In the world of women’s mountain biking, Shredly is a well known name. Chances are, you either have a pair of Shredly mountain bike shorts, or you have a girlfriend that does.
But it wasn’t always that way. Once upon a time, women were still wearing boring black bike shorts and Shredly was just a kickstarter campaign.
In this podcast interview, I had the opportunity to sit down with Ashley Rankin, the founder and owner of Shredly. She shares the origin story of Shredly, what makes the brand special, and where the company is headed in the future.
🔥 Connect With Ashley & Shredly 🔥
🛒Where To Shop Shredly 🛒
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- Shredly Website: https://shredly.com/
- Local Dealers: https://shredly.com/pages/dealer-locat
- evo.com: https://bit.ly/3ZAodAf*
- Backcountry.com: https://bit.ly/3EVULeQ* (affiliate link)
- CompetitiveCyclist.com: https://bit.ly/3LDWB7z* (affiliate link)
- REI.com: https://bit.ly/457i7IT* (affiliate link)
- GearX.com: https://www.gearx.com/catalogsearch/result/?q=shredly
*Interview has been edited for clarity*
Kristen: Ashley Rankin, thank you so much for joining us today. We’re excited to discuss Shredly. But first, can you share a bit about yourself? Who is Ashley Rankin beyond the brand?
Ashley: Thank you for having me, Kristen. It’s great to be here.
Contrary to what some might believe due to Shredly’s success, I didn’t come from a background of professional mountain biking or racing. Instead, I’m someone who grew up in Colorado, enjoying mountain biking with my family.
My passion for it grew stronger during college when I began biking more frequently with my girlfriends. I hold degrees in both apparel design and production, as well as Business Marketing.
The idea for Shredly came to life when my friends and I realized we couldn’t find biking apparel that we truly liked. It’s interesting to share this because many assume I had an extensive background in the apparel industry.
In reality, I simply saw a need based on personal experience, and what started as a casual idea transitioned into a side hustle, and eventually evolved into the brand it is today. While Shredly is a significant part of my life, it all began from a simple idea.
Shredly Origin Story
Kristen: I love that you brought up imposter syndrome, as it’s something many women grapple with, especially in fields where they feel underrepresented. Even though Shredly is now a recognized brand, it wasn’t always that way. How did Shredly begin, and what motivated you to fill the gap in the market?
Ashley: I appreciate that question. I came across an old photo from 2010 of my friends and me looking like we stepped out of the ’80s or ’90s in terms of our biking attire. The market primarily had dull colors and lacked flair. Moreover, post the great recession, many brands were axing their women-specific lines. Participation of women in the sport was quite low, and the available apparel reflected that.
Shredly started during this period, offering vibrant colors, engaging patterns, and designs created by women for women. We emphasized comfort, fit, and style. For some reason, these were often overlooked in the outdoor apparel industry, which lagged behind mainstream fashion.
The genesis of Shredly was on a bike ride with friends, all of us discontented with the available attire. With my background in apparel design, I felt equipped to venture into this realm, but I had limited knowledge about establishing a brand or managing a business. My strategy was simple: take one step at a time. Over the course of a year, I sourced fabrics, created samples, and connected with people who became pivotal to Shredly’s journey.
Funding post-recession was a hurdle. We turned to Kickstarter, an unfamiliar platform back then. Launching the campaign in winter, we simultaneously introduced our brand on social media platforms. The positive response from the Kickstarter campaign was an initial validation of our product’s demand. Concurrently, I approached bike shops with our samples, managing to get 17 of them on board in the first year.
The progression of Shredly mirrored my personal growth. We didn’t follow the conventional business playbook, often treading uncharted waters. It was daunting yet exhilarating. Over the years, forging relationships within the industry, I realized Shredly had left an indelible mark. We had not only introduced vibrant apparel but also contributed to a more inclusive biking community for women. The transformation in the last decade feels vast, and it’s incredible to witness the industry’s evolution.
What Makes Shredly Unique
It’s interesting how you’ve noted other brands emulating your style. Many big brands now seem to create products that resemble yours, like the yoga waistband you first introduced. However, to me, it still feels like an afterthought for them – like they’ve created just one product tailored for women. In contrast, your brand offers a range of products exclusively for women. That’s what sets you apart.
Exactly. That distinct focus on the women’s market is what continues to differentiate us. While big brands might produce a product or two for the “Shreddy” buyer, we address the broader market with varied products. It’s exciting to understand the diverse needs of our customers and cater to them.
When I first got into mountain biking ages ago, the only option seemed to be black shorts. It was even challenging to find ones tailored for women. I remember buying extra small men’s shorts because that’s all my local shop had. When you began designing shorts specifically for women, what distinct needs did you find they had, aside from just aesthetics?
Great question. Women are often more attuned to fabric, fit, and function. While men might historically have focused more on functionality, I believe that’s evolving as the market diversifies.
Women come in varied shapes, and our weight distribution varies greatly, from our tummy to hips and thighs. The longstanding idea of an “athletic body” doesn’t necessarily mean a lean or slim-fit body. When we designed our first shorts, we emphasized fabric elasticity to cater to different body shapes and sizes.
We aimed to create versatile styles that would fit a broad spectrum of women. Over time, we’ve been intentional about aspects like waistband thickness, short length, and fabric type. The next step for us was understanding the preferences of our market. For instance, our short with the stretch waistband came about because we realized there was a demand for higher rise shorts with better articulation.
Interestingly, we found that women have strong preferences, say between zipper and enclosure types. Learning from our customers and identifying unmet market needs drives our product evolution.
Why Sustainability Is Important
I’m a big fan of that yoga waistband. I’ve got a few pairs, and they’ve become my go-to shorts. They fit me so well. Plus, they’re incredibly durable. After countless washes, they still look brand new. This longevity obviously makes them more sustainable. What other measures have you taken towards sustainability?
Firstly, thanks for the kind words on the shorts, Kristen. As for sustainability, it’s always been deeply personal to me. In my daily life, I’m meticulous about reusing and reducing waste.
Owning a business amplifies the impact I can have, and I consider it a grave responsibility. Before sustainability became a trend, we committed to using only recycled or sustainable materials for all new styles. While this approach presents challenges, especially when seeking specific technical fabrics, we’ve sometimes developed our own, like with our Eco fab line. Last year, 93% of our products contained recycled materials, and we aim to increase that each year.
We also pay close attention to the entire manufacturing process and its broader implications – from the wellbeing of workers in factories to the impact on local environments. A significant area of concern for us has been packaging. We’ve always been hesitant about using plastic bags for our garments. Research led us to a case study by Patagonia, a company we deeply admire, on why they still use plastics for packaging. Such industry leaders offer invaluable insights for smaller businesses like ours.
I’d like to think we’ve begun setting standards in our niche market. Our focus on sustainability isn’t a recent trend; we’ve been pushing the envelope for about five or six years now.
A Shift In Manufacturing
You had a strong commitment to manufacturing in the US for a long time. What led to the change?
Yes, for a decade, we were proudly manufacturing everything in the US. However, the impact of COVID was immense on our business model. The pandemic resulted in the loss of about 30% of our domestic manufacturing. Several factories couldn’t reopen post-lockdown, and those that did faced soaring prices and disrupted supply chains. We faced potential delays of nearly a year for products we needed within a quarter, and the cost would have made even our direct sales difficult. This led us to diversify, so now we manufacture in Asia, Mexico, and the US.
This diversification, as we learned from the pandemic, is essential to not keep all our eggs in one basket. Although the shift was significant for us, given our commitment to domestic manufacturing, it has brought along unexpected benefits. For instance, some product designs, like our best-selling biker Sham with its bonded and laser-cut edges, were not feasible in the US. The move to other regions expanded our design capabilities, allowing us to tap into advanced technologies.
We also have the privilege of working with skilled teams overseas. They’re diligent, skilled, and meticulous in their craft, which has elevated our product quality. While we cherish the small-batch manufacturing approach in the US, and we’re keen to retain those relationships, the need for larger capacity and superior technology made this shift inevitable. The past couple of years have been about restructuring our supply chain, which, in many ways, felt like rebuilding the core of our business. The journey has had its challenges, but it’s also been a valuable learning experience.
One standout feature of your brand is its wide range of sizes, from zero up to size 24. What motivated your decision to be so size-inclusive, especially considering the expenses and challenges it brings?
When I launched Shredly, I was determined to produce women’s products truly tailored for women. An early decision in this direction was to adopt numeric sizing. This is because the difference between each size in a numeric system is just an inch, making it easier for women to find their perfect fit. In contrast, an alphanumeric system, like extra small to 3x or 4x, can have a gap of three to four inches between sizes, which often leaves women struggling to find a size that fits just right.
To highlight our commitment to inclusivity, we started our range from size zero to 12. Interestingly, I didn’t fit into this range initially since I’m on the petite side. However, I understood it as a starting point, and our strategy was to expand the range gradually. Over the years, we’ve extended our size range up to double zero to 24. Although this isn’t our final destination, we continuously analyze our sales data to ensure we cater to all sizes.
Traditional brands often concentrate on the median sizes, but we, as a women’s brand, believe in catering to every woman’s needs. Although some sizes might not be as profitable or high selling, we view them as crucial to our brand’s authenticity. This inclusive approach ensures that every woman feels represented. The financial aspect can’t be ignored; larger sizes naturally use more fabric and require more cutting space and time. Yet, we’re ready to shoulder these costs because it aligns with our core values and business model.
The Next Generation
You’ve introduced a youth collection in recent years. Given the limited options for youth mountain bike clothing, especially for girls, I think this is a fantastic addition. On my website, Rascal Rides, which focuses on family cycling, I often get questions about what parents should buy for their daughters. Previously, the only option available was essentially boys’ shorts in black. How has the reception been for your youth collection?
The youth collection was our most requested product. We’ve been thrilled to see both mothers and daughters enjoying the collection. It’s delightful to see girls wearing such cute shorts. More than just being about fashion, it’s about empowerment. I recall not enjoying mountain biking clothes as a child – wearing tight, unattractive black shorts wasn’t a great experience. No matter the age, wearing something that boosts your confidence can genuinely enhance the experience. By providing a variety of colors and patterns, we hope to inspire more girls to take up the sport. Many little girls have their favorite clothing items, and it’s a joy to be a part of their biking memories.
I’ve been reading a book by Christine Yu titled “Up to Speed,” which focuses on the science behind women’s sports. She emphasizes the importance of introducing girls to sports at a young age. This early exposure not only helps build neural pathways, making movements more natural later in life, but also reduces injury risks. While it’s always been a goal to get young girls excited about sports, understanding the neuromuscular benefits adds another dimension to its importance.
That’s truly insightful. Observing the next generation of riders, especially those starting on Strider bikes, is awe-inspiring. My nephews, for example, exude confidence when they ride, which is a stark contrast to the tentative first rides many of us experienced in our youth. Starting them on bikes at such a young age certainly makes a difference.
My son is 10 years old and just started racing downhill. This year, I decided to join him in a downhill race. We self-seeded, and I had him start 30 seconds behind me. Throughout the race, I kept thinking he’d catch up, and sure enough, he finished just moments after me. It’s remarkable to witness the skill level when you start so young.
Absolutely. We’ve been organizing retreats, and a significant portion of the women attending are mothers eager to keep pace with their rapidly improving children. They want to be as good and as fast as their young ones, and it’s heartening to see their dedication.
Women In The Bike Industry
That’s genuinely inspiring. On a related note, have you encountered other women in the bike industry who’ve left a significant impression on you? How has your experience been as a woman in this industry?
Since I didn’t originate from the bike industry, I initially felt like an outsider. Not because I wasn’t welcomed, but because I lacked the in-depth familiarity that many had. I am genuinely in awe of women for whom biking isn’t just a hobby—it’s an intrinsic part of their identity.
While biking is integral to me, I wouldn’t classify myself as a “mountain biker” above all else. I’ve met industry professionals for whom biking is everything—community, sanctuary, and almost a form of spirituality. There are so many admirable women in the sector, like Shanna Powell, one of our ambassadors. She’s devoted to welcoming newcomers to the sport with open arms and pure intentions. Countless women in the sport have shared how biking has transformed their lives, providing solace during challenging times. The communal spirit of biking is what truly resonates with me.
The Brands That Are No More
It was disheartening to see Machines for Freedom being bought by Specialized and subsequently dissolved. Inside the industry, how did this resonate with you? Were there any takeaways from this scenario?
It’s indeed unfortunate, and we lost several other brands like Kitsbo as well. As a team, we often reflect on our journey, being thankful for our longevity despite the industry’s fluctuations. The continued existence of a brand speaks volumes about its identity, its loyal customer base, and the quality of its products. While I’m unaware of the exact details surrounding Machines for Freedom, their dissolution seemingly stemmed from corporate decisions. It underscores both the potential advantages and risks of collaborating with larger brands.
When you’re a smaller brand, resources are limited, and partnerships, like the one Machines for Freedom had with Specialized, offer the potential for growth. However, the downside is the lack of control during challenging economic times. Larger corporations often prioritize financial stability over maintaining the soul and personal touch of a smaller brand. Thus, the key takeaway is understanding the balance of risks and rewards when partnering.
We’ve witnessed numerous brands making tough calls, downsizing their marketing or ambassador teams. This stark contrast between publicly traded companies and smaller brands highlights the value of autonomy, something we cherish deeply.
What’s on the horizon for Shredly this fall?
We’re gearing up for some exciting launches. Our romper was a huge hit this summer; it was fantastic seeing so many women enjoying them. Coming up, we have a full-length version, essentially a utility suit, allowing for year-round romper-style wear.
Additionally, we’ve been developing new pants for over a year, and I’m thrilled about their upcoming launch. We’re also restocking our popular biker and hipster chams. And, we have an unexpected surprise in a new sport layer plus a ‘shock it’ which we launched today. It’s a versatile insulated piece ideal for post-ride sessions. With riding season tapering off, these launches offer something to look forward to during the fall and winter.
Are the new pants more suited for gravity or trail riding?
They’re trail-oriented, using the same material as our shorts. But, they come with unique details, perhaps with a touch of moto inspiration.
Before I dive into my last three questions, where can people find Shredly and how can they connect with you?
You can find us primarily on Instagram @shredly. Our entire collection is available on shredly.com, where you can also locate a dealer near you. This year, we collaborated with REI, which currently has a significant stock of our romper. So, if you’re eager to get your hands on one, do check out REI. Plus, our website can guide you to any local vendor that carries our brand.
Being able to visit a local store and actually find women’s products, especially trying them on, is a game changer.
Absolutely. And people also love our traveling trailer which carries our full range. It’s always a crowd magnet wherever we set up. We’re marking our presence at upcoming events like Roam Fest in Florida, Women of Oz, and the final Roam Sedona event. Additionally, we’ve organized our own retreat in collaboration with Momentum Mountain Biking, scheduled for the last weekend of September in Park City. It’s an immersive experience with skills sessions included.
Final Three Questions
Alright, I have three final questions for you. Firstly, what bike or bikes do you ride?
I ride a Transition Scout. I also still have my Yeti Betty, specifically the SB5C, from when they made them. I cherish both, as they offer distinct riding experiences.
Sounds great. Next, where’s the favorite place you’ve ever ridden your bike?
That’s tough because I’ve had the privilege to ride in so many amazing places. But, New Zealand tops the list. I traveled there for a Yeti gathering trip and experienced the varied landscapes – from high desert to what felt like the Swiss Alps, and even the beach. The diversity of terrains was simply astounding.
That does sound remarkable. Lastly, what do you love most about riding your bike?
Riding demands my complete attention. Regardless of how busy or stressed I am, when I’m on my bike, I’m wholly present. Throughout a typical day, I’m multitasking and juggling multiple thoughts. But on my bike, it’s just me and the trail, a genuinely purifying and grounding experience. That’s what I love most.
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