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No, Richard Branson Did Not Actually Ride His Bike to Space Launch

Virgin Galactic has clarified that the highly publicized preflight bike ride did not happen

Richard Branson, billionaire founder of the Virgin Group and now-space explorer, just got a little less relatable. According to Virgin Galactic, a video of Branson riding a bicycle to the historic launch was taken out of context. 

A Virgin Galactic rep confirmed to Reuters on Tuesday that Branson did not ride his bike at all on launch day. In fact, the video in question was filmed July 5, six days before the flight.

“The footage of Sir Richard Branson shown during the event Sunday was prerecorded and misidentified in the broadcast. We regret the error and any confusion it may have caused.” the anonymous official told the outlet. 

The clip shows Branson cycling toward the Spaceport America facility located near Truth or Consequences, New Mexico before greeting crewmates dressed in their flight suits with a hug, with one of them, Beth Moses, the company’s chief astronaut instructor, telling him, “You’re late, hurry up.”

It was included in Virgin’s broadcast of the show and posted to Branson’s Twitter feed with the  caption, “It’s a beautiful day to go to space. We’ve arrived at @Spaceport_NM.”

Branson himself mentioned the bike ride on stage during a postflight celebration, telling the crowd of onlookers, “It’s so awesome to arrive on a bicycle, across this beautiful New Mexico countryside.”

It turns out that Virgin Galactic has a cross-promotional deal with the bicycle’s brand, Trek Bicycle Corp. Named the Domane Unity 22 Project One Ultimate (after the number of the flight, VSS Unity 22) Branson’s bike was custom-made to resemble the design of the space plane. Trek says the bike was designed “exclusively for spaceflight.” 

Trek touted the ride on their social media accounts.

It is unclear how the disclosure that the ride was fabricated will affect Trek’s deal with the spaceflight corporation. 

Even if the preflight cycling was fictional, Branson’s other ride that day was not. The VSS Unity’s successful sub-orbital flight landed the British mogul in the history books as the first billionaire to travel to space aboard a craft that he helped fund, presumably beating out Amazon's Jeff Bezos and his scheduled space sojourn by nine days.