Mountain bike clothing company Royal Racing was set up by current downhill world champion Steve Peat and his friend Nick Bayliss 10 years ago. We spoke to the designer about Lycra, urban clothing and the Queen...
BR: Designing clothing is a pretty specialist business – where did you learn your skills?
NB: I used to race motocross as a kid but didn’t have much money. Big brands like JT and Fox were just kicking off but you couldn’t get their stuff in the UK, so I made my own on my mum’s old hand sewing machine. I’d unpick everything I owned, copy the patterns and study how they stitched it all together.
When BMX started I was about 10, so I started making my own BMX gear and sold it to friends. I did some designs for JT racing when I was 12, and then started a string of small BMX brands, which all failed because I spent most my time riding!
When mountain biking got big I bought a Marin Pine Mountain bike and started riding with a bunch of motocross friends. We won a bunch of races. Most of the courses back then were cyclo-cross courses – everyone used to get off and carry their bikes, but we hopped the logs, rode the hills and won by miles!
The clothing was so bad though. Because we had come to the scene from motocross and BMX, we just couldn’t bring ourselves to do the whole Lycra thing. So I started making lighter, simple motocross-style gear to ride in.
Back then I lived in a forest and rode every night – training, daydreaming up gloves, jerseys and shorts that would work and look cool for pedalling in… Next came working in fashion to support my expensive cycling habits – I learned a lot from this and it helped me see exactly what it would take to make an all-new cycling brand.
Your early graphics had elements of Troy Lee Designs about them…
Troy Lee and Bob Haro have always been some of my biggest inﬂuences. For me, the Daytona helmet [which evolved into the Troy Lee D2, and now D3 ed] was the turning point. It became the icon of cool – the new mountain bike identity. It ﬁnally made sense of all the gear I was designing.
I got to meet Troy while out riding with Steve Peat in California. I showed him my sketchpads full of Troy Lee Designs-inspired drawing and sketches. Troy liked them, and we started trading pages of my sketchpad for products. I ended up working at his factory for a while – it was great to soak up all the creativity, but Troy knew me and Steve were thinking of starting a mountain-bike-speciﬁc brand. He told us we should just go do it, and even gave us a helping hand to get started.
Whose idea was the ‘royal’ name and theme?
It was Adele’s [Mrs Peat ed] idea. We were eating Chinese, and Adele’s fortune cookie said ‘expect a royal guest’. She said we should call our brand ‘Royal’, for the ‘royal family of mountain biking’. She was joking, but it stuck! We had to get permission from the Queen to use the ‘Royal’ name, which took ages.
What were the primary objectives of the company?
To remember that we are a mountain bike clothing company. The whole idea was to produce pedal-speciﬁc clothing with mountain bikers in mind, not just converted motocross gear.
Image is important in mountain biking – do you ﬁnd it’s a gamble when you design new stuff?
It’s always a gamble. But mainly it’s about whether we feel comfortable out there riding in everything we produce – and there is a taming process. My ﬁrst ideas are usually a bit out-there. The designs are viewed by the sales team and crunched until it makes a range we’re all happy with.
More women are riding these days, but few brands offer clothing in women’s colourways and cuts – is this something you plan to do?
Yes, we’re working on it now. A lot of the girl gear out there looks like it’s designed by guys trying to guess what girls want to ride in, and this is something we wanted to avoid. I’ve been hunting for a young girl rider to help us get this right for sometime. Finally we have found her! So the new women-speciﬁc shapes and styles should be ready for 2011.
How much input does Steve have in to the company? He ﬂies the ﬂag, but you’re the designer…
Steve has tremendous input to offer on the design front – he tells it like it is. If it’s crap he tells you straight – we both test out everything I’m making step by step. Steve’s a good guy, always happy to help out and give advice. He’s as passionate for riding now as he’s ever been – he just loves riding bikes. It’s infectious…
So, is there a Peaty signature kit with the world champ stripes on the way?
Actually, I just got off the phone with Steve discussing just this – gloves, jersey and shorts. We’re playing with a few ideas and it’s looking rad at the mo. It still keeps making me smile that he ﬁnally got it.
The UK market must show a lot of support for Royal, but what about globally? Distribution through SixSixOne must have helped…
Trying to make the leap to the rest of the world was always our plan, but it’s a big step to make. SixSixOne really helped us do this. It took a few years but it seems to be working now.
There seems to be a lot of fashion crossover at the moment with brands like Rapha, Sombrio, Dakine and Surface – what are Royal bringing to the table?
I’m working on a range of casual ride gear now. I think it’s more than fashion – cycling is becoming a bigger part of people’s lives – they’re riding to work, hacking to the shops and so on, and they’re looking for clothing that reﬂects this. I worked with Nick Larson [of Charge Bikes] on the Surface project recently. The aim was to make clothing that went from urban to bikes. But with Royal I’ll be going the other way – from mountain bike to urban.
I just got to ride the Crank Mob ride in LA – thousands of cyclists meet and take to streets, grinding the city to a halt – ending in a party in a warehouse. More and more, governments are taking notice and are being forced into making more provisions for the cyclist – all part of a more eco future. All bike brands need to embrace this, and make cycling ﬁt into the urban environment. Make our commutes to work/school/the shop become more like the Danny MacAskill s1jobs advert!