Feature: Andy Storey at Prendas Ciclismo

Almost 20 years ago, Prendas Ciclismo were sponsoring my website Echelon Velo – now two decades on, they are a key partner at VeloUK – we went to Poole to chat to boss Andy Storey

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Feature: Andy Storey at Prendas Ciclismo

Prendas Ciclismo is a very unique company in the cycling world with customers all over the World. Known for their large range of retro clothing which helps old school riders like myself relive the glory days of pro cycling, the company was started by Mick Tarrant, who a few years ago retired and the company changed hands with Andy taking over the reigns.

As Mick was not there to answer the question, hopefully enjoying his retirement, I started by asking Andy, how Prendas came about? “Mick was working at Primera (bike shop, also a supporter of VeloUK) down the road, one of the founders there, and due to some location changes at the time for that store, Mick left and Prendas was born.”

Barney Storey (GB rider), Andy Storey (now boss at Prendas) and Mick Tarrant (Prendas founder), all enjoying some cycle racing at Thruxton ;-)

Andy went on to to explain how he became involved in a company whose brand is part of the fabric of the sport of cycling. “I was a customer and I met Mick when I was racing at Poole track league with Barney (Storey, former Great Britain team rider) and to start with I was just helping out Mick as he was getting some magazine adverts done by a local graphics company. I told him I could that.”

“At the time, it involved a load of to-ing and fro-ing where he’d prepare a lot of copy, they would type it up and then numerous changes would be required when various Spanish words would be spelt incorrectly. I said, ‘I’ll do it’ and if you need a change to something, you can be there as I do it. So he would come to my house, have dinner and normally too much wine, and then we’d do the advert.”

“I guess that was around twice a month and then I did him a website even though he didn’t have a computer then (1997/98). The website was useful because he had many customers in Australia and the frustration for them was Mick would say a new jersey is out now and by the time the customers got their copy of Cyclesport, the jerseys would have sold out. So the website was a brochure-ware thing which was updated once a week and a good way for those international customers to see the latest products before phoning or faxing an order in”.

Mick and Andy at Prendas HQ

As some one who grew up in Australia, reading about the sport three months after a magazine’s publication date, I could very much relate to what Andy was saying. My start in cycling in the 70’s also means I have seen a lot of changes to clothing. In my day, the jerseys were wool or a man made fabric which was flappy but lightweight.

I expected that Andy however, being so much closer to the clothing trade, had seen even more changes in the 15 years he has been in the business. He has after all written a book called ‘The Art of the Jersey: A Celebration of the Cycling Racing Jersey

Asked what the biggest changes have been, he replies “probably the winter kit. There has been lot of advances in things like aero fit (race kit) but ultimately in the 80s, everyone had skinsuits for club time trials where as if you look at the winter clothing from back then, it was terrible. A lot of jackets were sold as windproof but weren’t, bib tights weren’t great either but now you can buy a winter jacket that is wind proof, water resistant, and has zip pockets. So definitely the winter kit has changed the most”.

Retro Clothing Prendas Style
As Prendas Ciclismo seems to be the leading retro clothing supplier in the world, I asked Andy how the retro focus for the company began? “When we first started offering retro jerseys, Peugeot was the first one we did and that came about because Mick was in the Santini boardroom having a meeting and they had a caption under a pic of Sean Yates and the caption said ‘Phil Anderson’. Mick told them of the captioning error but added that he really liked the jersey. It was simple but striking at the same time so he ordered a 100 of them”.

“We now have a really broad range of customers buying retro jerseys. When they were first introduced, it was mainly people who remembered the jersey from many years ago, but now customers buying them do so because of the aesthetics and history behind the logos that sell the jersey”.

“Take for example the Molteni jersey and Eddy Merckx who was bigger than the team itself. You have to question that if Eddy hadn’t ridden for Molteni, would that brown jersey have sold? Whereas the Brooklyn jersey , famous for Roger de Vlaeminck, has a very different aesthetic to the Molteni one and I can see that selling even without Roger having the link he has with it”.

Remembering a countdown on Twitter Prendas had of the top 10 most popular retro jerseys in their catalogue, I was surprised that number 1 was the San Pellegrino jersey. Andy explains why he feels it continues to be so popular.

“The San Pellegrino jersey has been the most purchased jersey in 2017 and 2018” Andy explained. “The thing with this jersey is it’s extremely visible. Most of the archive photographs we have access to are from the 1960’s and are black and white, so there is some artistic licence with the exact hue of orange we use. We did it because wanted a retro jersey associated with the Giro and wanted it to come out in May for that race”.

The Cyclists Cap
The range of clothing for Prendas Ciclismo has certainly grown and extends well beyond that of jerseys that look like the ones from the 50s, 60s, 70s and beyond. So what’s the biggest seller I asked?

Cotton cycling caps is something we are famous for and we have a huge range – well over 100 different designs. That is deliberate because compared to a new jersey or jacket, a cap is cheaper and customers are more likely to take a chance on a cap even if it’s not something they would normally choose to buy. So that is why we have a huge range of caps and we have the multi saver deal as well to help customers save some money when buying multiples”.

The product catalogue at Prendas Ciclismo extends well beyond retro jerseys and caps. Nowadays you can buy a complete set of retro clothing (jersey, shorts, cap etc) including a drinks bottle (bidon)! But what about their non-retro clothing, what’s popular with customers?

“Base layers are under-valued” says Andy. “We specialise in Craft base layers and they have been going since 1973 and so they know what they are doing. They also have a huge range so we don’t stock them all and instead, carefully select the garments that we sell. The good thing about base layers is they are multi-functional because you don’t have to just wear them on the bike but can also use them running, canoeing or what ever else you do”.

A base layer says Andy, is a key in staying warm on a bike. “Staying warm is about a person’s core temperature and the base layer has a big effect on that” he says. “You can have the most expensive winter jacket on in the world but have a cotton t-shirt on underneath and you are going to be wet and uncomfortable for your ride.”

“So if you spend more money on the baser layer and less on the winter jacket and have two different base layers in terms of thickness and warmth it will keep you warmer. A lot of people would benefit from thinking about the base layers they choose to wear”.

Own Brand Products
As an owner of a Prendas Ciclismo branded fleece, and some Prendas branded socks, I’m aware the company also have a large selection of their own branded products besides the aforementioned caps. Andy told me “we now have our own range of accessories including gloves and overshoes and that has been going for over 15 years.”

One of the popular Prendas items is the humble drinks bottle, the bidon. “We don’t sell a lot of things outside of clothing but our range of retro-inspired water bottles is a nice add on so if someone is buying a jersey, it adds to their matching collection. That’s been a nice add on for us as have the waterproof mobile phone cases

Andy himself is still a keen cyclist and was on his bike when I was waiting for him at the shop. Being a cyclist, and having his own products in the clothing range, development of said products is a year on year process. One of the popular own brand products is the cycling glove so I asked how has the Prendas glove evolved in that 15 years?

“People expect more of a glove now” he explained “so there is the reliability of it as no-one wants it falling apart after three months. You want a glove too that is going to grip well on the handlebars especially in the winter.”

“The big improvements came more than five years ago when things like windproof membranes which are really reliable came onto the market. We do tweak things like the palm of the glove has been improved or we’ll tweak the placement of the velcro or for the summer gloves, remove the velcro altogether as the lycra is so stretchy you don’t need the Velcro. This means it’s more comfortable if you have a watch on and you also don’t end with the tan lines of the velcro!”

Advice on choosing gloves I asked Andy?
“When it comes to gloves, it’s important they are not super tight because you need some space for the fingers to move and that way, there is some air in there that is trapped and warms up. Neoprene gloves aside, as they work differently, you do need some wiggle room in your gloves. And if you do have that, you can use a thin liner which is another option.”

“Like we have a Super Roubaix glove which doubles up as an outer glove in the spring and inner glove when it’s super cold.”

The Peugeot sock from Prendas to go with the jerseys, bidon cap and bib shorts

Warm feet
Moving along from one extremity on the body to another, what advice did Andy have on keeping feet warm? “You need decent winter socks for warmth and an overshoe to keep the wind and rain out. Defeet do a fantastic wool sock but I find that they are too thick and that affects the fit of your shoe on the foot. If your shoes are too tight, the feet will go numb and get colder quicker, so you need to have the balance between the thickness of the sock and the thermal insulation of it. Some people will have a size up shoe for the winter.”

“Northwave winter boots are pretty popular with GoreTex on the outside making them perfect for the commute to work and mine are half a size bigger than my usual shoe so I can use a slightly thicker sock if necessary.” More here on the Prendas sock collection…

Orders processed and heading out to customers the morning I did the interview with Andy … 

Why has Prendas Ciclismo Been So Successful?
After two decades in the business and still going strong with an ever expanding product range, what does Andy feel the reason is for Prendas Ciclismo having that success? He replied “we try and sell things that not everyone else does otherwise it would be a race to the bottom”.

“We also only sell things we are happy to use ourselves and that authenticity hopefully comes across. So we won’t launch a new bib short at 300 quid that none of us would spend our own cash on. That’s something that’s often forgotten when magazines and websites write review of items. None of those reviewers have had to buy any of the items they are reviewing, so that sense of value for money is lost in my opinion.”

“A bit of honesty goes a long way too so if we have screwed up and sent some one the wrong thing, you do the right thing by the customer”.

Andy’s favourites

The retro jersey
The Brooklyn. It’s really striking and I was lucky enough to ride with Roger De Vlaeminck on a couple of occasions. It was a like a sportive before they were invented and a guy John Marshman who was another partner at Primera Sports (bike shop) a long time ago. John had some way out ideas when it came to events and he had this Roger De Vlaeminck ride which cost a fiver when most club reliability trials were probably only 50p at the time. None of us believed that Roger De Vlaeminck was going to be there but for a fiver it was worth a punt. He did turn up which was amazing and the way he looked on a bike was incredible”.

Andy wearing his favourite retro jersey and holding his book!

The Cap
“I tend to favour a Prendas branded one as they tend to be bold yet simpler. Saying that, my current favourite is our recently launched Space Invaders inspired design

The socks
“The Prendas Winter socks. The design has been the same for ten years. It’s just a pair of socks and thousands sell every winter. I will always sell out of one size no matter how hard we try and the large is the most popular size with customers all over the world”

The glove
“The Super Roubiax – it is not a winter glove, but after you have been using heavy and sometime thick winter gloves all winter, and on the first ride you can put a lighter glove on, for me it says you’re coming out of winter and that is to be celebrated wearing the Super Roubaix

My thanks to Andy for the chat – check out the extensive product collection for Prendas Ciclismo here ….

 

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