As a teenager in Adelaide, Australia, Jimmy Phillips would steal his dad’s Colnago — much to his father’s disgust — and, his feet barely able to touch the pedals, take it for a spin in his jeans and t-shirt. He was hooked immediately.
“I think it was the straight line speed that got me,” Phillips says. “It was like a rocket!”
Now, the 39-year-old Australian lives in New York, where he has turned his love of cycling into a career. For years, he’d have friends from abroad come visit and want to go for a ride while they were in town. The rental bikes available were shitty and expensive—it dawned on him that there was, as he puts it, “a gap in the market to not only provide nice bikes but also show people where to cycle.” So, in August of 2014, after years of working a 9-5 job making “very little money” he launched The Domestique, a boutique cycling tour company.
We know what you’re thinking: who wants to dodge cabs riding down 5th Avenue? But here’s the thing, some of the best cycling on the east coast—and, some might say, in the country—is literally on New York City’s doorstep. Cruise up the Hudson River for 35 minutes, cross the mighty George Washington Bridge, and you’re in a cyclist’s paradise—varied terrain, sweeping views, bike-friendly donut shops, and wide shoulders on roads heavily marked for cyclists. And you can get there faster on a bike that you could in a car.
“Everyone says the same thing once we cross the George Washington Bridge,” he says with a laugh.
‘I can’t believe this is just outside the city.’
And they’re right: It’s so tranquil!”
Phillips is an affable Australian with a peculiar penchant for suffering (he’s completed eight Ironmans), a love of cortados and cold beers. On a recent ride with him my legs cramped on a climb nearly knocking me off my bike, and comforting me, he said his legs once cramped so bad that he did fall off his bike—and had to stop for Coca-Cola and Pringles at the nearest gas station to get sodium in his body to combat the cramping muscles.
Which is a long way of saying he’s a lovely Sherpa on two wheels—he can relate to just about anything you might encounter on the road, because it’s probably happened to him before. And he’s not just taking his clients out for a silent ride. He’ll talk to you about your life (or your life’s problems!) and make the day go by. For riders who might be spooked by riding through New York City traffic he’s a calming presence on the road—pointing out potholes, parked cars, and pedestrians weaving in and out of traffic.
His business model is simple: Email him your bike size, pedal type, and route preference. He’ll show up at your hotel (or apartment) with a top-of-the-line carbon fiber bike loaded up with water bottles. He operates in New York from April through Thanksgiving and then chases the sun to Los Angeles for the winter. It’s truly unique—there’s nothing else like it in other cities.
"I still don't know anywhere in the world that offers what I am offering to cyclists,” he says. “A high-end carbon road bike, clean, serviced, tires pumped up, fitted perfectly, bottle, pedals, and a friendly guy to show you what's up in the world of New York cycling."
In just two years, The Domestique has grown. It’s grown so fast that he’s constantly fielding calls about expansion.
“I’ve had plenty of people email me wanting to know if they can license The Domestique in their hometown,” he says. “I think I need another year of operation, but I’m excited for the future. Not every city has the pull that Manhattan does, so the model can’t be replicated that easily. I would love it to become a name around the world, though.”
In the meantime, he’s just ready to keep rolling with it.
“For me, rides are all about catching up with friends and some raucous road banter,” he says, with a laugh. “Oh, and donuts at the halfway point and a couple cold beers at the end.”
Book a ride with the Domestique during your next trip to NYC or LA.
Photography by Donalrey Nieva