Vincent Truter is a charismatic and cross-disciplinary creative director and social entrepreneur. His passion for green mobility is expressed by his company Cycology, which imports finely tuned electric bicycles and crafts experiences around cycling. On a broader scale Cycology is a culture, a viewpoint and a movement that passionately inspires a life on two wheels.
Window – a popup retail and exhibition space in 44 Stanley – is an unexpectedly natural extension of Cycology that enables Vincent to draw on his experience in exhibition design to partner with artists, designers and makers for a variety of projects.
In this interview we asked Vincent about his colourful background, the culture of Cycology and the many different elements of the company.
Please tell us what your official (or unofficial) job title is:
I call myself the lead Cycologyst.
What and where did you study?
This may sound odd, but my first degree was journalism at the amazing Rhodes university, my first masters was in Japanese dance in the performing arts department in collaboration with the Tokyo metropolitan, and my second masters was in Museum exhibition design and studies at Gothenburg University in Sweden.
In a nutshell, what do you do?
Well I am a Japanese dancing exhibition designing journalist…duh..! Just kidding. I run a company called Cycology that not only imports exquisite electric bicycles and creates bespoke experiences around cycling but most importantly my passion is to make non-motorized transport solutions and in particular cycling possible and accessible.
What did you want to be when you were growing up?
This question makes me smile – I have wanted to be many things, from being able to move objects with my mind, to wanting to be a ninja that can become invisible at will to wanting to be a dancer that could move people to tears with a single gesture.
Tell us more about your journey so far. How did you come to be where you are today?
I don’t think there is enough time to answer this question fully. I am a Cross-disciplinary creative problem solver and creative director. I can generally be found questioning, subverting or otherwise reinventing the creative process. I have a passion for Japanese avant-garde dance, a penchant for aesthetic inversion and a vested interest in the environment. I used to be the youngest and the brightest, now I’m just the brightest.
I can however say that I have explored many disciplines as a creative professional. I started my career as a creative mind on the SABC 2 children’s channel Tube where we used motion capture to move the animated characters. This was important in refining my understanding of how technology can enhance creative expression. From here I returned to the performing arts to explore ways in which the body can be honed to express with immediacy. After this journey into the body, I once again saw the potential to use multiple forms of media to create experiences that move and inspire people, so I explored exhibition and experience design. And now I am harnessing green technologies like electric bicycles to hopefully shift the way we live in our cities. I don’t believe one ever arrives, it is a constant process of becoming and exploring.
What ignited your vision for Cycology?
Simply put, a chance encounter with an inspirational man called Jason lee – the founder of Cycology who introduced me to the a2b metro electric bicycle. I was working as a brand consultant, my car was stolen and I needed to get to a lunch. The bicycle was left in our offices at the time for us to explore ways of marketing it. I was not the least bit interested, until I got onto the electric bicycle, and in short, my life was changed. Inspiration struck, and I realized that this was not only about a bicycle, but a new, more conscious and beautiful way of connecting people, places and passions.
Cycology is committed to the philosophy of a life on two wheels. Could you expand on this?
Yes, we created a manifesto called a life on two wheels, which encourages people to expand their horizons, let the unexpected into their lives, and arrive somewhere new. You see, as much as we are selling electric bicycles, we believe that there is a movement towards environmentally conscious ways of traveling, ways of green mobility that can impact positively on our lives in many ways. I see every bicycle ride as a type of therapy, a gentle way of getting people to become more inspired, connected and happier.
Besides importing finely tuned electric bicycles and bespoke products, you offer a corporate package on brand positioning and sustainability. How does this tie into the idea of a life on two wheels? How do these sessions work?
Well there are a variety of sessions, activations and workshops we offer to corporations. My favourite is what we call the session with a mycologist. It is divided into 3 parts. I take mid to senior level management out for a ride in the city (either from our retail gallery at 44 Stanley, or in the area surrounding the office of our clients) and get them to experience the beauty of cycle motion. After this everyone is exhilarated and inspired and we use this opportunity to start facilitated discussions around their brand and sustainability. We work very closely with the company to ensure we tie the themes into their agendas. At the end of the day it’s about reminding and grounding corporate South Africa to consider how their purpose and their profits meet to create a balanced environment and a sustainable business.
Another offshoot of Cycology is Window – a popup retail and exhibition space. Tell us more about the space and your thinking behind it.
My favourite, this was really born from my experience in exhibition design. You see, I always wanted to create a retail window where retail and art gallery meet. A space that would allow one to curate interesting collaborations, short lived and beautiful exhibitions, and voila – WINDOW was born. Cycology invites amazing creative minds, to use our a2b metro electric bicycle and be inspired on the journey to create a beautiful exhibition in Window. Simple. It has been so successful and the last installation saw local fashion designers Black Coffee create amazing multifunctional raincoat accessories for use on the electric bicycle.
Talk to us about the links, as you see them, between cycling and creativity.
Well, I believe that in order to nurture your creativity, you need to immerse yourself in and constantly be exploring the world around you. When I cycle I sometimes feel a very deep and profound awakening. You are vulnerable to the environment; you see, smell and feel so much more and it awakens in you a sense of wonder.
What would you say to someone who was sceptical about making the switch to using a bicycle as their primary mode of transport?
That helmets and bicycle lanes don’t make roads safer, but more cyclists on the roads do. Plus, to be frank, escalating fossil fuel prices will make it virtually impossible to drive everywhere we want to go. SA is so unique in that we have so many people without cars, who can really benefit from the shift to cycling, yet our roads are hogged by a handful of waste-generating, petrol guzzling machines. Green mobility is inevitable, and the only way you can truly dismiss it is if you have not tried it. Come, get on a cycle with me, cycle sans expectation and see how truly accessible it is.
In your line of work, is there such a thing as a typical work day? What do your days consist of?
Goodness me, well until I get some help my day is really very very full. Most of time is spent in meetings, setting hearts and minds alight with the potential of cycling. I try to inspire as many people as I can in a day through meetings and presentations, I also take people out for sessions with the Cycologist. Then I am often sending 2 billion emails, and planning for the next activations or corporate packages.
What do you love most about the work you do?
The feeling I get when I see the sense of liberation and joy on the faces of people riding with me for the first time. I am not going to lie, I also love the kill of closing in on a good deal.
What characteristics and skills does it take to do what you do?
You have to be able to perform and articulate your ideas – setting into life and into motion the passion in others for your brand. I must also say my years consulting on brands as creative director and strategist taught me about the importance of integrity and to not only serve your own creative will, but to be clear about the community within which you operate and to work collaboratively. Then you also have to be an octopus, and multi-task a variety of challenges
What is the most important thing you’ve learnt throughout your career so far?
There is a very precious battery inside all of us. To keep this battery nurtured and inspired creatively, to protect it from disillusionment and exhaustion, is one of the most important things a creative professional must learn to do for him/herself.
Thinking in terms of a long term vision – what do you hope to achieve with Cycology? What are your plans going forward?
I am an eternal optimist, and if I could fast forward to 5 years from now, I would like to have been part of a company that managed to create and make accessible an alternative means of green transport to a variety of South Africans. I want to see safer, healthier, happier people living in cities that enable them access to cycle and non-motorized transport.
Find out more:
Collaborations at Window:
A life on two wheels | Watch Vincent at TEDxJohannesburg:
[youtube width=”640″ height=”400″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TbGiMY7RH-E[/youtube]