Champion Performance: Since the deal between Boardman and Halfords back in 2007, the fruitful relationship has helped the national retailer gain an ever more substantial foothold in the high-end sector.

INTERVIEW: Chris Boardman

BikeBiz speaks to the Olympic champion about how the partnership originally came together and reveals just how much Boardman really gets involved with the premium range…

What made you choose Halfords to work with?
The partnership with Halfords was years in the crafting and we are delighted with it. It allows us to do so much more than we could via other routes. For example, we have been able to bring high quality bikes of the specification we wanted to achieve to more people than via other routes to market, and for an awesome price, which is a fantastic combination.

Seeing the top scores we receive in pretty much every independent review we put the bikes up for is testimony to this being a winning formula. It also gives the customer real confidence to buy, too.

How involved in the bike design are you?
Very. I have sign-off on every single nut and bolt. I am involved from the choosing of frame geometry through to selection of finishing kits and I almost always try every component that goes on our bikes. In fact, I’m just back from Italy where I have been testing both road and MTB components. Sometimes I recognise that there are others with greater expertise than me – such as in MTB suspension set-ups and in those cases I seek out the best experts. We have a great team that I really enjoy working with and we all bring something to the mix.

Do you miss competing in bike races yourself?
I’m still competing! Making bikes that win reviews is the new race. That and working with the British Team. Both of these demand a no-compromise approach, a real understanding of what makes a high performing product and immense attention to detail.

Your achievements at the Olympics – Gold in the individual pursuit event in 1992 in a world record time – set the bar for the subsequent successful British cycling teams. Can you tell us about your current professional links with the GB cycling team as the director of research and development?
I could, but then I’d have to kill you. Working with the R&D team is fantastic; they are all utterly fascinated by understanding how things work and then exploring to see how things can be made better. We spend many days – weeks actually – in wind tunnels each year, hundreds of hours poring over computer generated images of designs and days sweating whether we will get it all delivered to the team in time.

It is a massive responsibility to be supplying people who have dedicated years of their life in training and they trust us to make kit that helps and won’t let them down.

You were a famously single-minded competitive cyclist who used to say you had to do everything 110 per cent. Do you still feel like that?
Sadly, yes. I don’t think it is very healthy, as once I start a project I think about it to an unhealthy degree. With every bike we make, as soon as it goes out of the door we are already thinking of how we can make the next one even better, which of course gets harder to do each time. I have spent some time working with McLaren, and its chief engineer said to me last year: ‘Each year we roll the new car out and each year I say that’s it, we can’t do any more. And each year we find ways to move forward.’ That seems to be how it’s shaping up with the bikes too.

How did the relationship with your colleague, former UK Ironman record holder Alan Ingarfield, in Boardman bikes come about in 2004?
Alan should get credit for being the company founder. He found me with an outline idea of making performance bikes and his enthusiasm was infectious.

He’s very passionate about sport and still does huge amounts of training. Alan might be quiet and prefer to stand in the background, but he was the catalyst and without him this wouldn’t have happened.

It was reported that you won your first race at Kirkby in Liverpool at the age of 15 on a ‘bike recovered from a skip’. Did turning that frame from the skip into a competitive machine ignite an interest in creating bicycles and not just riding them?
That’s actually true; my dad found it and built it up into a usable fixed wheel machine – we both loved tinkering and making bikes, then racing them. I suppose that hasn’t changed much, apart from the fact he is in his 70s and still racing and I’m neither of those things.

Twelve years ago you said if one of your six children came to you and wanted to go into competitive cycling you would advise them to do something else. Do you still feel the same way about them going into the sport?
I never did feel that way; I suffer from terminal sarcasm and sometimes people don’t realise I’m joking. The kids use their bikes a lot for transport and that’s great. If they ever wanted to compete – a couple of them have had a dabble – of course I would get right behind them, but they would have to drive it.

How do your wife and family say that Chris Boardman today has changed from the world-beating cyclist Chris Boardman, Tour De France winner of the yellow jersey over three legs and Olympic Gold medal winner and holder of numerous world records?
I think you’d have to ask them that one. The sad truth is, probably not a lot.

You said that attending the birth of your fifth child Sonny, in the year 2000, brought home to you the ‘high price’ you had paid for your success and career as a competitive cyclist. When you look back, do you think it was a price worth paying?
I always said being that obsessed with anything will have a price. On the whole, I think it was worth it, but when Sonny was born and I was there (I mean mentally really there), I realised that I had been wrapped up in myself for the best part of 20 years and I didn’t want that to continue. There is a lot more balance in my life now and I am around home a lot more.

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