It’s over five years ago that I headed out on Barden Moor with Tom Barras. It was a filthy day in August, wet and windy – definitely Yorkshire Dales summer weather.
We were out taking some video and photos of the Merlin Axe – our first Gravel bike. I had known Tom for quite a while. He had mentioned he was designing a new clothing product (as well as coaching riders). I was a little surprised when he whipped a pair of Spatz out from his kit-bag. Spatz looked completely different to anything else on the market. However, shortly after we had finished riding through peat bogs and deep-sheep-filth, I knew Tom was onto a winner. Tom took off the Spatz to reveal a clean and dry pair of shoes – they looked box-fresh, not fresh out of a bog. Spatz were clearly something else.
Since then, Tom has switched focus from rider coaching (including superstar Tom Pidcock – Ineos Grenadiers). He has been busy designing new products and developing his brand. With a range of over 40 products and Worldwide availability, Spatzwear products have been selected by some of the biggest names in bike racing.
It’s time to catch up with Tom Barras.
What highlights to you have from the last five years?
I think a major highlight was first being asked by Alpecin-Fenix to partner with them and supply their Pro Men’s and Women’s and Development teams with kit. Then seeing the whole men’s team ride the Tour of Flanders in the kit and ultimately come out with a win with Van der Poel. Mega!
Something which is always a buzz as a clothing designer/manufacturer is seeing athletes using the kit that we have developed. Examples of this are both Brownlee brothers who use our kit every day and of course seeing MVDP using our white Windsock2 oversocks whilst wearing the Pink jersey in the Giro d’Italia was a great moment. At the time there was one pair of them in the world and Mathieu chose them over any other brand on the very highest stage in cycling.
How do you know when you get a product just right?
For me to spot riders on WT teams wearing our kit even though we do not sponsor or support them. It shows that they are buying our kit out of choice because they need the best kit in order to perform at their best, regardless of cost or brand. They are using our kit for the exact reasons and in the exact situations we designed it for. If you look carefully at the winners of Belgian classics in the spring is it common to spot our Burnr gilet or base layers nestled underneath the speed suits of the winners, despite them being sponsored by other brands. Our kit offers warmth, comfort and aerodynamic benefits that other brands have not caught on to yet!
Any adivce for new business start-ups?
I think the best bit of advice would be to learn to cope with constant challenges, knocks and setbacks. You have to be extremely mentally resilient and keep pushing forward regardless of how many people or situations appear to be pushing you back. Sometimes you feel to be getting hit with constant sh*t and you have to just push forward, even if pushing forward is simply responding to emails and constantly developing new product. When you start a business you are simply not prepared for how mentally tough you need to be!
What’s your favourite product in the range?
Hard to point to one product (I design them all to be better than what’s already on the market) but with a gun to my head I’d say the Spatz overshoes. They were my idea in 2006 and they have transformed how cyclists ride and train in the cold and wet. Using them means that in the winter, if your training plan says “4-5h endurance ride today”, and it’s zero degrees and rain, you can go and do the ride that is planned. That’s huge and a vast improvement over any other overshoe before or since. That’s the reason the Pro riders buy our kit and use it over their own sponsored kit – our kit allows them to train as they need, regardless of the weather.
Is there one moment when you thought, ‘I’ve nailed it’?
I never have and I don’t think I ever will! One thing I have learned since starting Spatzwear in 2017 is that even if you have great success (say a good financial year where you smash your targets), you never really take the time to appreciate and celebrate that “win”. This is because you just think “that’s great but how the f*ck are we going to beat that next year??…
If you had to pick 3 pieces of Spatzwear kit for Winter, which ones?
Heatr Jersey, Basez2 base layer and Spatz Pro2 overshoes. There’s genuinely nothing on the market close to those in function, innovation or quality. To cheekily take that to four pieces, I would add the Thrmoz gloves – truly brilliant in the cold.
Thanks for your time Tom 👍
See our range of Spatzwear products here