A rider approaches the summit of a mountain pass shrouded in mist. A racer rolls away from the finish area of an evening criterium for the ride back across the city.
Another late finish at the office. Racing through the night on a transcontinental adventure race. An early ride-out through the morning haze. Plummeting through a tunnel on a descent. A pre-work spin in the lanes.
Exotic or everyday, these are all scenarios Métier imagine their jacket or gilet impregnated with LEDs may come in useful.
The new start-up is not the first company to produce cyclewear with built-in illumination. But while other manufacturers have made such garments for commuter and utility cyclists, the Market Harborough based operation are aiming at another sector of the market all together: the high-end, where performance and style are as important as visibility.
Rouleur caught up with co-founder Paul Molyneux to find out more.
Rouleur: So, in a nutshell, tell us about your jackets and gilets.
Paul Molyneux: We’ve developed road cycling wearable technology. There’s LEDs lights integrated into the front and back of the product so you have really good visibility but they’re also really flexible garments in their own right. Fully water repellent and windproof, and also fully washable.
What makes your product really stand out?
It’s completely new. The biggest thing is we’ve been able to get really intense and bright LED lights combined with really long battery life. There’s three settings. On the flashing setting, you get 70 hours of use between charges. And it’s USB chargeable. But the really unique part is the way in which we’ve bonded the lights into the fabric. Aesthetically, it’s really integrarted into the garment.
Who are Métier?
It’s a UK company and there’s three of us. Myself, Chris Carr and Tristan Gilby. Tristan is our designer. Chris has a background in clothing manufacturing. And I was European CEO for Sharp: I have a background in brand development. We’re trying to launch a unique product in a crowded market but we think we have something that makes us stand out.
What brought you together and where did the idea come from?
I did the RAAM [Race Across America] in 2010. In those endurance rides, safety is quite a big issue. The more you ride, the more vulnerable you feel. We’d seen this technology in a slightly different usage and we felt it would be really interesting if we put it into an environment where it could really breathe.
Chris and I have been friends for nearly 30 years and we knew Tristan through shared friends. So we pitched the idea of putting the technology into proper road cycling garments and marketing it to people who appreciate great kit. We started this just over 10 months ago. In my experience of product development, that’s pretty quick.
There have, this year, been some tragic after-dark accidents in ultra-endurance and adventure races. Was that a motivating factor?
If we’ve got a mission it’s that we want to elevate personal visibility. We’re not saying this is going to make you bombproof, but it will make you more visible. We wanted to make it really it simple to use. And that these garments can be integral to every ride. There’s lots of statistics. We know from cars, that headlights-always-on reduces accidents by 25%.
The most dangerous times for riding are when light changes: so dusk and dawn. We’re just wanted something that supported people’s ride. We didn’t want to compromise on quality detail or design, just helping make people like me and you more visible on the road anytime you want to ride. Obviously nighttime is a logical heartland but we think this goes way beyond that.
Who do you think your customers are?
It’s a proper road cycling garment. People who appreciate really good kit and ride a lot, in the city or on country roads. It’s also for people riding in the mountains. It’s light, it packs down. You start in the valley, you get up the mountain and the light is different. We’re thinking of people putting in the miles in autumn, winter or spring. And because the prduct is so breathable you can wear with a baselayer at 4 degrees or at 11-12 degrees. Both pieces of kit are very flexible
Have you faced many technical challenges making these?
We’ve had a few but we saw those as good things because the more you have to overcome, then the higher the barriers to entry. To get the lights bonded into the kit was a massive breakthrough. We had a lovely moment when we were really struggling with that and then found a company that manufacture bonding machines and have a small R&D centre, that was five miles away from where we live. That was pure serendipity. We knew nothing about them, we were facing this huge hurdle and then we were able to find a solution. We had a few moments like that.
You mentioned washability. How simple are these garments to wash?
You have to take the control box out. But you just have to wash on a delicate setting and it comes with its own wash bag. You’ve got the ability to wash it over 50 times. The DWR [durable water repellent] is embedded in the fabric which helps it last a lot longer.
How much has gone into the design aside from the LEDs?
That was a huge part. OK, it’s got this wearble technology but we know that proper cyclists demand a lot from the kit itself. It’s an amazing fully water repellent fabric, water just beads off it. And really breathable and very light itself. The mens jacket is just over 400g, the gilet 280kg. It’s just a really beautifully light material but fully windproof.
It’s designed with a visual pattern on the back which is fully reflective. That’s based on the accent on the E of Métier. We’ve been testing it quite extensively and had a couple of World Tour pros try it out as well. When you’re a young company, that kind of feedback gives you real confidence that you’re doing things right.
It’s just a jacket and gilet you offer right now. Are there any other products in the pipeline?
For now that’s all. But we have men’s and women’s cuts. We think that’s really important to support women’s cycling. Our first aim is to establish the concept. If all goes well, we’ll look at expanding the range in 2018.