Photos - J. Dunn
For a while Ringtail only existed through the images we had seen on the internet and social media. The little bags of colorful nylon awesomeness that unpacked into full size jackets and vests blew our collective mind. Stowing a protective layer between the saddle rails and above a tool roll? Game changer. Ringtail is the creation of Team Dream Bicycling Team’s Sean Talkington and Golden Saddle Cyclery’s Kyle Kelley that they dubbed “The Great American Cyclewear Project.” Ringtail produces domestically made cycling apparel infused with as much good design and fun as possible. Garments cut to be wearable on any type of bike means you can jump off the the townie after breakfast tacos and step on to a mountain / road / cross bike all while never having to revisit the closet.
Sean Talkington has been creating some of the best cycling kit and products as of late. Classic designs like stripes, polka dots and fades all updated with a refined style and color. We knew Ringtail was something special ever since receiving our shipment of goods and heading out on those first couple rides. With the recent launch of their new Breeze Blocker jackets we thought it was time to catch up with our friend and chat about his new venture Ringtail.
ATHL: Ringtail stuff has been great! We had to wait patiently with the rest of world and watch as little bits of jacket goodness was unleashed upon us. How long were you working on the Ringtail project before we saw that first jacket in an instagram picture?
Sean: The initial idea was to make domestically produced jerseys and then maybe some jackets/vests a little later...Then we found out how long it took to order wool from New Zealand (it takes a really long time). So we came up with the jackets in about 6-ish months.
What sparked the creation of the Ringtail brand? Where did you see opportunity for apparel?
We actually started with wool jerseys about two years ago. Kyle and I share some similar views on cycling apparel, so we thought it would be fun to make our own products. We both already own small brands that happen to be 100% USA made, so keeping the manufacturing here in the LA area was a no brainer.
The company you use to produce Ringtail garments didn’t already produce jackets and vests (or did they?). How was it to work with them to develop a pattern and construction of the garments?
We partnered with a company called Pace Sportswear in Garden Grove. Pace is one of the best cycling cap manufacturers in the world and in the 1990’s they were making some amazing apparel as well. When you visit their facility you can tell they have a very rich history in cycling, but they hadn't really focused on higher end apparel in quite sometime. Kyle and I pitched the idea of a high end USA made cycling brand to the owner & soon after Ringtail was born.
You opted for a cut that was isn’t race cut or club cut. Can you tell us more about the thinking behind that?
I think we wanted a jacket that you could wear on the bike without tons of flapping but also off the bike it shouldn't feel like “bike clothes”. Still, If I am on my road bike I wear a small Breeze Breaker but if running or mountain biking I opt for a medium instead.
Did working on Team Dream projects influence or educate you on a design direction for Ringtail?
In regards to production/design, Ringtail has been a graduation from Team Dream in a lot of ways. I love being part of both Team Dream and Ringtail, but there is no way I could have started Ringtail without the knowledge from working with Team Dream & even Golden Saddle Cyclery.
Beside the name “Ringtail” are we going to see any more feline appreciation? Maybe a giant PK screened onto the back of a jacket?
I wish PK was on a jacket (PK is one of my cats...he's pretty amazing)! Is the Ringtail mascot a cat? I’m still not sure what he/she is...you would need to ask Geoff.
Can you tell us a little about the materials used in the construction of Ringtail garments? That stretchy back panel on the vests is something I had never seen before but immediately fell in love with.
The idea was to create pieces that are functional for long days on the bike but to keep the aesthetic minimal. Our jacket looks like a jacket...not a bike jacket. It's still functional and produced with an ultra lightweight nylon with wind stop, but it doesn't look like it belongs in the Tour de France. With the vest we went for more of a race fit being that you probably wouldn't want to wear a vest off the bike (maybe Julie could pull it off...she's European). The stretchy back material you are referring to is a lightweight mesh lycra...it's pretty awesome.
Ringtail colors are also rather unique with the Breeze Blocker jackets and Breezer vests coming in a brown and gold that isn’t found that often in cycling apparel. Do you have a method for selecting color? Do the materials you work with dictate your color palette or are you able to have free reign over what colors you want to work with?
It's really a mix of both. One of the things we wanted most with Ringtail was to make something different. Being a small brand requires good hunting skills. You are always looking for a diamond in the rough. Sometimes we are forced to deal with stock colors or buy available yardage from our suppliers because we are so small. Now that Ringtail is growing we are able to do more custom colors and even our own unique fabric weights/blends.
A lot of the Ringtail brand is centered around keeping it fun and staying stoked on bikes. How many high-fives do you like to give out per day? Any tips you can give us to stay stoked during the winter when our seasonal affective disorder kicks in?
Having multiple cats in the obvious answer. You can also fatbike throughout the winter :) It's just bikes. If you aren't having fun, then what's the point...
Now we know you don’t want to say too much but should we start clearing some room in our closets for more Ringtail goodies? Possibly something we should put onto our holiday wishlist?
We really hope you like color blocked merino wool :)
Ringtail recently endorsed Jarritos tamarind as the official soda of Ringtail. Is there anything else you would like to personally endorse?
I drink Le Croix...exclusively and my contract stipulates that I tell everyone that this interview was brought to you by the Pamplemousse flavor ($$$$).
In closing...Honestly, we are all so lucky to do what we do. This is a truly special time to be a small business, so how can we not be stoked? Kyle and I both worked in a bike shop in LA 5 years ago. We would sit around & talk about what brands/shops should do and now we both own a brand together (along with our own individual brands...and Kyle owns part of one of the best bike shops in the world too). We get to work with other small bike brands like you guys (The Athletic) and make products for some truly amazing/supporting people to buy. If you think about it The Athletic, Team Dream, Tracko, Ringtail, The Radavist, GSC and lots of other small brands are all competitors to each other. We all make similar products but at the same time we are all supportive and excited to see the other grow. It's a pretty amazing thing that is happening and the best part is we all still love riding bicycles. All of these small brands have more of a “bike shop” feel than a traditional brand. I’m wearing Athletic socks right now! Can you imagine if someone at Specialized came into work with a Bianchi shirt on...haha! Thanks for having me.
Thank you Sean Talkington for taking the time to keep us all up to date and in the loop about all things Ringtail. We look forward to seeing more products from the growing brand and all the good times that come with them. Peace!