A Hotchillee year – in review
Head Chillee Chat
We caught up with Hotchillee Head Honcho Sven Thiele to find out about the growth of Hotchillee over the last couple of Covid years, plans for the future and those Chillees that deserve a special mention for their exceptional contributions.
How would you sum up the last couple of years?
Pre-COVID, we were all about In Real Life (IRL) events and the face to face community interaction that that entailed. Our friends at Rainmaker had already given us a steer to consider glueing the community together with a digital platform and that proved to be incredibly precognizant.
Lockdown then happened, the world shut down, our events got cancelled and we had to adapt really quickly. This meant rapidly accelerating Rainmaker’s vision by building and supporting the community digitally. It was a huge amount of work and there’s no way we would have been able to do it if we had also had been running our IRL events.
In April 2021 we launched our own App alongside the platform, onboarded the online community and have been learning how to keep it fed, watered and nurtured in a hybrid digital and IRL world. During the summer was a great example of this with our evening gravel rides in Surrey and the Gain Train on Zwift happening simultaneously.
Moving forwards into 2022, hopefully we’ll be moving back towards some normality with regards to the IRL events but now with the added bonus that we have a digital platform in place.
It’s been a super tough couple of years for everyone but, for Hotchillee, adversity has been the mother of invention. We’ve emerged with a digital solution that’ll expand the opportunities, both digital and IRL, available to us, our partners and to our community.
It hasn’t been a year devoid of IRL events though with the London Great Gravel Escape, The Ridgeway, The Hill Climb Champs Weekender showing you don’t have to leave the UK for world class riding, will these UK based Hotchillee events continue?
It’s inescapable that attitudes to travel have changed. Whether it’s about health, the environment or simply that getting on a plane can be a chore, people are becoming more aware of what we have on their doorstep. As the events we’ve done this year have proved, this applies to cycling and we’ll definitely be doing more local events. We’ve already done some brilliant recces in Scotland and, with a wealth of National Parks and National Trails available to us, especially for off-road riders, the opportunities are incredible.
There are some really exciting events planned for 2022 including the Suisse Gravel Explorer, an all-new Rollercoaster in Spain and The London Paris by Tour de France. What are you most excited by?
Them all! If I had to pick one though, it’d be the gravel London Paris by Tour de France. I love riding gravel, I love adventures and I love the sense of pioneering – there’s nothing more exciting than riding an event or a route for the first time – I can’t wait!
That said, relocating the Rollercoaster to Catalonia means another pioneering first time trip and, in terms of mind-blowing mountain scenery, Switzerland is tough to beat. I am aware though of the amount of climbing on the Suisse Gravel Explorer and the limits of my ageing body so it may be time to fire up an eBike!
Mentioning eBikes, do you feel we’ll see more of them on Hotchillee Events?
Definitely. Whether on or off road, you only have to look at the focus the bike industry is putting on them and the huge rise in sales to realise how popular they’re becoming. They just open up our sport to a wider audience and mean, regardless of age or physical ability, anyone can have amazing adventures on two wheels. I love them and we’ll be making them very welcome at all of our events moving forwards.
Obviously there are an awful lot of people who contribute massively to making the Hotchillee community what it is but, if you were going to award the “Sven’s”, who deserves a special mention for 2021?
First and foremost, all the Hotchillee team. Jane, Charlotte, Amy, Nik and Jason – they’ve been right at the epicentre of finding the solutions for our future.
The team at Rainmaker deserve a big shout. They gave us that initial significant nudge and plenty of subsequent ones that have kept us heading in the right direction.
All of the Ride Captains and Chapter Captains. They went from a 100% face to face IRL role to being instrumental in supporting our digital community. Special thanks goes to Rachel “Zappy” Przybylski, David “Whisk” Sidgwick and Paul “Axel” Foley who’ve always been the first to raise their hands and make themselves available for leading virtual rides. And Gareth “G-Man” Wilson and Wayde “One Job” Finch for keeping the IRL rides going, come rain or shine!
I’m incredibly grateful to the whole Hotchillee community for embracing the online platform but there have been several individuals who have really stepped up and made themselves indispensable to our success – cheers Rachael “Mavis” Colley, Darren Nourse, Brian Smith, Iain White and Glen Whittingham.