Things we learn from Men in Lycra

I was lucky enough to be a special guest of the Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital Charity at yesterday’s Great Manchester Cycle Ride in recognition for the Charity Bike Ride I did last year, and as their reigning Many Hands Award Winner.

The ride was made up of 4 laps of a 13 mile circuit around the closed streets of Manchester. It was a great event and with over 7000 taking part, is the biggest organised big ride in the country this year. Even the sun shone as the roads were filled with lycra-clad cyclists.

The event was a great success, and riding through the streets of Manchester from the Etihad stadium to Old Trafford, via the heart of Media City (including over the iconic Mancunian Way, closed to the public for the event) was a great experience. Altogether it was a great ride.

The 52 mile ride took me just under 2 hours and 39 minutes, but my lap times told a story and an important lesson.

Lap 1 – 41 mins
Lap 2 – 40 mins
Lap 3 – 37 mins
Lap 4 – 40 mins

We were delayed by around a minute in the first lap due to the sheer volume of riders, meaning Laps one, two and four were all near enough identical times – so what happened in the third lap to take almost 10% off that time?

The answer is seemingly inconsequential – a group of 20 or so of us were riding as a peleton; a group of cyclists riding as a close-riding pack minimising the wind resistance to all but the lead rider(s) whilst also maximising pace.  We maintained that for the outward half of that lap, rotating position so as to each do our time at the front of the pack, riding the wind for the group but also taking our turn in setting the pace.

A second metric was also telling about that 3rd lap. Over the 52 miles, I burnt just over 2800 calories (via my Garmin 800). The first lap saw me use just over 700 calories, the second almost 750cal, the final lap just over 750cal yet that third lap was only just 675 calories.

Not only was that third lap quicker, it took less effort to be quicker. Again approx 10% less energy to ride 10% quicker.

Even more amazing was that we only rode as a peleton for half of that lap, meaning the difference was closer to 20%. Easy to see now why riders on the major tours ride in such large packs.

Team Work.

Working as an effective team requires less effort to attain greater results. Same as with life, with business and certainly with recruitment.  But in order for the team to function effectively, there has to be an understanding.

In our peleton yesterday, we all had to take a turn at the head of the pack, and all had to relinquish that lead after a half-a-mile or so in order to maximise the effectiveness of pace, as well as ensure that everyone had the benefit of having the wind ridden for them maintaining group performance. No room for ego, just focussing on the best result for the group.

Teams exist in all walks of life, and every team needs that cohesive selfless performance if they are to bring about optimum performance. Yesterday, no-one needed to organise the 25 or so riders, we joined forces as we started the final lap and found ourselves travelling at a similar pace, then picked up more riders over the first mile.

Our order was instinctive, intuitively knowing what to do, what would elicit the best results – the best end result. Following your gut is an extremely powerful tool that the best leaders and the best performers rely on. As the great Tony Robbins quote states: “It’s not knowing what to do; it’s doing what you know”. Most people/teams know the best route to take; it is often ego or more selfish agendas that detract from doing it.

Never is this more present than in recruitment. Business leaders are constantly challenged by attracting the best people – every business I know cites finding the best people as their most critical business issue, yet once these leaders highlight the specific need, they (or their HR/Human Procurement functions) try and ride the wind alone, rather than engaging the most appropriate team to deliver.

With all other walks of [business] life, leaders engage experts to deliver critical issues, yet within recruitment, for some reason, businesses so often allow selfishness and ego dictate the attraction process. Whether it is the ultimate business leader who insists on their own ability to understand, attract and land the best resource, or the misguided in-house recruitment team who will refuse to join the peleton riding alongside them, often with an outstretched arm offering to ride their wind.

Both will more often than not end in substandard performance. The refusal to receive help from those willing and able to provide it, typically due to misguided or downright selfish/egotistical reasons, can often result in not only a poor performance but in categoric failure. They fall off their bike altogether.

Head-Hunters and Recruiters must also play the peleton role fully though, not insisting on taking the lead role for the entire ride, allowing the best end result to take precedence above selfish fulfilment, even if the best end result is not their personally preferred option.

….just be glad that even the best Head-Hunters don’t usually wear lycra. Not in the office anyway.

10 Comments on “Things we learn from Men in Lycra”

  1. Great blog and a great ride time Gary. 20 mph is good, 20 mph for nearly three hours is awesome.

    Good points on team work too!


  2. Great blog Gary, I rode the day too although only the 26 mile version and took almost as long as you did for the 52. I’m impressed.

    On the main subject, brilliant comparison. I thought it flipant at first, but the more I think about it, the more accurate it is.

    Well done on both ride and blog.

  3. OK, so I’ll admit I only clicked on the link to see pictures of men in lycra, but a great blog and a great message.

    I’m in HR and can see what you are getting at, but do internal teams not count?

  4. Fun blog with a serious message. More importantly, a great ride and a fantastic acheivement on the initial bike ride you mention in the first paragraph. Love hearing inspirational stories from people in business to prove that we are not all raw capitalists.

    Well done on both.

  5. I always find your blogs to inspirational and this is no exception. Love to see your obvious energy used in a manner of different ways. We have you billed as the James Bond of recruitment. 😉

    We have steered our consultants to your blogs to learn and use them in their every day life. Perhaps we should by them bikes?

    Jo x

  6. Great Blog. Well done on the ride, and on last years massive charity event.

    Well done also for speaking common sense about how teams should really work – not through rules and decrees, but through intuition and allowing people to prove they do know best (when they do).

    Keep it up.

  7. Great piece Gary, seeing so much of business, and business leaders getting involved in cycling and benefitting from it. Do you know Phil Jones from Brother? He attributes much of his mental prep to his time on the bike. I always just thought it was the time alone but clearly there is more to it.

    Good blog.

  8. Gary, I think you would really benefit from having a carbon framed bike.
    That looks like an aluminium Trek SLR, and I know those frames add a hell of a lot to average ride times, especially when multiple laps are aggregated.


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