Well, now. Last night’s episode of The Apprentice focused on e-bikes – and achieved the highest sales, more than £1.2 million, in the 15 seasons that the show has been running in the UK.
Aimed at a customer visualised by Team Empower project manager Aisha as ‘Sophisticated Sarah’ – successful career, married with kids, and wanting to pop down to the park on the bike and perhaps have a coffee afterwards – the bike was branded Aphrodite after the Greek goddess of love, and had a rather snazzy logo.
As with rival Team Unison’s competing bike, E-Fit – only Lord Sugar seemed aware of that term being widely used by police forces trying to track down suspects – it was designed and the prototype built at Raleigh’s Nottingham HQ, the staff there acting under the direction of the show’s candidates.
Unison aimed their product at the 40-plus market, people who wanted to cycle for fitness but would be happy at some point on their ride to let the bike’s battery take over and take them home.
But project manager Thomas’s wish for something classic looking was overlooked by the members of the team that headed to Nottingham, and instead he got a burnt orange frame – with red wheels. Oh, and a rocket as a headtube badge.
The less successful criminally-named E-Fit
He couldn’t do much about those choices – but he was able at least to change the name from the one originally chosen by the sub-team, Boundary, albeit at the expense of a massive barney with its leader, Marianne.
Empower’s choice of colour for Aphrodite was also a curious one – navy blue – plus the bike was a folder, which when it was shown to members of the public on the street prompted thoughts of commuting before anything else. Both teams were also tasked with selling an accessory at the launch event, attended by buyers representing some of the biggest retailers in the market, including Halfords.
Neither plumped for Bike Balls, Empower going for the Lumos helmet with its flashing front and rear lights and built-in indicators. Unison, meanwhile, saddled themselves with some very bright Lycra clothing that was always going to be a job to shift.
The scale of sales achieved by Empower does of course in some ways reflect the base price of the product they are trying to shift – at £1,700 a pop before applying any bulk discount, it doesn’t take long for the value to build up.
Unison themselves achieved getting on for half a million quid in sales, not too shonky in itself, and on another day, they could have won; instead, they trudged off to the losers’ café then schlepped back to the boardroom to learn their fate.
Given it’s been running for a decade and a half now, The Apprentice follows a tried-and-trusted formula and last night’s episode did just that, together with just the right amount of sprinkling of cluelessness, personality clashes, over-inflated egos and miscommunications.
There was a curved ball at the end, though, as Lord Sugar rocked up unexpectedly at the candidates’ house to warn them of an early start for their next task – a scavenger hunt in Oxford and Cambridge.
Talking of the show’s host, a couple of things spring to mind. One, a man who has in his fleet of bikes a Pinarello Prince of Spain limited edition model painted red and yellow (in tribute to Alejandro Valverde) may not be the best person to comment on whether or not burnt orange is garish. He also got his hands on a Union Jack-painted version back in 2015.
Two, introducing last night’s task at the London Transport Museum, he told the candidates: “Nowadays, our cities have become more and more congested, and there’s an appetite for more sustainable and healthier modes of transport.”
Those of you with longer memories may recall Sugar moaning about being stuck in traffic on Lower Thames Street for an hour back in 2015, partly due to the works at the time to construct the East-West Cycle Superhighway...