Neil Ronketti - mountaineerThe Spin All Stars aren’t just a bunch of incredibly talented and determined young athletes in their prime. Some of the very earliest members of the crack team of riders, racers and customers that we know as the SAS are a bit more, er, experienced. Maybe less fit. But members of the SAS nonetheless, and all for very good reason. 

Recently we were highly fortunate to get a chance to sit down over a nice cup of tea with mountaineer, moto racer and Very Early Adopter Speed Metal titanium Spitfire pilot, Neil Ronketti, SAS founding member 002.

Neil please introduce yourself to our follower on twitter. 

Hello. I’m Neil Ronketti. I’m 46. Which is a good age, for fans of Valentino Rossi.

I’m a big fan of the Other Dr. as you know Neil. But we’re not here to talk about Valentino. So tell me, what do you do when you’re not climbing mountains, catching frostbite, having part of your face frozen solid, racing your motorbike or spinning your Speed Metal?

Well I’m a technical
networking bod. I’d like to apologise at this point for the internet. Parts of
it are my fault.

That’s good to know Neil.  I like the internet as much as the next boy or girl, but at least now we know who to blame when it all goes pop. 

Now I’d like to “drill down” as they say on pompous programmes on the telly and find out what makes you tick. So what was it that got you into climbing rocks?

I was looking for something safer to do after retiring from
racing motorcycles. And of course, living in The Fens, it was the logical
choice given the abundance of rock faces around here. Still, could have been
worse. The 3
rd member of our team (Scotty) decided that Ski Jumping
was the way forwards. 

Neil Ronketti - racer

When this didn’t work out, he went back to the drawing
board, and came up with a far more sensible answer. Bobsleigh. That said, he did
rather well at it in the end, representing Team GB with some success. 

So, after
some years of climbing rock faces, the next logical step was mountaineering.
It’s safe to say that this path hasn’t always been as risk free as I was
expecting at the start.

I believe I was misinformed.

I see.  For those who don’t know about The Fens, I believe it might be rather flat and not terribly mountainous. Unlike the Alps. 

So what was it that got you into riding a push bike?

That’s a long story – best get a cup of tea… I think that
like most kids, my dad was instrumental in getting me…

Sorry Neil but could you skip the full life story?  Our visitors only spend an average of 3.6 seconds on each page of our site according to my googlit analyzer. 

The bike is a tool. Not a work of art.

What? Not that much
detail, eh? Ah, OK then. 

Well, mainly the problem was one of middle age. Particularly
that part of middle age that creeps up on you and attaches itself to your
midriff. I noticed that climbing was suddenly getting harder, and I put it down
to gravitational waves passing by every time I put a rope on. I was all ready
to write this theory up and collect the Nobel Prize, when it was pointed out to
me that in fact, I was carrying rather more weight than I used to. So, I needed
to lose some. 

Cycling was the natural answer, as I’m naturally gifted on two wheels
as we’ve already ascertained. Well, more to the point, I cannot swim, and
running is out of the question due to the stupid clothes that you need to wear. 

I’d agree with you there entirely Neil. But we can safely leave all of that to the triathletes who have all the muscles and are quite adept at swapping running shoes for budgie smugglers and yet can move gracefully on to a TT bike. 

So look here, could you tell us, apart from me obviously, who is
your favourite bike racer of all time?

Actually, that’s a really difficult one. I have a big soft
spot for Jens Voigt, of course. And Gino Bartali. And Fiorenzo Magni. And Bob
Haro (can I get away with BMX freestyle?) Hugo Koblet was pretty cool. And I’m
a huge fan of Tony Martin. If I had to pick one though, Fausto Coppi. 

I like
the fact that he upset the pope. (I was educated in my formative years by nuns.
The idea of upsetting the pope still appeals to me). 

And Beryl Burton. Can I
have two please? Fausto Coppi and Beryl Burton.

What about your favourite
race driver / motorcyclist and why? Hint: you’re
not allowed to choose the Spin Dr. for this one either.

John Surtees. Which is handy, as I only have to think of

Good answer! Two birds: one stone! 

Now then Neil, whenever Mrs Spin allows me out on my bike, I do find myself imagining that I’m actually Ed M, Bernie H, or that there Sean Kelly feller.  

More recently, it might be Tom B or The
Canch. I imagine most bike riders are the same.  

Dual purpose Speed Metal: Track bike / coat stand. Award winning designs for the modern home. Spin Industries at Spin London

So who are you when you ride?

Probably someone like David Attenborough, pottering along
slowly, looking at the trees and the fluffy bunnies. 

I’m not really
competitive. Well, I’m not competitive at all in fact. Any bike ride is
improved immensely by taking your time over it, and enjoying the scenery. And
stopping half way to have a really good cup of tea. That also helps. 

That’s come as something of a shock Neil! I remember you taking off and leaving me for dead the very first time I rode with you. 

“Only testing out this lovely Speed Metal titanium” Clearly, I had no chance as I’d just spent all day in the shed grinding, bashing metal and generally knocking up bits of bike for you to try. 

But never mind. What I need to know is this. Is cycling the new golf?  And why do you like Fred Whitton. 

I think there are certain similarities in terms of the
potential for wearing silly trousers and the mid-life crisis aspect. That said,
I like the anarchy at the heart of cycling with the BLRC/NCU dispute still
rumbling on. Golfists wouldn’t put up with that.

I don’t even know what those letters stand for Neil:  I don’t seem to get those memos.

The Fred Whitton question is harder to answer. To misquote
someone (I’ve forgotten who now), it’s like riding through an art gallery,
knowing there’s a torture chamber at the end of it. 

It’s horrible, painful, yet
exquisitely beautiful. And you get a really good pie at the end of it. 

Neil's Bike Life. Spitfire and ZXR750

How do you buy a ZXR750 and turn it into a bike that gets featured in an actual motor cycling enthusiasts magazine?

In my case, just throw a pot of cash at a chap in a grubby
estate in Newcastle Upon Tyne, having never heard the bike run, nor checked the
legality of it. I wouldn’t necessarily advise that this was the best course of

You were one of our very first customers Neil. Maybe even our very first. And all these years later you still ride the very same titanium Spitfire. 

Since then you’ve become a founding member of the SAS.  We’re really proud, not to mention extremely grateful for your support.  

But we were wondering, what is it you most like about “working” with Spin. Er, that’s if there is something you do actually like. Naturally. 

Whenever I’m feeling a bit fed up, I just need to look at my
bike. Really, that’s all there is to it. 

My life is continually made happier
just by having one of your bikes in it. It’s that simple. The fact that we’ve
also shared some beer and ridden together just makes things even better. I look forward
to more of all of these.

That’s a very kind thing to say Neil. {The Dr. shuffles a [slim] bunch of fivers in Neil’s direction} 

But moving swiftly on, are the Dirac quantum
operators better than the Schroedinger
waves, or is there simply too much
Heisenberg uncertainty? And what about that Lewis Hamiltonian?

Werner Heisenberg was driving home from the lab one day,
when he was stopped by the police:

“Do you have any idea how fast you were going?”

“No, but I know exactly where I am.”

Having come so far in the worlds of quantum mechanics / IT / data
networking / tea / motorsport / DIY / rocks / cycling, what’s left?

SAS members 002 and 003 after a climb of a different kind

Hopefully a lot more of the same. Particularly the tea. 

I’d like to have a
whizz at riding the Gran Fondo Fausto Coppi one year. And I still have a plan
to ride a road course as close as possible to the South
West Coast Path. And I’ve got that ZXR750 sitting in the garage that needs a
good seeing to. 

And I’m heading back to The Alps this year after a rather
exciting trip last year saw me digging myself out of an avalanche with an ice

But definitely more tea.

Finally, apart from riding your bike, what else
is there Neil?

I still want to be an astronaut when I grow up.

Finally, um, again, is there a question I didn’t
ask that you wish I had, and what’s the answer?

“Would you like a cup of tea?”

“Yes please. Milk, no sugar, thanks.”

Neil: many thanks for taking the time to chat with us.  It’s been enlightening and entirely our pleasure I’m sure. 

You too can follow Neil’s epic tea making and mountain adventures on his blog, his facebook and his twitter