Industry Focus: Ross McCracken of Proper Cycling

Ross McCracken Proper Cycling

Can you tell us a little about yourself and how Proper cycling came about?

Since I was 15 I’ve worked in the Music industry as a producer and, at first a drum tech, then a tour manager. As a result, I spent a lot of time touring and stuck in hotel rooms. A few of the artists I worked with took bikes on tour so they could keep fit and see some of the places we visited. It was also popular as a helmet and a pair of glasses was a great disguise for sneaking past autograph hunters at the hotel gates! I followed suit and soon fell in love with road cycling. Many years later (too many to think about!) I set up Proper Cycling in Hassocks as a coffee / bike shop which is run by a friend of mine, Rachael. Becoming increasingly despondent with the Music industry I found myself spending more time there so I became more involved setting up the bike fitting (I’m literally obsessed with cycling science and marginal gains) followed by the Holiday company in 2018.

How did the bike fitting come about?

Being a bit of a geek at heart I started bike fitting 7 years ago as a hobby. When the opportunity to make it part of my job arose I jumped at the chance. I’ve spent a lot of time looking at the latest techniques and I was lucky enough to be trained by Tony Corke. The best of the best in my opinion. I’ve now completed over 600 bike fits and every one of them was different!

It must be really satisfying when a rider experiences improvements in performance down to your own adjustments, Is there a particular story or fitting that stands out?

It never gets dull. The human body is amazing and we are all so different. Especially when it comes to doing something we weren’t really designed to do…riding a bike!I love a challenge and some individuals need more attention than others. Some have medical / physical problems and it’s hugely satisfying to find a way around that.One story that does stand out was a young girl who suffered from a chronic pain condition meaning she couldn’t ride outside but loved Zwift. She knew all her numbers as a result and was over the moon with a 43% average power increase by the time we’d finished. Her opponents however… not so much….

Do you still get time to focus on your own riding as much these days, what events/goals do you have lined up?

After my experience in the music industry I made a promise that if the job prevented me from riding and enjoying it I would stop working in cycling. So far, so good. I have a coach who provides plans and I ride 5-6 times a week. I’m not fast but I enjoy distance riding. London to Gibraltar started that and last year the length of Portugal where Proper Cycling Holidays is based.I’m looking for a new goal at the moment. I think I’d like to get faster…. at least I could then keep up with the N+1 team… on their recovery days at least!

We recently joined you out in Portugal for an incredible weeks cycling, What made you choose Portugal as a base for the experience and service you’ve put together?

That was a great week, I’m still impressed by the team’s performance. I’ve been riding in Portugal for around 14 years as I have family there. I just love it. Smooth roads, great scenery, amazing people and most of all, It’s so quiet. It’s like a secret cycling paradise that I really want to share with others. Hence, we built Casa Karibu specifically designed around cyclists.

With the bike industry being notoriously difficult to survive in these days, What would you say is the secret to your success?

I think survival is the new success at the moment. It’s tough out there and not just in cycling. Being realistic is important. If you want to make a fortune then it’s a tough industry. If you want a good lifestyle job then it’s perfect. I think treating it as a service industry rather than a retail one works for us in the UK. You can’t buy a service, coffee and cake or a bike fit online…. yet!

It seems like you’ve turned your hand to so much already but what’s the next adventure?

Good question, I think this year will be spent getting the holidays side of the business more established and setting up Proper Bike Fitting in Portugal. Maybe another cycle cafe out there too but I intend to take that slow and steady.

What do you find most challenging about running bespoke tours, aside from not being able to ride yourself all the time?

Not being able to ride all the time is a challenge but there are worse places for a turbo session than on  the terrace overlooking the hills. The biggest challenge is the language. I’m learning Portuguese but it’s unbelievably hard especially when so many of the locals speak English. It’s always amusing when a local approaches the group speaking Portuguese and everyones looking at me to respond!

How often do the missing the pasteis de nata going missing?

All the time if I get there first…. 😉

Images courtesy of Breakaway Digital

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