Customer Stories: The boys in blue

Custom design
Customer Stories

At Kalas we serve a diverse variety of customer types, who have at least one thing in common - they all want to create their own custom designed cycle clothing. These include individuals, small groups of friends, clubs, teams, companies, charities, and events. In our series Customer Stories, some of them tell us how we helped them achieve their objectives and highlight the aspects of Kalas’ service that they benefitted from the most.

We continue our Kalas Customer Stories with the tale of a former police officer who combined his passion for cycling with a business idea. Today he explores the UK and Europe delivering bespoke cycling experiences with his clients.

Bespoke Events meet Custom Designed Kit 

Retiring after 30 years of service in the police force, passionate bike rider Ian Holmes combined his love of cycling with a business idea. Six years ago, he founded Pro Sports Events, a bespoke cycling events company based in Milton Keynes, approximately 80km north of London, UK. 

He spoke to us from his camper van deep in the English countryside, where he was sheltering from a downpour and hoping to get out on his bike to explore some new gravel routes for his bespoke cycling experiences. First, he told us how he got into cycling and how his love for the sport developed over time. “I’ve been a cyclist all my life. When I was a kid, I was quite sporty. I was into running, swimming and cycling, so naturally I did a few triathlons. When I first started cycling, I was more into mountain biking and until my early twenties I raced a bit off road. Later I got more into road cycling and raced for the police cycling team.” 

From 2009, Ian started to devote some of his spare time to working as a guide for a cycling events company. “I enjoyed helping other people achieve their own cycling goals and get the most from those experiences.” In 2017 he retired from his day job, and with the blessing of the other events company, with who he continues to work, Pro Sports Events was born. 

Ian’s idea was to design and deliver small, completely bespoke events, tailored precisely to his client’s needs. “I wanted to combine my hobby with a business in a way that caused the least amount of stress possible. I meet lovely people and visit beautiful places, all on two wheels. There are not many days now when I don’t get to ride my bike”. 

It’s all about passion 

“For me, it’s all about passion” Ian tells us. “We only employ people who love what they do and are keen cyclists themselves. They understand our events from a bike riders’ perspective and how to best deliver supported riding experiences. That includes everyone who contributes, from the ride leaders who guide the riders, to the mechanics, and support vehicle drivers. This enables the clients to ride without having to think about anything but turning the pedals. They don’t need to worry about the route or even their nutrition. They just enjoy the ride.” 

The staff are all friends, people who have known each other for years. Some are people Ian raced with. Experienced bike riders with great people skills who he knows well and trusts completely to look after his customers. “Our objective is based around keeping the group together. We have people who can think on their feet and see the bigger picture of customer needs. It’s very often about more than just cycling. But there is a balance also, to let the groups do what they want to do without micro-managing them.” 

E-bikes improve customer service 

Ian tells us in more detail about how his rides are organised. “Depending on the size of the group we divide them into two or three smaller groups based on their ability. We always like to have at least two guides with each group, one front and one rear.” 

They tailor the support depending on the precise nature of the event and the participants. For example, if it’s a gravel ride, where having a support vehicle follow is more of a challenge, they often put an experienced mechanic inside the group to assist with any basic issues such as changing flat tyres. 

Something Ian has learned is that in these circumstances you need a good mechanic who rides a bit, rather than a strong rider who knows how to fix punctures. And having the mechanic inside the group means they must carry all their tools and spares. So, the mechanics often accompany the group on an e-bike. That enables them to keep up with stronger riders despite their extra cargo, and quickly get back to the group after stopping to attend to a mechanical issue. 

The same goes for the photographers too, who ride alongside to capture these special memories for the groups. They use the e-bike to go ahead of the group and find a good location to shoot from. The group come past and then the photographer can use their free watts to catch up again after, without the group ever needing to slow down. 

Why custom designed cycling kit? 

We asked Ian why he feels Pro Sports Events need a custom design rather than just something bought off the shelf. “Identity is very important. The ride leaders need to stand out in a bunch, and I want to present a professional image. I’m not a snob about this stuff, but I do like the kit to match the bike and helmet. Even the socks. The best way to do that is with your own custom design. Also, I simply feel better when I know I look good on the bike.”  

Ian talks us through the experience of creating a design and ordering the custom kit. “The whole design process was very easy. We discussed a lot of options because I wanted to take my time and make sure we settled on the right design for us. The designers really went above and beyond my expectations bringing fresh ideas and suggesting different patterns and fades. It wasn’t just about the colours, we played around with font sizes and logo placements. I was so happy with the final design that we even ended up making some changes to our corporate colours to better match the kit design!” 

The final design is simple and elegant, and Ian tells us they get a lot of compliments about the design. “It generates conversation. People approach me wanting to buy it. We even had my local café asking if they could stock it.” 

Ian is so convinced by the benefits of custom designed kit that he even encourages his customers to make their own design for their events. “Creating a group identity is often an important element of the events we deliver for our clients. Looking and feeling great in matching kit is a big step towards generating that feeling of togetherness. Some of my customers even create a different design for each day of their events. The low minimum order quantity of just five items, and the fast turnaround of five to six weeks means Kalas can very often deliver these designs for my customers in time for their events even though they had not thought of creating custom designs before.”  

What’s next? 

With 2023 seeing a return to a more normal event season, we ask Ian what he expects the rest of this year to bring. “Gravel riding is becoming ever-more popular. It’s great to get off the busy roads and away from traffic. We call them ‘Explorer Events’. Hopping from town to town, bike-packing style, with off-road riding on gravel or semi-gravel trails. White roads inspired by Strade Bianche. And wild camping. Going to places that are less well known as cycling destinations. Maybe heading out to locations in Croatia or Portugal. And building more into the experience than just cycling, with activities including wine tasting, sampling the local cuisine, and exploring the architecture. This is not racing, it’s a very different and much more relaxed vibe. 

Favourite Kit? 

We couldn’t let Ian go without asking him if he has a favourite piece of Kalas cycling kit. “We go for the PRO collection, so our go-to kit is the Razor short sleeve jersey with the Goffrato bib shorts. Personally, I love the Verano jersey. It’s ultra-lightweight and fits very well. It’s so comfortable during hot summer temperatures. I was also a big fan of the RainMem jacket, so when the weather turns wet and cold, I’m looking forward to trying out the new lighter and more breathable Rainex jacket. And maybe in future I will be able to enjoy some gravel-specific clothes from Kalas?” Watch this space Ian, watch this space... 


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