The Attacus Cycling Interview

Jimmy and Emily from Attacus Cycling

The most important thing in cycling, the bit that will make you want to ride your bike over and over again isn’t the lightest bike, the latest chi chi bit of equipment or a fancy electronic gearset. The thing that will keep you coming back for more is actually what you are wearing when you ride that bike. If you are uncomfortable, end up sore in unmentionable places and have to stop early because what you are wearing is poorly designed for the job you are not going to be enthusiastic about ridng and reluctant to throw a leg over that bike again.

Not all cycle clothing is the same, some is manufactured in far off places by huge corporations but some brands you should look at are totally independent, you can message them and get the actual designer to answer your questions and give you advice. One such company I’ve heard great things about is Attacus Cycling. I shot some questions over to Emily and Jimmy the owners of Attacus to see what their clothing brand was all about.

Emily Childs is Co-founder and Managing Director at Attacus, here’s what she had to say

Is there a story behind the name Attacus, who is Attacus cycling?

Attacus is an online cycling clothing brand founded by myself and my partner Jimmi. We’re both cyclists and we started Attacus back in 2016 from our kitchen table, mainly because we wanted cycling clothing for ourselves and we just couldn’t find what we were looking for. 

At the time there were a lot less indie kit brands around and the option seemed to be either pay an eye-watering amount for really high quality kit or get cheaper stuff which didn’t really fit well or function the way we wanted it to. So we started designing our own with the aim of creating well-thought-out, great fitting pieces that could stand shoulder to shoulder with the most comfortable on the market but didn’t cost quite as much.

The name Attacus actually came about because Jimmi has always had a fascination with the natural world – particularly moths. The word Attacus is a name of a genus of moths, the most well-known of which is probably the Attacus Atlas or Atlas moth. It’s a huge, really beautiful moth with a striped body and wing tips that look like snake heads in order to scare off prey. Our logo is actually a single line illustration interpretation of the Atlas moth and we used the striped body as the inspiration for one of our very first kit designs.

Have you always been in the north east?

No! I’m from the North East originally but we actually set up the brand in London. We moved back to the North East in 2019 and have been here ever since. 

#norulesjustride is fully supported by ukgravelco!

I love your no rules, just ride ethos and I try to promote this on UKGRAVELCO, how do you promote this and encourage more people to get out on a bike?

Awesome, love that! For us the key has always been promoting the idea that anyone can be a cyclist. Particularly in the road cycling space, there can be this sense of elitism about what a ‘proper’ cyclist should do and look like, and by nature that sort of mentality is always going to be exclusionary. It’s intimidating as an outsider new to the sport!

With Attacus, we really set out to build a community that was an antidote to that – a welcoming space for like minded cyclists from all walks of life to indulge in their shared interest. No matter what you look like or what bike you ride, we wanted to create a space without judgement that was open to all. A “leave your egos at the door” kind of vibe. We call that community the Attacus Cycle Squad. The Attacus Cycle Squad badge has adorned many of our kit designs ever since our brand’s inception. It serves as a reminder of our ‘cycling for all’ ethos.

We also do a lot of work to help promote women’s cycling and inspire more women to ride bikes, most notably through our work with the InternationElles – who most notably rode the entire Tour de France in 2019 a day ahead of the male pros to campaign for equality in cycling. 

How many bikes is too many?

I know most people say N+1, but I think in reality the perfect number is the most you can get away with before it causes a proper argument with whoever you live with! We’re a household of cyclists, which makes things even trickier to negotiate as it’s double the amount. We make it work though… just about.

I’ve heard great things said about your kit but I’ve never tried it myself, what makes it so good and why should I buy it instead of another brand?

I’m glad! I think the thing that hooks people in is not only the quality, but also the value they’re getting for the product they receive. Something we’ve always focused on is delivering really high quality products at competitive prices. We’re absolutely not the cheapest brand out there and we’re not trying to be. We’re very much at the higher end of mid-range in terms of our pricing, but the aim has always been to create products that comfortably stand shoulder to shoulder with the most premium on offer in terms of fit, fabrics and comfort. And the feedback is that we do this really well.

Really we’re targeting customers that are happy spending £180-£200 on a pair of bib shorts and probably already have, then they buy ours and realise they can have the same comfort for £100. 

That business model completely relies on making great products. And for us the key to designing good products is identifying the key areas where quality makes the biggest difference to fit, feel and comfort – the fabrics, the construction and tailoring, the chamois pads for example – and stripping away any other unnecessary bits that drive up cost needlessly. 

We don’t sell to shops. Instead we only sell direct to our customers via our website. We also carry low stock runs on many of our products and do pretty much everything in-house with our team of three – from building the website and doing all of the product photography to sending out orders. In fact the only thing we don’t do is physically make the clothing – this is done by our supplier in Italy whom we work really closely with. But these strategies mean we don’t have to over inflate our product margins. So we don’t. Instead we price products appropriately based on their quality and cost to us, and pass those savings directly to our customers.

Watts or Beers?

I’m not particularly interested either! I barely even ride with a head unit these days.

One of the most frequent messages I get when reviewing kit is from female riders via the website and social media about the lack of choice of female specific kit and that the kit that is available is poorly designed. I know Attacus have a female specific range but how do you think the cycling industry can improve this?

Hire more women for a start! I think because we set up the business as a 50/50 female and male partnership and set out primarily to make kit for ourselves, we’ve always prioritised the women’s product range with the exact same importance we give our men’s. Whenever we’re creating a new garment, we individually consider the construction from a male and female perspective and design them accordingly. The development of the men’s and women’s versions happen parallelly, and they both receive the same amount of care and attention. The idea is to keep the overall look of the products similar, but the construction and chamois pads are always individually tailored.

For our women’s garments that meant taking the bust, waist, hip and height measurements from a cross section of real riders to find commonalities in fit. We then used our findings to carefully develop sizing models uniquely tailored for women. We then test the garments with a variety of riders before eventually putting them into production. We have a similar process for our men’s product development too, but the consideration given to each range is equal.

We always set out with the stance that we’d offer the same colours and designs across both ranges, because personally I hated having a smaller selection to choose from or seeing a colour/design I like wasn’t available in the women’s range. 

People form brand loyalty by feeling they’re being listened to and catered for properly. If, as a business, catering for women is an afterthought or burden, then it’s going to come across. If you want to appeal to female cyclists, you have to commit to making them a priority too and make sure that oozes from every part of your business – from the products you make and the imagery on your website to the ambassadors you support and the marketing activities you do. Otherwise why should they bother giving you their money?

“adventure cycling” is the current thing, I see you have shirts and cargo shorts in your range will you be expanding this to go along side the traditional lycra jersey and shorts?

Yeah, the idea behind our Adventure range was to create a kind of ‘eco-system’ of products that all work together and enable a different approach to cycling. So whereas road cycling style traditionally focuses more around a classic, often tight-fitting jersey with back pockets to carry your stuff, we wanted to base this collection around loose fitting, technical tee type jerseys and shirts that offer more physical freedom and just feel a bit more casual with bar bags, tool rolls and cargo shorts that allowed you to carry stuff. 

I think a baggy short would make a good addition, it’s certainly on the ‘to be developed’ list.

What is your perfect ride?

We live in County Durham on the edge of the North Pennines and it’s honestly a dream to ride there. There’s road and gravel options, it’s quiet and the views are great. I’d say any ride around there, a comfortable 60-80km with a nice spot to each lunch.

I get a lot of questions about sizing from readers, mostly because they have ordered a certain Italian brands clothing in the size they normally take and are shocked how small they come up. I see Attacus kit is made in Italy, how is your sizing?

Although we manufacture in Italy, we’ve developed all of our garment models ourselves so there’s no real Italian influence in terms of sizing. 

One of the most common things we hear from cyclists is that they don’t have a ‘typical cyclist’ physique. And what they mean by that is that they don’t look like the professionals they see on TV or the images depicted in most cycling advertising. But the truth is that this apparently ‘typical’ cyclist look makes up such a tiny percentage of people who ride bikes, and we’ve always thought clothing sizing should reflect that. 

It’s also why we really don’t focus that much on racing or performance, because although racing is given lots of coverage, in reality that’s not how most people ride bikes. The key for us has always been about comfort. That’s what most cyclists care about when looking for clothing to ride in and sizing absolutely plays a part in that.

The caveat here is that sizing is always a difficult one to give people advice on because a lot of it comes down to personal preference – some people feel comfortable in tight fitting lycra and others don’t so there’s always room for interpretation. What we’ve tried to do is make our sizing realistic and build detailed size charts that are reliable. We’ve also built a database of of different cyclists who already ride in our kit and who have agreed for us to measure them up and record what sizes they wear to help us give better recommendations and I’d say this is probably our most effective tool when it comes to giving sizing advice.

What is the ideal material for riding in?

That really depends on a couple of factors: the weather conditions you’re riding in, the effort you’re exerting, the length of the ride and how susceptible the individual is to feeling hot or cold. You’re usually always looking for something with stretch and breathability that can handle being worn and washed frequently, but fabric weight and other special properties like thermal or waterproofing really comes down to the individual and the riding conditions.

The key is picking the right garment/garments for the ride you’re doing.

Beans on toast, with cheese or without?

With cheese.

For a beginner to gravel bike riding, what would you say were the basic items of clothing they need in their wardrobe  for riding typical UK weather?

At a minimum, we’d always recommend a good quality padded short if you’re considering spending a while on your bike. And, depending on the weather, a lightweight wind/waterproof jacket. Everything else really comes down to preference. The more time you spend on the bike, the more you start to learn what things you need (e.g. more pocket space, different layers etc).

I do think that the key to riding in the UK is layering, as this allows you to adapt your temperature and level of cover according to conditions at the time. But honestly, you don’t need to over complicate it at first, keep things simple and you’ll learn through trial and error what pieces of kit are right for you as you discover what types of rides you enjoy doing.

You plant trees for every order received, how does this work, is there a giant Attacus tree nursery?

Yeah so we plant a tree for every order, plus if you spent over £50, you can choose either a free eco-friendly wash bag with filters fibres and helps preserve the life of your kit or you can choose to plant an extra 4 trees instead.

We’re partnered with an organisation called Eden Reforestation Projects, who work to restore healthy forests and reduce extreme poverty around the world by hiring local villagers to plant millions of trees each year. Each tree has a cost associated with its planting and we donate the equivalent money each quarter. Last year we planted the equivalent of 7011 trees.

With the UCI now sanctioning Gravel Bike racing and sponsors waking up to the genre, how do you think the cycling scene in the UK will evolve?

The gravel scene is growing massively and I think over the next decade we’ll start to see the trickle down effect of that as more traditional roadies venture into off-roading. Right now the road scene is still far more dominant and cycling style is still obsessed with this need to be aero – aggressive geometry, light aero bikes and tight lycra. A lot of that comes from the pro effect rather than customer necessity. 

As the gravel space becomes more established, it’d be great to see more relaxed bike geometry and relaxed, casual-looking clothing and bag-laden bikes become part of wider cycling style rather than being an off-road niche. 

Credit card touring or tarp in a cow field?

I’ve done both and can honestly say credit card touring is 1000% more enjoyable. I can honestly say I’ve never had a good night’s sleep in a field under the stars and the following days always feel like an uncomfortable slog. Caffeine doesn’t really agree with me so I try to avoid it which probably doesn’t help, so a good night’s sleep is essential to me achieving anything productive the next day. I totally believe the saying ‘suffering is a choice’, because hobbies are meant to be fun, right? So you have to do what makes you happy. If that’s kipping in a field, do it, and if it’s not, don’t!

If everything goes to plan, what will Attacus be like in 5 years? 

Wherever Attacus is in the next 5 years, I hope at its core it’s very much the same business – making fantastic products that consistently exceed expectations and centred around customers and community.

Massive thanks to Emily for taking the time to answer my questions, I hope it’s given you an insight into how an independent clothing brand works and how they stand above the “big names” for commitment to their customers via design and after sales

pop up shop in action

you can find more on the Attacus Cycling website and you can even visit them, they are usually online only, as they have had a series of pop up shop events and if you are quick the latest one is 30/7/22, details here, pop up shop

Currently Attacks are having a 30% off everything sale, check out the link above for details

all photos, credit attacus cycling

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