28th February 2017 at 6:00PM
Reading List: Simon Mottram
YCN Library — Free to Members of YCN

In February we welcomed the Rapha Founder to the YCN Library, inviting him to introduce six of his favourite books to our shelves.

Simon founded the cycling business Rapha in 2004. Thanks largely to his love for detail and unerring focus on helping cycling reach its fullest potential, Rapha has moved quickly through the gears, building a cult-like following in the process. The company today has over 350 employees, shops around the world and is even expanding into the luxury holiday market.

2015 saw the launch of Rapha Cycling Club, which has already enlisted more than 7,000 members globally by offering, as Simon puts it in an interview for our Members' Magazine, "the right mix of community, content and commerce." 

Mondial, a publication for the Rapha Cycling Club faithful, lavishly reflects the brand's premium and international outlook with eclectic stories and beautiful art direction.

As part of our popular Reading List series, Simon pedalled from his Kings Cross headquarters to our Shoreditch Library on the evening of 28th February. He introduced six books that have informed his thinking, and shared the lessons he's taken from them.

Reading List: Simon Mottram

The Rider by Tim Krabbé

Originally published in 1978 and translated into English in 2002, The Rider is Dutch novelist Tim Krabbé’s tribute to cycling. He came to the sport in his 30s, and the book distills perfectly the pleasure, punishment and pain that first fostered Simon’s own obsessive love of cycling. Every new starter at Rapha receives a copy, and Simon cites the book – and the emotions articulated within it – as one of his main inspirations for founding the company in 2004.

He read aloud from one of his favourite passages, “...after the finish all the suffering turns into memories of pleasure, and the greater the suffering, the greater the pleasure.”

Reading List: Simon Mottram

Built To Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies by Jim Collins and Jerry I. Porras

If The Rider encapsulates the idea that inspired Simon to found Rapha, Built To Last is the manual that’s helped him bring the company into being. Published in 1994, Simon came across the book almost by accident, buying it to read on the train as he travelled back from Paris.

The book examines some of the most successful US corporations, charting the founding, growth and development of companies including 3M, Procter & Gamble, Nordstrom, Disney and Wal-Mart. Rooted in six years of research by its authors, it aims to identify common traits across each company’s approach. Two such traits seem especially evident in the company Simon went on to found: fostering a cult-like culture and building your company around a core ideology.

Simon shared Rapha’s own brand values: Love the sport; Suffer; Think for yourself; and Inspire others. Love the sport stands for an unmitigated passion for cycling. Suffer is the determination and ambition to succeed. Think for yourself is the brand’s unique, outsider’s approach. And Inspire others is a commitment to evangelism on behalf of the sport.

Reading List: Simon Mottram

The Circle by Dave Eggers 

Though he acknowledged that the book was often polarising, and might not stand the test of time as well as Orwell’s 1984, The Circle is a cautionary tale more relevant than ever, Simon argued. Painting a dystopian picture of life in Silicon Valley, the book warns against the dangers of a life lived in a few characters, and of a culture that asks us to be always on, always recording, always broadcasting, always sharing. 

Reading List: Simon Mottram

The Road by Cormac McCarthy 

Many of Simon’s book choices are dystopian and, as he admitted himself, often downright depressing. Cormac McCarthy’s The Road is often seen as the latter. But, Simon argued, he manages to see a kind of hope in the post-apocalyptic story. Following a father and son as they journey across a now barren America – inhabited only by cannibals – encountering countless horrors and trials as they try to reach the sea.

While Simon loves reading fiction, he reads it not for escapism, but “connection” instead.

Reading List: Simon Mottram

American Pastoral by Philip Roth 

Centred around Swede Levov, a Jewish American businessman from New Jersey, Philip Roth’s 1997 novel captures the optimism of the 50s and the growing cynicism creeping in in the 60s, according to Simon. As many of his choices suggest, Simon has always been enthralled by America, it’s scale and its idiosyncrasies.

Reading List: Simon Mottram

Levels of Life by Julian Barnes 

Written in restrained, beautiful prose, Levels of Life expresses the author’s grief after losing his wife. It’s a profoundly personal memoir, Simon said, that somehow also uses histories of ballooning and photography to express his sadness. 

Reading List: Simon Mottram

Reading List: Simon Mottram

Reading List: Simon Mottram

Reading List: Simon Mottram

Thanks to Simon, and to Sam Bush for the photos above.

Event Details
  • Location:
    72 Rivington St,
    London, EC2A 3AY,
    United Kingdom
  • Start:
    28th February 2017 at 6:00PM
  • End:
    28th February 2017 at 8:00PM
  • Cost:
    Free to Members of YCN