Prendas Ciclismo was founded in May 1996 with the intention of providing a comprehensive clothing service to those who found it tough to source what they wanted through their local bike shop.
After spending the previous eight years in cycle retail, I found I was more stimulated and interested in what a rider wore than what they were riding. As an original partner in a successful bike emporium, I was able to leave that business suitably funded to make my dream a reality.
Originally, the only brand I stocked was Etxeondo the Basque manufacturer (hence the Spanish - not Basque - name Prendas Ciclismo = Cycle Clothing).
However, I had previously satisfied a demand for Mapei team clothing and now, running my own business, took the opportunity to regularly visit Sportful in Italy who were suppliers to the "super team" for many years.
Various road trips to Italy opened up new avenues for other products with other manufacturers, many of whom are still suppliers. A friendship with ex-pat American Robert Reis and Basque cycling enthusiast resident in Rome developed these business associations further.
My desire to own a 'Bonjour' French Champion Jersey took me to Santini in 2001. Their acquisition of Mapei in 2002 saw Prendas doing big business with this legendary and highly respected Italian manufacturer to the extent that they are now our main supplier.
The world wide web has seen a huge increase in demand for our unique products and some of the countries we have shipped to over the years never ceases to amaze. Obviously the mechanics of the business have changed to encompass the development of e-tailing and the addition of Andy Storey (our original website designer) to full time member of the Prendas posse has eased the transition considerably. Andy's IT skills have been utilised to great effect but the focus of the business is still the same as when I commenced in '96 as a one man band in a spare room at home with a fax machine and telephone.
Despite the fact that the business did not own a computer, it boasted a website as far back as 1999. Amazingly, online ordering was still possible via Andy's own PC which he then faxed onward to me.
Later we were housed for 6 years in a funky little business unit which was not glass, chrome and steel but organic and functional which mirrors our business philosophy.
However, with the ever increasing client base requiring a larger stocking plan, we found ourselves seriously challenged for space despite storing stock in a couple of other "lock ups". Eventually, we simply had to find a larger premises as we could hardly get through the door at the "Old Dairy".
We were fortunate enough to be able to purchase a small warehouse from a friend less than a mile away from the previous address which enabled us to at last get everything under one roof. That's the plus side but on the downside, we have discovered how bloody hard it is to heat a warehouse with zero insulation. No worries though, we are busy so not yet suffering from hypothermia. Workforce has grown very slightly but new packing and posting systems have made the whole process less labour intensive. Pleased to report that all of us ride to work each and every day.
Over the years we have been fully supportive of riders wishing to make cycling a career and if we formed an an imaginary pro-team from riders who have benefited from Prendas products, we would be highly competitive at World Tour level in both Men's and Women's.
We have supported the Dave Rayner Fund for many, many years and our current fund raising projects have raised many thousands of pounds for this worthy cause. We feel it's only correct to put something back into the sport which we love.
The cycling business has changed almost beyond recognition since the early days of Prendas. There was a time when we were the only business specialising in quality cycle clothing. Not the case now but we pride ourselves in not going down the cheap manufacturing route and still work directly with high end manufacturers in Italy, Spain and Portugal. Our supply chain is lean and we eliminate at least two links in the chain. Hence we can offer quality products without the premium prices.
June 2016 saw us celebrate our 20th anniversary so I guess we must be doing something right.
It's still a buzz to research a vintage maillot and develop it through the process that creates a slice of history (albeit in modern performance fabrics) It's tough now to source exclusive NOS (new old stock) but once in a while we still get lucky. We remain unique and more than a little niche although we cater in way more than just retro, our accessory range for instance is one of the finest available and will always represent excellent VFM.
No way am I blasé regarding the benefits which being an 'industry insider' brings. Getting to meet 'cycling greats' and being given accreditation at big races still gives me a thrill and I approach it as a 'tifoso' and not in any kind of 'seen it, done it, got the T shirt' manner.
Some of my suppliers and people I have encountered in the cycling business have become good friends and I consider myself privileged to be working with something I am passionate about.
It's ironic that when I commenced working in the cycle trade, my main source of income was in the music industry and cycling was my hobby and now the roles are reversed.
Thanks for reading,
Update: In 2016 Prendas Ciclismo celebrated our 20th Anniversary with the launch of some very special celebratory products!