David Millar: the night-time streets of Brooklyn

David Millar rode as a pro cyclist for 15 years, racking up a whole host of victories. Among them: winning a stage of the Giro d’Italia, five of the Vuelta a España and, perhaps most impressively, four stages of the Tour de France. He has also been the British national time trial champion and the British national road champion. A proud Scot, Millar retired in 2014 and set up CHPT3, a cycling kit and apparel brand, which also creates bikes, and alongside this he has embarked on a successful career as a cycling commentator, notably covering the Tour de France and Vuelta a España for ITV. He has a great cycling-related podcast that he co-hosts with his fellow former pro racer Pete Kennaugh, and the ITV commentator Ned Boulting. Called Never Strays Far, it’s not what you’d expect at all and is really worth a listen. Millar now lives in Girona, in Spain, from where he runs CHPT3, and, as he tells us, it was on a mission for his brand that he discovered the inspiring Knight Ryders of Brooklyn

My secret tip is simply this: the streets of Brooklyn after dark on a bicycle.

Let me explain. Since I retired from competitive cycling in 2014 I’ve been running CHPT3, a cycling kit brand designed to appeal to those who love to get out on two wheels.

It’s called Chapter 3 because it represents the third chapter of my life (pre-pro cycling, competing, and now, chapter three, post competition). The name’s also a nod to the fact that I believe everyone has a sort of third chapter – if family and work are chapters one and two, then number three is what you’re passionate about.

I’m passionate about cycling. I have been since I used to ride my BMX as a kid. And over the past seven years while I’ve been developing CHPT3, those early days and that child-like feeling of freedom that a bike gives you have been more and more front of mind.

Because while cycling can be about performance and performance gear, it can also be about fun, independence, health, wellbeing, mental health and so much more. Including commuting! So I’ve been re-educating myself to try and recapture my youthful enthusiasm for just jumping on a bike and setting off – to see friends, to get from A to B, to go for a spin, to hang out.

This has been in part facilitated by my work with Brompton, with whom I’ve now designed four different iterations of a CHPT3 x Brompton fold-up bicycle. Based on my BMX riding experience, I stripped everything off the bike and introduced some titanium components to make it as light as possible.

And it was during the development of the most recent CHPT3 Brompton that I discovered the joys of riding around Brooklyn at night.

You see, I was looking for a city in which to photograph the new bike in a way that would represent its dynamic and fun spirit. While talking to friends, I was told about a group of cyclists in New York called the Knight Ryders. Formed by a bunch of mates a few years ago when they first started having kids and couldn’t ride during the day, but could once the children had gone to bed, the Knight Ryders’ numbers have since grown. But they still meet at night, in Brooklyn, and still ride socially around the streets of the neighbourhood just having a good time.

I decided to join them with my new Brompton, and honestly I haven’t had as much fun on two wheels for years. The thing that really blew my mind was when I was talking to these guys about cycling and what it means to be a cyclist and they corrected me: ‘We’re not cyclists, man,’ they said, ‘we’re riders.’ It’s a distinction that I’d never thought of before and it led to something of an epiphany.

Cycling can become very serious. There’s nothing wrong with performance road cycling, of course, and I did that for years at the highest level. But if that’s what being a cyclist is, then it narrows the appeal massively, and detracts from all the incredibly important things that cycling brings. 

Getting on a bike should be fun. It is also a way of combating the obesity problems we have, a solution to cities closing their roads to cars and, the big one… it is brilliant for the environment. Being a rider means you’re part of a movement, not just a sport.

These days I commentate on professional cycling, and during the Tour de France I take my Brompton with me to the stages and use it to get around. My two co-commentators are also on Bromptons. We even use them to cycle the stages sometimes to scope them out.

I’ve always loved the anomaly of three blokes on Bromptons commentating on the world’s most famous cycling race, where the athletes are on space-age machines, famously carving out marginal gains to improve their performance by seconds. Now I understand what we’re actually doing there. We’re representing the riders. Or should that be, the Ryders!

Brompton x CHPT3 V4 bicycle, £2,595; chpt3.com; brompton.com

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