We’re driving down to Lake Viverone in Northern Italy. The first thing we see as we descend the cobbled streets is the glare of the sun glistening on the lake, a stark contrast to the sprawling Alps in the backdrop. It’s not far off zero degrees outside and we’ve got a long run planned for the afternoon that is making me regret a lunchtime crepe. Ollie’s camera is snapping away in the background as he unwinds the window to capture the shot. He is here to document our trip and hopefully a small part of the Angry Pablo journey, something which we’ve neglected up until now.
It’s not our first time here and the place is starting to feel like a home away from home. We’re on our third trip to the factory that will be producing our new collections and there is a sense we've come a long way since first arriving last September. Looking back, we were horrendously unprepared when we first rolled into the factory car park in our rented Fiat 500, with little more than a sketchbook of ideas and lots of wide-eyed enthusiasm. The factory is a giant industrial unit that is covered in solar panels. This is one of the reasons we chose it for our biggest project to date - around 80% of its energy consumption has been internally produced for the past 15 years. There is a mixture of nerves and excitement as we look ahead to testing the latest prototypes of our new product lines. By this time tomorrow I’ll either have a very overexcited, or borderline irritable, Felix on my hands. I’m hoping for the former.
In the meantime, now seems like a good time to reflect on why we started Angry Pablo. The last few years have passed so quickly and it’s hard to believe that we’re now in partnership with one of the best, and most innovative, manufacturers of cycling clothing in the world.
How It Started
Felix and I met for the first time almost 19 years ago, though our mums would later tell us that we used to do swimming lessons together as toddlers. We were in the same class at secondary school, and, as chance would have it, both came from families with a background in cycling. Neither of us had really taken to the sport yet, but after seeing Felix kick a few footballs at breaktime, I genuinely hoped that there was a sport out there that he’d be good at.
Over the next few years we both started riding, and while I maybe should have stuck to football, it quickly became apparent that Felix was actually pretty good at it. By the time we were in our mid-teens we were riding together more and more frequently. After school, racing each other to town signs and asking our parents to come and scrape us off the road from remote corners of Sussex when one of us had crashed (sorry Felix’s mum).
Fast forward a little and we had both gone our separate ways; I’d headed off to university in Leeds and Felix was riding for Rapha Condor and the Irish national team. We did, however, continue to ride together, and I’d often accompany him to races in far-flung parts of the United Kingdom to offer what moral support one can when the other is faced with the prospect of an hour-long crit in Stoke. To this day I don’t think there’s a bigger buzz than being on the other side of the barrier when a friend delivers a big performance at an important race.
As the years passed by the sport of cycling was transformed and I could see that Felix was starting to enjoy it less and less. After a move abroad and a long stint off the bike, I too had noticed a shift in industry and felt like cycling had become more about image and less about going out to have fun with your mates.
When it was announced that the Olympics had been postponed in 2020, Felix was at a loose end. Struggling for motivation to get on his turbo and race against people who had somehow halved their weight during lockdown, he would call me most evenings to talk about an alternative vision for a cycling brand. The name Angry Pablo was conceived over a beer on a zoom call and was meant to encapsulate our frustrations with how serious, and often intimidating, the cycling industry had become. We struggled to find a brand that placed less pressure on conforming, and more of an emphasis on building a community that actually made us want to ride our bikes again. So, we decided to start our own.
We hope that in the brand’s short existence we’ve been able to go some way towards doing this. And, hopefully by this time tomorrow, we’ll be even closer to where we want to be. But in the meantime, I’ve got an overly energetic Felix nagging me to go for a ‘15km dander around the lake’. If you made it this far, thank you for supporting us. We like to think we’re just getting started.
Photo and video credit - Oliver Adams