The birth of The Bike Lane and what’s next
Since my first coffee with Matt Keenan where we discussed the concept behind The Bike Lane I’ve been amazed how far it has come. I constantly have to pinch myself as I’m left wondering how I got myself sitting beside two professionals like Matt and Scott. For this piece I asked Matt Keenan to share his vision for The Bike Lane and tell us how it was conceived, all while looking ahead to the future.
As far as pregnancies go The Bike Lane had an extremely long gestation period. Ten years in fact.
I first pitched the concept of The Bike Lane to Channel 31 in the summer of 2003. They liked it and were happy to give it some airtime but I was short on a few key resources. One being money but the most crucial being know-how.
This was also at a time when I’d just started commentating, mainly on local track races as a way of staying involved in the sport I love while trying to build a career in the real world, well in media relations/corporate affairs anyway.
So, with limited time and getting my cycling fix through commentating, The Bike Lane went into a holding pattern circling around in my brain waiting for clearance to land.
Then in March 2010 I took the plunge to leave the security of a proper job to see if I could make a living out of commentating.
The conscientious nerd in me, who lost sleep worrying about being able to provide for my then one-month old daughter and wife, felt the need to write a business plan which started with the mission statement of, “To infect as many people as possible with the cycling bug”.
I figured if I fulfilled the mission statement the finances would take care of themselves.
So after three-years in the insecure world of a freelance commentary, and looking for other avenues to fulfil my mission statement, I decided to take a more serious tilt at bringing The Bike Lane to life.
But I couldn’t do it alone, as I’d attempted to the first time around.
Step one: identify a co-host
Scott McGrory was the only guy I put on my target list. As an Olympic gold medalist on the track and having ridden for Mapei on the road he brought credibility.
Step two: find someone to put the show to air
Ideally the show would be on television but I felt like we needed to prove ourselves online first. So there was no better option than Wade Wallace. I saw CyclingTips as the best avenue for reaching the people who are most likely to be interested in the content I wanted on The Bike Lane.
Step three: coffee
I invited Scott and Wade for a coffee, pitched the idea of the show to them, declared it could only be achieved as a team and suggested we go even partners in The Bike Lane.
With no money we needed some love to take the next step. Enter Ben Miller and John Hewat.
In our first five-week season Ben and John worked for free as our cameramen, sound engineers, lighting technicians, graphic designers and editors. These guys put the show together in their spare time while juggling jobs that actually paid.
They believed in the show and took my word, on a handshake, that if we could get some sponsors on board they’d be the first guys getting paid.
Without Ben and John there’s every chance the show would still just be a dormant idea. I hugged them at the end of our final show of 2013 – they got a bit old-school male and felt very uncomfortable.
Midway through our second season the show took a major step forward when Wilf Sweetland entered the fray.
Wilf is the managing director of The Sweet Shop, which produced the Carlton Draught “Beer Chase” television commercial, and is equally as passionate about cycling us Scott, Wade and I.
He was also brutally honest in his feedback on the show. The kind of feedback that helps you improve. It was clear that for the show to reach the next level our partnership of three needed to become four.
Wilf and his team at The Sweet Shop have invested more time and energy into the show than any of us in our recent series. The quality of the production, still on a shoestring budget, speaks volumes for the quality of their work.
The show lacks a lot of resources, mainly money, which means we film on a Monday yet it doesn’t get on the site until a Thursday. However, this also has the benefit of forcing us to be more creative with our content as you can’t exactly break news with those timelines.
The one resource we have in abundance is passion.
A passion shared by Total Rush, the Bike Gallery, Salford Lads Club, Shifter Bikes and Northside Wheelers, who have all provided us with a make-shift recording studio.
And of course season two and three wouldn’t have happened without our various sponsors Target, Champion-System, Avanti Bikes and health.com.au.
As for what’s next, we’re working on finding sponsors for next season. Thanks for watching and we’ll keep you posted.