Mike is more than an outdoor enthusiast that loves the good things in life. Choosing the wise words of our friend Inês, who will be featured in the next Brompton post, Mike is an “epicurist”, someone that is definitely not running after pleasures all the time, but someone searching for a certain equilibrium of the soul that one day will lead to peace and tranquility. This is precisely what we sense in him when seated by his side having this conversation at Mafalda’s. It’s the same impression we had a couple of years ago in a oddly sun bathed apartment in London, listening to music and talking about running, cycling and food.
Having already lived thirty nine years, twenty of which working in retail, Mike is by the time of our interview in a transition period of his life. He spent the last seven years working in what he calls “The Mine”, a retailer in a big shopping mall where he got to know to the smallest of the details how a big brand corporate monster works.
Before this experience, Mike worked in a furniture shop and for the french culture retail behemoth Fnac.
It was at Fnac that he met a special friend, someone that also was a “great outdoors” type. A strong friendship started and leaded them to often hiking escapades to the Pyrenées mountains, to 4K peaks at the Alps or the Lofoten islands in Northern Norway. Returning home after each trip was becoming more and more difficult and the weekday mountain nostalgia leaded the duo to quit their jobs and start a three years gig at an outdoors retailer in the Pyrenées.
With a climbing wall at his doorsteps, Mike embraced a daily lunch-time ritual. Two whole hours of climbing, climbing and climbing. Living on the mountains, Mike was at his best. Everyday he went for a run in the trails, or a hike, or something else liberating.
One day, his brother gave him a bicycle. Mike rode it to work and it worked for him. Five years later, he’s still riding a bicycle everywhere he goes. By that time, Mike was very active in Porto’s urban cycling community. Today, his advocacy is made at every resolute revolution of the cranks, at every bit of conversation, at every car-free day.
A few years ago, Mike started to feel the same sensations with the bicycle that he had in the mountains. Nothing physical,but something deeper and not very easy to put into words. He has this feeling when riding his bespoke road bicycle, a timeless steel machine he planned part by part, spec by spec. He feels it when he rides along with the good lads at Arrasto. He can ride 200km and what he remembers in the aftermath is not the soared legs, but the small details of the ride. The exact moment the sun rises early in the morning, reflecting in the Douro, that weird curve he always rides with the sun in his face, the team pedaling and laughing few meters away.
Food is central in Mike’s life. Eating in the company of the special one is a simple, but great pleasure and something healing. Going out for food and wine with his girlfriend can save a bad day at the office. Food, cycling, friends, it makes all the sense. Mike is just like his brother is, and the brother is just like their late dad was. Nothing can beat barbecuing the morning catch for our friends.
When we asked about the Brompton Week, he talked about his connection with the well made things.
“I have a strong connection with some objects. A well designed, perfectly built and made to last object is always beautiful. Like a bespoke bicycle, like a Brompton. I’m proud of my bicycles and I felt proud riding this orange bike. This cycling world is fueled by bad taste and nonsensical consumerism. It’s very important to show this other side, more sustainable, more lasting, more ethical.”
Prior to our conversation, Mike wrote us a small text about the experience of riding a Brompton and how it allowed him to climb the “intelligent mobility” ladder.
“Back wheel, front wheel, handlebars, seat-post, left pedal. I’m mentally following the ritual of folding the Brompton to step in the Metro. By this time, I realize there is a before and an after of “using” a Brompton. I already had the opportunity to ride a Brompton before, but never have truly “used” it. At this point, I’d like to put some emphasis in the verb “to use”. Because it’s what I did with this bicycle which is, in its simplicity, one of the most brilliant things I’ve ever seen. I’ve always considered my dutch style commuter a tool, but the Brompton is in a totally different level. It’s a 2.0 version of the tool, ant it’s brilliant.”
“Meanwhile, the Metro is getting full with my fellow commuters and I feel a strange peace of mind. For the first time I’m totally relaxed carrying a bicycle inside the train. I’m not the elephant in the China shop and i don’t need to draw an exit plan two stops prior to arriving at my destination. I keep the Brompton close to me, or folded by the door and everyone seems intrigued by this small pack of steel and rubber.”
When leaving the train, I restart the process, but in reverse. “left pedal, seat-post, handlebars, front wheel, and ‘hop’, with a gentle kick, there goes the back wheel. When pedaling, I notice the lightness and agility. More than any other bike, the Brompton is an extension of my own body. With the Brompton I’m not afraid of heading towards the busiest of the roads. Upon arrival, I quickly fold it and simply walk in.
Stopped on a red light, I look at the shop window at my side and think in the words somebody said me early in the day. “You look like a bit weird riding a kids bike”. It’s a fact, there is something unusual in the proportions of a 16’’ wheeler, but no, I definitely don’t look weird. I’m the first and only to move forward with the green light and probably the only one arriving home early.”
Read and follow the “Brompton Week” posts here.