Swobo on Competitive Cyclist
We must admit our bias for function over form. We'll take the book over the movie. Gussets over godawful light. Powdercoat over gloss. it's not that we're averse to style, not at all. But we prefer style when it works in the background, subtly laboring at the behest of substance -- sweeping away the bread crumbs and plucking away the empty cocktail glasses while never once disturbing conversation. This balance is in the DNA of the brands whose stuff we love best and use most. Sometimes we talk to our customers and say things like "If we could only sell one xyxyxyxyxy, this would be it" and we find ourselves saying it all-too-often about Swobo.
When you wear Swobo, it's like a cloak of cool. Slip on the Featherweight base layer or the Singlespeed tee and you contain multitudes -- whether you've got a morning bike commute or a daylong ride ahead of you; whether it's a lunch date or an afternoon of yard work -- little in our closet rivals Swobo's ability to make you look damn handsome without making it look like you tried. And since Swobo's best-selling garments are made from New Zealand's MAPP Merino Wool -- that means they feed the sheep kiwis and Koala milk to make the wool extra soft and tough and 4-season functional -- you're buying one of those rare pieces of apparel that make riding a more enjoyable experience, not a more self-conscious one.
Swobo clothes kick ass, but CEO Tim Parr has little interest in signing autographs at Interbike to assert his importance. Rather, he toils in a secure, undisclosed location in the Bay Area in order to focus on spreading the Swobo ethos into new realms, the most dramatic of which is bicycles themselves. What, say it again -- bicycles? Yes indeedy -- Swobo ain't just about threads anymore.
What in the world does apparel brainiac Tim Parr know about making bikes? We suspect we know the answer: Not enough. that's why he brought on Sky Yaeger to head up the Swobo Bike Project. Who's Sky Yaeger? Her name might not be familiar, but you can summarize her background in one word: Bianchi. Short of Fausto Coppi and maybe Magnus Backstedt, no one did more to make the storied Italian bike company as legendary as it is. In her various sales-and-marketing-and-bossman roles, she gave Bianchi a level of breadth and depth in the US bike marketplace far beyond the wildest dreams of fellow Italianos like Colnago and Pinarello, while laying the groundwork for passion and loyalty in Bianchi owners well beyond the scope of anything ever known by a Trek or a Specialized. She's a bike industry icon -- and her involvement in Swobo's expansion into bikes speaks volumes to us.
And while you'll see plenty of celeste Bianchi road racing bikes and MTB's on group rides and at trailheads nationwide, we suspect that this isn't why Tim Parr coaxed her over to Swobo. Rather, it was a decision not unrelated to the subversive risk she took almost a decade ago when she unleashed to the American market the authentic coffee bike and real-deal singlespeed --
What seemed foolish back then thrives as subculture now: Starbucks only exists because with bikes like the Milano, Sky gave the milfs of Orange County, Highland Park, and Montclair something sufficiently stylish and uncomplicated to get from gated-community-to-Saturday-Morning-Iced-Caramel-Macchiato at a befitting height of fashion. And thanks to singlespeeds like the M.U.S.S. and the P.U.S.S. she proved that (a) strung-out bike messengers have vanity too, and (b) said messengers are responsible for trends other than Timbuk2 bags. Mr. Messenger Man, you can keep your recreational heroin habit and your Critical Mass ride and your Mission District lunch tips, but will you pretty please teach me how to track stand in front of a city bus?
Sky's bikes were smart, lovely, intensely functional, and became popular far beyond even her wildest ambitions. When she introduced them she was swimming way upstream: Remember, the market at that point was fixated on Lance's domination of le Tour and whatever the hell it is they do with bikes in the X-Games. There was seemingly no attention to be spared for simple and purposeful bikes. It reminds us of the way a certain company singlemindedly championed wool in market full of NASA-approved synthetics and laser-cut, multi-formed chamois Swobo.
Sky and Swobo have converged to introduce 3 city bikes heavy on function and void of bluster. The idea isn't that your Swobo bike will be your only bike. Instead, it's the bike you've always wished you had to do the things you Don't wanna do on your 5" travel MTB or your 14lb carbon race bike -- ride with your kiddos at the park; zip over to the liquor store for a 12-pack of Pacifico; noodle down the sidewalk to pick up lunch. Swobo bikes aren't delicate and they aren't expensive. But they're brilliant because they're as fine-tuned for their purpose as a Turner Flux or a Cervélo R3. Calling them beater bikes would be akin to associating a Featherweight base layer with your brother's dog-chewed, sweat-stained UnderArmour. In the way they're built and the way they look, they're anything but beater bikes. Whether you use it as a beast of burden or a beast of goofing off, you'll be armed with a bike equally capable of charming you at both.