More Than a Kit: Interview with Peppermint Cycling
Written by: Lori Nedescu @CadenceKitchen
I remember when I bought my first pair of cycling shorts. I hesitantly picked them off the bike shop wall and bought them. The shop only had two types so I picked the pricier pair at $45, which seemed like a hefty amount for spandex shorts (not bibs!) that had a slab of leather sewn in to the crotch. Yes, I said leather. They were terribly uncomfortable and I pitched them into the trash not long after the initial purchase. A waste of $45 yes, but a lesson and journey into what to wear whilst riding. The more I rode, the more I began to discovered that dressing to ride bikes was a big part of riding bikes; for function, style, and status.
As my cycling progressed and became more frequent, cycling kits (& socks, gloves, etc…) took up more room in my closet and began to outweigh the amount of ‘normal’ clothing in my possession. At first, it felt like I was giving up my personal style for generic brands of neon reflective sportswear. Luckily, as the years went on, more and more brands started to pop up, offering an array of unique styles, prints, fabrics, cuts, and color combos.
Options for form and style have come a long way, yes, but what still lacks are options that connect with women cyclists; for women by women type of thing. This is also changing. While many large brands are putting more resources into improving their female lines, smaller specialty brands are currently stealing the scene by going above offering quality product by creating communities that support, promote, and showcase women in the sport.
One such brand is Canadian based PEPPERMINT Cycling Co. The images of women smiling in their cheery colored, well-fitting kits creates an image of best friendships and happy memories created while riding bikes. The brand's media presence exudes inclusiveness, positivity, and promotes cycling as a fitness activity that is both fun and competitive. To back up this light, friendly image with actual substance, the company boasts a race team as well as a group of ambassadors that bring a realness to the product by sharing cycling adventures, challenges and providing support.
We caught up with brand co-founder Véronik Bastien to get the scoop on what makes PEPPERMINT Cycling Co unique.
What drove the start of PEPPERMINT Cycling Co.?
As engaged women and avid cyclists, we did not feel a connection with any of the cycling apparel brands available on the North American market. Performance and durability are important, but we wanted a brand that shared our values of community & leadership in a versatile, colorful and women-specific approach. Knowing well enough that we were not alone, this laid the foundations for the creation of PEPPERMINT Cycling Co.
PEPPERMINT wants to bring a breath of fresh air to women’s cycling, with products made entirely in Canada (but offered worldwide through website purchases) and a collective vision that continuously redefine women’s cycling experiences.
Style and comfort are important, of course, but what else [is PEPPERMINT] hoping to bring to the women cycling community?
Our mission is to grow the active women’s cycling community, and PEPPERMINT was built to create a collective movement around cycling and bring awareness to the countless benefits of the sport. Everything we do is made with collectivity in mind, making the sport more accessible through better products, more engaging events, and a brand that our consumers feel a connection with.
There is a phrase you stamp onto your items… What does #breakthepattern stand for?
Since the very first day of PEPPERMINT, we make a very strong point of doing things differently. Cycling is a sport with an immensely rich heritage, which makes it very traditional in many ways, the apparel being one of the most striking. We have decided to break the pattern by bringing innovative designs, a fresh and forward-looking mindset and a new way of bringing our products to market.
Do you think women's cycling clothing brands have a responsibility to 'build up' and support the sport above and beyond selling product?
Selling products is effectively what allows our company to live and grow, but only focusing on selling products is a very short-term vision. We strongly believe that cycling can change people’s daily lives for the better, and there are immense benefits of adopting the sport in our lives. For the sport to grow among women, we believe brands like ours need to make women feel engaged and empowered, and this task goes way beyond the products
What changes/ improvements would you like to see in the sport for women?
While women-only initiatives are not a solution by themselves, we need to see more women-oriented events and brands. Women leadership among the cycling community is, in our view, the most impactful and sustainable form of action for our sport. Encouraging friends and colleagues to try cycling, creating group rides and sharing your love and passion for the sport are what effectively can have the bigger and most positive impact on women’s cycling.
A big part of what makes PEPPERMINT Cycling Co more of a community is the team of brand ambassadors; they are the true faces of the brand. Let’s chat with these female cyclists to get a sense of why they support the brand’s product and mission. As a female cyclist, what is important to you when it comes to promoting a positive cycling community and how does PEPPERMINT go beyond ‘just making kits’ to help accomplish this?
Joanie (Vancouver): Equality, diversity, health, fun!! As a dietitian, I strongly believe in healthy lifestyle through food and exercise. Diversity and acceptance in body image is also something I believe women need to become more aware and open to and I feel like PEPPERMINT is contributing to this. The brand is fully engaged in feminine initiatives to promote more women in cycling in all level and confidence. I also appreciate/love the collaboration with different organizations and the support to athletes that promote these values, showing it’s more than about themselves.
Caro (US): I really saw them promote this image the first year the brand was created. The Quebec racing scene has a tendency to be snobby and results driven (it's ok, I'm from Quebec, I can say that!). When the team was built, it was created by women who were looking for a place to learn, to grow in the sport, to meet other women who share the same passion, and most importantly, to have fun. Looking in from another team, the girls taught me that there was another way to do it all.
Stéphanie (Ontario): Women have this vicious tendency, unfortunately, to compare themselves to other women. For me, it is important to promote the fact that we can and should feel comfortable to practice sport or anything we like with our own body. Any height, weight, shape, any fitness and experience welcomed with the same respect. Sport can bring a lot of happiness, and we often surprise ourselves with what we can do and to where we can push our body. This should be experienced by every woman willing to, independently of what they can do, in terms of results. I mean, no matter if you go for 20 or 160k, the goal is to be proud of yourself, knowing you're doing your best. No need of a medal. In the PEPPERMINT community, we give each other medals with kind words, encouragement and smiles.
Hélène (Québec): Oh my God, PEPPERMINT is so much more than just cycling clothes. The girls are building a different way to see cycling. Not an elite and close group, but an open community of women who want to have fun together. In this community, it's possible to push your limits, but also being healthy, being well-balanced and eat a lot of ice cream.
Joanie: They has created a community and a safe place for women to ask questions, learn about cycling, join forces, and to share a bond, without feeling pressure or intimidation.
When it comes to women’s cycling clothing, what features do you look for that PEPPERMINT offers?
Lynda (Ontario): I like cycling apparel that makes me feel happy and proud to be wearing it, while being a bit trendy, colorful and comfortable. Personally, I love it when it matches my mood, my bike or the weather. I also like it when it creates a sense of belonging (clubs riding together and wearing similar apparels).
Klara (Montréal): Comfort, fit, and splashes of color. You need to stand out on your bike!
Hélène: Comfort, Comfort, Comfort. The fit and good classic design. I'm a really small person, so for me it's difficult to find a gear that fit perfectly.
Lori (US): I want to be kitted in cycling gear that fits well, has breathable fabric, stands up to long hard rides, and still looks flashy!
Stéphanie: Comfortable, colorful. A brand with an image we like to identify to.
We are seeing this vibe more and more in today's culture; that women want to build each other up & support each other through all ventures and do it while looking good. Cycling is not immune to this. Clothing for the sport has evolved from being just spandex to high performance, stylish wears that are backed by meaning and purpose in the big picture of women's cycling.
Want to learn more? Head over to PEPPERMINT to see the goods & be inspired.