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Updated: Feb 17, 2021

A black and white photo of John Heard cycling in South Africa
John - Founder of Wild Cycles - Racing

"Thinking about it - cycling has played a big part in my life. Growing up in a beautiful part of South Africa initially it was a way of exploring - entirely independently. Later it provided an outlet, community, a means of achievement and brought me into contact with some amazing people who are still friends today including my wife!"

- John [Founder]

My Background

As a child - our mother had been sent from the UK by ship to live with the family's Aunts in the Orange Free State - a province in South Africa. From the family farm, Zoutkop she spent most of her teenage years outdoors - exploring the wide open spaces on horseback. She went on to join the Royal Navy base in Simonstown during WW2 where she met my father - also in the Navy. After the war the family zig-zagged between SA, the UK and Zimbabwe (Rhodesia then) where I was born shortly before moving to Cape Town.

Living in various places in South Africa my mother’s audacious personality and adventurous spirit was a huge influence - and no doubt left its mark on me. I inherited the irresistible urge and curiosity to explore and find out what was “just over that hill” or “around the next corner”.

That appetite for exploration stepped up a gear when I discovered cycling soon after moving to the south coast of South Africa. Starting off with day rides to the beach I started exploring the spectacular Garden Route. The Outeniqua mountains on one side and stunningly wild coastline on the other - this was surely one of the best places on earth to discover on a bike.

I was introduced to competitive cycling by a Belgian school mate. His father was an ex-pro and as self-appointed coach had us riding in echelons doing laps of the car park at the local airport - which wasn’t much more than a grass field and tin hut. At this point my “supermarket special” single-speed was no longer up to the job. Scraping savings together I put down a deposit on a beaut of 10-speed Peugeot in the local pawn shop! I progressed quickly to the regional road championships and my first “real” medal.

National Service was still a thing in the 70's. In my case a 2-year thing in the South African Airforce. I was lucky enough to be transferred to Cape Town after basic training in Pretoria (or did that emotive letter I wrote to the CO have something to do with it?). At the Wynberg Military Supply and Transport Depot I enjoyed some pretty special privileges. As a serious, competing cyclist and now a member of the Defence Force squad meant as much time off as I wanted for training and racing, loads of fodder, free flights by Air Force Dakota to Joburg et al.

A black and white photo of John Heard cycling in South Africa
John - Founder of Wild Cycles - Cycling In South Africa - Rapport Tour

The next 10 years were all about cycling. I was surrounded by a bunch of incredibly generous, supportive people who were instrumental in shaping my cycling career. Practical help, transport, coaching and sponsorship - without which progress would have been impossible. From club, to provincial and eventually international competition - the ultimate was being selected to represent South Africa in the National Springbok Team and subsequently joined a pro-team. The experience of travelling around the country from one race to the next and being treated like royalty was intoxicating, addictive and totally unforgettable. I closed this chapter with a short season racing in France.

John Heard cycling in South Africa
John - Founder of Wild Cycles - Cycling In South Africa - Rapport Tour

When I got back I decided it was time to get a proper job and spent the next 25+ years working in marketing/advertising. Intense, fun, fast-paced and a bit crazy at times - I had the pleasure of getting to know some incredible characters - working in a South Africa ad agency and in the UK with inspiring, super-talented and passionate people. I also had the privilege of working on some of the world's best known and loved brands.

The beginnings of Wild Cycles

Redundancy in late 2019 was the nudge to pursue a long-held ambition to start a business and build a platform for my passion for cycling. The aim was to help fellow adventurers to discover and experience the wonders, benefits and freedom that cycling has to offer.

The business idea was conceived during the first Covid lockdown in 2019. Blessed with an abundance of time and good weather and the extraordinarily beautiful and varied landscape of the Chilterns Hills - we really re-discovered the area. For the first half of 2020 Jonathan and I rode miles and miles, mapping routes, photographing and filming for the catalogue. A mere 30 miles out of London it soon became apparent that its varied terrain, forests, rivers, hills, ridges and trails offered the perfect escape for those wanting to spend more time outdoors and discover this Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty on 2 wheels.

The concept for Wild Cycles was inspired, enlarged and conceptualised by my son Jonathan. I am extremely grateful to him for his energy, passion, talent and encouragement - as it is largely and almost entirely due to his genius, creativity and uncompromising approach that has given life to this thing of beauty….

"We are wild about cycling and love the freedom and thrill that it provides. We believe that it is the best way to discover the beauty of your surroundings, be it somewhere new or in your local area. There's a road or track that you haven't been down, a view that you haven't noticed before - and our mission is to capture these and create memorable experiences for you. Whether you are new to cycling and just want to give it a go, or a seasoned cyclist, Wild Cycles' adventures will leave you smiling from ear to ear."

- Wild Cycles

In the Spring of 2020 we opened up "shop" and launched a range of biking adventures with off-road routes and glamping in hand-picked camp sites in the Chilterns. Our aim is to create unforgettable experiences for our customers and also put the spotlight on this amazing region - less than hour out of London - showcasing and supporting local businesses including campsites, local producers and brewers!

After a fantastic start in 2020 - with the support and encouragement of our customers and partners we are planning an equally amazing programme for 2021.

Please stay tuned for news updates...

Our first booking was for Wild Cycles' Ridgeway Adventure - summed up so beautifully by one of our first adventurers:

"We spent two amazing days riding the ancient Ridgeway from Avebury to Ivinghoe Beacon glamping two nights at Watlington. @wildcyclesuk provided a brilliant service - great logistics, cool bell tents, really tasty bbq and breakfast supplies. All we had to do was ride - my favourite bit! John's set up means that you get just the right amount of adventure with the minimum of fuss and faff. Loved it, and will be back!"

- Adrian 0dds - Ridgeway Rider



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