This week we will see another new cycling brand launch itself to the world and attempt to draw dollars out of our wallets. This brand stands a damn good chance of doing just that right out of the gate. This brand won’t be making the kit that you or I will see on our local group rides, but instead beautifully tailored technical clothes for the urban rider. The brand is called Upright Cyclist, and has been the labor of love and now full-time job of Philip Siegert. Upright believes that the bike is the best way to travel in the urban environment anywhere in the world. That what you wear while doing it should both serve the need of riding, and look just as good when you reach your destination and take off your helmet. I was lucky enough to spend time talking with Philip, and his story should be an inspiration to the lot of us who have a day job in design, and a passion that lies somewhere in and around bikes. Upright Cyclist is a story of how someone saw a need and coupled it with their passion, to create a brand that at first glance looks like it is going to do really well.
Philip’s background lends itself well to imagining and getting a new brand off the ground. He spent years in the agency world as a strategist working with some of the best brands in the world, Patagonia and Burton to name a couple. But you might have to ravel back further with Philip, to his time as a bike messenger in Chicago, to discover where his deep love of riding began and his understanding of how good kit can make a world of difference on the daily ride. All those hours in the saddle were essentially the start of his R&D process, and have influenced what he is doing at Upright Cyclist.
When asked about his influences, like a lot of us he mentions Rapha–but it is maybe too focused on the performance side of riding, and the price point for a lot of riders can be prohibitive. We also talked about what Levi’s is doing with their Commuter Collection. And how it leans maybe a little too heavily on the style and fashion side. And that is probably where Upright will sit, somewhere between these two brands. Clothes that look cool off the bike, won’t fail when you need them most when riding, and at a price hopefully we can all afford.
Above: Some of the early jacket prototypes out getting a road test (notice the one on the left is still held together with pins)
The design process has been a fast learning curve for Philip. He picked up a lot by watching the brands he worked with as a strategist, but as with most things like this you don’t realize what you don’t know until you try. He ordered yards of fabrics like waxed cottons and had seamstresses work up prototypes to test out on the road. He learned pretty quickly what was working and what was missing. Like getting baked inside a waxed cotton prototype because he hadn’t put in enough vents. From there he enlisted the help of some product designers in his hometown of Boulder, people he met out on the road, to get the first part of the lineup to manufacturing spec and into production.
Upright is going to be a thoughtful brand. As much as the Made In America movement and the resurgence of craft here is taking hold, it is hard for a new brand to foot the difference in the cost of manufacturing here versus Asia. Eventually, if they can get a foothold in the market, they would like to source and produce here, but until then they are finding ways to give back to the community. They will designate a portion of their profits from annual sales and select pieces to both national and local non-profit entities. I am just about to get some of the new products and will post more when I have had some saddle time with them, but until then it is just nice to see someone throw himself completely into creating something, and come out the other side with a great new brand and position. We wish Philip and Upright the best of luck and look forward to seeing their products on riders all over the US. Their site will be up live this week, so go check them out.