Rudy Melo

From his 6am rides to his cus­tomised bike col­lec­tion, Lon­don cy­clist Rudy Melo rep­re­sents a new wave of ur­ban rid­ers who fuse their pas­sion for rac­ing with a love of bike style and post-ride so­cial hang­outs

Cyclist - - One Obsession -

When Brazil­ian-born Lon­don cy­clist Rudy Melo helped to set up the 5th Floor – an ur­ban col­lec­tive of cy­cling friends who meet up to race bikes, master tricks, eat postride pizza and have fun – he had no idea that he was shap­ing an in­flu­en­tial new zeit­geist within the ur­ban cy­cling arena. ‘The 5th Floor started out as a blog back in 2009 when we were just a group of friends in the Lon­don rid­ing scene,’ ex­plains Melo, 31, who has lived in Lon­don for 14 years. ‘We are called the 5th Floor be­cause we used to meet up on the fifth floor of an East Lon­don car park where we would ride fixed gear bikes, race around, do skids and drink beer after­wards. It was a re­ally so­cial cy­cling hang­out. Some­one might say, “Let’s ride to north Lon­don and grab a pizza.” Other times we would ride to Rich­mond Park, have a beer and ride home. It was very fun and very so­cial – just a col­lec­tion of like-minded cy­clists.’

Fast for­ward to 2017 and the 5th Floor has come to sym­bol­ise a fresh and ex­cit­ing brand of ur­ban cy­cling cul­ture: a close-knit group of com­mit­ted rid­ers who com­pete in track meet­ings, fran­tic city crits and muddy week­end cy­clocross events, all the while main­tain­ing a com­mit­ment to style, de­sign, au­then­tic­ity and fun. The col­lec­tive has now at­tracted the sup­port of global brands, ac­quired its own iconic green and black cy­cling ap­parel, gath­ered an es­o­teric so­cial me­dia fol­low­ing, and even founded a stylish sis­ter branch in New York. ‘No­body in the UK was blog­ging about this scene so we wanted to change all that,’ says Melo.

Don’t give up the day job

Like most city rid­ers, Melo com­bines his love of rac­ing with his work and fam­ily sched­ule, fit­ting in races, train­ing rides and meet-ups when­ever he can.

‘I ride twice a week be­fore work which means wak­ing up at 6am, leav­ing the house at 6.30am then go­ing to Re­gent’s Park for a ride with friends for an hour. It is nor­mally quite pacy. Some­times we ride steady and work to­gether, while at other times we at­tack each other. I’ve done 50km and had two cups of cof­fee by the time I get to my desk so I am full of en­ergy at 9am. Dur­ing the track sea­son I’m rac­ing every Sat­ur­day. Of course, work takes up a fair amount of my time, but I make up for it by rid­ing on the road at week­ends. We all text each other and then just freestyle our rid­ing plans.’

Melo works as a de­signer (‘At first when I started shav­ing my legs for races, peo­ple at work thought it was strange, but now they just get it’) and it was his pro­fes­sional pas­sion for aes­thet­ics and style which first got him hooked on cy­cling.

‘Eight or nine years ago a friend of mine had a fixed gear bike

to com­mute to work and I loved how it looked – how min­i­mal the bike was. He cus­tomised it him­self by choos­ing all the parts. At the time I was look­ing to com­mute by bike to work so I got one my­self. I started rid­ing all the time and go­ing to lots of fixed gear meet-ups in town that I saw listed on the Lon­don Fixed Gear Sin­gle Speed fo­rum. We would just get in­volved in the scene at night af­ter work and ride to pubs and restau­rants.’

This ob­ses­sion soon grew into a hunger for com­pet­i­tive rac­ing and new ad­ven­tures. ‘I started go­ing to Herne Hill velo­drome, which got me into rid­ing track. The first time I went, I was rid­ing with my bib­shorts un­der a pair of denim shorts as I wasn’t sure how I would look in cy­cling kit and it was all so new. The first win­ter af­ter I started rid­ing in the velo­drome, Herne Hill was closed so I got a road bike and started do­ing longer rides. Then the fol­low­ing sum­mer I got in­volved in cy­clocross, mainly be­cause it just looked fun. So it all started with the fixed gear scene but I soon re­alised there was so much more to cy­cling.’

Hav­ing opened his eyes to the full spec­trum of cy­cling pos­si­bil­i­ties, Melo’s pas­sion for cy­cling has grown to now in­clude fixed gear, track, road and cy­clocross rides.

‘I live in south Lon­don so it’s just a 20-25 minute ride to the out­skirts of Kent for a great road ride in the coun­try­side. If I have a cou­ple of hours I will go to Rich­mond or Esher, maybe stop­ping off at a cy­cling cafe. I re­ally love the cy­clocross scene in Lon­don. We get great crowds sup­port­ing and cheer­ing and the com­mu­nity is great. But the Red Hook Crit is one of the best. You have guys like me who work 9-to-5 rid­ing along­side ex-pros and bike mes­sen­gers, so it’s a great mix.

‘How­ever, my favourite race was in the South East Road Race League two years ago. My team­mates and I were at­tack­ing or chas­ing every at­tack to have a bit of fun and test our legs, and I ended up com­ing third. But it doesn’t mat­ter if I fin­ish third or seventh. We are there to have fun, push hard, and give it ev­ery­thing we’ve got.’

Melo and his team­mates at the 5th Floor ride hard, push­ing them­selves to the limit in train­ing, but they are equally as com­mit­ted to the more so­cial side of cy­cling, of­ten do­ing beer

or pizza rides. ‘Af­ter races we al­ways go for a beer after­wards. We are am­a­teur cy­clists so we love what we do, it’s a true ob­ses­sion, but we don’t take our­selves too se­ri­ously.’

Pas­sion­ate about the de­sign of clas­sic cars and mo­tor­bikes (‘I ride a cus­tomised Honda 125 around the city and I used to have an old Mini that I drove to cy­clocross races with my bike on top’), Melo is also a fan of the style and her­itage of cy­cling. ‘Be­cause I work as a de­signer I love the aes­thet­ics and style of cy­cling cul­ture. I was amazed when I started meet­ing peo­ple in the Lon­don cy­cling scene as there were so many peo­ple from cre­ative in­dus­tries – de­sign­ers, pho­tog­ra­phers, art di­rec­tors. I like to de­sign my bikes, chang­ing the colour, the look and the style of the bike.’

All four of Melo’s own bikes are cus­tomised. ‘Look­ing back, I’m a bit em­bar­rassed about my first bike – it had white rims and stuff like that. But it’s nice to de­sign my own bike so it rep­re­sents a lit­tle bit of me. I have a track bike with a race-ready ra­tio and tubu­lar tyres for the track that I keep at Herne Hill velo­drome. I have a road bike for train­ing and rac­ing, a cy­clocross bike and a sin­gle-speed com­muter with flat bars to ride around the city. Thank­fully my wife is very un­der­stand­ing be­cause our flat isn’t very big!’

As with his cus­tomised bikes, his kit too has to be just right, and when it comes to eye­wear he can’t live with­out his Oak­ley Jaw­breaker with Prizm™ Road lenses. ‘I love how ev­ery­thing on the road, the shadow, the colours, be­come much bet­ter de­fined.’

When he’s out rid­ing, Melo links his love of cy­cling with his pas­sion for pho­tog­ra­phy, of­ten cap­tur­ing pix­elper­fect scenes for In­sta­gram. Pre­ci­sion is ev­ery­thing. ‘I have been to so many new places be­cause of my bike – Mal­lorca, Amer­ica, Spain, Italy – and if I am tak­ing a pic­ture of the road to put on so­cial me­dia, I am al­ways aware of the style of the pic­ture. I don’t just snap away. It has to be right. If it’s not good enough, I won’t up­load it.’

At his home, Melo’s book­shelf gives away his not-so-se­cret loves. ‘You can tell I’m a cy­clist-slash-de­signer be­cause my shelf is full of de­sign books, graf­fiti books and cy­cling books,’ he says. ‘I have a lot of fixed gear books and cy­cling travel books. I like great pho­tog­ra­phy and beau­ti­fully de­signed books with good bind­ing. I have one on Euro­pean climbs, which I read when I broke my col­lar­bone, and that in­spired me to go to the Dolomites and ride the Stelvio. I’d love to ride in the French Alps and Tus­cany, per­haps do­ing some gravel rid­ing with a Strade Bianche vibe to it.’

Com­bin­ing a fren­zied med­ley of track races, cy­clocross events and road rides with his work com­mit­ments, fam­ily life and other pas­sions for de­sign, pho­tog­ra­phy and travel is not easy. But when­ever Melo gets out on his bike, every de­tail falls into place.

‘When I’m out rid­ing I think, “This is my time.” I en­joy every mo­ment. A lot has changed since we set up the 5th Floor, but we are still the same bunch of friends who mo­ti­vate each other to stay fit, ride hard and have fun.’

Melo has a pas­sion for all forms of cy­cling, from the track to the open road, and cy­clocross to ur­ban com­mut­ing

As a de­signer, Melo is pas­sion­ate about the form and func­tion of bikes and the whole cul­ture around cy­cling

Cy­cling is in­te­gral to every part of Melo’s life, whether it’s work, sport, fit­ness or so­cial­is­ing

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