The Freedom To Explore

Meet Simon Gaywood, former race-winning professional cyclist

He’s beaten Sir Bradley Wiggins, won the National Crit series and ridden the Tour of Britain twice

A quick glance around Simon Gaywood’s garage reveals all you need to know about his voracious appetite for bikes. Treating frames like speed dates, Simon has a record of buying new bikes, keeping them for a year, then moving them on to create space for their replacements – so any bikes with a longer shelf-life truly have something special about them.

There’s a steel-framed fixie, resprayed in Lamborghini orange, that demands Simon maintains a cadence of 125rpm to keep up with his chaingang mates and a super stiff carbon bike – the sprinter’s bike of choice in the World Tour – gleams in a silver and gold paint scheme (“a bit bling” admits Simon) for summer rides.

Perhaps this mouthwatering collection is a reaction to the luxury of never having to buy a bike from his early teens until his 30s, almost two decades of starting each new season with a fresh team bike, as Simon graduated from junior racer to podium-topping pro.

His palmarès includes beating Bradley Wiggins in the National Sprint Junior Championships on the track, and winning prestigious road races, such as the Elite National Criterium series, the Archer Grand Prix, and the National Team Time Trial Championship.

Returning to cycling after an interlude blamed on late teen ‘distractions’ saw Simon ride for CC Luton, competing with local elite riders, before he joined his first UCI team at the age of 27.

“I rode for Plowman Craven and hit a sweet vein of form in my first season, winning the Archer GP, three or four races in the National Crit series, and riding the tour of Britain in both 2007 and 2008,” says Simon.

A sprinter with a fearsome kick, he was also something of a puncheur, capable of racing 120 miles through the Chiltern Hills before putting rivals to the sword on the finishing straight.

His final season as a pro he rode in a team that included GCN presenters Dan Lloyd and Si Richardson, with Matt Stephens as DS, before he hung up his racing cleats to enjoy cycling for the love of the sport.

“I’m part of a new club, Portishead CC, which we have grown from 20 initial members to about 200, with groups who go gravel riding, mountain biking, track cycling to road racing,” says Simon.

Juggling parenthood around a family business of joint supplements for dogs, horses and humans, his cycling can vary from two to 10 hours per week– more than enough to leave him vulnerable to the cyclist’s n+1 curse, of always wanting to own one more bike than you currently have.

“I had always been supplied with a bike from junior racing onwards, so retirement in 2012 came as a rude awakening!” he says. But since I’ve stopped racing, I’ve become something of a bike tart, riding a bike for a year and then moving it on.”

Which leads neatly to the latest addition to his collection, a titanium-framed J.Laverack J.ACK, a bike that’s as composed on cobbles and gravelled roads as it is on velvet-smooth tarmac.

“I had been wanting to make an investment in a bike and a titanium frame feels like a lifetime investment,” says Simon.

By lucky coincidence, a work event within walking distance of J.Laverack’s Rutland headquarters presented him with the perfect test ride opportunity. 

Simon already knew some of the local roads after racing the Rutland Melton Cicle Classic, the UK’s answer to the cobbled spring classics of Belgium and Northern France.

“I have some great memories of absolute chaos on the off road sections, and being in the day’s breakaway leading into the sectors with the crowds cheering you on,” he recalls.

“It was such a tough, but brilliant race that absolutely rinsed every last piece of energy from you.”

Given the Cicle Classic’s mixed surfaces, the race also demanded serious time and effort in making technical decisions about tyre and wheel choice (“generally tubulars then; the green Vittoria Pave’s were a favourite”).

Simon ploughed the same attention to detail to his selection of a titanium bike. Given his racing past, he was sure he wanted the R.Jack, J.Laverack’s road-going frame built for speed and comfort, but a ‘go anywhere’ J.ACK with its distinctive top tube, tapered head tube and beautiful brushed titanium finish caught his eye.

“It was my maiden voyage on a titanium bike and I was absolutely blown away,” recalls Simon. “It’s light, stiff and very responsive – not far off my carbon race bike – but I can also fit 30mm tyres and mudguards if I want.”

Rutland’s CiCLE Classic Race heads down in the infamous stretch of unpaved road named ‘Somerberg’, near the village of Somerby.

The race included a circuit of the picturesque village of Wymondham. 

The result is a bike that has spent the summer with deep section wheels, but which Simon will transform when the clocks change, fitting winter wheels and mudguards. 

“I’m really looking forward to putting some miles on it,” he says, eyeing up a repeat of the rides he would do as a young racer with friends, heading out from Luton for 100 miles, enjoying a few drinks and then cycling back in the morning, carrying overnight essentials in a pannier.

With fellow ex-pros Si Richardson and Tom Southam, directeur sportif at EF Education, he has already caught a taxi to Llandudno in North Wales, left the casual clothes they were wearing at a charity shop, and cycled 320km back to Bristol in a day, although he admits the experience “broke me.”

Older and wiser, Simon’s cycling can now be a little more comfortable and relaxed, although his demands of his bike are no less stringent. So, will the J.ACK stay in his stable for longer than a year?

“I’m planning for it to be a keeper,” he says. “I’ve been so impressed with the bike, and if these early impressions continue I will be knocking on J.Laverack’s door to commission another bike from them.”

Bicycle Specification

– J.ACK frame
– ÆRA AR Disc Fork
– Hand-brushed frame finish
– Engraved headbadge design
Streamline integrated cable routing (headtube & bottom bracket)
– Shimano Dura Ace Di2 groupset
– ÆRA Carbon Seatpost
– Pro Vibe carbon handlebar
– Pro PLT stem
– Fizik soft touch bar tape
– Brooks C13 saddle
ÆRA AR|36 carbon wheels hand-built in the UK with Hope RS4 rear & Sapim CX-Ray spokes with brass nipples
– Continental GP5000 32mm tubeless tyres