For a lot of cyclists the Sunday club run is their first introduction into the world of cycling. A vital ingredient of that club run is the almost obligatory café stop. The Sunday club run and the café stop go hand in hand; you can’t have one without the other. It’s in the club cyclists DNA, etched in their culture and it’s where friendships are forged and relationships built. Every cycling club has its favourite haunts and one of the most popular stops for the Weaver Valley Cycling Club, of which we were members, was the café at Prees, Shropshire.
With the club being based in Northwich, Cheshire, there are great options of where to cycle. Head East and there is the Peak District with its tough cyclists and even tougher climbs. Head West and North Wales awaits, arguably one of the loveliest areas to ride a bike with climbs to match anywhere in Britain. Ride south though and you have the beautiful and tranquil Cheshire and Shropshire lanes. If the weather is bad or the runs leader that day just doesn’t fancy the hills, then Prees is a great option.
Apart from a good half way point stop. the café doesn’t offer a great deal more. This is no Cotswold tearoom. There is no rear garden, no hanging baskets and no waitress service. More a transport café situated on the edge of a busy main road. It attracts more motor bikers and coach trip pensioners than cyclist. They look on with bewilderment as the raggle taggle groups of often cold, wet cyclists shuffle in. Cleats tapping on the floor with hunger in their eyes. Hunger that only Beans on toast, or for the renegades amongst them, cheese on toast, could possibly satisfy.
It was on one wintery Sunday club run in 1992, whilst sat over a pint of tea and the forementioned beans on toast that I met my long standing friend, team mate and now business partner Hans van Nierop. It transpired that we lived in adjacent villages, attending the same college and even used the same cycling coach, the much respected Harold ‘H’ Nelson from Manchester. Hans talked of his plans that when he’d finished his college course in the summer he was going to race in France. Within that brief conversation an invitation had been offered and hurriedly accepted of the chance to join him at his family holiday home in the Languedoc-Roussillon town of Narbonne in South West France.
Since that chance encounter on a wet and windy club run we have raced many seasons together in France, snowboarded the winters away in the Alps and are now running a very young but ambitious cycle clothing company.
It was though through a French team mate that the concept of producing quality cycle clothing, manufactured in Europe arose. Nicholas Guerin and I raced for the Velo Club Figeac in the Lot Valley in South West France where I was residing at the time. Nicholas already had a cycle retail business and had several years’ experience working within cycle clothing manufacturing. He had built up a solid reputation, not only in France but had gained contracts in Germany, USA and Taiwan.
I had done some translating for his website and helped out in Skype meetings with his English speaking clients. In return he would supply me with cycle clothing to train in. The quality of this kit always felt superior to our regular team issue clothing. It was from here we decided to launch our own line of clothing in the UK.
Hans and I were still actively involved in cycling. Hans was a long standing member of the Welland Valley CC in Leicestershire, raced competitively in all disciplines of cycling and supported his children in their involvements in the sport. I was still racing in France where I lived and also worked as a bike guide in the Alps for several months of the summer. This combined passion led us to create Vanelli Cycling here in the UK.
There are two aspects to our company. Firstly, we have the Vanelli collection which is an ever changing, limited edition series of cycle clothing. Vanelli offer a range of cycling clothes for all weathers and conditions in what we believe to be stylish but discreet designs. To compliment the Vanelli collection we also produce custom cycle and triathlon clothing. Working with clubs, teams, charity ride organisers etc. we offer a complete range of quality men’s, women’s and children’s kit, all at extremely competitive prices. We offer a full winter thermal range, summer shorts and jerseys as well as an aero range of lightweight racing kit comprising jersey, shorts and aero race gloves.
Our business is 100% European. We road test the kit in three locations: UK, French Alps and southern Spain. With the often extreme cold of the Alps in winter, the Southern Spanish heat and the general uncertainty of the British climate we can really put the products through their paces. The vital ingredient with this is that every member of the Vanelli team are cyclists and that they ride in our product, whether it be a French road race, a 6 hr ride in Spain or a British club run, rider feedback is critical.
Our fabrics are Italian as are the inks we use and the manufacturing is in Eastern Europe, arguably some of the leading cycle clothing producers in the world.
We have endeavoured to keep our ordering process as straight forward as possible. All our prices are displayed on our website and the prices quoted are the final price paid. There are no hidden charges and no excessive postage costs.
We will discuss the initial client request to find out what best fits their requirements. We have a sample kit which we will send out to clients. With this, the client can see and feel not only the quality of the product but get a perfect idea on the sizing. No amount of sizing charts or online technical detail can surpass holding a jersey, feeling the quality of the fabric or the density of our chamois in our bib shorts.
The next stage is to discuss product design. The client is free to send us their own ideas and concepts and we will happily work with that. We will also offer suggestions and feedback if we feel it will enhance their final design.
The process of design can take from one hour to one week depending on the clients wishes. Only when the client has authorised the final design to go to production will we take a 50% deposit to secure the order. There are no charges for our design work which is done between our UK and French teams.
The final balance payment will be requested once the finished article is ready to be shipped from the factory.
After a year of planning and road testing the clothing, our big moment came at the brands launch at the NEC Cycle Show. Although Nicholas was the youngest of our team, he is a veteran of the worlds’ cycle shows. Having worked previously at Eurobike, Paris and numerous others he took the whole experience in his Gallic stride. The fact that he had only arrived the previous evening from the Las Vegas bike show after missing his flight, made little difference, he seemed most unperturbed by it all. Hans and I on the other hand were completely the opposite. We changed the stand several times as uncertainty over what looked best. We squabbled; nit- picked and even traded vicious blows. Ok maybe not the latter but you get the picture!
It was a most successful weekend though. We secured several big orders, sold plenty of the Vanelli collection and, more importantly, received very positive feedback from some of our peers. Will we be back next year? Bloody right we will!