Our Sommet Cycling 2017 kit is now available to pre-order.
We took the plunge on Nick’s design for the 2017 kit recently. We popped aside the numbers needed for the trips and then went about shooting a few to try and flog some to the eager punters out there…yourselves (email Nick to get on the pre-order for the next lot…).
Best laid plans, the kit just about sold out before we even shot the damn stuff. Word of mouth got it flying out but we still got out and shot some stuff, although it was more an abridged shoot before a ride or hijacking a ride.
We had dreamy Ramon fondling Christian’s Speedvagen (while he awaits his own hand built, but titanium, dream bike to arrive – this month!!) and playing air wheel on his very own Enve’s for said build. And we had the Swedish masseuse, Therese, riding up and down Rocacorba in preparation for some daft Everesting challenge. I was happy to be in the car shooting on that one, and hanging off the gliding platform and giving the ‘models’ heart attacks. All part of the job.
We like people who take risks as you know. Calculated risks, seeking to improve on an existing way of life, or existing product. Look at our friends at La Fabrica Girona, Amber and Christian who didn’t just use Girona as a pro season base, they moved to Girona and made it home, and their future.
Look at the Meo’s of Rocket Espresso who left behind New Zealand, moved to Italy and established Rocket as the go to home espresso machine. Especially for cyclists!
And our friend Luigi Bergamo of Q36.5 Absolutely Equipment in Bolzano. He has worked, or rather led, one of the leading technological cycling kit manufacturers for many a year. Yet he felt he could do it better. Felt he wanted to do it better, independently. And so he moved back to his home, and his original cycling club’s home, in Bolzano and gave birth to Q36.5.
We visited the studio, or laboratory, in Bolzano on the end of our Dolomites trip recently. Nick had met Luigi before, whilst I had only spoken on email. He was as nice as Nick had said and I imagined from emails. Friendly, affable, generous (dinner was great, best pizza I have had) and knowledgeable and passionate beyond belief about cycling clothing, his products and brand.
The focus of Q36.5 (Q – quaerere; Italian for research. 36.5 – the temperature of a healthy body) is technical perfection in cycling clothing. To maintain that healthy core body temperature, whatever the weather and exertion, throughout the ride. They still have some cool designs, but it’s not a case of pretty first, then whatever fabrics after. Performance leads, and good looking design is then applied. The devil is in the detail, the research and the collaboration with the best Italian fabric producers.
Details like the use of silver thread to help distribute heat through it’s high conductivity and chase that stable temperature. And collaborating, for example, with an Italian brand, world famous for manufacturing the finest handbags, to fine tune their wallet (Smart Protector). All the little things add up to the best kit we have used.
But we knew that. We haven’t made a secret of our thoughts on that. Visiting the lab only added to that thought, but also made me realise that Luigi is not too different from the sort of people we are drawn to. He was as happy to talk about our dreams and about his happiness at being back in Bolzano. The orange details scattered through his collection are from the orange of his original Bolzano cycling kit, which is framed and hangs on the lab wall. As happy to talk about coffee and pizza and our trip to the Dolomites. And, that priceless value, happy to give us time, not rush, and just talk, as friends. Again, it was us who had to peel away, reluctantly, after a lazy afternoon – and dinner, well fed with that pizza.
We use Q36.5 for many reasons. It’s the best. But also, Luigi is a damn fine guy, who does things with passion, the right way.
On the way to the Dolomites cycling trip in July (our long read here) we made the most of our time in Italy by visiting Rocket Espresso, on the edge of Milan. Our hosts, Nicky and Andrew Meo – the driving forces and owners of Rocket – opened their factory doors, showed us around and took us for lunch. If Nick and I didn’t have the Dolomites on the horizon, we may never have left.
One of the things I admire in people is risk taking, a leap of faith in life. Think of those who we look at and say, “you’re so lucky!” and often behind that vision is a big decision, a sacrifice, that leap of faith. Nicky and Andrew left a financially comfortable and successful food and coffee business based lifestyle behind in New Zealand and chose a new path; followed their hearts and dreams of oft said ideas to change their lives, and upped and moved to Italy.
In New Zealand, their story was the successful Wellington restaurant, Pravda and roasting house, The Immigrant’s Son and – in as much as there is in such a line of work – a good guarantee of success and income. But restaurant life compromises family life, and there were those dreamlike thoughts of going to Italy. The stars perhaps aligned, right timing, an opportunity, the right connections but then they still had to do it. And so, in 2007, plans were made to take over (with friend and colleague Jeff Kennedy) the struggling Italian firm ECM – parent company of Rocket – and moved the family across the globe.
Condensing 9 years does an injustice to the hard work ironing out operational issues, filling long standing back orders from ECM, aligning and an invaluable partnering with Daniele Berenburch (the son of ECM co-founder), bringing in a bit of Kiwi cultural approaches and re-marketing, re-naming and modernising the whole brand. But therein, plus more, is the overnight success. A 9 year overnight success.
That Kiwi culture has brought open plan offices and open door policies and a new world coffee culture. Melding that with the traditional Italian manufacturing excellence and pride and its own long coffee history of repute has been part of the change and challenge at Rocket.
That crisp clean, bright and relaxed, open plan office area lie within Rocket’s understated factory – from the outside, just another of Milan’s understated factories. On into the Rocket factory itself, even when we were there in a quiet period, there is a gentle hum of organised activity; again, a bright and relaxed environment. I guess that management adage about setting an example from the top rings true. Organised, yet relaxed. And above the factory space is an in house R&D area – itself developing and growing – and a maintenance area; these keep aim to keep them ahead of the game and on top of the existing products.
Most who know of Rocket, know they are tied closely to cycling. My friend Christian Meier, of La Fabrica Girona and Espresso Mafia (see our special October trip), through whom I was introduced to Andrew, is the Spanish dealer for Rocket and it seems the majority of the pro peloton has a Rocket…well, you are faster with a Rocket in your kitchen #fact. Andrew still races his bike, and son – Felix – races in the younger ranks. Indeed Rocket supports various youth riders around the world. I am not sure who is the stronger cyclist of the two, though, Andrew, a self confessed jack of all trades, is probably losing the Italian language race though. Dealing with overseas clients largely (Rocket is a predominantly export firm; Germany, UK and Australasia strong markets), he has a ready made excuse. Nicky is perhaps better, while Felix, practically fluent, is at the head of this New Zealand escape group. Together, clearly, a formidable team.
I am all for taking risks and chasing a change of direction. It’s nice to know that, when I save up for a Rocket, I will know it’s a machine built on dreams, on a risk and on a philosophy of doing things the right way. Life is worth taking risks, Rocket Espresso is a success story as proof.