For yet another revival of our Frankly Thursday series, we put a little twist on the concept with Spoke stalwarts Oli Brooke-White and Jonty Ritchie combining to tell us a bit about Wellington hardman Geoffrey Notman.
Anyone who has raced against Geoffrey Notman will know him as a strong competitor, whether it’s on his singlespeed, his cyclocross bike or—in days past—road bikes (and even mountain bikes with gears!) His general enthusiasm for cycling in combination with his cheery, inclusive nature mean that anyone he rides with or against can’t help but like him, even if they’re getting their arses handed to them on a steep climb by this wiry strongman. Abstemious by choice and ascetic by nature, the years of riding, running and general attention to detail in terms of a physical regime make him radiate an aura of good health that belies his age by a country kilometre.
Of course, cycling and physical fitness are not all that need define one, and there is of course much more to Geoffrey than just his bike riding. He’s a great family man who gave up a life of design and illustration to make his art his work, as he travels around with his bike scoping out and documenting the locations for his stunning photo-realistic style paintings of far-flung corners of New Zealand; his beautifully rendered holiday bachs, caravans and whitebaiters evoke a country we instinctively know but rarely get to visit.
However, this potted bio is all very well, but it really doesn’t really say anything about who Geoffrey Notman actually is, so I put that very question to one of his old bike racing cronies, the legendary Jonty Ritchie.
Oli-Brooke White: So Jonty, who is Geoffrey Notman?
Jonty: Rather than trying to define his spiritual essence I can touch on some of the more worldly aspects that define the man known by most as Geoffrey, not Geoff.
Effortless style comes to mind where Geoffrey is concerned. Not showy or extravagant, but an aesthete with the ability to somehow imbue objects with more than the sum of their parts. Seventies-era civil servant walk shorts paired with jandals and a T-shirt—all sourced for several dollars at the local op-shop—looks just right on Geoffrey.
Due to years of hard graft, Geoffrey is now able to generate a modest income from selling art. The process of creating this art involves travelling, photographing and painting. To my mind, activities akin to the meditative nature of running or bike riding.
Geoffrey once revealed in casual conversation that he had some Australian Aboriginal ancestry, which could go some way to explaining his tough and wiry nature.
Oli: What’s your favourite Notman anecdote?
Jonty: Once a year Geoffrey likes to ride his rigid singlespeed from Picton over the Maungatapu track to Nelson, then race it the following day. Both times I’ve done this trip with him, for various reasons, he has triumphed and I failed.
These trips usually mean accommodating in an unfinished, beautiful ocean-going yacht parked on wasteland out of town, or on the floor of his buddy Neal’s housebus.
Needless to say at the Coppermine I had a sub-par pre-dehydrated performance, whereas Geoffrey proceeded to lay waste to all and sundry on said rigid singlespeed.
Another curious aspect of Geoffrey’s character is his occasional concern that he is gaining weight, usually expressed by his complaints of ‘back steaks’ whilst gripping his sides and lower back. Even to the casual observer his body fat content is akin to that of Ned Overend.
On another occasion, despite being hit from behind by a car whose driver was distracted by a vision of Jesus, Geoffrey still managed to make it on time to our Laksa lunch date.
Oli: If Geoffrey were to invite six guests, living or dead, to a dinner, who would they be?
Jonty: As I am choosing on his behalf, it’s only fair that you and I attend. Hank Williams and Woody Guthrie, top notch after-dinner entertainment. Jacques Anquetil, famous for bingeing on fine food, alcohol and general sordid behaviour. Duke Paoa Kahinu Mokoe Hulikohola Kahanamoku, a pioneering Hawaiian surfer who could provide Geoffrey with some tips and secret spot hookups.
Oli: If you could provide Geoffrey with a money-no-object bicycle, what would it be and how would you spec it?
Jonty: A question for geeks? Ti 29er hardtail custom frame, sliding dropouts, suspension adjusted for a 120mm fork, fabricated by a builder at the top of their game. Suspension fork and a Niner carbon rigid fork. Two groupsets, both XTR; one singlespeed, the other geared. Rich white guy wheelset consisting of King hubs laced to de-stickered ENVE rims by the expert hands of Oliver Brooke-White. Thomson stem, bars and seatpost topped with the classic Flite saddle. Some tyres too. And other stuff.