Yanto Barker’s Le Col Cycle Clothing
Little did I think when waiting in the drizzle for the cyclists to appear and cycle up a steep hill of cobblestones towards the end of a race – and being amazed at the speed of Yanto Barker going up the hill faster than I would have been able (or dared!) to go down it, that writing for SpyCycle would get me to be able to interview this legend of cycling.
The reason behind the interview is that Yanto (am I really allowed to call him by his first name?) has used his years at the top of cycling to produce a range of cycle clothing.
These are the best questions I could come up with when I was in awe of “the man”.
What inspired you to come out with your own range of cycling clothing?
As a pro cyclist I was conscious that all riders’ careers were pretty short and that I needed to look at doing something that ‘I knew a bit about’ once I retired. I was always naturally obsessive about performance and continuous improvement and that stretched across all elements of my cycling including the kit. After spending thousands of hours in the saddle I was confident that I could improve the products on the market. It was easier to make something better back then when I started developing the ideas and samples in 2009, now you have to work very hard to lead the industry in technical innovations which is always my goal. I also like to challenge my team at Le Col to come up with ideas and processes that are better than other brands. First and foremost, I am an athlete and I compete in almost everything I do.
There are quite a few brands of cycling clothing out there. Are you saying that there’s something wrong with them if you add another range?
Well, I half-answered that in your first question. The cycling industry has evolved very quickly in this country and in the English-speaking countries around the world. When I started Le Col, it was about making something that wasn’t all that good much better, now it’s a competition to keep innovating above and beyond what other brands can do. This is a competitive technical sport, that means innovations make it possible to perform better. It’s my aim to create the best technical clothing in the world that also look smart and stylish. Now, I don’t want to make something better, I want to make it the best! This obviously evolves, in clothing there are no patents, anyone can copy you, so you have to keep moving forward. Continuous improvement is at the heart of all our design decisions. Thousands of hours of testing and consideration have gone into every item, and no detail is ever too small. Everything we do improves on what has gone before – informed by rider experience, market research, and technical development. In the end, ground-breaking innovations benefit the whole cycling industry as they are adopted by other brands. I see my job as making competitive cyclists go faster and recreational cyclist feel the benefit in performance and comfort.
I remember seeing you cycle up a hill of wet cobbles faster than I could cycle down it. Will your clothing help me to get faster on my bike? (That produced a grin.)
Well yes, it supports a sequence of things that helps you make big steps forward. You feel more comfortable on your bike at the right temperature with the right fit, you make good progress if there is less irritation, and you start to see gains that make you excited about the hard work paying off, making you more motivated to continue as you get good results for your efforts, with less setbacks. It’s a spiral of success that starts with what you wear. (Another grin.)
Did you prioritise technology in your materials choices over design or are good looks as important?
It is technology first and looking good a very close second. It was a strategic decision because technical is never out of date, and means our products that are designed classically have a longer shelf life. For example, our waterproof Aqua Zero technology is going to support the rider during those unpleasant wet rides, no matter if it’s in 2017 or five years down the pipeline – the road will always be wet and so we’ll always be looking to tackle this with cutting-edge technology time and time again.
And do you feel you have a good blend of functionality combined with an attractive look?
Technical perfection in the saddle does not have to be compromised in order to deliver aesthetic style.
Yes, technical perfection in the saddle does not have to be compromised in order to deliver aesthetic style. We want our riders to look good and feel good. Ultimately aesthetics is very subjective and you’ll never please everyone all the time but functionally better performing kit ‘IS’ better for everyone all the time.
What do you think are the strongest “USPs” for your range? What are the reasons for cyclists to choose your brand?
We have a number of USPs for the products and a number for the brand. Product; Aerodynamic fit & function, Innovative advanced designs including Kevlar and other protective features, as well as 4-way stretch fabrics for performance and look, all manufactured to the very highest quality in our Italian factory in Treviso. We believe, for example, that our HC Winter Jacket is the most technical & top performing Jacket available on the market. Brand; a British company founded, started and run by a real pro cyclist, Le Col is a premium cycling apparel brand with an obsessive desire for perfection and performance that’s been built & developed from within the pro-peloton.
Who are you aiming at? Is the line for young cyclists who might be the Yanto Barkers of the future, and where do those of us, who could only ever dream of your cycling achievements, fit in?
We are very much aiming at anyone who takes their cycling seriously or will be doing rides above 30miles (if you wear the wrong kit over that distance it will be very uncomfortable) and cyclists who appreciate quality. It is for people who are looking for a product that has proven it will go as far and as fast as you can take it; it has been tested to the limits of human endeavour and has delivered every pedal stroke along the way. You don’t need to go that far, but Le Col will look after you all the way if you do. I prove the product with the elite, by supporting good riders and pro teams as well as young youth level grass roots riders, who are trying to achieve their potential.
Yanto, thanks for the interview. The cycling world obviously believes in what you are doing, with over £1.1 million in crowdfunding support. Good luck with your venture.
Details of the Le Col cycling clothing range are available online.