5th June 2023
The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast
EPISODE 329: Hilltrek’s revival of a 1950s cycling jacket: the Greenspot
SPONSOR: Tern Bicycles
HOST: Carlton Reid
TOPICS: Hilltrek’s revival of a 1950s cycling jacket: the Greenspot
Carlton Reid 0:13
Welcome to Episode 329 of the spokesmen cycling podcast. The show was engineered on Monday, fifth of June 2023.
David Bernstein 0:28
The spokesmen cycling roundtable podcast is brought to you by Tern bicycles. The good people at Tern are committed to building bikes that are useful enough to ride every day, and dependable enough to carry the people you love. In other words, they make the kinds of bikes that they want to ride. Tern has e-bikes for every type of rider. Whether you’re commuting, taking your kids to school or even carrying another adult, visit www.ternbicycles.com. That’s t e r n bicycles.com to learn more.
Carlton Reid 1:03
I’m Carlton Reid. And on today’s show, I’m talking cycling history with Dave Shand and Daniel Odermatt. Dave’s company Hilltrek makes the Greenspot cycle jacket, a revival, a classic revival, from the 1950s and Daniel works with Ventile, which supplies the historically-resonant fabric. Dave and Daniel here and Dave, you’re in Scotland, Daniel, you’re in Switzerland. So Dave first whereabouts in Scotland? Well, I
Dave Shand 1:37
I am actually on the west coast of Scotland in a place called … is where I stay, but our businesses in the northeast of Scotland in the Cairngorms National Park
Carlton Reid 1:49
both beautiful areas and then I know that Daniel is in Zurich at the moment that right Daniel?
Daniel Odermatt 1:54
That’s correct. Yes at the borders of the lake of Zurich. Exactly.
Carlton Reid 2:00
Beautiful. So both of you got reasonably good and easy access to mountains. I’m in Newcastle and it’s a way for me to get to mountains but let’s talk about first of all Hilltrek because Dave that’s that’s who you work for when when you’re not where you are right now. So Hilltek clearly is making garments for hill walkers that kind of clue is in the name to how come you’re now doing or you have been doing for a few years a cycling garment. How did how did that come about?
Dave Shand 2:31
We started we started off a bit 40 years ago making garments for hillwalkers. But But that changed the developed through time. So we know make garments for cyclists, bushcraft people, bird watchers, hunters, I think the clue the clue is really in the fabric we use rather than our origins as hillwalkers if you like, and we still make garments for hillwalkers…. We’re a big Ventile user though.
Carlton Reid 3:03
Yeah. Because that’s Daniel that’s that’s that’s where you’re speaking to me from from Zurich, as many people may be confused with that because you know, Ventile is is often marketed to in labels, you know, developed in Britain, that kind of stuff. And is as it has this amazing English British that pedigree. But it’s a Swiss company now. Yes?
Daniel Odermatt 3:28
That’s correct. That’s correct. Yep. The reason is, because in the 70s or 80s of the last century, so there was a deindustrialization of the cotton industry especially so the spinners and weavers they started to disappear in in, in Manchester area where it was woven this fabric. So these people went to they came to Switzerland, first of all, also for the finishers. So they’ve been looking for finishes who can finish that fabric, because there is a lot of know how. So then that’s that was the first step when we started to shift to know how from England to to Switzerland, to finish the fabrics. Later on Stotz took over this idea and they started weaving, spinning and weaving this fabric also. And then little by little we had the full know how here. And at the same time in England, all these companies started to close down business. And then that’s where actually From that moment we produce that fabric in Switzerland. back five years ago, we have bought the brands lentil from Talbot weaving there was only one person left Mr. Mark Burrows has sold us the brand. And now so we are the producer and the owner of the rental brands.
Carlton Reid 4:56
Now, this is gonna be a history I mean, we have talked about the history of Ventile, Dave, but there’s also a history here for Hilltrek, and not just what you know, the 40 years, Dave, but also the fact that you’re making in effect, a replica jacket, a famous replica jacket from the 1950s from Bertram Dudley. Yeah. So tell me about that 1950s history and whether you’ve got to ride a steel bike, and you’ve got a, you know, Eroica. And the kind of the heritage that surrounds this product.
Dave Shand 5:31
Yeah, you’re right there. It has a famous heritage. The company was about to Dudley run in the Midlands, and they made jackets for all sorts of uses. And one of the jackets was, was the new mud jacket and the supernova jacket. And I think originally, they probably made that for golf, golfing use, but the cyclists began to use it. And it became really well known amongst cyclists. And you’re right, you know, amongst the traditional, what we would regard most traditional cyclists but, but that was the only tradition then if you like in the 1950s. So Beltrame, Dudley, the chap owned Bertram Dudley decided to retire I think, sometime in the 90s. And we were approached in the late 90s by a local customer in Aberdeen to see if we could make a green sport jacket, or green sport no been jacket.
Carlton Reid 6:32
I’ve done my research. That’s Paul Kohn.
Dave Shand 6:34
That’s one yes, yes. All right. Good. Yeah. Yep.
Carlton Reid 6:38
So he approached you and said, You’ve got to make this jacket because it’s, it’s fantastic. Is that Is that where it came from? And you just, you able to just you bought the rights to it, or you just did you know,
Dave Shand 6:48
we looked at the design, we didn’t actually make a replica of the original design, we took the design and adapted it for what we thought we could do. And for what we thought cyclists would would want it that you know, and in the late 90s, early 2000s So but actually, we made it I think in 2015 We made a green spot heritage jacket, which is more like the original green spot
Carlton Reid 7:19
and who’s buying it. I know it’s hard sometimes hard for you to answer that because anybody can be buying it but your gut feeling who is buying this jacket is it is it. If you buy a carbon bike you just can’t ride this jacket is what’s what’s the customer profile? Who’s buying
Dave Shand 7:38
what the customer profile think you hit the nail on the head earlier, the customer profile is largely those who like to write traditional bikes but we also have half cyclists who like to do you know long rides and unlike protected from the weather. So you know, somebody somebody’s doing a day cycle and a carbon bike probably wouldn’t buy a jacket but somebody you know, cycling over several weeks over the northwest of Scotland probably would.
Carlton Reid 8:19
So let’s let’s talk about let’s go back to Daniel and let’s because this is this is the history of event tile is it’s slightly disputed history. But let’s let’s go into what’s say well known about the history so 1943 Surely Institute in Manchester, which is like a cotton research organisation. It’s then meant to be abused in RAF emergency food, so hurricane pilot ditching into the, into the North Atlantic would then be rescued because the fabric was meant to go close up and and become waterproof when it got wet. So that’s the traditional history. How much of that would we say is is correct, Daniel?
Daniel Odermatt 9:07
Oh, that’s almost 100% I would have described it exactly as you did. So there’s no nothing more to add to that. Still, until today we produce that original fabric that was developed by the Sherman Institute in 1943, or Winton in mass production in 1943. It was developed a bit earlier. So still discovery we produce. That’s the 300 gramme the heaviest one of that classic line. And we we developed then lighter ones, like two underground 120 on the 70 gramme, even on the 45 gramme and they all have that same characteristics of waterproofness and all the work like the original one, they swell when in contact with water, and then the the pores they close completely Under bought the fabric gets waterproof.
Carlton Reid 10:03
Does that not make if I’m saying I’m a lightweight nylon jacket kind of person normally and yes, you sweat in them. But this jacket if if our customer will come back we said, well hang on that that’s gonna get awfully heavy. If it’s if it’s in effect absorbing the water and swelling, does that not make it a much much heavier jacket when it’s actually raining?
Daniel Odermatt 10:28
Yeah, that’s a very good question actually. But the fabric is, is evolving in a such a dense way. There is not much water that can penetrate through the fabric, there’s just it’s rather humidity. And, believe me or not, the fabric takes less than 10% of weight when it’s after ditching into the water after being into water. So that that’s not much at all. It also dries very quickly because it doesn’t take doesn’t take a lot of water.
Carlton Reid 11:01
And it’s one of the characteristics that’s really important here is ultra ultra breathable.
Daniel Odermatt 11:07
Definitely because it’s 100% cotton and cotton always briefers the fabric is not coated, it’s just the DWR impregnator Is the impregnation on it in order to make it water repellent. Without that the fibres they would soak, then it will take more humidity definitely or more water, it will absorb more.
Carlton Reid 11:29
And how long does that DWR treatment last,
Daniel Odermatt 11:32
though we have changed almost three years ago now from PFC six to total PFC free DWR PFC free nobody wants to have it anymore, we want to avoid that harmful substance. And, but this lead led also to a less it’s less durable actually that DWR. So after, after two, three washes, or after a while of wearing it, it wears off a bit so that you just can re impregnated and you will have the same characteristic as from the beginning.
Carlton Reid 12:09
So Dave, when when when I was doing the research for this, you can get you know, original Bertram Dudley, jackets made out of Ben dial in this particular you know, the Nomad. They’re like my collective gifts, and they clearly last a long time. So is that again, that’s something that inbuilt with this product is. It’s tough. It’s weatherproof, you know, what Daniel was saying? But it’s also there’s, there’s almost like, you’re gonna hand this down to your children, your grandchild? And this is, these are items that are going to not be they’re not disposable.
Dave Shand 12:44
No. And, you know, we have a lot of customers who, maybe not maybe not necessarily site cyclists, because you don’t get the same abrasion, for example, as a Bushcrafter. That would with his jacket, you know, but we get, you know, people like Bush crafters and hunters that go come back to us after 10 years wanting us to refurb the jacket. And, you know, they’ll keep it for another 10 years. In fact, we have one customer who’s who’s been in for three different refurbs over over 50 years for the same jacket. But to incite cycling, there’s less there’s obviously less abrasion. And and so it does last a long time. You know, people do hunting jackets on to on to siblings,
Carlton Reid 13:32
and it has you can always use this jacket without a rucksack and without even pannier bags perhaps because there’s lots of pockets. There’s pockets and every single place you can imagine having the pockets.
Dave Shand 13:44
Yes, loads of pockets to store stuff. Absolutely. And I think that’s one of the beauties of this jacket. And that’s what probably made it very popular in the late 50s
Carlton Reid 13:56
and then when it was in the 1950s and it was in its heyday as you said before it was like your that was a jacket. It wasn’t a jacket for a specific kind of cyclists which it is today. So were the people who are buying your jacket where are they getting it from? Are you are you in any shops or is this something that you kind of need you’re gonna have to be online only. Yeah, we
Dave Shand 14:20
are online only we do have we do have one or two outlets but not have the cycle jacket. We’ve we’ve got some outlets and the bushcraft and in hillwalking but not many but for the green sport. Yeah, sadly you have to come directly to us.
Carlton Reid 14:39
That’s not sadly that’s you get exactly what you want. You can put a hood on it you want it you can put in absolutely yeah, it’s if you’re getting a custom steel by, you know you’d get a custom Hill track jacket. Not sadly at all. Yeah. Daniel, let’s come across to you again. We’re talking before about before we We can we started recording this about other brands who use bento and I’m assuming they use it. Some of them like the stone Island was one of your biggest sellers. They’re using it the mental as as a heritage brand as an interesting with English kind of backstory. They’re not using it for I’m assuming here you can tell me they’re not using it for the performance characteristics they just liking it as a quintessentially English developed fabric. Would that be right?
Daniel Odermatt 15:35
Yeah, actually, they don’t play that much with that history. Their brand is so strong stone is such a strong brand. So they don’t want to be the fabric to be the star actually, their own brand is the star but they were rich, they chose the best fabric on the market. And they’re really I asked them also I met them several times. I asked them also why did they choose winter which is not the cheapest fabrics of all but they really wanted the best one and it’s because of the performance they ran they love the performance they play on that one the performance and they love also the feel and the it’s a bit stiff the fabric but still feels very cotton like so that’s exactly what they were attracted
Carlton Reid 16:19
well I make all my apologies there I thought stone island would have been doing it not so much for the performance characteristics okay, I stand I stand corrected there’s another name for for for vent tile. And that was developed by in partnership with with Carol marketing who’s in Newcastle here PR company and marketing company here in Newcastle. And they that they helped him it was good 1520 years ago, they helped develop a product it was called ether proof. Yes.
Daniel Odermatt 16:56
That’s correct. What?
Carlton Reid 16:57
What’s What’s it is um I’m pronouncing it wrong here at approve eater proof. How do you pronounce that?
Daniel Odermatt 17:02
I pronounce it as a proof you pronounce that’s mostly right. Yeah.
Carlton Reid 17:07
But if you’ve got if you if you have a product and it says at approve, is it the same as Ben Tyler’s at different event title what’s what’s the what’s the how’s it joined together or not joined together?
Daniel Odermatt 17:17
Alright, is joined together definitely. Because as I told with the history when the production was moved and shifted to Switzerland, so we produced pantile for the British Mark for the English market. Actually, we produced it for Talbot weaving, who sold it worldwide under the brand Venton. But we also wanted to sell or to build up our own brand. So Staats that’s the company who was producing who’s the owner of rental nowadays. Starts created a brand it’s a proof and it’s an effect that is 100% the same these are identical fabrics.
Carlton Reid 17:55
Okay. And then so who Why would somebody use as a proof and somebody use Ben tile what’s
Daniel Odermatt 18:01
it’s just, it’s a it’s a marketing it’s a brand so some of the customers they they started with a top roof so they don’t want to change the brand. Now even though when tile is the stronger brand better known. A few customer they still stick to the waterproof branch. But it is less and less I have to say so one day it will maybe disappear.
Carlton Reid 18:24
Right? Because then tile is more known
Daniel Odermatt 18:29
is the original one it is but much that unknown and holds the rich story that whole story belongs to Ben time at approvals just a little brother.
Carlton Reid 18:40
So tell me about Staats because we’re about if you’re in Zurich, we’re about to start where the actual manufacturing,
Daniel Odermatt 18:46
we’re manufacturing before we have been spinning and weaving and finish time finishing all in Switzerland, unfortunately also here to happen. So the last spinner, they had to close down couple of years back. Our last independent Weaver we’ve been working so close with they had to close down during Corona times unfortunately, and almost 200 years old company, reverse company. So then we had to look for other Weaver’s they are based nowadays in, in Italy, in Turkey, Egypt and Austria. That’s these are our partners for the weaving nowadays. Still be the thing we die and finish the fabric in Switzerland that that our warehouse
Carlton Reid 19:37
is incredibly International. So the this this product is going around and it’s travelling product.
Daniel Odermatt 19:44
Not that much. We really try we don’t we don’t want to Vivid it would be much cheaper to do all the steps in Asia for example we really don’t want so it’s it’s not that far Italy. That’s like three hours from here. By car via you can see our Italian vivre. The Austrian one is even less one hour and a half. So it’s still as close as possible.
Carlton Reid 20:09
And Dave, and if if somebody was going on your website and and ordered all the bells and whistles, and an order the hood and I’m guessing the hood is relatively not ordered much. Cyclists tend to you know, not have heard them over I’m assuming Well, you certainly you can, you can normally take her dog, you know, detachable hoods. But if somebody was if somebody genuinely was taking every single option, how much how much is the most expensive? No man, but you can you can you can buy off you.
Dave Shand 20:43
Oh my goodness, that is a good question. And you you’re testing me. The other version, we also have an organic vento version, which I’m sure Daniel will explain. Which is also a bit more costly.
So I think probably, maybe around a bit 450
is probably the most expensive. And the heritage is slightly slightly more expensive. It’s because you have the the the small design differences and the fiddly things we have to do for the heritage jacket. But you’re right, in terms of of cyclists, they will tend to order without the hood, but some cyclists will wear it for for walking as well. So you know, they’ll they’ll order the food with it for further uses.
Carlton Reid 21:33
Yes, and then just take it off. And then when they’re cycling, they just take it off. Yep. Back, I can understand that. So tell me sell it to me, why is it so expensive? Because that is that is that is expensive. So why is it so expensive? Yeah,
Dave Shand 21:48
I think there’s a couple of things. Daniel touched on it earlier, the fabric itself is quite expensive. You know, compared to other fabrics, we could we could produce the green spot and another fabric fabric and the jacket would be cheaper. The the other cost is the fact that we manufacture in the UK, we have our own small factory, I call it a workshop, it’s not large enough to be a factory. So we, you know, we produce it using people we have worked with for, you know, 1015 years, 20 years. So, and that’s costly, employing people in the UK. And, and it takes time. The skills required to use Intel to make products out of Intel are not all that easily acquired, you know, it takes probably two years to train up somebody to make a green sport jacket. You can’t just take somebody off the street, and within a few months, they can do it. So that it is costly. And so hence hence the price.
Carlton Reid 23:07
Yes, no, and I’m not I’m not being critical here. I’m just saying you try and try and sell it to me as a customer. Why is it expensive. But I
Dave Shand 23:17
think the other thing is customization. If we if we produced all the jackets with the same spec, we could we could batch produce. But once you introduce customization, you make smaller volumes of the same product. And that is cost. So this
Carlton Reid 23:38
is probably a product that you can’t just click it and get it the next day, it might take a while before it can be made.
Dave Shand 23:45
Yeah, typically, typically, our delivery is eight weeks, we do carry some stock. But we have such a variation in you know, in product specs, including customization, we don’t carry much stock. So it would typically take eight weeks to from order to delivery.
Carlton Reid 24:03
So again, that’s something that you’ve got to be a specific kind of customer. You have to be you know, I’m going to be wet for the next eight weeks because I’m not, I’ve got my I haven’t got my Hill track jacket. So you’re having to think ahead here. That’s that’s also a very specific kind of customer here.
Dave Shand 24:23
I think that’s a big problem. You know, people, people will think, you know, it’s getting cold out, it’s getting wet out, I’ll go and see if I can order a green spot that is a challenge, you know, and then eight weeks to get it and then you know, they might decide to order one in the middle of the season and then both teams get it. It’s,
Carlton Reid 24:44
it’s a bit more but before we came on air, I was thinking we’re gonna be talking about in effect, a cold wet weather jacket in a very warm spell that we’re having in the UK here. Going into the summer, but what you’re saying is it’s probably Best to actually talk about it now because it’s gonna take yes you know yeah so almost into the past the son of the boy you get it anyway but in
Dave Shand 25:07
saying that we also produce a single Vendel green spot and we produce a cycling jieli which are used this time a year. So the single Vento is a windproof essentially, and the GLA is obviously windproof with loads of pockets also.
Carlton Reid 25:26
Kathy Do you know which colours are the most popular was cyclists?
Dave Shand 25:34
A that’s a good question. I would say Orange is a pretty popular colour. Because traditional
Carlton Reid 25:45
we’ll be putting glaze on a very nice dark colour will be traditional. Yeah, so the originals were probably grey black, maybe dark blue. So you’ve modernised it by having different brighter colours. Yeah, we
Dave Shand 25:58
yeah, we offer a range of colours. You know, oddly enough green is is very popular. So not all of green. But yeah, black, black and grey we sell a lot of
Carlton Reid 26:15
because you know that the person who’s going out you know, a high vis jacket is probably not the kind of customer here so you can imagine somebody will be buying a darker colour if they’re going a bit more traditional and if they’re running a steel bike and they’re gonna be happy you’re not having you know, a dayglo colour here with with lots of knots. You haven’t got his lots and lots of reflective striping. You haven’t got anything like really heavy?
Dave Shand 26:42
Nope, not at all. I think one of the reasons for that this is
the I think event held event or jacket you know, the the life cycle of things like like a reflective strips is less than that of an event L so, you know, they would probably degrade first. And the jacket wouldn’t look good. So that’s why we wouldn’t set in the original use reflective material jackets
Carlton Reid 27:15
obviously wouldn’t have used Velcro that have used precedents for the for that.
Dave Shand 27:21
Yeah, press starts. Yep, yep. Yep. I think luckily the use of velcro I’ve got an old green spot probably from the 19 1980s 1990s. And that’s that’s got Velcro, got some Velcro on it. It’s it’s also garbled been lined. So event outside gasoline inside. Okay, so in effect, it was a single Ventile jacket, rather than double Vendel.
Carlton Reid 27:50
Okay. Thank you ever so much for talking about that the history of a particular jacket that will be as we’ve kind of identified will be a particular kind of customer. But that particular kind of customer is going to be absolutely going bananas over this kind of product. I know that because I’m I’m a member of the veterans cycle club and I know exactly the people who this is cool. So Dave, I’m gonna come to you first. If you can tell people kind of give you a company website, basically where they can get more information about this product. And then I’m going to come to Daniel, I’m gonna ask him the same thing. But Dave, you take it away, where can you get? He’ll track stuff.
Dave Shand 28:31
Okay, so our website is health track.co.uk easily reached. And we are based in a small town called aboyne and northeast of Scotland, right on the edge of the Cairngorm National Park, a beautiful place to come and visit us back to
Carlton Reid 28:47
say, yeah, that’s beautiful. So did customers come to you and say that you’ve got a online only? Or are you do welcome
Dave Shand 28:55
customers? No, no, we have a small shop. People pop in. And I’m the they talk to the people who make the jackets and design the jackets. And that’s where some of the product changes come from people walking in and saying, I really liked this idea. What do you guys think of it? And we say oh, yeah, that’s interesting. So we will incorporate it.
Carlton Reid 29:19
And Daniel, how can we find out about Ben tile?
Daniel Odermatt 29:23
The best thing is to go when tile.co.uk there’s tonnes of information. There’s also a contact button and then you reach me directly. So I’m getting inquiries via this way via our website.
Carlton Reid 29:39
Before the end credits. Here’s David.
David Bernstein 29:41
Hello, everyone. This is David from the Fredcast and of course the spokesmen. And I’m here once again to tell you that this podcast is brought to you by Tern bicycles. The good people at Tern build bikes that make it easier for you to replace car trips with bike trips. Part of that is being committed to designing useful bikes that are also fun to ride, but an even greater priority for turn is to make sure that your ride is safe and worryfree and that’s why Tern works with industry leading third party testing labs like E FB E, and builds it bikes around Bosch ebike systems which are UL certified for both electric and fire safety. So, before you even zip off on your Tern, fully loaded and perhaps with the loved one behind, you can be sure that the bike has been tested to handle the extra stresses on the frame and the rigours of the road. For more information visit wwwternbicycles.com to learn more. And now, back to the spokesmen.
Carlton Reid 30:52
Thanks to Dave Shand. And Daniel odermatt there and thanks to you for listening to Episode 329 of the spokesman podcast brought to you in association with turn bicycles shownotes and more can be found at the hyphen spokesman.com. The next episode featured American transportation expert Andy Boneau, and we’ll be out in the middle of June. But meanwhile, get out there and ride