2013 has been another incredible year for women's cycling. More events, projects, races and companies launching than ever before. Although there may be a long way to go until we're on an equal footing with men's cycling - it's positive to see so much progress being made.
One such company that is new to the scene is VelocityGB, created by Carolyn Gaskell. Providing female cyclists with more options in cycling clothing, Carolyn's designs are stylish, comfortable and functional for commuting or any sort of leisure cycling.
Carolyn shares her journey and reasons behind taking the plunge and launching VelocityGB.
Leisure cycling is what I do most of, it’s what I know best, and it’s an area that I think is most neglected amongst women’s specific cycle wear. I have spoken to a lot of women who are put off cycling around a city because they don’t want to look like they’ve been cycling when they get off their bikes. It’s not always possible or desirable to change your clothes when you get to your destination, and this is what I wanted to address with launching VelocityGB.
Cycling means so much to me. It’s a huge milestone in growing up for a start! I will never forget the first time my stabilisers came off – what a feeling of achievement. Now cycling is very much a part of my daily life. I commute all over London and love the sense of freedom it affords. I can’t imagine life in London without my bike to be honest.
As I work on a freelance basis, I found myself with some time on my hands after a couple of jobs fell through. I have been cycling for many years, and have long been frustrated at the lack of options for female cyclists. So, I decided to put my spare time to good use. I started working with a pattern cutter on my designs, getting feedback from other female cyclists and developing the vision.
Now it’s all ready to launch, and after plenty of ups and downs - it’s been scary and exciting in equal measure - I’m really glad that I decided to take a risk and go for it.
I've made a conscious effort to make my designs available for all women. One of my initial aims was to see if it was possible to make items that I considered to be affordable, without compromising on style, comfort or function. This was crucial to my continuing with the project and it is something that I believe that I have achieved.
I also feel strongly that women’s cycle wear should be available in a wide range of sizes. My first production run is in UK sizes 8-16 (and I have the patterns for a size 6) because I want to acknowledge that women of all sizes cycle and all women want the same choice of clothing as a woman who is a size 8.
Included in my launch range are water resistant trousers and shorts and a merino snood. The trousers are made in a stretch cotton drill that has been treated with a Schoeller technology called NanoSphere ®. This makes the fabric water and stain resistant as well as more durable to wear.
There are other important cycle-specific features, including reflective pocket trim and a reflective logo (visible when you roll your trouser leg up) and a reinforced diamond gusset for increased comfort. The snood is a new take on one of my favourite accessories – it’s designed to fit like a polo neck that you can take off when you get to your destination.
I also have some new designs in the pipeline, and if everything goes well with my initial range I will be moving forward with a couple of new items.
I currently ride a vintage road bike from Dutch bicycle manufacturer Koga Miyata. It’s a beautiful pearl orange colour and is a wonderful ride. It was also made in the same year that I was born – which was the deal clincher – and makes me officially ‘vintage’!
I ride every day, whatever the weather – around 80 miles a week.
My favourite cycling memory is from a couple of years ago. I rode the C2C from Whitehaven to Sunderland for charity. I had to hire a bike when I got there, as at the time I was riding a fixed wheel, and I knew crossing The Pennines on it would be a step too far.
The bike that was waiting for me was the heaviest bike I have every ridden – a ladies shopper type, with a very upright cycling position that I wasn’t at all used to. I wished I’d brought my fixed wheel.
In the end I made it, I saw some beautiful scenery and had a wonderful time – and now I can say that I rode across the country on a ladies shopper!
My future plans for VelocityGB are twofold. The first is to create a curvier trouser style. I feel that it’s important to have more than one fit option. When I am able to reinvest into my business, I will be putting some money aside to develop this new style. The second area is to develop both a base and outer layer with the same philosophy of style, comfort and function.
I am also always on the look out for new fabrics to test – and I look forward to a time when I am in a position to manufacture my own fabric in a Great British mill.
My favourite cycling item (by a country mile) is the Swrve Wax Jacket – I treated myself to it when it first came out a few years ago. It’s really excellent quality and I love the cut and the way it looks. It’s also made in the UK and has its roots in British fabric, quality and style. If you give it some attention and re-wax it regularly I think it will last forever.
Great Britain has a great tradition of excellent quality manufacturing, and I wanted VelocityGB to be a part of that. The garments are made in a small factory in East London who specialize in small production runs. Having them manufactured in the UK means that I can support local businesses while keeping a close eye on the whole process.
Manufacturing in the UK has also meant that it’s easier for me to manage everything myself. I’ve discovered that there are so many things that can go wrong in production and it’s much easier to be nearby to sort things out as they happen.
My initial focus for VelocityGB was to fill a gap that had frustrated me for years – the lack of women’s urban cycling trousers and shorts. Women’s cycle wear is what I wanted to make and that’s what I’ve focused all my attention on. I am also a small start-up, working on my own to try and produce an excellent product that women will want to wear. I have been involved in every aspect of this venture from the designs to the photography, and even the modeling!