Zen and the art of pushbike maintenance

We talk to Andy Bateman, Deloitte’s innovation strategy lead, about his passion for cycling and how it enhances his life. Things got deep!

To describe Andy Bateman as a cycling enthusiast, might be a contender for the biggest understatement of 2018, and it’s only early January! He’s been cycling competitively since he was 13, and in fact used to own a bike shop in Manly, on Sydney’s northern beaches. In advance of the Tour Down Under, and the return to Australian shores of Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka, of which Deloitte is a global sponsor, I got a download from Andy on all things cycling. What’s the big deal, why does he love it so much and, the most controversial point – is it really the new golf? Andy is taking part this weekend in a cycling event in Adelaide, exclusively for Deloitte clients, as part of the build-up for Tour Down Under, which kicks off on 13 January.

Tell us about your own cycling – why do you ride and what were your best trips and the ones you have most enjoyed?

I cycle for loads of reasons. Primarily I took it back up again for health and wellness when I hit 40 and was about 40 lbs over-weight, unfit and living in New York, and as I’ve continued, I’ve had so many more benefits from it. If I didn’t ride I would be massively stressed out, probably quite miserable and definitely 20kgs heavier! I’ve cycled all over the world. Last summer I cycled from Geneva to Nice through the Alps – that was special. I’ve ridden ‘up the gut’ from Adelaide to Darwin for Black Dog Institute and I’ve also taken part in the CBA cancer ride as part of the Deloitte team from Canberra to Sydney. I ride about 4-5 times a week around the Northern Beaches, and sometimes those rides, where my mind drifts but my body is occupied, giving me peace and space to think, are the best ones.

You’ve said you think there are types of cycling that align to major phases in our professional lives– that’s very profound and also something that only a true cycling devotee could credibly come up with! Tell us more.

To me there are four types of cycling:

Exploring is the element of being ‘in the world’. There is no better way to see a new place than to travel it on a bike – you are part of the landscape and seeing the world, out in the elements, at a speed where you can actually observe and watch it. Sometime that’s our work too – to explore new opportunities for our clients – and we can’t do that from a desk!

Racing is the competitive aspect. Sometimes it’s enjoyable to see what you’re made of and how you stack up. Racing is also very strategic – mostly it’s about efficiency; measuring your effort to expend as little as you can and then putting in the work when it is going to make a difference, when it really matters.

Cycling for escape and contemplation is my Zen time. When I do a familiar but challenging route, I’m keeping my body active, but the regularity of it gives me time to think and drift off. Someone once said to me, “the real thinking happens in the spaces between which you’re supposed to be thinking”. You have to make space for that.

Riding in a group is probably my favourite way to ride. You’re part of a team, all rotating and taking turns on the front. There’s about a 30% effort saving by being directly behind someone else in their slipstream. In a group that’s amplified. In good teams the individuals behave like part of a larger single organism. Your job is not to break the chain, but to be a part of something bigger and faster. You become better than you could be on your own, calibrating your effort to everyone else’s and ride at the speed of the group.

In all four there are parallels to our working life; we’re all a bit competitive if we’re honest and we’re often in situations of needing to win against our competitors and for our clients; but we also are part of amazing teams where we all have a part to play for a greater whole; sometimes our job is to explore new territories, ideas and solutions; and we need to recognise those times when what we really need is some space to plan and create.

Deloitte globally is a sponsor of Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka. They are known as a team with a difference – in that they ride for a purpose. Do you think this sponsorship works well for both parties and why?

One of the ideas I really try to get across to our clients when talking with them about innovation is ’start with the simple stuff’. Qhubeka’s purpose couldn’t be simpler: provide bikes to kids and families in Africa, to allow them to get to work and school, and increase educational and employment rates and prosperity. Such an obvious and simple step, but so effective. And ironically, we so often forget, in our rush to get ahead and be innovative, to do the easy stuff first.

Deloitte getting behind Team Dimension Data is great because firstly, it’s a tangible connection to an impact that actually matters, and we are two purpose driven organisations working together to make a difference. Secondly, the relationship says something about what we value and how we work. Cycling is about the glory of the individual, but also relies on an amazing team. It’s a sport that uses the most cutting edge technology, but also demands an incredibly challenging physical and mental commitment from professional riders. It’s about the elite, but it’s also a sport that everyone can do.

You’ve been to Tour Down Under before and loved it. What’s so great about the big cycling events and why is it so exciting to be involved?

First of all, with these big cycling events, you’ve got to understand the spectacle is huge. As well as the cyclists themselves, it’s a massive caravan of cars and trucks, taking half an hour to pass through with thousands of people shouting and screaming. It’s like a parade and watching it all go past is great fun. Riding out to the stages are literally thousands of other riders – and we follow the pack around all day; usually covering more kilometres than a typical stage!

Watching people who have dedicated their life to this sport is inspiring – most are young, it’s a tough life, pay is low, they train 11 months of the year, on bikes for seven hours a day. It’s a pretty extreme sport – the dedication to become and maintain professional standard is inspiring.

Then, we have the additional bonus of our client event, where we get to do some rides with the Team Dimension Data team on parts of the actual course. You’ve also got the sheer joy of riding your bike with a bunch of gals and guys around the countryside. There’s a degree of challenge, with the heat and the climb, so helping each other out, watching out for people and getting through it as a team, is a real achievement. Out of that time and effort spent together on a shared passion, you build real relationships and friendships. It’s a pretty cool, unique opportunity to build those with each other and with clients.

Any advice to people who would like to start cycling and are not sure how?

Don’t be afraid of it. At the beginning it can seem quite daunting, but just get on your bike and start riding. Consistency is everything. Ride often to build up your distance gradually and before you know it, you’ll be flying. Join a group, and welcome to the best hobby you’ll ever take up!

Deloitte are proud sponsors of Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka – riding to change lives in Africa. Read more on how we are supporting this great cause and follow the social conversation using #TDU #ImpactThatMatters #BicyclesChangeLives.

Andy will be taking over the Deloitte tweet seat while in Adelaide – follow him @AUDelottian to keep up to speed with his Tour Down Under highlights.

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