From a few jerseys made for his Facebook friends to a world wide company! We spoke to Phil Auld aka Kingfisher, from DirtyRides MTB Apparel about where they came from and the challenges involved in running an appareal company.
DirtyRides MTB Apparel is one of the quickest growing MTB apparel brands out there, but it came from a simple idea to outfit some Facebook friends.
- Phil not only designs his gear but he models it too -
LET US START WITH WHO IS THE MASTER MIND BEHIND DIRTYRIDES MTB APPAREL? // HOW DID IT START?
I started with the idea and built the company from the ground up, but it was never supposed to be a full blown worldwide company, it was only an idea to have a few jerseys made for my Facebook group friends, which began as “Dirtyrides NI MTB” this was back in 2016 when I really only was getting into MTB.
Once you start this sport it doesn’t take long to become addicted. Like everyone I think, I started off with my Halfords bike and soon realised it wasn’t up to what was required, I then bought my 1st full sus which was a Boardman, then a Giant, then Vitus, I now am on a Mondraker Dune and a Banshee Rune V3 (of course fully upgraded)
WHAT WAS THE INSPIRATION BEHIND DIRTYRIDES MTB APPAREL // WHERE DID IT COME FROM?
It all started one Sunday morning, when I was sitting at the side of a trail watching a load of guys and girls in a train coming down one of the trails here in Northern Ireland in Rostrevor called Mega Mission, where the FOX HUNT was held for many years.
I was sitting with my New Jersey on costing me I’m sure £60. With my £100 shorts on, and feeling like Loic Bruni, only to see about 20 other riders coming down the trail with the exact same kit on, I felt I was part of a football fan group, (football Is NOT my thing) this is when I really started to think, what if? And why is this kit so expensive and for everyone to be wearing the same thing.
My “what if” soon turned to thinking “how” it was never something I had ever thought off, as I served 15 years with the British Army and then as a close protection officer in South Africa, then a manager within a security company, but I never settled and I just knew wearing a suit to work every day 9-5 was not for me.
WHAT GOES IN TO CREATING AN APPAREL BRAND? // HOW LONG DID IT TAKE YOU TO LEARN WHAT YOU NEEDED TO KNOW TO GET THIS BRAND OFF THE GROUND?
This was a massive eye opener for me as I say this was never something I had ever tried or even thought about due to my past careers. Starting from scratch I needed to find a company that would be able to supply me with the materials I wanted, lightweight, sweat wicking and quick drying, After lots of time spent on google and loads of emails I found a company that would be able to provide the materials I needed, then a factory was needed to be able to put this all together for me. I rented “stitchers” from another factory, who makes sports clothing for a very well known worldwide brand, got a few runs of different jerseys made, did loads of different testing from stretching the life out of them, to going out on the bike and testing them for breathability etc, so the first 6 months was really going no where, just money being pumped into a product /business that I never knew would work or not, so it was quite a gamble I was taking. Although in life you got to take risks, or no one would try anything new. It took a good year before I managed to get the Facebook page and Instagram set up to show what I was doing and what I was selling and what I was trying to achieve.
The hard part is getting people to trust a company that they never heard of before, especially when your competing against the likes of TLD and FOX, but I always said to myself, “these guys had to start somewhere also”.
I’m still continuing to learn everyday, as I am a complete perfectionist, and seriously work 18hr days 7 days a week, and still do.
WHAT WAS THE FIRST ITEM OF CLOTHING YOU DESIGNED?
My first was a blue jersey with a skull logo on the front with DirtyRides MTB Apparel written on it (Pictured Below), a few of my mates bought them, I think through support and pity more than anything. It wasn’t the greatest, but I was still proud to see my first jerseys going down the trails. I knew there was still a lot of room for improvement and still a long way to go.
I soon started designing jerseys which were a lot more complex, the design and materials seemed to really start taking off with riders, so I started to understand what people wanted, after that it didn’t take long for riders to start with their own ideas and what they wanted.
- First jersey Phil created -
HOW DO YOU NARROW DOWN WHAT DESIGNS TO GO WITH FOR YOUR OWN DESIGNS?
For my own designs, what I put on the website, it really comes down to what mood I’m in at the time, I can get inspiration from any thing or anywhere. After doing this for a while now you soon get to learn what people like and don’t like. I can go from skulls and skeletons to unicorns and rainbows, like with all clothing, times change and fashion changes.
There will be a time when crazy bright colours and crazy shapes are the rage , then to the opposite side of the spectrum, keeping them subtle and using greys and blacks. This seems to be the craze at the moment, subtle and dark colours, just simple designs, although all designs still take the same amount of effort and time no mater how simple they may look.
WHAT ARE THE CHALLENGES OF OFFERING CUSTOM DESIGNS?
The biggest challenge is when the customer does not know what they want themselves and they just tell me they want a jersey with XXXXX on it. So I could spend up to 4 hrs designing a complete kit and then they say “no, that’s not the colour or the design I want”, so it can be quite frustrating at times after spending all that time for nothing. So after a while I eventually get out of the customer some sort of direction of what they would like and completely redo the design maybe 5, 6, 7 times for them to then tell me, “No, I think the very 1st one you did is best”. So you could spend a complete day on one customer, to end up with the original design you had already made up for them, plus we do not charge for design time, so it’s a complete day wasted when other customers are waiting on their design to be mocked up for them, this is how you can run into your 18 hr days very easily.
The most I did for one lady was 72 designs, from what she wanted from the initial process to what we ended up with was completely different. However it’s the service we provide and it’s the customer that’s paying for a custom jersey, so we just need to go with it.
THROUGH YOUR PLATFORM YOU SUPPORT VARIOUS RIDERS AND TEAMS, WHO WAS THE FIRST YOU SUPPORTED // HOW MANY PEOPLE DO YOU SUPPORT NOW?
Wow, this is not an easy one as we really support quite a lot of people and I’d hate to forget and not mention them all. (eeeek ) My main sponsored rider is CONNOR SMITH who races the UCI DH circuit, but unfortunately not a lot of racing has been taking place this year, but he did Leogang as he was picked to represent Team GB which was just a mud fest if you remember and there was not many that made it down with a good run, but he is a fantastic rider and has a big future ahead of him. He also races for TEAM YM RACING, so we also help by sponsoring them with their clothing.
TEAM STEEL IS REAL is another team we sponsor, RECOIL SUSPENSION another great team we partially sponsor. We have groups also which we are the official clothing provider for, STEEL CITY RIPPERS, Llyfni Valley Mtb, WU Crew in Germany, and we are also the channel support for Mike from MTB FANATICS who is building up his Youtube channel and his Facebook group which is going amazing for Mike.
We are now also one of the top official sponsors for PEDALHOUNDS but again with the current situation the first and second races have had to be cancelled.
And we also have featured in PINKBIKE with a review of our kit, which we got a good review from. We have also kitted out many schools and clubs, all of the Armed forces RAF, ARMY and the NAVY and just about every battalion with in the services, which is absolutely fantastic with my own background with being in the Army. I’m sure I have missed someone, but they know I’m very thankful for their support.
FROM THE START TILL NOW WHATS BEEN YOUR FAVOURITE MOMENT WITH DIRTYRIDES MTB APPAREL?
I couldn’t honestly just point out one specific moment, I truly love the complete process and watching the company grow from what was a thought, to now a worldwide provider of race and casual clothing, its definitely been quite a journey, and no easy task, with so much of my own money gambled into the business. I still honestly get a real buzz when I see my kit which I designed and produced and tested going through the trees on the trails, all the Instagram pictures that customers have put up and tagged us in, it really is what makes it worth while, I always said when I loose that buzz, i’d close the business, but that’s not happening so I guess DirtyRides MTB Apparel is here to stay.
ANY DISASTERS ALONG THE WAY?
We never really had any disasters with the clothing to be honest, yes at times I get it wrong for a customer, but it’s how the mistake is rectified is what makes DRA stand out from the rest, I will always have the complete kit remade and replaced as quickly as I can.
If I mess up I will always go public and say I messed up, I think the mMTB community prefers a good honest answer instead of corporate talk to try and cover up any issues. This day and age no one wants to here silly sales pitches or corporate management talk, that went out years ago, and people can’t be bothered with it, a true answer being transparent and being honest is my way of working, and so far its working great, so if its not broke, don’t try and fix it.
Only issues now we find is the bigger we get the more that people will try and bring you down, with trolls on the internet etc, it still is annoying, however I have now learned to channel that feeling of “what’s the point” into making me a stronger and better person and putting even more effort into the business.
- Phil wearing his Flow Vision Goggles -
YOU DON’T ONLY DO CLOTHING, WHAT ARE SOME OF THE OTHER PRODUCTS YOU OFFER?
At the moment we are stockists for TRU TENSION which really is an awesome range of products, however we will also be now stockists for the Pink stuff from MUC-OFF, although with Brexit, its quite challenging as I’m in Northern Ireland and the “imaginary” boarder in the Irish Sea, we all need certain documentation, but it’s only another little blip in the road, and we are now near at the final stages with Muc-Off. We also have INSTINCT DISTRIBUTION who is the main stockist for FLOW VISION goggles on the website, simply because I absolutely love the brand and find them the most comfortable goggles on the market.
DO YOU HAVE ANYTHING IN THE PIPELINE UNDER DEVELOPMENT?
We have 4 new products in testing at the moment, after the release of our new 100% soft-shell jackets / Gilets and trousers which we honestly cannot make quick enough, these are approx 50-75% cheaper than the similar product. People have gotten wise to these big names, and that their quality is no better than our own, the reason they are paying the bigger bucks is they are paying for their advertising and massive overheads.
So yeah we have more products in motion now, but unfortunately I can’t say at the moment, as many will be waiting patiently to copy our next move.
- Molly Major (left) / Amy Thomas (Right) -
ANYONE TO THANK?
For me to thank everyone I would need about 4 pages. But I really need to thank my Mrs, Louise who has been there through it all with me, and stuck by my side when things were getting tuff as I suffer with sever depression, anxiety and PTSD which I’m now under the guys at COMBAT STRESS, which is another reason why we do the charity kit, to date we have raised approx £2.5k, so a massive thanks to all who support the different charities we collect for.
Also really want to thank my Team AMY THOMAS and MOLLY MAJOR who are the managers for DRA, these girls really work their butts off behind the scenes and keep the complete process running, then all our ambassadors, which we think the world off, we really treat our ambassadors completely different from any one else, they are a crucial part to the team and not the old fashioned marketing tool which others use ambassadors for.
From our youngest to our eldest they all do an amazing job, we have our own group chat, with ideas getting thrown about and also so that we are there for each other if someone is feeling down or finding it hard in these uncertain times we are all facing.
There is always someone there to help them along or give support.
We have our junior ambassadors GEORGE (UK) and DAKOTA (USA), and our adult ambassadors ALEXIA, OLIVIA, MARK, SARA and GARETH (All UK), SAMANTHA, RICHELLE and SARA (All USA) so massive thanks to them all and especially to all our supporters who have followed are journey and continue to buy our products over and over again, I personally am humbled with the feedback we receive and even the DMs I get from people showing their support to me and DRA.
All Ambassadors can be seen on the website under “Meet the Team” www.dirtyridesmtbapparel.co.uk
- From Left to Right / Sara, Samantha (USA), Mark, Sara, George (UK) -
- From Left to Right / Richelle, Dakota (USA), Olivia, Gareth, Alexia (UK) -
WHAT DO YOU HOPE THE FUTURE HOLDS FOR DIRTYRIDES MTB APPAREL?
I never really want to look that far ahead, as what I had planned for my 10 year plan quickly went to 5 years, yes I do believe you should have a goal to aim for, however the way the business is and has grown over the past 12 months has been incredible, if I can have the brand recognition, at a level where people are buying because they know its top quality products at a cost which can suit most peoples income then I’m happy, and if I’m making the mtb community happy and bringing them closer together then I feel I have achieved my goal.
WE ALWAYS LIKE OUR GUESTS TO DO THE SIGN OFF, SO ANY LAST WORDS?
I really only want to thank everyone who believed in me, who supports the brand DirtyRides MTB Apparel and to all those who continue to follow the journey of DRA.
If you put your mind to something and really never give up no matter what odds are stacked against you, you will always achieve what you set out to do. Never get greedy be honest open and totally transparent.
And always remember “BE PART OF IT”
A big thank you to Phil for his insight in to his world and the brand, we look forward to following their progress and hopefully doing some gear review on their stuff in the future.
Make sure you follow The DirtyRides MTB Apparel pages and show your support!
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