SETsquared Blog

On The Edge: The Hour Record

On the 7th June 2015 Sir Bradley Wiggins did something that anyone who has the ability to ride a bike can – he hopped on his bike and cycled for an hour recording how far he had travelled. The very pureness of the record caught many people’s eyes, including my own, as unlike so many professional sports where it is hard for a “normal” individual to compare themselves to the “professional” (I mean how much better is Messi really from a player at my local 5-a-side tournament…okay, a lot but exactly how much) this record is simple and entirely comparable. Simply get on your bike and ride! In the case of Wiggins he smashed the World Record for the largest distance traveled in one hour on a commercial road bike – covering a massive distance of 54.526km (33.88 miles). The previous record held by fellow Briton Alex Dowsett, of 52.937km (32.89 miles) had been set in May, as a international resurgence of interest in “the hour record” became well underway.

Yet, the thing that I found the most interesting was the way Wiggins and cyclists that had previously attempted the challenge had talked about the hour record. It was always about the perfect balance of living on the absolutely edge – as Chris Boardman, former Olympic Pursuit Champion, said; a rider is constantly asking, “is my pace sustainable? If it’s a definite yes you’re not going hard enough, if it’s a no, you’ve overcooked it.” (The Guardian). Wiggins himself noted that although the first 45 minutes could be trained for the “the last fifteen is really what counts”, it is the unknown like “the last 100 metres in a 400 race, either you die or carry on. The bit you don’t look forward to but you just deal with it when you get there – a bit like pregnancy” (BBC Sport).

It really struck a chord with me, reminding me of challenges I felt in the very early stages of trying to create a business at the University of Exeter. Even before I had the idea that I developed into the business that I run today, I had such a feeling in Lafrowda that their was no “Plan B”, I had to make a business to generate money. As Wiggins says “either you die or carry on”, it was never in the physical sense but always in the mental sense – I wouldn’t give up on creating a business idea that worked.

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Sir Bradley Wiggins riding during the Tour De France

In second year I went to a talk about business where I remember the speaker saying that creating a business is like going through pregnancy (interestingly something Wiggins also references), and might be as close that a man can get to experiencing what pregnancy is like. One of the big parts of pregnancy is of course pain – though I haven’t experienced pregnancy I can say that creating a business is also a painful experience. It is hard, sometimes it hurts mentally – you are tired, stressed, overworked – sometimes physically – for example when I would cycle to Broadclyst once a week to teach a guitar student who couldn’t make it in to Exeter as I needed the money – at times socially – the times I spent developing websites rather than out with friends. It is a sacrifice but something that is worthwhile because you are trying to achieve something that, although everyone has the capacity to do, only few will achieve.

As Michael Hutchinson, former national time trial champion, noted about non-professional cyclist and present of 5 live OJ Borg had a go at the hour record “there becomes a point where everything hurts, even things not involved. His eyelids will hurt, even things nothing to do with riding a bike” BBC 5 Live. OJ managed an impressive 39.61km and said it was the most challenging thing he had done in his life – while it might not be a World Record simply to have achieve a score was impressive (much like a first marathon). Out of all of this I would suggest that one thing has become clear to me – to truly succeed in anything, including business, you need to ride as close to the edge of your personal capabilities no matter what they may be.

Secondly, in all of the interviews the riders said that they would be happy if they knew that they gave 100% and “left the tank empty” at the end – few talked about actually gaining the record, just that they wanted to know they had given their best performance. Indeed, Wiggins stated if he didn’t break it but gave everything he wouldn’t retry as he knew he did his best. Therefore like business while you can measure yourself against others (especially financially), looking within and deciding “have I really given my all to this” is probably a better measure of your success.

And thirdly, pain is part of it. Pain is acceptable. If you are not in pain creating your business you are not trying hard enough – if you are blacking out because of too much pain then you are working too hard – you need to be on the edge a little faster than you think you can go but not fast enough so you can’t sustain it. It is within this paradox that you will succeed.

In terms of the development of the business over the last three weeks we have major progress. Thanks to the help of writers here at the University of Exeter websites like Singing Lessons Norwich and Piano Lessons Swansea have been successfully launched, both of which building on existing instruments within the location – along with the hiring the first drum teacher in Glasgow for the Drum Lessons Glasgow website which is fantastic news. Glasgow is such a musical city, with a proud history of generating fantastic bands with the likes of Biffy Clyro, Franz Ferdinand, Travis and Glasvegas all hailing from the city – not to mention the infamous early Oasis gig at the fantastically named King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut in Glasgow where the Gallagher brothers marched onstage, kicking off the band that was playing, to perform their early songs. In the audience was a certain Alan McGee who promptly signed up the band there and then, enabling them to release their debut album Definitely Maybe and go onto international stardom. The rest they say is history!

Photography: Radu Razvan