two teams of four riders starting at opposite ends of the velodrome. Periodically, the lead rider peels off up the banking and goes to the back of the group. The time to cover 4 kms is measured according to the third rider's wheel crossing the line. The Madison is a relay race where each team of two riders tries to complete more laps than the other teams, with one rider racing at a time before handing over to the second rider.'
Rob first represented Great Britain in the Olympic Games in Atlanta in 1996, where he rode in the team pursuit and where he also met Vicky Horner, the Olympic swimmer, whom he married in 2000. The couple, who moved to the Peak District 15 years ago, now have a son and a daughter, both of whom have inherited their parents' sporting abilities. In the Sydney Olympics in 2000, Rob won Bronze in the team pursuit and he won Silver in the same event four years later in the Athens Olympics, where he also won Silver in the Madison, partnering Bradley Wiggins.
Regardless of these prestigious medal-winning achievements and the winning of Gold in the team pursuit at the Commonwealth Games of 2006, Rob considers that the highlight of his career is winning the World Track Championships of 2005 in both the team pursuit and in the Madison, where he partnered Mark Cavendish. He said, 'Getting to wear the rainbow jersey when you have won those events is really special. The highlight of my road racing career was becoming British Road Race Champion in 2008 and I always loved riding in the Paris-Roubaix classic, even though I never managed to complete it in three attempts!'
Since his illustrious career as a racing cyclist came to an end in 2011, Rob has worked for broadcasters such as BBC Radio Five Live and Eurosport, as well as providing 'world feed commentary' for stations in various parts of the globe. Shortly after our meeting, he was due to travel to Dubai to provide commentary.
Aside from broadcasting work and his jewellery-making, Rob is busily preparing for two other projects. He and Vicky will be running in next year's London Marathon and they are combining with Ben Mills, who runs the sports agency BM Legacy Sports, and his wife to put together 'Ride Easy', an experience programme designed for small corporate groups and others, which will involve running, swimming, road cycling and spending time at a velodrome in Derby or Manchester.
Rob hopes that Ride Easy participants will benefit from the sort of experiences that he has enjoyed whilst living and training in the beautiful and challenging countryside of the High Peak, which has the advantage of also being near to the gentler challenges posed by the lanes of Cheshire and the sporting facilities in the Greater Manchester area. u