The future of road cycling apparel
This month we’ve been exploring the Rapha-dominated world of road cycling apparel, taking a closer look at the market and emerging trends.
What’s clear is there’s a new cyclist out there, a far cry from the expensive lycra wearing carbon bike toting traditional road cyclist, and much closer to the outdoor consumer that we are so familiar with. The cyclist who thinks of cycling as an outdoor pursuit rather than a performance sport; who wants stylish, function gear that performs as well in the pub after the ride as it does on the bike itself.
We spoke to Oli, co-founder and director of Morvelo, Albion co-founder Charlie Stewart, and Jill Henry owner of Meander, who shed light on this new cyclist, where they see the market going, and how smaller brands can carve out a niche for themselves.
What is the future for the cycling market? Where do you see new consumers coming from?
ALBION: Climbing, skiing, fell running, surfing, kayaking — these are all ways of spending time and exploring the outdoors.
Until now, road cycling has been presented through the prism of professional racing.
We see a future where road cycling is the next frontier in outdoor recreation and adventure lifestyle sport.
As more and more people come to understand the bike as an enabler of adventure and an antidote to urban, confined living, the market will continue to grow.
MORVELO: E-bikes and Gravel/Adventure Road Bikes are opening up cycling to a whole new outdoors enthusiast audience and we have a new initiative and Collection called Overland aimed at them.
Products that are fashion and outdoors inspired yet are actually for bike riding. The days of big baggy mountain bike and super skinny road wear we think are coming to an end.
What does the bike market need right now?
MORVELO: To move towards cycling as an outdoors pursuit and not a sports pursuit. That way we can encourage more people aspire to riding bikes and live the lifestyle.
ALBION: To focus more on sustainability — it’s a massive elephant in the room for cycling brands, and one that we are seeking to put right.
To listen to women and do a better job of making the best products for them.
MEANDER: Commuter cyclists want clothing that makes life easy. By working with innovative materials and creating offer multi-functioning clothing that are equal in style and functionality, we’re making life simpler for our customers.
What other brands does your consumer buy?
ALBION: For riding they’ll wear Assos, Castelli, and Rapha but will be hungry for other brands who are innovating. Outside of cycling, they’ll be interested in sustainability and performance like Patagonia, Finisterre. Other brands they’ll wear and admire include Ciele, Salomon, North Face, Arc’teryx.
MEANDER: Our customers are style aware but don’t follow trends. They look for quality, sustainable and outdoor brands that stand the test of time. Our customers buy into 66 North, Finisterre, Patagonia, Levis, Rapha City , Cos.
What makes you unique?
MORVELO: We’re a cycle clothing brand that combines sports apparel with pop culture and fashion.
ALBION: The Great British Outdoors. It’s why we exist. To build products fit for it, all year round. To get people outside in it, regardless of the conditions.
MEANDER: As a commuter cyclist you need the technical elements, a jacket has to be waterproof and breathable but it needs to look great both on and off the bike. We stand out with our values and design ethos of simplicity and functionality.
As outdoor lovers we very much care about the environment. As well as creating timeless garments, we work with sustainable suppliers and offer a guarantee and repair service with our garments. We offset our carbon emissions by planting trees in forests throughout Scotland.
What’s your perfect day?
MORVELO: Start with a bike ride. Set to work designing patterns and products. Hooking up with other brands on projects and collaborations as this is super motivating. Finish with another bike ride!
ALBION: 100 miles in the Welsh Valleys around Rhayader, in November. Single track roads, no cars, damp roads, steep climbs. Exhausting and exhilarating in equal measure. After the ride — beers, home cooked stew, whisky. Sharing stories from the day’s ride. No phone signal or internet reception.
MEANDER: Nothing beats cycling with friends on a gorgeous day. Just outside Edinburgh there are some awesome coastal routes. I love to head down the coast on a gorgeous day with a stop for lunch on a gorgeous beach or pub stop! I love cycling but it’s best enjoyed with a food stop mid-way and a post cycle beverage!
How do you compete with bigger brands? Can you?
MORVELO: We have to ignore what others do and follow our own path. As we are self-funded, growth will only ever be steady but where we can win over bigger brands is by doing what we want. There is no design by committee. Our goal is to do things our own way. It’s not about being the biggest. Our aim to create a clothing brand than represents cycling in amongst the lifestyle outdoors, skate and surf brands and to make riding bikes appeal to as many people as possible.
ALBION: By being nimble is one way. We can react faster, make decisions quicker.
We also believe that our approach and mindset gives us a huge advantage. We’re unlike any other brand in the way we think about and contextualise road biking, allowing us to innovate and inspire in ways that other cycling brands can’t and don’t.
MEANDER: We’ve chosen to primarily be a direct to consumer brand as it allows us to offer great service, quality and value that going through traditional department stores wouldn’t allow us to do. Traditionally brands sell through department stores, agents, distributors to get their brand out there and everyone is taking a cut. This results in high prices and low-quality goods.