This latest Interesting Interview meets all of my criteria from a subject and content perspective, and also goes one step further as it is a special, dual-interview. In addition to an interesting person answering questions, I’ve also factored in an interesting bike interview as well.
I met Simon through the global mountain bike community and quickly realised that we actually live a short distance away from each other, and crucially, he’s also a fellow Projecteer. Following our first meeting, having a ride out together and showing our respective sheds off to each other, it seemed wholly appropriate to ask Simon and his amazing Lotus MTB a few questions to tease out the very interesting stuff, and below is the outcome. Enjoy!
Q: Simon, if you were interviewing a legendary mountain bike like your Lotus, what would be the first question you would ask it?
A: How come you got to be so beautiful?
Q: Simon, who is Simon Holmes, and in only 5 bullet points?
- Mountain Biker
- Retro Geek
Q: Lotus, what’s THE most interesting thing about Simon that we should know?
A: He once asked the Famous game show presenter, Bob Holness “Can I have a P please Bob” on national U.K. television.
Q: Simon, what’s your favourite ever album, and what are you listening to this week?
A: Jean Michel Jarre: Equinoxe & Public Service Broadcasting: Bright Magic.
Q: Lotus, how did you and Simon meet?
A: One day I was languishing in a Polish Bric-a-Brac Yard, then I was suddenly put in a box, and the next time I saw the light of day I was in England being stared at by a man with glasses, and not much hair!
Q: Simon, can you confess to being an MTB collector, or are you ‘just a bloke with a few bikes and parts’?
A: Three or four years ago I was just a bloke with a few bikes, but I have to admit that now I am a fully blown collector.
Q: Lotus, how old are you and what do you feel is the unique, competitive advantage that you have over other MTBs?
A: I am now 28 years old and my unique competitive advantage is that I look so much faster than most bikes, and I weigh much less too.
Q: Simon, what was the biggest challenge that you had to overcome to get the Lotus to this condition and how did you overcome it?
A: The biggest challenge was getting the paint work to do justice to the frame design. I overcame it with hours and hours of preparation work and colour sanding.
Q: Lotus, do you think that bikes should be made from carbon fibre like you, or should they be made from more sustainable and recyclable materials?
A: At the time I was made, ‘sustainable’ and ‘recyclable’ were not words in anybody’s vocabulary. The testimony for my eco-credentials is that I am still here and functional. Carbon fibre is recyclable (with difficulty), but I do believe that we should be making all products with a thought to their sustainability and recyclability.
Q: Simon, what’s your most epic MTB ride ever, and why was it epic?
A: Riding down the Stelvio Pass on the Tibet Trail. It was pretty epic as one mistake on the hairpins would have meant a long and painful fall. I feel most of my epic rides are still to come.
Q: Lotus, are you a member of the Lotus bikes owners club?
A: The Lotus bikes owners club is ‘only’ for my road and track going bretheren.
Q: Simon, what is the best MTB part that you’ve ever bought?
A: In terms of functionality, it’s got to be a seat dropper post, and in terms of rarity, it’s a set of Paul’s front and rear derailleurs.
Q: Lotus, what is your most favourite part that you have fitted to your frame at the moment?
A: My Spinergy Rev X wheels.
Q: Simon, what is your favourite meal that you cook in ‘The Van’, and can you introduce the van to everyone please?
A: I cook up a mean English breakfast, which usually sets us up for the days activities when we are camping. The Van or “The Daddy Bus” as it is affectionally known, is a 1966 Canterbury Pitt VW Split Screen Bus, and which has been in my possesion for the past 28 years.
Q: Lotus, what MTB rides are on your ‘to-do list’?
A: Any ride that doesn’t scratch my paintwork. I am keen to do a couple of laps of “Mountain Mayhem” when it restarts.
Q: Simon, what current project are you working on?
A: I usually have at least 3 or 4 projects on the go at once. At the moment I am working on my “Very British Klunker”, a 1957 BSA Santa Fe, as well as a 1992 Mountain Cycle San Andreas, a 1997 Scott Endorphin, and 1992 British Eagle EXS.
Q: Lotus, how many owners have you had and where have you travelled to in the world?
A: My memory is a little fuzzy, but I started life in the USA at SP Systems where I was created by Chris Hornzee-Jones, I then went to the UK, and I believe I went to Berlin before ending up in Poland.
Q: Simon, what’s your favourite drink, can you describe it in an arty way and why is it your favourite?
A: I suppose it’s a 14 year old Oban Malt Whisky. Any drink that takes that long to mature and has so much care lavished on it is certainly a drink to savour.
Q: Lotus, which of the other bikes in your shed do you like the most and why?
A: I suppose the 1992 Mountain Cycle San Andreas as he’s about the same age as me, definitely not as pretty, but does have a certain rugged beauty that only a Mother could love.
Q: Simon, what are the common skills that you use at work as a Dentist and in the shed as a Projecteer?
A: I think micro-dexterity and attention to detail (although this can be a blessing and a curse).
Q: Lotus, what would you say that you are really good at as an MTB? Anything?
A: Looking really, really fast!
Q: Simon, which countries have you most enjoyed riding in, and why?
A: Austria would be my favourite as it has great scenery, great trails, great beer and great friends.
Q: Lotus, if you were to design yourself as an MTB today, what would you have as main features? ……And would you have electric assistance?
A: I would be lighter, have more gears and slightly longer travel suspension, but I think I was spot on first time. I would NOT!! have electric assistance.
Q: Simon, what’s your view on electric MTBs and cars?
A: We have an electric car in the family and it definitely is the future. eMTBs definitely have their place, but I see them being abused in the UK and are bought as trophies, rather than for any specific need.
Q: Lotus, what’s your favourite type of tyre and why?
A: It has to be a tan wall tyre of some sort…anything else is just wrong.
Q: Simon, have you ever won an MTB race or got on the podium?
A: In my youth, Kayaking was my main sport and I have been on the podium a few times in Canoe Slalom competitions. Mountain biking was what we did in the evenings after we had been kayaking all day, so I was very much into freeriding without any competitive drive.
Q: Lotus, from a fashion perspective, what brands and kit would you ideally want your rider to wear?
A: It would have to be a lycra skin suit for me, but I don’t think Simon is up to that!!
Q: Simon, how much NOS stuff have you got, and which part has the best story attached to it?
A: I tend to shy away from NOS stuff as all my bikes need to be ridden. I did have a NOS boxed Troy Lee Designs, Edge Helmet once, but sold it to someone who has a small museum as I dared not put it on my head!
Q: Lotus, is your shed the ultimate space to live for you, or what would you really want in an ideal shed?
A: I need somewhere that will show me off more, rather than being tucked away in a protective Lycra Cover.
Q: Simon, what things or events are on your MTB bucket list?
A: In the past few years I have been spending my winters on my Fat Bike. I am intending to take part in the “Fat Viking” Endurance event in Norway next year.
Q: Lotus, what excites you about the vintage and retro MTB world?
A: During my era, no two mountain bikes looked the same, we all had our quirks, strengths and weaknesses.
Q: Simon, do you get more fun out of doing a project than riding the finished bike?
A: It’s a mixture of both. I love a basket case where I can do whatever I want with a bike (but sticking with period correct parts, obviously) and I don’t care how long it takes, but the whole point of a build is to ride it and experience its quirks and fulfill the MTB fantasies of my early twenties.
Q: Lotus, as an old bike, have you got any aches, pains, creaks or cracks?
A: My gel coat had a few cracks (which Simon sorted out), but because I am an incredibly well engineered bike (including kevlar and boron fibres), I am much stronger and more flexible than a traditional carbon fibre bike.
Q: Simon, who is your favourite cyclist and why?
A: I suppose my favourite would be Missy Giove, as she took mountain biking by the scruff of the neck and gave it a good shake when the MTB sport was ruled by ex-road cyclists in the early days.
Q: Lotus, what’s your view on the current derailleur versus gearbox debate?
A: Gearboxes are coming, but until they weigh less, I wouldn’t want one in my frame.
Q: And finally Simon, what song reminds you most of pioneer MTB racing?
A: Faith No More: Boo Ya Tribe…It’s the track Missy uses on her section of the classic MTB video, “Chainsmoke”.
Q: Lotus, to ensure appropriate hydration on your next ride, what would you expect your rider to have in the drinks bottle in your cage?
A: Simon tends to use water in a hydration pack supplemented by Haribo Tangfastics.
Q: Simon, What last question and answer would you like to sign off with?
A: I would ask myself: Do you think that you have all the retro mountain bikes you will ever need or want?
A: My sensible head says yes, although my real head says there are still so many weird and wonderful early nineties mountain bikes out there just waiting to be discovered. So, the short answer is no!
If you want to contact Simon, his Retrobike forum user name is yakboy. If you want to contact the Lotus bike, do it through Simon?
All photos provided by Simon Holmes