You might have heard this before, but the Paria ethos has always centred on collaboration and inclusion. The brand was born from perceiving a prevailing air of exclusivity in the world of cycling clubs and teams which permeated into all corners of Velo based culture - including apparel. We set out to turn this on it's head with a "don't be a dick attitude" combined with a desire to build a community for people who just felt ostracised from the more traditional cycling teams.
What has become clear since we formed Paria is there are actually quite a few of us out in the world. People who want to ride their bikes, feel good and not to feel like they are being judged every time they put their pedals down.
We had built a club for people who didn't feel they belonged in a club.
Fast forward to 2020 and the COVID pandemic. The rules of engagement have changed for cycling under lock down. Cycling clubs can no longer operate how they have done since time began, so how do new cycling collectives build their teams and get out there?
Outlands formed in lock down, so the team are perfectly placed to see what cycling looks like under the new normal.
Q. How did you guys start?
A. To begin with, there were three of us who enjoyed cycling individually, but we all felt like we wanted to take it a bit more seriously, improving our fitness and have a positive impact on our mental health. We ended up out riding together a couple of times and really enjoyed it. Soon a 4th lad, Paul, started coming along too. We didn’t think it would ever be more than a few of us wearing the same kit, riding to a cafe for a coffee and a slice. We certainly didn’t plan to be running a club!
Q. Why didn’t you join an existing club?
A. We started the Outlands project because we wanted to do things our own way, be more inclusive, so really anyone could turn up and ride. We had found other clubs to be old school and a bit of a closed shop when it came to new riders, it felt a bit too formal. Riding a bike and being with mates should be a fun thing to do. Being worried that you were doing things correctly took some of that away.
We also wanted to design our own kit, something that looked a bit different from the usual cycling club stuff you see which we found could be a bit boring. We just wanted to be true to ourselves.
On top of the team ethics we wanted to plan our own things. In 2020 we organised a charity C2C ride and raised £1300.
Q. How did you manage to grow the club during a pandemic?
A. In some ways we were quite lucky that we started out pre covid and got some interest from people who wanted to get out and ride. Then with the way the lockdowns happened, we were actually able to get out and ride in small groups through most of last summer. People started to notice us on Instagram and Strava too which helped spread the word in the North East.
We managed to get some sponsors early doors which gave us some coverage locally, we piggy backed their communities to find cyclists who would be interested. Sponsors included a Barber Shop, a Plumbing and Heating contractor, an Estate Agent and of course a coffee shop.
The colour scheme and design helped us stand out too, Paria stocked our jersey on their website which was amazing and we saw Sam riding round in one which meant it must be alright! We got a few messages on instagram from people who had purchased the jersey. Guys from as far away as New York, Brazil and Hong Kong.
Now we have 15 members based in the North East and restrictions are easing, we are aiming to have at at least two group rides per week.
Q. Tell us about ‘that’ cycling jersey?
A. We decided to make a jersey and sent messages to a few brands, some didn’t even reply, some messed us about but Sam from Paria found us on socials and added Dan on WhatsApp to really get under the skin of what we were after.. We were given total creative control and after some help and feedback from Paria we were ready to rock. The cycling jersey has been the biggest asset to building the club, we get inundated with messages about it. If the kit hadn’t been good, we simply wouldn’t have been able to get riders from other clubs, we would never have been noticed and we wouldn’t have a brand to build. I really can't fault the custom kit service from Sam and the guys at Paria, everything has been bang on.
Q. What’s next for Outlands?
A.In 2021 we launched our website and we offer club memberships and kit through that. We are also building our brand and have made some products like mugs, bidons and have partnered with a coffee house to release our own coffee blends. There is beer in the works and understandably we can’t wait for that.
That’s sort of how we have approached the whole thing, from a brand perspective, working on the representation and creating an image, getting in front of people with what we know and working backwards from there. Collaboration has been key and we want to link in with brands, businesses and people for mutual benefit.
We have another charity Coast to Coast cycling trip at the start of May. Then after that we are going to be putting our efforts into sorting a womens club/team. Thats our next big focus (if you are reading this and want to be involved, hit us up). We have some irons in the fire so hopefully things will happen soon. We would also love to have a a Junior club eventually too.