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The Interview

Cranking through the gears with WyndyMilla

Henry on the British cycling scene, natural highs and mechanical doping.

We caught up with Henry from WyndyMilla one morning in February and despite the damp and dreary conditions their shop was filled with lycra-clad cyclists all drinking cappuccinos and sharing stories of their latest hill climb. As we stood soaking up the atmosphere we began to get a real insight into the man behind the brand and what really makes WyndyMilla tick.

We talked about one of their latest bikes that was hanging on the wall, a Manor Racing F1 branded Foo Fighter. “This is something that we took to Mexico as part of our sponsorship of Manor [Racing]. We rode across the city with the drivers and even took the bikes up into the mountains. I have never ridden at such an altitude before, we were 3800m above sea level – that’s 1200m higher than the highest pass on The Tour [de France] – it was amazing”.

Standing here, we are a long way from where the business started 8 years ago. Working as a personal trainer “back in the late 90s when it was only the likes of Madonna who had a personal trainer”, having turned his back on a music industry management career, Henry found fame writing a feature for The Sunday Times Style magazine as well as appearances on BBC, GMTV and Channel 4’s The Fit Farm. Working with a handful of celebrity clients such as Jodie Kidd, the Rothschild family and the Rausing’s (founders of Tetra Pak), Henry began to explore elite sports and triathlon.

“I realised my swimming was terminally shit, so I focused on my cycling”

Wyndy Milla Workshop

Bike: Massive Attack

“Having competed in the age group World Championships I realised my swimming was terminally shit, so I focused on my cycling. The following year I went from unranked to elite and found myself in and out of the top 10.”

“This was around 2007/08, and is something that we know and recognise as the renaissance of British Cycling. I was really starting to find my way in cycling and felt I could create a better frame and offering than was currently available for the custom market. For me if I was going to do it, it had to be bespoke and it had to be European.”

Do you think the cycling scene has changed much since the business started?

“At the beginning it was easy for WyndyMilla to be different. We were extremely disruptive and had a real Marmite personality when it came to people’s reaction to the brand - from the logo through to the colour of our jerseys - they were loud - and we did some interesting publicity things that I’m not sure we’d repeat.

Over the years, there has been a fixed-gear scene that has sprung up that is a real creative hotbed, it seems to have attracted the high-octane hipsters, it’s not enough to be a hipster anymore, they have to be super fit too. What this means is that cycling has become high fashion, if you’re not the person leading the charge, you’re the person trying to keep up. We accept that we are not always leading the charge, but we have to keep moving forwards as it is so competitive.”

Can you tell us what has working with Flourish done for your business?

“Working with Flourish has had a huge impact. It was something that I was really keen to do and not everyone is a visionary or entrepreneurial. We had been going for 6 years at that point and we were onto our third brand incarnation that was very confused.

I wanted to develop a product that people really wanted and it was really important to us to pull that into one coherent brand identity.

We were blown away with the results, which is why you do something like that. You want to do something where you have an idea, hand it over to someone else and the results are something that we would have never done ourselves.

There has been a really positive reaction from everyone to the new branding. So much so that we have seen our turnover double since working with you. We still have constraints that are holding us back from reaching our true potential with the business and the branding. First and foremost is our location, as we’ve expanded rapidly it means we now desperately need more space and more capability in house to cater to all of our customers needs.

This really is just the beginning but its really positive and this is something that we are continually developing. For us, the brand is everything, it is the most important thing for the business and the one thing that will help propel us forwards.”

You have some exciting plans for the future, can you tell us more about them?

“We are opening a new location in Kingdom, Kent, that will have a 1 mile track and an artisan café. This is a completely unique environment. Racing on the road is very hard now, it’s so dangerous due to the traffic, so most racing is now done on 1 mile tracks.

It’s a great place to test your bike, it’s a great place for corporate days, and even great for kids. The whole place is just a dream. We are due to open in April 2017, the track will be laid by June in time for it to get some good use before the winter sets in.

Additionally, we now also have a presence with Athlete lab in Cannon Street that is working nicely and are looking to get more involved there and really change the landscape for both them and us. I can’t really say too much more on that right now until we get firmer plans in place, but it’s really exciting.”

“We were blown away with the results, which is why you do something like that.”

As we talked to Henry further he digs out some plans from his desk that he describes as “an organised mess, I know that everything I need is here somewhere. It might not be in neat piles, but whatever I am looking for is going to be here, it’s not going to be anywhere else.” What he shows me are some plans for a new time trail bike that is less complicated than their current custom offering. It is lighter and a bit more simple than the current best selling Massive Attack frame which currently retails at around £2,900.

“We want to be able to create a whole bike that comes in at that price point [£2,900] that has the same credibility behind it but just not the time spent on the custom work.” Alongside this there are plans for developing a bike with an engine in it, “It’s really a motor to assist people, we’re not talking mechanical doping, it’s more about allowing para athletes to train with able bodied athletes – it’s going to be really interesting.”

“We’re going from strength to strength as a business and we’re really starting to see the investment we made in our brand pay off.”

See the product of what we did with WyndyMilla in our Work section.