When we head out into the lanes on a Sunday morning, we all know we’ve got a lot in common with the person riding next to us in the Penge CC tricolor.
We know who’s a climber, a racer, a rouleur or a sprinter. We know who’s just achieved a Strava PB, King or Queen of the Mountain and we all know who secretly wants to turn left or right at the bottom of Hogtrough.
But what most of us don’t know is what our fellow club members do when they’re not in the saddle.
So, in the spirit of the Winston blog (which has now been read over a 1000 times this month), we thought it was time we introduced a few more of the Penge peloton.
Say hello to ‘Tailor Dave’ Ward and Leszek ‘Lek’ Kubasiak.
These two met after arriving in London to study fashion at our local art school Ravensbourne and they’ve stayed firm friends ever since, as they’ve pursued their careers in fashion and ambitions on a bike.
For a day job, Dave is a Savile Row tailor and has made suits for a variety of faces from stage and screen including some old codger who lives in Buckingham Palace, while Lek is the brains behind a host of high-street fashion brands most of us will have worn over the past 15 years.
Dave and Lek have been in the club for about 4 years now and the main reason for this blog is to tell you all about an exciting new velo-venture they’ve started that we thought you’d like to hear about.
But before we get to that we asked them a few questions over a pint in the Goldsmiths.
When did you start cycling?
Lek. I’ve been a mad-keen cyclist since I was about 8 in Northampton and I watched crit racing in town and the Milk Race. I got myself a BMX first, but when I became really obsessive I moved up to a Holdsworth Challenger GT aged about 15. It was about 4 sizes too big and my Dad said I’d grow into it. I used to go off for miles and had to fall off when I wanted to dismount because I couldn’t touch the floor! I used to do unofficial time-trials round the tennis courts with my mates because we didn’t have a cycle club where I grew up. Then you know how it goes, discovered pubs and girls… I got back into it over the last 4 or 5 years and I wish I’d never stopped. It’s changed my life. Getting out there enjoying the countryside. These days, as well as club rides, I travel down to France at least once a year in my van. Dave and I did Ventoux last year and we’re going to Alpe d’Huez this summer. It’s good to be back on a bike.
Dave: Same as Lek really, got a Peugeot Concorde when I was a kid in Swansea. I had my cycling heroes like Stephen Roche and Sean Kelly and I used to put on my cycling gloves and cut-off jeans and ride out for 20 or 30 miles just to get to new places and try a few hills. There were a few bike shops in town I used to go to but no clubs that I was aware of. I’m sure they were there, but it was harder to make contact with them in those days.
I stopped cycling while I was at college, then 15, 16 years ago I started commuting on an old hybrid. I work on Savile Row and about 10 years ago I started cycling with a gang of tailors from the Row, that’s when I got my first Bianchi, then a better Bianchi, then a Cervelo. In a way, because I’ve come back to it, I think I appreciate it more now.
Why Penge Cycle Club?
Lek. One thing I need to say is that I’m from Bromley – I’m not officially Penge – hope you don’t hold that against me!
Riding on your own, you never push yourself, so when I did my first club ride it was hard, medium-long I think, but the other riders got me round. I hate getting up early on a Sunday, but once I’m out I feel really good that I’ve dragged myself out of bed and I’ve done 50 miles before some people are even up!
Dave. For me it started when I got a puncture in Penge High Street on my way to work one Saturday morning. It happened outside SE20 Cycles and I went into the shop to get the puncture fixed as I had bought some new deep carbon rims and left with a new inner tube, a Penge CC top and an invite to join the club ride that Sunday!
I like it that the club is a part of the community and accessible to everyone. I tried to join a few other clubs and they only asked me questions that dissuaded me to join, like my averages and how far I cycled. Penge was an open door. ‘Come on down with your bike and meet the rest of us’.
When I used to come to rides a few years back there was only a few people outside the shop, now there are loads, and that’s brilliant. The variety of rides, Tour de Penge, Ladies’ rides, kids, super-fast – everyone’s catered for.
I love the communications now too, the Friday night emails are fun to read and I know about every ride or social event that’s going on.
You had a close call Dave, tell us about it.
Dave. Me and Lek were out on a ride earlier in the year – we both had the Friday off. It was a beautiful sunny day and we’d been down in Kent, we got back to that stretch by Keston Ponds and Lek zipped past me. There was this woman in the car park waiting to pull out, she was looking at Lek but she didn’t see me behind and pulled out as he passed and hit me and I was doing about 30-35 mph. Not pretty.
But it turned out to be a life-saving crash, if that makes any sense. The bike was wrecked and I was OK, but in hospital they discovered a big aneurysm on my aorta, so although I was fine from the crash, they kept me in for heart surgery!
Dave. The weird thing was if I wasn’t going to Lek’s house to look at these t-shirt designs, I wouldn’t have even gone that way!
Lek. There were so many unusual aspects of that day that led us to be at that point at that time. The day off work, the detour to my place, and also on that ride there was a snake on the road at the bottom of Hogtrough, and Dave spent a few minutes getting it to the side of the road with a stick. If he hadn’t of spent those few minutes, he’d not have been there at that exact time when she hit him.
Dave. We all know the dangers out there, and I’d probably give her a big kiss if I see her, but hey, I’m alive.
Tell us about the idea for your t-shirt company.
Lek. Basically I’ve worked on high-street fashion for years and I wanted to do something new that interested me more, something I believe in. So I started making t-shirts in my spare time and I asked Dave to come and see what I was doing. Dave liked what he saw, could see the potential and we started designing together from there.
Dave. T-shirt culture is a statement to the world basically saying who you are and what you are about and has been a consistent conduit for every subculture for generations. We decided to make something you’d wear even when you’re not with other cyclists. Our design philosophy is “less is more” so we use basic colour combinations rather than over designing things to reinvent the wheel. We want each t-shirt to look good, sourcing quality materials that fit properly. From our fashion backgrounds we’re bringing a design eye and experience to everything we do, to create clothes you’ll wear off-the-bike, down to the pub, or out to a gig.
Why are your t-shirts different?
Lek: When you look at other cyclist’s frames and wheels, you think ‘I want that’. Our t-shirt range hopes to achieve that same effect.
At the moment every single t-shirt is hand stitched by Dave or myself, and each range is limited to 500 pieces, so it’s an artisanal item. But we also want to appeal to all the different cyclists out there, that’s why we created ‘Racer’, ‘Sprinter’, ‘Climber’, ‘Rouleur’ – it’s basically whatever kind of ‘Cycliste’ you are, we’ve got a t-shirt for you.
My mountain bike and fixie mates have made a few requests too, so there are lots more coming and the next phase is going to be more screen-printed designs in the range to complement the ‘Appliqué’ – the hand-stitched ones we’re doing.
Lek. We decided to expand the range into screen-printed options and we thought this would be a great place to start, doing a design for the club, it helps promote us – and Penge CC. So we approached the committee to share our idea and we’re donating 20% of every sale to the club funds to spend as the club sees fit.
Dave. The design is inspired by biker gang iconography, it’s got a clear link to the club logo too and as with any gang it communicates to others, where and with whom you belong. We hope people will wear them and that the T-shirts will start conversation, spread the word that there’s a club out there that will look after you, help you find your level, help you grow your confidence and improve and has a great club t-shirt.
If our t-shirts get just a few more members, then that can only be a good thing.