You can’t help but notice the weather when you're on your bike. It is quite literally in your face, every ray, drop and gust of it.
An intimate relationship with the elements such as this makes cyclists acutely aware of climate change. We know from first-hand experience that conditions are becoming more extreme with every day.
This puts cycling apparel brands in a tricky situation, because the very clothes they produce to protect cyclists from the elements are in themselves contributing to climate change.
Simply by being an apparel manufacturer, they are part of the second-biggest polluting industry on the planet, second only to oil and gas. If you’re environmentally-aware, this should make you uncomfortable.
We have choices here. As brands we could ignore this and carry on regardless, manufacturing products without so much as a nod to what’s happening around us.
At the other extreme, we could shut down altogether, take one for the planet, so to speak, and sink into oblivion.
At Velobici we prefer a third option. We will continue to produce the most luxurious cycle clothing in the world and we will do everything we can to mitigate damage to the environment. In doing this, we hope to become part of the solution, rather than the problem. Our well-considered environmental damage limitation measures will act as a template for those who wish to follow a similar path.
It’s worth mentioning here that we don’t profess to hold any of the answers to combating global warming. We’re not going to rock the scientific world with something it hasn’t already thought of. What we are doing might be considered obvious, and it certainly isn’t rocket science.
In the world of cycling it could be equated to marginal gains, the now ubiquitous process of making tiny adjustments to a pro cycling team’s daily routine that combined to make notable improvements in performance.
This theory was developed by Dave Brailsford around 2011 and employed by him to much success with Team GB and Team Sky. These measures included taking the riders’ personal mattresses on grand tours to ensure they had a good night’s sleep after every stage.
Velobici has taken the theory of marginal gains and applied it to its production process. To help us minimise our carbon footprint, we have introduced recycling bins to the factory floor, use recyclable cardboard packaging for orders and use a carbon-neutral courier. Under the Trees For Life initiative, for every 10kg of packaging we use, we plant a tree.
It doesn’t stop there. We’re in the process of relocating to a new factory, just up the road from our present location in Leicestershire, from where we manufacture all of our garments. This new premises will be entirely powered by sustainable energy and could even allow us to pump any surplus energy we generate back into the grid.
Manufacturing our products in a single factory in England also helps us reduce our carbon footprint. Unlike some manufacturers, we don’t ship our garments to finishers on different continents, an incredibly polluting practice.
To ensure we’re being as responsible as possible with our garments, we’ve initiated an audit of our materials library using the industry-recognised Higgs Index to begin to gauge the sustainability of our fabrics. Our ultimate aim is for every material we use to be Blue Sign and Oeko Tex certified and to work with factories that produce recycled and eco-friendly materials.
At the same time we need to balance the quality of the garment with its eco-credentials, because we see it as counter intuitive to produce an entirely recycled garment if it falls apart after a few outings. The most sustainable garment has to be one that will last for years, so the wearer doesn’t find it necessary to make another purchase.
All this might appear to be a questionable policy for a company that’s in the business of selling products, but the way we see it, if our planet becomes too hostile for riding, we aren’t going to sell anything anyway.
We’re under no illusion that all this makes us a sustainable company, but we know we’re doing what we can, and most importantly, we’re actively seeking ways to do more. If we can inspire even one of our competitors to do the same, we’ve gone a bit further along the road of making a difference.