photos: van swae
If you ever need a reminder that the mountain bike industry's entrepreneurial heart is still beating, look no further than Shredly, a Colorado start-up best known for its funky-patterned women's shorts.
Founder Ashley Rankin crossed her fingers and leapt off a metaphorical bridge in January 2012 armed with a double degree in business and apparel design and production and an idea for a Kickstarter campaign.
A month later, she had pre-sold 25 jerseys and 90 pairs of Shredly's signature shorts through the online seed-money source, raising more than $25,000 to launch her business.
"It was a really good testament to the fact that there is a market for this," Rankin said.
She figured there would be.
Rankin lives in Carbondale, Colorado, in one of the most active mountain communities of an outdoor-loving state, and was discouraged by all the boring, black, ill-fitting and unflattering baggies she saw women wearing on the trails.
The designs lacked inspiration, personality, and most of all, color. Rankin set out to fix that with the board-short-inspired Shredly. The result is a line of three styles of shorts, three jerseys and a chamois that loops into the shorts. There's the Mountain Bike Short, the Knicker, which gains 3 inches in length and the multi-sport short meant for pretty much every sport besides mountain biking.
A few of the shorts have a subtle, more-conservative patterns, but most are splashed with neon colors and loud prints like peacock feathers, huge flowers and skulls. They are different and fun, and with some 19 patterns to choose from there are options. That's right, options. Gasp! The selection is nice but really, the magic is in the material. Rankin sources a lightweight, quick-dry, stretchy fabric that allows the shorts to mold to various body types, and design touches like a contoured waistband to avoid the dreaded 'back gap' and gusseted crotch make for a flattering fit. Rankin sources the fabric from Taiwan and all the pieces are sewn in a factory in San Diego–Rankin is committed to keeping as much production as possible in the U.S.
I've been wearing the KTO mountain bike short for the past few months and so far, so comfortable. The material moves well and doesn't bunch up when you change positions on the saddle. Plus, the low-profile chamois has reopened my eyes to the benefits of the mountain-bike liner. After years of suffering through horribly bulky and uncomfortable liners sewed into baggies, I happily started cutting out the liners and wearing road bibs under the shell instead. Things have clearly changed for the better in recent years. The Shredly chamois uses a nice thick waistband so it stays put, but the low-rise cut avoids pressure on the stomach, and the mesh fabric ventilates well. The pad itself comes from Cytech, the preeminent Italian chamois producer, and its slim design provides adequate plushness without feeling like you're wearing an adult diaper. Plus, wearing a liner short instead of bibs makes things way easier during the inevitable trailside bathroom breaks. The zippered thigh vents and side pockets are both super functional and well-placed. The Velco side adjusters worked fine and stayed in place throughout my rides, but it seems like the bits of exposed Velcro on these types of tabs is always catching my jersey or the adjusters are coming undone. Rankin is replacing this feature with an internal elastic system in next year's model, which will take these already-great shorts up another notch.
After trying the regular fit, I would likely opt for the Knicker in the future because I prefer a longer short. The Knicker is also more versatile if you wear kneepads.
The 2015 line, which comes out next March, will also include seven new colorways for the shorts and a new sleeveless jersey (the jersey colors are much more subdued to counterbalance the vibrancy of the shorts).
And expect more big things from Rankin and Shredly in the future. Rankin, afterall, is not one to sit around and wait for success to come find her. When she first launched Shredly three years ago, she dialed in the product then hopped in her car and drove to bike retailers all over Colorado pitching her wares the old-fashioned way. She had 17 dealers the first year, a number that doubled in Shredly's second year. She's now up 50 dealers and expects to sell in 70 shops next year. She also does about half her business through the Shredly website. All this while she’s still working a part-time job outside the industry.