Sophie Poelman is a New Zealand born designer and cyclist who grew up on Waiheke Island, and recently launched a performance cycling apparel brand, The Rituel, on the crowdfunding site Kickstarter (get in quick, it finishes tonight!). Here’s her story:

Sophie Poelman with model (and boyfriend!) Alain.
Sophie Poelman with model (and boyfriend!) Alain.

Six months ago, I moved back to Auckland from Europe, where I spent six years living in the cycle-heaven of Amsterdam and two years in the pedal-powered paradise of Italy. Amsterdam is where my love affair with cycling was ignited. My only form of transport for almost a decade was an Oma Fiets (Grandma bike) which was a trusty & rusty black Gazelle. It managed a couple of thousand k’s until the foot pedal brakes finally wore out.

In Amsterdam, cycling became an integral part of my daily lifestyle – I biked in normal clothes, with a strong sense of safety and always without a helmet. This bike was my grocery shopping workhorse, my socialising tool, my commuting vehicle, my 3 a.m. taxi home, my leisurely weekend touring device and my close connection with the city. I wasn’t a “cyclist”; I was a person who happened to ride a bike to get to where I needed to go.

While living in Europe, I designed technical sports apparel for various surf and outdoor brands. I moved back to New Zealand to take up a position as a designer at Macpac. Being back has been incredible so far, and I was especially happy to find an emerging cycle scene already frothing away in Auckland. There is a cycling revolution happening in the city, with lots of little groups popping up with a united vision of becoming part of the global movement of cycle-friendly cities.

I’m stoked with the progress Auckland has made since I’ve been abroad, and excited about being a part of making it a truly global & livable city in the future. I am an active member of the LadyGang cycling group; we are 125 (and counting!) ladies who get together to cycle, drink coffee and discuss various grand idealistic visions for our own slice of cycle utopia. We’re an eclectic bunch, ranging from around 20-35 years old – and many of the gang are recent European returnees who are looking to recreate that magical cycle lifestyle in Auckland too!

As much as I am all about urban cycling in normal clothes, I also like getting out and riding for fitness, which led to a keen interest in road cycling. This led to my current side project, a high-performance cycle apparel brand that I have been developing with two mates. I met Chris and Mark 10 years ago when we did a ski season together in Tahoe, and since then, they’ve have grown up (slightly) and replaced their snowboards with road bikes.

Like me, they were becoming increasingly disenchanted with the cycle kit that was on offer; it was either super-expensive, or something for MAMILs that they wouldn’t be caught dead in. We felt there was an opportunity to create a brand that reflected our sense of style and at a price we could afford. So together, we created a range of minimalistic, restrained and stylish kit. And here’s my little advertising moment: supporters have the chance to pre-order our season one lineup here. Be quick – offer ends at 10pm today, July 15th!

But whether it’s cycling to get around in your regular clothes, or getting all lycra’d (or Rituel’d!) up on Saturday morning, Auckland NEEDS cycling. Cycling creates community, which is something our increasingly fragmented city desperately needs to bind it together. Sometimes this becomes apparent to me as I catch myself waiting at the lights on my bike with a big smile on my face, having friendly banter with fellow cyclists… and then I look at the frustrated faces inside all the cars, and I realise that life is not about creating a barrier between yourself and the outside world – it’s about experiencing your surroundings, and truly connecting with the city you live in.

Looking good in The Rituel at Maraetai.
Looking good in The Rituel at Maraetai.
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Bike People Cycle Style
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