Doug Bairner, LUMO

Doug Bairner, LUMO

Throughout the Profile Series we have explored the stories behind people who inspire us. From DJs, to Special Forces Operatives, to Olympians, each of the interviewees have one thing in common; a love of London Town and being on two wheels. Now, we turn the spotlight on ourselves to delve into co-founder Doug's experiences of the city, what he did before setting up LUMO, and how a seal and the London Eye were part of his inspiration.

When did you start cycling?

My mates at primary school were all into bikes, so it just came from that really. We used to mess around on BMX’s jumping over things using scaffolding planks for ramps, and one distinct memory is being really proud of pulling off doing a wheelie all the way down our street on a Chopper after tons of practice. Soon after, my mate’s big brother started waxing lyrical about the Tour de France so we all got into it and nagged our parents to buy us road bikes – mine was a silver 10 speed Peugeot Premiere. That was the 1987 Tour when Stephen Roche beat Pedro Delgado and we all wanted to be him so the next year we traded in our cool Z Peugeot jerseys for garish orange and white Fagor ones and went razzing around our local neighbourhood doing one block time trials. When the summer holidays finished we all cycled the 3 miles to school every day and loved the jockeying to sprint to the final roundabout. In the end we all got into cars, went our different ways and kind of forgot about our road bikes. 

Doug's first road bike, a Peugeot Premiere

What did you do before LUMO?

Grown up life started on the graduate scheme of a big multinational company, where the people, getting to travel the world, and learning stuff that was actually applicable to real life were all brilliant. After seven years learning the commercial and marketing ropes it was time for something a bit less predictable and more centered on London so it was off to work for innocent smoothies in trade marketing and product management. In 2005 they were just beginning to evolve from being a start up into something more established, and it was exciting to work with some really smart founders and a hugely motivated and capable group of people intent on doing things a bit differently.  That well and truly sowed the entrepreneurial seed, so after a couple of years there it was back to university to study, with the aim of setting up a business applying elite sport psychology techniques into businesses and vice versa. Shortly after setting up shop, Red Bull became a client, and after a year of working with their head office team in Austria they persuaded me to join them full time heading up their category marketing team in London and latterly in Sydney as sales director for Australia, which is what I was doing before we decided to set up LUMO. 

Doug completing the London revolution this year

When did cycling come back into your life?

Moving to Vancouver in 2007 to do a Masters degree was the catalyst; in an effort to save money I decided to get a bike rather than a car. On the very first morning of pedalling along the coastal path to the university, a seal popped its head up about 50 metres off the shoreline. It hit me how pretty damn cool that was, and the daily ride up and down the hill to classes became a lovely start and end to each working day.  Arriving back in London a year later, the bike repatriated with me and after getting used to the hecticness, the cut and thrust of cycling in the city became really enjoyable.

"One night in particular, it struck me how cycling had given me a newfound sense of freedom and enjoyment of London."


doug completing the london revolution with his JOGLE buddies earlier this year

One night in particular it struck me how cycling had given me a newfound sense of freedom and enjoyment of London. It was 11 o’clock at night after a couple of beers and with barely any traffic on the road, and the view down the river was just stunning. Seeing the London Eye and the old GLC building on the other side of the river all lit up, it hit me, “This is what freedom of a city really means”. Around the same time, a mate suggested tackling John ‘O Groats to Lands End in 2011 on the Deloitte Ride Across Britain, and it was singularly the best sporting and life experience I’d ever had, so that well and truly sealed it. 

What inspired the idea for LUMO?

The team that I worked with at Red Bull had some serious laughs at me arriving in various states of dishevelment from my bike ride to work. Whether it was being sweaty, rain-soaked, forgetting to pack a change of clothes or once being spotted arriving in lycra (never to be repeated after a massive takedown by one particularly cutting member of the team), I struggled to find the right kit to wear. The final straw was being knocked off for the second time, by a car driver who just hadn’t seen me in a dark jacket. They were really apologetic but said that I should be wearing a hi-viz jacket. While the timing of the suggestion could have been better, I kind of understood what they were saying.

"No-one wants to run another person over, they just hadn’t spotted me."

No-one wants to run another person over, they just hadn’t spotted me. Until we’ve got fully segregated cycle lanes everywhere my view is that we should be pragmatic about making the best of sharing a relatively thin strip of tarmac with cars, buses and lorries. In both incidents I’d come perilously close to going under the car wheels as the driver hadn’t seen me, yet the suggestion about the hi-viz made me realise that I just wasn’t prepared to wear a bright yellow jacket. It was a bit of an odd moment for a fairly rational bloke to grasp that he was making a decision that placed vanity above safety, but that was just the way it was. After figuring out that I wasn’t the only one, that’s where the idea for LUMO began.

The lumo ethos is built on the freedom of riding a bike

What do you bring to the business?

From an experience point of view, it’s commercial management, product management, operations and a bit of trade marketing. From a way of thinking perspective it’s strategic planning, logic, problem solving and occasionally leftfield ideas like making our jackets from fabric made from coffee grounds. 

If you could wave a magic wand over cycling in London and make one change happen, what would it be?

Chris Boardman to be the next Cycling Commissioner for London. He’s definitely one of my heroes in life generally. For a bloke to take the cycling world apart and put it back together again in a new way both from a sporting and also a business point of view, he’s just a legend. His passion now is all about putting everyday public bums on saddles and when he speaks, people rightly listen so let’s coax him down from the Wirral and let him loose in City Hall and Parliament and see what he can achieve. 

"Chris Boardman to be the next cycling commissioner for London. He's one of my heroes generally"

What’s your favourite city?

That’s tough.  Here’s the cop out answer: Central and East London for exploring by day, Manhattan for discovering by night; Bondi Beach for sunrise and Santa Monica for sunset; Bangkok for the surreal and Vancouver for the ordinary yet beautiful everyday life. Tokyo is definitely on the list for the future though, the culture and incredible contrast between the ultra modern city and traditional rustic countryside is fascinating.

Which Velominati rule are you most vehement about sticking to?

Rule 47: Drink Tripels, don’t ride triples.

Beer and cycling were the magic combination that made me understand that cycling was so much fun (see above) so now the only question that really matters about which route to take is: “Which pub shall we end up at?”

Which Velominati rule are you most guilty of breaking?

Rule 33: Shave your guns. I just cannot bring myself to allow a razor anywhere near my pins, no matter how much I get the practical logic. This is definitely due to part fear of ridicule from my friends, plus part fear of just how hairy they would grow back to given how densely covered they already are.

Which bike(s) do you ride?

Boardman SLS 9.2 for getting around town and for weekend rides

Cannondale CAADX for off-roading

Masi Gran Corsa for old time’s sake (this was the bike that got me back on the road in 2007)

What is your dream bike?

A Quirk long distance build, similar to the one Rob Quirk made for the Transamerica race; a perfect balance between comfort, speed and a slick  paint job.

a quirk long distance build, doug's dream bike