As a cyclist, if you’re anything like me you will often find yourself browsing the internet and mulling over which piece of cycling kit should be the next to find its way into your already bulging wardrobe.
In these days of seemingly infinite choice, where online retailers cater for all tastes in material, style, colour, branding, and price, ending up buying something that you’re actually happy with can feel like quite an achievement. It’s never pleasant to spend a sizeable chunk of your hard-earned cash on a new jersey, for example, only to feel that nagging ebb of mild disappointment once you’ve worn it a few times.
Often, it comes down to money.
If you’ve spend £40 on the jersey you’ll probably be prepared to tolerate one or two shortcomings, if you’ve spent £140, less so.
So where is the sweet spot?
What is that piece of kit whose price tag doesn’t cause you guilty sleepless nights, yet you feel delighted with every time you slip it on to head out for a couple of hours of freedom on two wheels?
Does such an item even exist?
Well, it’s a difficult question for someone (like me) to answer on your behalf, because the balance between style, performance, and price is very much a personal thing, but I reviewed the Torm T1 Jersey in July this year and described it as “an awful lot of jersey for £54”.
Having now spent a further three months getting to know it I would go one step further: It’s not for me to say that a Torm Jersey would become your go-to favourite piece of kit, but I will happily make the claim that you will not find a better Jersey for £54.
Having been so impressed with Torm – a small company made up of essentially two blokes from Kent, Paul and Al, who run a bike shop and a clothing label, and apparently find time to ride their bikes too – I got back in touch with them for a little Q&A session to find out what makes them tick, and what the future holds.
If you run a bike shop, and a clothing label, how on earth do you find time to actually ride your bike (and, more to the point, where do you get the energy)?
Paul: Yep, it really is just me and Al and so I guess it’s all about staying deliberately small and deliberately happy, and setting limits on the size of the businesses rather than targets. When we need help we just ask our friends; we generally pay in SportWool or bike repairs or our time to help them with their businesses – we like to keep things local!
Al: We’ve chosen to run the two businesses in a way that allows us to ride frequently. We keep our mileage up by commuting and top up with club runs and touring; most rides are a product test of some kind. If we rode less we would probably be more profitable but we don’t have any loans or investors so it’s our choice.
You are clearly big fans of SportWool – what exactly is it, and what makes it so great?
Paul: I first heard about it at the turn of the century! I had a ‘proper job’ back then – my background is Science so I am always interested in new approaches to solve problems. The SportWool mix of antipodean merino and polyester was just the perfect technical solution using a blend of nature and science.
I know you don’t see many sheep riding a bike, but then again you don’t see many sheep sweating or shivering either!
Al: It’s a hybrid of Merino wool (inside) and polyester (outside). The combination is greater than the sum of its parts. It provides excellent temperature control, maintains its shape and is machine washable, and is naturally anti-bacterial and itch free.
How long has Torm been around, and what does the future hold?
Paul: It’s been nearly 5 years now since Torm started selling jerseys, and this year me and Al are going to do a limited run of a new jersey design to mark the event. Beyond that we just want to ensure that we continue to develop the quality of our products and listen to customers thoughts on colours and designs. I’m very active on the cycling forums so get a lot of great feedback on those.
Oh and a bit of cycle touring!
Al: Since 2010 we’ve grown organically and refined our products since. We remain deliberately small so that we can offer great customer service and continue to ride our bikes.
Any plans to branch out into other areas? Bib-shorts, jackets, etc.?
Paul: No I don’t think so right now. I think it’s all too easy to ‘sell out’ a brand by sticking the logo on cheap, off the shelf imported products and marketing them well. I see it a lot with other companies and I don’t like it, I think you should pay for the quality of the product, not the brand.
Al: Small is beautiful. We’ve just quietly released a ladies range of jerseys which is a big deal for us; we’re really proud of them. We have a little something special planned for our 5th anniversary this autumn; watch the website http://www.torm.cc
On your website, you talk about the practicality of your kit. What are the key features that a practical piece of kit must have?
Paul: Well, I pretty much live in my Torm stuff, and I even sleep in base layers in winter! A friend of mine recently asked me at a BBQ “…do you wear normal clothes anymore!”
So…bags of pockets big enough to fit in cycling paraphernalia and ever increasing mobile phones (it’s got to stop somewhere!), especially if you’re a pocket stuffer who likes clean lines on their bike (I’m not!). Great temperature and ‘aroma’ control, and comfort so that you forget you’re wearing it. If you know you’re wearing it then it’s simply not right.
Al: Of course it must be fit for purpose but that alone is not enough to make it your “go-to” piece of kit; the item that you look for in the wardrobe and are annoyed if you realise it’s still in the wash.
Practicality has a lot to do with this, as does versatility. We are both relatively immune to the funny looks that cyclists get from time to time, but even we would think twice about going to our local in a pro-team skinsuit.
No such issues in Torm kit.
As a confirmed northerner up in here in Lancashire, tell me why I should come down to Kent to ride my bike.
Paul: As a confirmed cyclist I think you should bloody well ride your bike down to Kent!
(Trust me, if I felt I could get away with it I’d be clipping into my pedals in a shot!)
It’s pretty flat round here so you can rest when you get here and it really doesn’t rain much so you can travel light. There are lots of great local beers from small local breweries and if you fancy going continental then it’s only 25 miles to France plus a short cycle into Belgium.
Al: It never ever rains here and remains a comfortable 21 degrees all year round. The roads are perfectly surfaced and there is almost no motor traffic. Those who do venture out in cars are polite and considerate towards cyclists.
Paul: Oh and the kettle is always on at SP Cycles!
So there you have it: in the world of Torm small is beautiful, quality and satisfaction come before profits and targets, and life rolls by under 21 degree year-round sunny skies, on perfect roads with no traffic.
It sounds like these guys might be onto something!