When I was starting out in mountain biking, I needed to accumulate a variety of kit from the bike itself to the protective gear, and the clothing. Immediately it became apparent that there is an extremely limited selection for women's MTB kit. Don't get me wrong, there's loads of Lycra wear for road biking and for XC, but not much baggy downhill wear... which is what I wanted (I'm not body confident enough to don the Lycra bodysuits!). One British company stood out though, Flare Clothing. They cater for the female MTB rider, with flattering cut jerseys and semi baggy shorts which was exactly what I was looking for.
Founded by Hannah and Ben, Flare clothing set out in 2012 to produce high quality MTB kit for women which was stylish and functional. Along with post-ride apparel, shirts and hoodies, Flare soon started to dominate the UK women's biking market and now you can't make a trip to a bike park without seeing blurs of their vibrant colours and dynamic patterns flying through the trees. Female riders that I've spoken with, like Amber Charity, have all mentioned the lack of women's kit available, and so I set to interview one of the founders of Flare Clothing, Hannah Myers, to discuss the company and it's vital role in today's biking industry.
Hi Hannah, thanks so much for chatting with Velo Me. Let's start with you! Tell us a little about yourself, you're biking background and what inspired you to produce women's biking kit.
I've not been riding forever - I wish! I had always ridden hybrid bikes and gone on some family bike rides but started mountain biking a few years ago when I worked at a local bike shop. They had some Trek demo mountain bikes and they were all massive, so they got in a Lush S for me to try out and within the first few rides I was hooked. I ended up buying that demo bike and riding more and more, and before long I wanted new helmets, gloves, clothes to go on my adventures. I scoured all of our suppliers looking for women's clothing (I've got boobs and hips so men's kit just looks awful on me) and just couldn't find any. I thought that I couldn't be the only woman feeling unsatisfied, so I could either sit back and wait for something to come along or put my design background to good use and do something myself.
Flare Clothing is now in its second year of business and we've seen a lot of developments with women's biking kit, post-ride apparel and now even a men's line. How else do you plan to expand the Flare brand?
For now I want to hone the pieces that are in the line, we diversified this year by introducing DH focussed options and next year I want to concentrate on getting the fit spot on and finding the best fabrics possible. That being said, we do have some riders and customers shouting for Lycra, so maybe you'll see that in the not too distant future, who knows? In the next few years, though, I'd really like to introduce more urban/casual clothing that is technical without screaming 'cyclist' as well as a kids' range for little rippers.
Out of the many pieces you've produced, do you have a favourite range of clothing you've done so far?
I love the new Enduro shorts! They don't look all that spectacular (since the DH kit has more jazzy colours this year) but they are so comfy! I keep telling people "it's like you're not wearing anything!" Because they're really lightweight and super stretchy but at the same time have water and abrasion resistance so it's a really great balance.
How have you seen the women's market, and demand for women's kit change over your time in business?
I think that women as consumers of MTB are becoming more demanding, which is a really good thing. When I started (which wasn't all that long ago) women were more likely to accept what was available to them, since there were so few options, but now, rather than being satisfied with whatever is available the engaged women are saying "ok, that's good, but this is what would make it better", and that makes the market as a whole more confident and the industry take notice.
Flare is a brilliant company, passionate about promoting women in biking and I love the attitude and focus Flare has. What more do you think could be done by bike parks and other leading brands to encourage more women to get out on the bike?
They need to take charge. Shops, bike parks, influential companies need to be active in engaging their female customers (and potential female customers), asking them what they want to see and actually devote a budget to it. In my experience shop owners say "we don't stock women's clothing because women don't buy clothes in shops" and the female riders say "we don't buy clothes in bike shops because there's nothing to buy". It's a catch-22 situation, and the only way it's going to change is for the people with power to bite the bullet and spend the money that will make women take notice.
And Hannah, we all want to know what bike you're currently riding and what trails you love best!
I love, love, love my Juliana Roubion (can you tell I like the colour teal?) and the trails in Wales are awesome - I've recently done some riding in the Sierra Nevada in Spain also which is just breathtaking.
I wear a lot of Flare clothing whilst out on the bike. I love the colours, patterns and the efforts that Flare make to cater for female riders, and even more recently, the male ones too! I think they are very close to perfecting their range of women's clothing and I think they will achieve this down the line. All women come in different shapes and sizes (as do men), but we tend to be a lot more fussier than the boys. Some women prefer Lycra over baggy polyester jerseys, and some prefer shorties to longs... It's hard to cater for so many different preferences when the market you cater for is still a small minority, it just isn't financially or business viable. Saying this, I think Flare clothing are doing an excellent job of producing a comprehensive range of kit for women and given they are only in their second year of business, I can't wait to see what else they have in store.