Matt Harper, co-founder of Look Mum No Hands (LMNH) has selected five of his all-time cyclists for our Prelogram Tour de France prints.
LMNH is a cafe and bike repair shop rolled into two venues in east London. Matt was much too busy to be interviewed, but agreed to do one anyway, so thank you Matt! Through the sound of coffee being ground and raucous laughter, we just about managed an interview about Matt and his Tour de France prints.
When did you get into cycling?
I got into cycling twice, I cycled when I was a kid but stopped for a while. In 2000, I started cycling to work and mountain biking and the old passion from childhood came through. Within a year I was racing and going on cycling holidays.
What did you do before you started Look Mum No Hands?
I was a disgruntled City worker. Like a lot of people in London, I fell into City work and was looking for way out.
Where did you get the LMNH idea from?
My friend, now business partner, ran cafes. We were discussing the idea of combining a cafe with another business and we came up with a bike shop cafe. I got made redundant which was the catalyst I needed to jump right in.
Sounds like ideal timing. When did you open your cafe?
Wow it must be four years ago now: April 2010.
What’s been the best bike you’ve had and why?
That would have to be the Raleigh Night Burner I got on my ninth birthday.
That’s a BMX isn’t it? It is yeah. For me, as a kid, a BMX was very exciting, I couldn’t wait to show it off. I was the envy of all my friends. It was a very cool bike.
You go on various challenging rides throughout the year. Do you have a favourite route?
That would have to be John O’Groats to Lands End.
I’ve heard that’s around 1,200 miles, no mean feat!
[Laughs] Yeah It sounds like a lot but you’re completely transfixed by your surroundings that you barely notice the distance. You get to see an amazing mix of countryside that you can only experience on a bike: the cotton trade heartland of Lancashire, the dry stone walls of Westmorland, St Michael’s Mount, Edinburgh castle. There are so many hidden treasures – all beautiful for their own unique reasons.
How old-school are you when it comes to bikes? A fixed in winter? Mud guards or no mud guards? Steel or carbon fibre?
I ride fixed on the track but not on the road anymore, I’d be mistaken for trying to be cool and I’m too old for that. Carbon fibre when racing. Steel and mud guards when I’m not in a rush.
What do you think of the Tour coming to Yorkshire and London? Are Team Sky going to produce another winner?
I think the Tour is going to be fantastic this year, people are going to be blown away. When it last came to London in 2008, everyone was amazed by how much the British public took to it. Cycling has really exploded in the last few years. The road side gets completely mobbed, it’s a real party. As for winners: it would have been nice to see Bradley Wiggins take part but Chris Froome is going very well. I’d be proud if Froome were to clinch the GC.
What do you think are the causes of the boom in cycling?
In London, traffic is ridiculous so people ride their bikes. There’s something evangelical about cycling. If someone rides, they’ll convince you to do the same. The fervour spreads like wildfire and before you know it, all your mates are doing the London to Brighton. Its very catching. Boris bikes have helped, lots of our customers tried out the Boris bikes before they came to buy their own from us. The cycle to work scheme is a great incentive for people too.
What should be done to improve the safety of cyclists?
Massive investment in infrastructure. In 2007 there were more than 500,000 cycle journeys each day in the capital, a 91% increase compared to that of 2000. Even though plans have been put in place, the amount of money invested in to accommodating cycling is minimal compared to cars. There were a total of 14 cyclists killed in the capital in 2013, one of which involved a heavy goods vehicle.
These are your Tour de France prints. How did you choose them?
Eddy Merckx has to be my favourite cyclist ever. He’s won the Vuelta a España, the World Championship three times, the Giro d’Italia and the Tour de France five times. He really was superhuman, watching him in action is quite remarkable. In 1972, Merckx set the hour record which wasn’t broken until 1984. Amazing.
Gino Bartali was a focussed, resilient man. Despite the death of his brother and WWII, he achieved a great deal. He was said to have risked his life on several occasions to help the Jews escape the Nazi’s. A brave man.
Bernard ‘the badger’ Hinault is the last French winner of the Tour de France and has won it five times. I like that he doesn’t care what people think, in an interview he once said: “I race to win, not to please people”. I’d imagine it would be easy to get caught up in appeasing your fans, Hinault never lost sight of his ultimate goal – to be the best cyclist he could.
Jacques Anquetil was a cocky so and so. Before the 1961 Tour he said that he would earn the yellow jersey on the first day and wear it all through the tour, luckily for him he did. He was was nicknamed “Monsieur Chrono” because of his ability to ride alone against the clock in individual, time trial stages.
Louison Bobet the Hollywood star. Such a drama queen! He refused to wear his first yellow jersey because it hadn’t been made with the pure wool. None of it mattered though, he was such a star on the bike. Bobet was the first rider to win the Tour de France in three successive years after the war, he made a real impact on people.
What have you got planned for the future? To open more cafes and to find more time to ride my bike!
Matt, its been great chatting to you.
Thanks for choosing our Tour de France prints and I’ll look forward to stopping by on my bike this summer.