While visiting Israel for the start of the 2018 Giro, I met up with Yarnin Peled, founder of Pony Cycling, for a ride. It turned into a bit of an adventure as the clouds suddenly opened up, hail dropped, then almost as quickly it all vanished and we finished with a sunny loop through Ha’Meginim forest. And of course, we finished with a few beers at Jem’s, a local brewery founded by a couple of Colorado expats. Throughout the day, I peppered him with questions about the brand, starting with…
BIKERUMOR: Why start a cycling clothing company? What did you find lacking in other brands’ clothing?
I started this company quite by accident you may say. My friend (David Goldfarb) and I wanted a set for Epic Israel – a 3 day MTB Marathon in September. So, many hours in the saddle in the heat of the Israeli summer, not to mention the technical riding of the Epic Israel itself. The clothing we had was good but it wasn’t custom so it wasn’t as unique as we wanted them. We could get something printed with our design, but then the quality would not be as good. One thing led to a another and before long I found my self in contact with more than one manufacturer to produce the kit we wanted.
Along the way I realized what is possible, what I really wanted and what the other options on the market lacked. They lack the combination of ventilation, evaporation, fit and graphic design, and all that with sun protection that is of the utmost importance. So if it all can be light, have a silky soft touch and stay as new after so many laundries than it is the best – so now we have it all.
The tough part was to find suppliers that could do what I wanted at the quality needed. There’s a lot of great kits from brands that will do custom printing for teams. But they won’t customize the actual cut and materials. When I went to suppliers that would do all of them at, I found a massive spectrum of quality control. Even some samples, which should have been a manufacturer’s way of showcasing the best they can do, had seams that were coming unstitched.
Eventually I found Moa, who already makes high end clothing, and they were willing to customize the cuts, mix materials, and work with him to develop better men’s and women’s jersey and bibshorts. (Editor’s note: He’s particularly excited about the women’s cuts they developed, worth checking out if you haven’t found something that works for you.)
BIKERUMOR: What are you doing different with Pony Cycling? What makes your kits unique and special?
YARNIN: Mostly, I am a roadie, but we test our kits off road. When you ride your bike on the road your body is rather still and composed. When you ride off road you are all the time on the move. So the kit has to be moving with you. Wen you train for a three-day race with 4-6 hours every day in the saddle you are carrying much more so the garment has to be able to cary the load securely while still letting you be free to move and have some air time when possible – we are here for the fun after all 🙂
In recent years a lot of companies came with this kind of mesh cloth to make many parts, if not all of the jersey. We all remember that Chris Froome photo that saw him sun burned – I can not see my self using this jersey during 6 month of the year. But you still need ventilation. A nice anecdote is the first time I brought David this jersey (Stars collection) he wanted to wear a base layer. I told him it is very much unnecessary, but he said it helped him feel dry during the ride. I insisted he not take it, and after about one hour riding he said to me he never before had anything like this.
My philosophy is – when you are cold you wear base layer to help you keep warm and help you manage you body temperature so will you workout. When you’re warm you want to help your body to sweat and let it evaporate as quickly as possible to the air in order to cool down.
When a pro rider is sunburnt all over except where the race radio and wire is, I realized something was wrong. You shouldn’t need to wear sunscreen all over. But you need the ventilation. The trick is to combine UPF protection and ventilation, and any UPF coating can wash off. So the fabric has to provide mechanical protection, but still evaporates sweat through it. My jerseys do this.
The bib is another thing – lets try to divide it in to two main issues. First is the fit and muscle support, and the second and most important is the chamois. I will start with the chamois – after riding with so many different pads, one thing I came to realized was that I needed to keep it as simple as possible. And so we did. From the outside it may look not much but after 3, 4, 5 or even 6 hours riding you come to appreciate it.
At the end of the day, simpler is better. Your butt can’t tell the difference in a couple millimeters of padding, and ours takes 100kg per square CM to fully compress, which is more than any of us will ever put on it. I wanted that padding throughout the areas where you actually move. Meaning, there aren’t shaped sections that might feel great if you’re in the perfect position, but can seem off if you shift your position slightly.
And we only use one pad in all of our shorts. I do not like to pick my bib for the ride depending on the chamois so as a rule I decided to use the one I would always want.
BIKERUMOR: What does it take to launch a clothing brand these days? How long did it take?
YARNIN: It took me about three years. It is mainly me and a friend helping – test the products, give ideas for new features. Give me feedback for every thing from design to function. At the end of the day it is my vision, but their input is invaluable.
Financing is very much the same – me. I am working now to bring an investor so the company can grow and to get so many ideas and more items to the line of products – very soon we will launch the CMPL line – it will be fantastic and will include gloves and socks along side with jerseys and bibs that will be available all year long.
Selling on-line is not as easy as it may look – people do not know you and are not waiting for you to come and save them from riding low level poorly design apparel – there are many great products out there and you try to bring something else that will, hopefully, be the thing they have been looking for or just like enough to buy it.
You are a complete stranger to your market and need a lot of patience till they know you well enough to trust you in order to buy from you.
BIKERUMOR: How do you come up with the designs?
YARNIN: I studied photography and graphic design, and did a lot of that in past jobs. I get ideas from the surrounding area, from video art from RadioHead show, or even a friend’s glove who asks me to match a design idea to it. Mostly I like minimalist concepts. At the end, all of these influences are mixed up into one, but I have to keep it balanced and composed.
BIKERUMOR: How does living in Israel inform the designs and styles? What was the inspiration for the current designs?
YARNIN: I do not think living in Israel has anything to do with the stars collection design. Even the PONY logo and name are not Israeli at all and in fact are alien to the Israelis.
The Giro 101 design did in a way. Because the race started in Israel and ended in Rome, naturally the design takes those city names, then adds to that. it’s more than just the Jerusalem-Rome becoming one word, we used the left to right and right to left of the Hebrew and English writing.
BIKERUMOR: What’s your background? What were you doing before launching Pony Cycling?
YARNIN: I mentioned the photography and design, but I also had my hands in programming and bike mechanics – I am a great wheel builder. I have ridden bikes for as long as I can remember. Bicycles are a very important part of my life and can not see my self without them. The rest of my team here are mostly friends that end up being helpers, product testers, models and most important, moral support. Their backgrounds are from all walks of life with cycling as the common ground for us all.
BIKERUMOR: What’s the cycling scene like there? Is it tricky just riding out of town and getting lost?
YARNIN: Israel is one of the best places for riders. You can ride all year long and as it is a small country you can in one week end find your self riding in the desert one day and the day after in a forest on a trail wet from last night’s rain.
For Europeans it is a great place as it is only 2-5 hours flight, and you end up being able to ride in weather that’s like a mild summer when the rest of Europe is in the middle of winter.
(Editor’s Note: We conducted this interview both via email and in person when visiting Israel for the Giro’s start. Most of these photos are from Yarnin and I riding the day after Stage 3. Our route map is above. Later this summer, we’ll be writing a more in depth story about cycling in Israel, what it and the Giro means to them, and more. If you’re headed to Tel Aviv anytime soon, I’d recommend contacting Yarnin through Pony Cycling’s website about group rides. Want Gravel? You can ride a mix of dirt and pavement and path all the way from Tel-Aviv to Jerusalem. Headed to Jerusalem? Email our tour guide, she was absolutely amazing.)
BIKERUMOR: Where did the name Pony Cycling come from?
YARNIN: My kids, and from my last name, Peled. The logo is inspired by my three children, and the music in our promo video is by Noga, my son. He and my oldest daughter are very talented musicians.
Huge thanks to Yarnin for the hospitality and showing me around on the bike (and the beers!).