Episode 35 - Dan Wilkins

January 31, 2019 15 min read

Episode 35 - Dan Wilkins

  

  

Dan Wilkins, Co-founder of Melbourne Cycling League and Co-founder and Director of VTWO a digital agency that has worked with various clients including Racing.com, Slipstream Sports USA, Swimming Australia, Rapha, 2XU, and Oakley. 

In this episode we cover: 

  • Dan’s journey of how he got into cycling.
  • The story of how he created the Melbourne Cycling League and the Wilko Show.
  • Dan’s view on working with the cycling industry versus other sports.
  • Dan shares a funny stories about cycling.

Links


          Transcript:

          FELICITY:

          This is episode 35. Welcome to the All Torque podcast, where each episode we interview an inspiring person to share their story with you. I'm your host, Felicity Dales, managing director of Body Torque.

          I have here today Dan Wilkins, the co-founder of VTWO. A digital agency that has worked with various clients including 2XU and Rapha, Swimming Australia, Racing.com, and Oakley, as well as the co-founder of Melbourne Cycling League. Which is incorporated club affiliated with Cycling Victoria. Melbourne Cycling League welcomes any young or old, both men and women, to join with one of their points of differentiation being a desire to create a network community of people with a passion for riding a bike, whoever they are.

          Prior to that, you were an assistant product manager for PT Hydraulics for four and a half years, and a manager at Rosstown Hotel for nearly five years, along with being the communications director at St. Kilda Cycling Club. Welcome Dan.

          DAN:

          Hello, I feel like I've done a lot in 31 years.

          FELICITY:

          You have.

          DAN:

          Very fine intro. That was a nice little intro. Maybe I should slow down.

          FELICITY:

          Absolutely. Well no, no, no, because we love what you've done. Tell us about your story. How did you get into cycling and do what you do with the Melbourne Cycling League and the Wilko Show, etcetera? We'd love to hear.

          DAN:

          So, I pretty much got into cycling when I was a kid. My dad was heavily into cycling and, ironically, I used to think the Tour de France was the most boring thing that you could..

          FELICITY:

          Oh, really?

          DAN:

          Watch, when he'd sit back on the couch on a weekend when I was a kid. I ended up doing triathlon when I was at school, when I was probably about 14, and I really liked it. I probably liked cycling the most but never really knew that, sort of, it was anything. I didn't really think it was a sport. I didn't really know because I played a lot of soccer and football. I moved to England when I was 17 or 18, when I finished school, and I came back and went straight back into AFL where I just continuously got injured. Just little sort of injuries here and there. My dad actually moved to Sydney and he said, "I'll leave my bike here."

          It was with a couple of good mates of mine at the time, and we sort of go for rides and I can still picture myself, no clip in pedals. I think I had the old frat runners on and probably mix matched kit. I probably broke every rule of the Illuminati that you could break. And yeah, I started really enjoying cycling. I still remember my first time I ever made it to Mordy and then Frankston and then, I started riding with more and more people. When I really got into it properly, was when I realised, this is something I want to do is when a couple of my friends opened up a store that's.. It's now Bike Gallery, in Camberwell .. Cam and Lincoln, ended up just getting into it there and I started riding a lot with them and started riding a lot when I was at Uni and started getting into racing and everything like that. It kept going and going from there.

          FELICITY:

          Caught the bug.

          DAN:

          Yeah, and caught the bug hard which I think is very hard to not catch the bug at the maximum level. I think it's zero to a hundred when you get into it. And that also goes for probably your wallet and bank account that follows suit. I probably spent a bit too much money on cycling stuff when I was young and obviously still at Uni and things like that. But I loved it. From the get go, I loved that.. As much as I still liked going out with the guys and stuff like that, I loved that you can do five hours chatting to your mates about God knows what and get fit while you're doing it. That was probably the major reason..

          FELICITY:

          Everything.

          DAN:

          Yeah. That was probably the major reason is it was very hard to get injured. I certainly wasn't tearing down Beach Road at 40 odd.. I still remember.. I'll call him out for this.. I still remember the first North Road I ever did. I didn't really know what the rolling turns was. I think I was one of those people that was relatively strong but had little idea of how to ride a bunch.

          A very popular figure called Leda Luca, I remember, told me off in the bunch a lot less politely than I just said then, and that was good. I feel that's sort of missing nowadays. You know, knowing your place on the road, and for that sort of stuff, you just watch how it rolls and you ask how things are going in the bunch in terms of, "How do you do that?" Well, certain people were always willing to let you know how to do it. Then, I made it to Southland and then the next time that it said Frankston. Oh sorry, next time made it to Mordy and then maybe Black Rock. Then, you slowly get round and you develop some really great bunches.

          I always said it's a weird thing when you see your mates at 5:00 in the morning on a weird road to ride fast. It doesn't really make a lot of sense to most people and I think that's part of the beauty of it.

          FELICITY:

          Yeah. There's kind of a comradery that's really hard to describe, isn't it? You just get up and you feel that, you know, excitement, also that determination. Especially when you're talking about where you've ridden. I guess it's like a little carrot. You go this far and you've achieved that and then you want to go that bit further. So, you just keep pushing yourself, don't you?

          DAN:

          Yeah, and I really think that people underestimate the exploration that you can have without necessarily riding on gravel and stuff like that. I love the stuff, say that the curve crew do on those explorations. But I think people really underestimate in riding out sort of the Yarra Glen and stuff like that. If you're not a cyclist, that just seems ridiculous. The amount of roads that you can explore everywhere. Out the back of .. You ride down McMerricks, near Flinders, then you can do Christmas Hills. You can ride out the airport and ride out and if you time it right in the summer. You can essentially ride up to the top of that hill out near the airport and see a jumbo jet land or take off over your head.

          FELICITY:

          Right. Okay.

          DAN:

          Yeah, it's great, stuff like that. You can just drip in and out of groups and I think that's just a fantastic part of cycling. Something that I'm missing, so haven’t done a lot of it lately.

          FELICITY:

          So, how did you get into creating Melbourne Cycling League and also the Wilko Show?

          DAN:

          Yeah. So, about sort of six or seven years ago, I was a member of St. Kilda Cycling Club and a couple people there just reached out and said, "Do you want to have a look at the communications leading into the second.. The end of the second?" Which they've done and the first one, it was sort of.. I don't know if it was really a test, but it just set the world on fire. Really, it was fantastic. So, I took on that role.

          As we said, as we discussed before, St. Kilda is the stalwart of the Australian cycling, maybe even international. I think its name is huge and it's been around since the early 90s. Being able to sort of pivot that out, so along with Andy Gooding who was the president at the time, that a cycling club could be a little bit different. Maybe we can cater to a different sort of profession. I don't think inclusive is the word. St. Kilda is very inclusive as to their target and who they service, but I think just a different way of running where maybe the members.. We could offer somewhere along an intermediate club, in terms of not putting on races all the time.

          Maybe we can offer a bit more of connections and maybe a bit of professional vibe of hosting nights and things like that. That was a major premise behind it really. Yeah. That was about five or six years ago. So, cycling’s changed a lot in that time.

          FELICITY:

          Yes, it has.

          DAN:

          I think that racing is.. I don't think in trouble. I think that racing is just going through its patch, where I think gravel sort of exploration. I think people are exploring a lot more with their time rather than pinning on a number. That's fine. I don't think that there's anything wrong with that. I think that the longer you stay thinking about the way that it used to be, the more you sort of lose. I think it also is troubling with things like St. Kilda losing that circuit to the mass sort of residential that’s going on there. I really hope that CA are working, Cycling Australia are working with them to get it because St. Kilda and Carnegie, the kings of.. Kings and Queens of weekend racing, much like Hawthorne on a Wednesday.

          I think everything should be done to preserve those circuits because they really do offer people.. Somewhat they call it the Sunday Church for a reason. There's plenty of people that love pinning on a number and getting around. The Wilko Show was a podcast I started with one of my friend's, Pete. He's finally the next professional cyclist out of France and England, but I'll get him wrong here. I think his biggest claim to fame is getting the the last place Tour Britain, the first year that Sky did it.

          FELICITY:

          Okay.

          DAN:

          So, that thing. He's a bit of an idiot, but we started something that was a bit of a joke, sort of thing. We ended up getting really busy, but we actually put things in place to potentially to bring it back soon. That was just a bit of fun, but we just interviewed people and we did.. I think like 45 episodes in half a year and just ended up burning out pretty much. But we actually did outrank Ricky Gervais at one stage on the comedy of things, we were number 66, he was number 68.

          FELICITY:

          Okay.

          DAN:

          So, that's our claim to fame, but we got a couple little hosting things out of it, so it was all right. No, I do miss that, that was fun. Pete and I still go for our weekly walks around the town, my wife thinks that's just incredibly old man of us, but that was a great little thing. That was a great little podcast. It was a great de-stresser. We essentially were a couple of guys that just spoke rubbish, for an exorbitant long time. We got great feedback around it and we'd be silly not to sort of revisit it.

          FELICITY:

          Okay, good. So, it could be in the pipeline again.

          DAN:

          Yeah. We’ve got everything in a pipeline and we just need to find the days that we can do it.

          FELICITY:

          Right, okay.

          DAN:

          I hope it comes back, it is a lot of fun. But, you can go check out the reviews. I think most of the reviews are five stars in the comments, "These guys are idiots." So, yeah. It's good.

          FELICITY:

          Well, that's great. Very Aussie kind of type of review, isn't it?

          DAN:

          Yeah, I think so.

          FELICITY:

          You've worked with other sports, Dan. What sets cycling apart? Or, what makes cycling different.

          DAN:

          I think one of the biggest assets and positives of cycling is also their biggest negative and that's the barrier to entry and the barrier to viewability. It's free. You can stand on the side of road, and watch these people that have won a Tour De France or national championships. You know, these incredible athletes ride along. That's just quite incredible, it just doesn't happen anywhere else. The issue with that is that then leads to the overall complexities that we have in male and female cycling, where people are offered one year contracts and sponsors are backing out. There's just little to no sustainability in that sport, where things are done on one year contracts. Because there is no real revenue model, you've got sponsorship and then you essentially have.. What? TV rights but you have no attendance, you have no.. I think that's just..

          If someone came to me and says, “That's fine to identify these problems, how do you fix it?” I certainly don't have the answer, but that's incredibly concerning for that. We will do cross, we're quite proliferate in swimming and athletics as well, covering things like short course champs, Commonwealth Games, things like that. They're all stadium bound.

          FELICITY:

          That's right. So, they get ticket sales.

          DAN:

          Those ticket sales are just huge. We also can sell larger sponsorship like endorsement deals. It's in an enclosed environment, which means you can have the same banner the whole time. As far as eyeballs, that goes into, without going too far into marketing talk, like it is ad recall and things like that, which is very, very important and simply slapping.. I feel for these second, third tier teams that have a million sponsors on the jersey, but they need to make it work. That's not doing anything for anyone.

          FELICITY:

          No. I think so. we miss out on media rights, don't we, that link between media and athletes getting paid without association and link.

          DAN:

          Yeah. I think the other things is in Australia.. I hope no one takes offence to this. I feel in Australia, if you sponsor a team is because your business or the CEO or something has a profound interest in cycling. I think that, that's again not sustainable. I think you want sponsorship dollars to be there because the value is there for the company.

          FELICITY:

          That's right. Yes.

          DAN:

          You look at AFL, AFLW, netball, swimming, all that sort of thing is.. Swimming in the Olympics and things like that. The value is there because you might not know anything about swimming, but you understand where the intention is focused.

          FELICITY:

          Yes.

          DAN:

          Yeah, I think that that's a huge part, plus that you can, the Herald Sun Tour you can stand on, obviously. No one sees athletes.

          FELICITY:

          That’s amazing. That's right.

          DAN:

          Yeah. I think that's probably what makes cycling so different easy access to the athletes.

          FELICITY:

          Definitely. The same at the Tour Down Under, which I'm here currently. It's just amazing and I've had fellow riders say that. So, I think a lot of us appreciate that and recognise that. So, enjoying it while we can because who knows how it might change in the future.

          DAN:

          Yeah, you can't pass up the Hilton. You can get a photo with Peter Sagan, Luke Durbridge, Rohan Dennis. The week prior you get Grace Brown, Matilda Reynolds.

          FELICITY:

          That's right.

          DAN:

          You can a huge amount, there’s Straddy.

          FELICITY:

          Exactly.

          DAN:

          You can get to her. It's quite amazing.

          FELICITY:

          You know, whoever.

          DAN:

          Exactly.

          FELICITY:

          Exactly. That's right, yeah. I think Rapha as a cycling apparel brand is a brand that made cycling apparel more trendy and fashionable, a bit like the surf industry years ago, where we had Rip Curl and Quiksilver.

          DAN:

          That brand, I think instilled that, is Simon Mottram, its founder. I think his ethos in there is too strong to be simply struck out by an acquisition. I think cycling brands you’re right, Rapha was the first one to really hit on that. You can see the original campaigns with Tom Southern, Melbourne's Malachi Moxon, then you move into the photography by Emily Maze.

          I think you see with the rise of brands.. Let's go the three big ones, I suppose in Australia and sort of Attaquer had their own kit design. It's not for everyone, I think the designs are out there and fantastic. I think they don't care about the way that they are perceived, they just go about it the way they want and that's just so refreshing. You then have smaller companies than Rapha and they got their own little niche of people.

          I think probably the biggest threat to Rapha, which I know is bold to say but I don't think they’re far off from MAAP. I think, all in all, what they've done with that brand is quite incredible from the stories. They did a shooting in the American desert, that was in Ohio. Wherever it was in, that was just an incredible. That made me think of Rapha originally with a whole lot of differences. The way that they brand up, you mentioned the surf industry.. The way that they've done branding with Bellroy, is a fantastic Australian company based out of Bell’s Beach and Fitzroy. Hence the name Bellroy. They did some fantastic collaborations there. I think that's where the future of that goes. It's kind of a collaboration thing.

          I think that the MAAP stuff at the moment is really good. I'm not just talking about just their gear. I'm talking about the look and feel and where they position themselves.

          FELICITY:

          Yes. Yeah, I think they're very clear about..

          DAN:

          I actually have no idea if I answered your question then, but.

          FELICITY:

          Yeah, no, that's good. Yeah, that's fine. Are there any funny stories that you can share with us, then?

          DAN:

          Probably not that I can share, but. There's quite a lot. I think once you get to know some of these cyclists, you realise how normal and funny that they all are. I think someone like Koen de Kort, very popular, married to Katie, like an Australian. It was really great to be around these people, given the years I’ve sort of been evolved, quite close with the recently retired, like Simon Gerrans and just seeing what goes through their head.

          In terms of funny stories, there's a funny story and a guy called Nick Bensley, who will laugh at this, but going up.. I think everyone here knows Malachi Moxon, Northside Wheelers. There's a little shrine on Buffalo for Malachi, when he.. Years ago now, it was too hot, he was quite hot and a meltdown of epic proportions for Malachi, that shoes went off and refused to ride anymore, so there’s a little shrine for Malachi, halfway up there, somewhere. I think is still there now. If it's not, every time Nick Bensley rides up there, he definitely makes one, from there.

          I suppose the other stories sort of come from within the Peloton when things are funny. I think if no one's heard the story of how Robbie McEwen apparently got signed, is Rabobank back in the years is a very funny one about he needed to use the bathroom. As they were coming into the finale, he was a bit too close for him to hop off his bike and ended up using a cycling cap for use of a toilet. Still came through. I think he might've won the bunt kick in that time.

          FELICITY:

          Oh, wow.

          DAN:

          I think he won the race. Something like that, that you sort of hear about.

          FELICITY:

          Yes.

          DAN:

          Probably the best stories are the ones that you sort of have with your mates while you're out there and that you can always.. That Malachi one is always funny. No matter what he says, if he says, "Oh, I was hot and I couldn't." I would say, "On a scale one to 10, how close is it to you now for you to meltdown." Something like that is always really, really funny.

          FELICITY:

          Yeah, that's right. It's a good reference point.

          DAN:

          Yeah, I think you can.. There's nothing better. I remember at a TDU a few years ago, I bought these new Mavic shoes and I hadn't tried them on and all this stuff. I think I was stewing and I think I just threw them in the fountain and just refused to get on my bike to ride back. Matt always.. Whenever I Instagram, whenever I put up a photo of me, yellow shoes, there'll be 20 comments with hashtag yellow shoes about it. So, I think, that sort of stuff is funny. There's always little bits of pieces that you sort of hear, that are quite amusing, that I probably can't repeat, but they're always really funny. You can always get a really good thing.

          Especially, if you’re out at the TDU or, some riders might even ride back from the after seat stage or something at the Herald Sun Tour. You know, just asking questions. Most of the time, people asking questions about cycling, that's the last thing that we feel like talking about. I really encourage to ask them, “What's their hobbies? What do they like doing when they're not riding? How do they like their steaks cooked?” Just little questions like that, that take it off. You're always get a far more interesting conversation if you ask different questions to what they have set them up for.

          FELICITY:

          Yeah.

          DAN:

          If you start adopting that, they will talk to you for hours.

          FELICITY:

          Yeah. Well, we're all people at the end of the day. Aren't we? We're allowed to be engaged at different levels particularly if you’re a pro rider, you don’t always want to be talking cycling, I can understand that.

          DAN:

          Yeah, that’s for sure.

          FELICITY:

          Well I’d like to thank you for joining us today, Dan. It’s been really insightful and fun, we’ll put all the details in our show notes but if you’re resurrecting The Wilko Show, we’ll definitely put that in there. Once that’s live or I’ll chat with you and we can put the link in.

          I’d really like to thank you for joining us today and sharing us your insights into the world of cycling.

          DAN:

          No, thank you so much. I love the podcast and thanks so much for asking.

          FELICITY:

          No, my pleasure.

          Thanks for listening to the All Torque podcast. We'd love it if you would leave us a rating and review on iTunes. This helps us to deliver content you want to hear about. Please take a moment to share it with your friends and family on Instagram and Facebook. I'm Felicity Dales, see you next episode for another story of inspiration and motivation on the All Torque podcast.


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