For a man at the pinnacle of an industry focused on looking good, fashion designer Jeff Banks CBE certainly walks the walk. The 67-year-old teetotal vegetarian is an avid cyclist, tackling 1000-mile epics ever year, nailing his colours to the latest sportives and training solo almost every weekend.
“I guess cycling’s in my blood. My dad was an amateur time triallist and used to compete against the likes of Olympic cycling medalist Frank Southhall. I started racing at 12 for London School Boys, then joined the Catford Cycling Club where my father was a member. I did my first time trial for Kentish Wheeler Novice at 16, which was the first entry point for racing those days and carried on in that vein with Catford until I was 19, when a girl got in the way and racing slipped off my agenda.
“But I’ve always trained and still love riding as much as ever. Apart from last year, when I focused on sportives, every one of the last 14 years I’ve tackled an epic 1000-mile ride with a bunch of guys I met doing the End to End. We bounce some ideas around by email, agree when and where we’re going to ride, and meet doing the End to End. We bounce some ideas around by email, agree where we’re going to ride and meet up – it’s the only time we ever see each other as there are two guys from the US, two Dutch guys and four English riders. We’re done the Diagonal across France from Brest to Menton, London to Lake Como, a tour of Switzerland, the length of Italy, 10 stages of the Tour de France… Last year I did six sportives including the Bristol 100 and the Sheffield 100, which was a fantastically tough course across the Derbyshire Dales.
“I live in Henley now, so don’t ride with Catford – though I’m still a member. I ride almost always on my own now, but I do enjoy the company of my 100-miles epics and the sportives. I simply don’t have time to ride during the week, so I do one 50 and one 100-miler every weekend. And whenever I go abroad for more then a week I always take my bike with me; I did some riding with the Sky team in Melbourne last November, and love getting out to see a country on my bike when I can.
“The benefits of cycling extend beyond clearing my head and getting away from it all. I weigh the same 11st 6lbs now that I did when I was 23, which speaks volumes. Of course I’m a vegetarian and don’t drink, which helps but cycling I’m sure I’ve got bags more energy than many men my age, which means I’m happy to work 14-16 hours a day. And working in a creative industry, the time alone on my bike really sparks ideas and new strategies. I really can’t imagine ever giving it up, which for chap of 67 is great to hear, even if I do say so myself!”