In the winter of 1999 / 2000 London courier Caspar Hughes and colleagues struck upon a unique way of entertaining themselves that did not involve the cold, wind or rain....racing bikes in a pub!
Caspar and friends setup their first event at the Horseshoe pub in Clerkenwell, it was an instant hit with the courier community and became an annual event for the next seven years, raising funds for both the London Bike Messenger Association and The Bicycle Messenger Emergency Fund. Caspar raced in this first event and went on to become one of the UK's fastest Rollapaluza racers, also a courier at the time Paul Churchill was a competitior that night, but did not join Rollapaluza until 2007. Rollapaluza still hold an annual event to support the community from which they were born.
Caspar spent the next few years developing the equipment and experimenting with with the event format trying DJs, live bands and other features. Though at this stage Rollapaluza events were held only annually each one grew in stature and reputation.
Caspar Hughes and Paul Churchill, who since quitting the courier life had gained experience in hospitality and showbusiness, formalised Rollapaluza as a company in 2007 after a discussion where they both realised that the Rollapaluza concept may well be enjoyed outside their circle of friends and associates. Over the next few years they were proved right, there are now more than 300 Rollapaluza events annually in the UK!
Rollapaluza were lucky enough to secure a university tour for a corporate client as one of their first bookings alongside events for the London Cycling Campaign and then fledgling cycle clothing brand Rapha.
As well as client work Rollapaluza also promoted "club style" events, open to the public with live DJs and competition, the most sucessful of these were the Kingspin events selling out many times over with "road-block" queues outside venues. We also promote our "National Series" an unofficial Rollapaluza National Championship which sees us visit towns up and down the UK, qualifying riders for a "Grand Finale" in London. These became so well known that Mark Cavendish, one of the UK's most successful cyclists slipped in to one of the heats to see what all the fuss was about!
This early period involved a huge amount of development including our current digital timing system and complete overhaul, redesign and upgrade of all equipment. We were very proud to also gain the sponsorship of Condor Cycles, London's famous independent bike brand who have ever since supplied Rollapaluza with specific bikes for all their rigs in both adult and children's sizes.
At the end of 2008 we were booked to attend the Salford Nocturne, the main feature (for us) was that Chris Hoy would be competing! Chris had been on a two week whirlwind publicity tour after winning gold in at the Beijing Olympics and this was literally the first bike race he competed in since his return! It was a huge event, Chris was great and the TV footage and photos were beamed worldwide, suddenly everyone knew about Rollapaluza!
Since then Rollapaluza has seen year on year growth and we have fulfilled events in 11 European countries and the Philippines!
Schools and community
Around 2009 Caspar hit upon the idea of taking Rollapaluza into schools, Condor supported this project and provided us with unique children's custom Rollapaluza bikes. As a gateway into cycling as sport, transport or just healthy activity Rollapaluza has proven to be a hit with kids. No special equipment such as shoes, shorts or helmets are required and the atmosphere generated equals any of our other events. We now visit over 100 schools annually as well as a similar number of community fairs and festivals.
With the Olympics in 2012 and the Commonwealth games in 2014 both in the UK, Rollapaluza has been incredibly busy! we can now field up to four teams in any one day and often do during the summer months.
Alongside our community work, parties, weddings and special events we fuflfil work for corporate clients, indeed it is this work that enables us to offer discounts to smaller groups. Our major clients have included PwC, Red Bull, Adidas, Nokia, Levis and Oakley amongst many others.
We have also had over 40 TV appearances including: BBC Breakfast, BBC "New Tricks", Sky sports Game Changers, Sky One's "A league of their own", ITV's Amazing Greys and ITV4's "The Cycle Show".
We have been lucky to have a huge number of celebrities and sports stars take part in Rollapaluza including:
Sir Chris Hoy, Victoria Pendleton, James Cracknell, Lawrence Dallaglio, Jamie Redknapp, Dani King, Freddie Flintoff, Iwan thomas, Jade Johnson, Mike Bushell, Alan Davies, Mark Beaumont, Steve Backshall, Liam Phillips, Robert Fostermann, Ian Stannard....even Sam Fox and "how clean is your houes's Aggie!"
Caspar Hughes and Paul Churchill at the first event in 1999! (video still)