I thought I would be quite star struck meeting Sir Chris Hoy for the first time. Butterflies flitted around my stomach as I climbed up the stairs to the room where we had arranged to meet for our interview. However as soon as I walked in the door, I was instantly at ease thanks to Hoy’s friendly demeanour and infectious smile.
As the most decorated Olympic cyclist of all time, 11 time world champion and successful businessman an air of arrogance would be understandable. However within a couple of minutes it is evident that his grounded personality coupled with affable manner and of course a dollop of determination have contributed to his impressive success both on and off the track.
Since announcing his retirement in April 2013, Hoy has been busier than ever. His post-cycling CV is impressive – his own bike brand and a career as a British car racing driver are just the tip of the iceberg.
Most recently Hoy decided to add to his business portfolio with a range of cycling apparel. After much deliberation over possible collaborators, Hoy decided to team up Nick Hussey’s with high end brand Vulpine creating HOY Vulpine.
“We were looking to do a clothing range that was always part of the plan. I wanted to work together with someone who had similar beliefs, similar attitudes, with a style I liked that would work well with our brand. We approached five or six people but to me there was really only one that we wanted to go with. We didn’t tell him [Nick Hussey, owner of Vulpine] that initially, obviously that wouldn’t have been good from a negotiating point of view!" says Hoy of his decision to collaborate with Vulpine.
“I loved Vulpine, loved what they stood for, the products, everything about them and the fact they didn’t have a cycling performance range at that stage. It was all geared towards casual cycling and the riding destination. It wasn’t about the track or the road and going as fast as you can, it was about looking good off the bike as well as on it. So I think that was one of the reasons it tied in well," Hoy continues.
Vulpine, who only launched in 2012, has fast become one of the key players in the cycling apparel industry. Associating a well-known name like Hoy on such a young business was a huge opportunity to further grow the brand.
“I was actually quite stand offish about Chris being the face of it as I didn’t just want a famous person with their name stuck on something," explains Hussey.
“It was ludicrous. We [Vulpine] were only a year and a half old and the most famous cyclist in the UK and the best advocate of cycling in the UK is approaching you. I was quite diligent to take the piss out of Chris to make sure he was ok and not a massive prima donna. And Chris thought ‘God he is annoying,’" laughs Hussey.
It is clear that Hoy and Hussey have built a firm friendship in addition to their business relationship. Both are passionate about creating an inclusive line that has an offering for both the performance and more casual riders at price points that are more accessible than the rest of the Vulpine range.
“We were thinking about doing a performance line as well anyway. I was thinking about doing it as the whole point about Vulpine is to provide every cyclist with what they need to cycle. Vulpine wasn’t doing that. If you are going to ride 100 miles in a sportive you can’t do that in the gear we currently produce so it was really nice timing when Chris approached me. So now we do have a performance range and a casual range with Evans and that is also at a different price range. Vulpine is really high end, I wanted to make the best stuff ever but now the [HOY Vulpine] range is much more accessible." says Hussey.
The Hoy Vulpine range is still relatively limited with two jerseys – The City Jersey (£54.99) and the Valldemossa Race Jersey (£69.99) and two pairs of shorts – The Saitama Trail Short (£54.99) and the El Toro Bib Shorts (£80). In addition to this there are socks (£11.99), a cycling cap (£11.99) and a splattering of stylish technical tees.
Interestingly the range only differs in cut but not in style nor colour for men and women: “We don’t want to patronise women and say you should be wearing pink shirts, pink shorts and fluffy things. It is about making cycling appeal to everyone, why should it be different? Obviously there are anatomical differences in the bib shorts and different cuts to make sure it fits the shape [of a woman] but it is more about making it appealing to everybody," explains Hoy.
You can tell both Hoy and Hussey are from competitive backgrounds. While neither are riding bikes competitively any longer, both are determined to make sure that HOY Vulpine is a success. “I still have that competitive instinct. But the nice thing is that I don’t have to do that every session, I don’t have to worry about power outputs and split second time differences. I can just go out and ride my bike for fun.
“I am now looking at other people, looking at other bikes, seeing what other manufacturers are doing, thinking about the bike I am riding and the kit I am riding in to see how I can improve it. That’s what I tend to find myself thinking about instead of thinking about trying to catch up with someone ahead of me or get away from people behind me," says Hoy.
It is clear that HOY Vulpine is a brand that will not stand still for even a second. Plans are already underway to introduce outer and thermal wear into the winter line and there is even talk of a children’s line, inspiration for which will no doubt be taken from both Hussey and Hoy’s own kids.
HOY Vulpine is now on sale through Evans Cycles.