You know, I work in finance and this is still a very conservative world. They just weren’t expecting me carrying a bicycle to the meeting room.
This episode, told with a big laugh at lunch, was a cheerful introduction to a conversation we had few days later at the Lexo Coworking, a cosy townhouse in Matosinhos where his office is located. We talked mostly of things not related with cycling because we know each other quite well and know exactly why we both use a bicycle almost every single day.
Pedro, the fourth participant in our “A Brompton Week” experience, is a 41 years old with four children in the record. He’s a Velo Culture’s first hour customer and runs the small business now responsible for our book keeping. His history has many similarities with our own and, probably, that’s why our interview was so fluid. Pedro was raised in Santarém, a city not far from Nazaré, the surfing town a bit North from Lisbon where he was born. He was 18 when settled in Porto for a business management degree. Pedro was still an undergraduate when a Dutch bank invited him to join its ranks, a place where he learned one of the most important lessons of his life. His first boss, still a good friend, once told him that having one’s own time is vital. If you’re so busy that you can’t manage to have this time for yourself, you’re not being productive.
“We work from 8 to 5 and, if we manage to be productive, we can have another life away from work. In finance it’s very easy to have a very intense routine and this effort is important to keep our mental health”.
Some few years after starting at the bank, Pedro left to become the CFO of a family-owned industrial enterprise. After a decade at this company, he decided to go back to school for a series of highly technical training courses, after which he started a new job at a textile company. By then he already knew that his future was being the master of his own time, and just three months after joining the company he left and kicked-off the the third part of his career as a free-lance consultant. It was 2012 and he never felt the need for a vacation again. As entrepreneurs and persons, we are from the same vintage and our similarities are much more than the year we both set up shop.
“In my career, I learned that working for quality is not the same as working for volume. Most of my colleagues work for the volume, but I work the other way around. My customers are willing to pay for a added value service, they understand that this is a truly strategical area.”
The humble bicycle is part of Pedro’s daily day and arrived some few years ago with a change in his lifestyle. Yoga, one of his most sacred rituals, is also part of this process.
“The way I live is always evolving. For example, I like the pure and immediate impact of the physical activity, but, I’m also expecting a more complex and lasting positive effect that can help me to cope with my daily life. A certain state of mind. Besides sports, there is a growing set of other things that helps balancing life and to wind-down. These things can help me to be in that state in an almost permanent way.
I’m in my early forties. Man, you know, life should only start now! There are too many things I nowadays put into perspective. I’m much more focused in what really matters for me and mu family. I happen to live in a very good country, I love what I do for a living and have plenty of time for me and my family. Food, for example, is a very important thing in life and the way I eat nowadays is much more discerning. I only buy fruits and vegetables from the farmer and I try to have healthy lunches everyday, like the one’s at Mafalda’s. But I also try to have the other side, though. From time to time I go for a full English, both literally and figuratively. Every month I take an afternoon off to have lunch with some good friends. We spend the afternoon eating and drinking and we’ve been doing this for ages now.”
“Some few years ago, I started looking to the bicycle as an object because I like the aesthetics of a good bike. I’m touched by a well designed object and I bought my first commuter bike, a very good looking one. By that time I was living not far away from Matosinhos. It was a short and easy commute and I realized that riding a bike to work was the most rational thing to do. I never stopped again.
All this changing of gears for a more slow and sustainable pace is very important. Every one of us should be contributing much more. Technology is more and more advanced, but it will not save us. It’s the other way around. We are all very relaxed, waiting for the day the tech folks will sort the things out. That’s not possible and will not happen. I think a lot in my kids future and it has a strong influence in my way of life. I spent 10 years of my working life in the agrochemical sector and I know how things are made.”
At this point we became a bit curious. How is he managing the daily routine with the four kids, all the meetings with clients and a not very short bicycle commute?
When I moved to a more central area, my commuting distance just doubled. I now have to commute 16 kilometres everyday, with a much more heavy traffic. Nevertheless, I persisted. As before, I only use the car when it’s my turn to drop the children at school or I have to visit clients outside Porto, but the Brompton made a big difference on these days. I carried the Brompton with me in the Metro, which works quite well as an elevator from the sea level to Boavista. I carried the Brompton in the car boot and I brought it inside when visiting more dodgy areas. Please don’t tell Porto’s Mayor I’m using his city as a parking when’s my turn to drop the kids at school!”
The Brompton Week is an experience we are making with some of our customers and friends. They are spending a few days with one of these iconic bikes and will tell our readers how it was. Simple, fun and certainly life-changing.