The six-time Olympic gold medallist tells us about his first road bike and becoming Goodwood's new cycling ambassador
Everyone remembers their first proper bike. It may have been secondhand, it might have been a bit rough around the edges, but it was the one that lit the flame.
Sir Chris Hoy MBE recalls his first road bike. The six-time Olympic gold medallist and Goodwood's new cycling ambassador started out in BMX and dabbled with mountain bikes before getting his first racer.
Speaking to Eroica Britannia at the Goodwood Revival this September, Sir Chris likened his first road bike to the dozens of vintage machines gathered for the Eroica Britannia ride-out.
"My first bike, which was secondhand from another rider, was not dissimilar to the bikes used in Eroica Britannia. It had downtube friction shifters, a steel frame... so I'm quite familiar with a lot of the stuff you see here at Goodwood this weekend. It harks back to my early days!
"I started riding on the road when I was 14 or 15," Sir Chris remembers. "The bike was a Benotto. It had clearly been involved in some kind of crash because it was a bit out of alignment. If I let go of the bars it would steer to the left. So I had to learn its little foibles!
"It had mismatched componentry, but I absolutely loved it. The Benotto was the gateway to me riding in the velodrome."
You might associate Sir Chris with carbon fibre superbikes, scientific training methods, and British Cycling's famous pursuit of 'marginal gains'. But that's a long way from his early years on the velodrome, building his fitness and honing his race craft.
"For the first five or six years on the track I rode steel bikes with steel handlebars, because they were the only ones strong enough for sprinters. So it was all very vintage and very old school," Sir Chris explains.
"If you go out to Japan to race in the keirin they are still riding steel bikes to this day. The equipment is standardised, and nothing much has changed for the past 30 or 40 years."
So how would a modern rider, familiar with carbon bikes, disc brakes, and electronic shifting, get on with a vintage racer?
"They'd just slot straight in," says Sir Chris. "Bikes haven't changed as much as some other types of machine. You still have diamond-shaped frames, the riding position hasn't changed much. Today's bicycle is still essential the same thing, albeit with lighter and more efficient components. So I don't think it would take long to adjust."
The Revival ride, which Sir Chris led, was just a taster for the full-scale return of Eroica Britannia on August 6th and 7th 2022.
Sir Chris is looking forward to it. "It makes sense for Eroica Britannia to come to Goodwood, given everything they do here to celebrate the past. The uptake in interest in cycling in the UK means a lot more people have come into cycling over the past five or 10 years, and are starting to understand the history of the sport and the equipment."
More and more of these riders are seeing the appeal of vintage cycling, an analogue experience in a digital world. "They appreciate the fun of going out for a ride at your own pace and not worrying about your Strava segments, average speeds or power files. Just go out and ride for the sake of it!"
Sir Chris will join us again next August when riders will have the choice of three routes of around 25, 60, or 100 miles.
Whether you started out on a steel bike, or want to experience the challenge of riding an old-school machine for the first time, we'd love you to join us at Goodwood next summer.
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