In the end, we all get to the same place. One moment life/bike is in balance, and then it’s gone. Nights are spent organising the weekend ride – where, when, how far? Days are for dreaming. Details are honed. For Christoph Döttelmayer, 7mesh rider and Head of Design at Dachstein footwear in Austria, falling hard for road cycling came through form, feeling, and the search for simplicity.
“‘That’s crazy! How can you go so far?'” Calling in ahead of hosting 7mesh for a ride in his hometown, Christoph laughs as he recalls the reaction from non-cyclists when he tells them he regularly races 180km, on a bike. “Why do it? That’s probably the wrong question,” he muses. “You have to do it. You learn so much about yourself in suffering – like riding in bad weather for hours, but you have a goal, and you want to reach it.” And no ride is ever the same. “Professionally, biking is a team sport,” he notes. “And I love riding with my friends on the weekend. But as an activity, it is unique; you can do the same ride solo, and the experience is completely different, more introspective.”
As a Dachstein shoe designer by day, Christoph doesn’t usually get this worked up. But that’s the bike for you. Not that it was always this way. “My first love was basketball,” he concedes. “Except if you come from a small town in Austria somewhere south-east of Salzburg, basketball is the least interesting sport for everyone. But that’s how I got into shoes, through Michael Jordan, Air Jordans and wanting to try my hand at designing those sneakers.”
How many sportspeople and standout products have been responsible for turning kids onto careers they never knew existed? Jobs like Industrial Design, advertising, strategy, being a caddie – I will carry your clubs around. Life is strange and often set earlier than we recognise.
“I eventually studied industrial design in Vienna under Hartmut Esslinger, best known as the founder of Frog Design Inc.,” he says. “The course wasn’t just about learning the ropes or creating design art. It was about design technology, design that helps to impact the world around us positively.” Upon his return to Salzburg, Christoph’s footwear obsession led to joining Dachstein where he now heads up design in a team that takes each shoe from first sketch to final development.
“Everything’s better when it’s simpler. Exceptional design is enough in itself – like 7mesh apparel,” he enthuses. “When I first saw the road kit, I was like, “This looks so cool; it’s what I’ve been searching for – almost like Arc’teryx’s picture of cycling. And then I found out that it was started by TJ, Ian – a group of ex-Arc’teryx people with the express idea of making better bike gear.”
From the outwardly simple designs that represent the 7mesh aesthetic, Christoph recognises a universal truth: “The simpler it is, the harder it is,” he admits. “The fit of the MK3 Bib Short, the perfect neckline of the Highline Jersey – these things are not accidents or one-off flukes. Products that refined comes from somewhere else entirely. But once you’ve seen them, you recognise the longevity of great design.”
With our trip to Austria only days away, we’re keen to hear about the riding in and around Salzburg, and what Christoph has in store for us. “Mountains!” he says, laughing. “But also quiet forest roads and rolling hills. In truth, everything is accessible. You can step out of your door and ride for an hour, or eight – it’s endless.” As he explains it, his hometown of Bad Aussee, Schladming and Salzburg form a perfect triangle of perfect cycling, taking in pre-breakfast loops, training elevation and surprisingly, Strava spirituality. “Loser Mountain – not pronounced as you might think – is my holy grail. It’s the most incredible place – zen-like calm. And at 1,838 metres, it’s quite a challenge,” he laughs. Let’s hope they have strudel.