Flow MTB – Anita Hartley Interview
If like me you have searched for a place which brings together the latest in women’s mountain biking fashion then Flow MTB could be the place for you. Anita Hartley is the founder of Flow MTB. Partly as a result of the strong connection we share through our shared ownership of Commencal Meta Purples I managed to persuade Anita to take a minute out of her busy schedule to talk to us.
Cranky Betty: How did you first get into mountain biking? How long have you been riding for?
Anita Hartley: I first discovered mountain biking when I met my now husband Mark 10 years ago. I had a mountain bike when I met him but had only used it for riding canal pathways and redways around Milton Keynes. We met in October so our first 6 months of riding were spent in our local woods at Woburn. It was a muddy experience spent sliding around on roots and falling off in ruts where I began to wonder if mountain biking was for me, but then Spring came and our first MTB trip to Glentress in Scotland. These were the first official trails I’d ridden and where I found my love of mountain biking.
When I look back now at the places mountain biking has taken me and all the amazing people I’ve met along the way I wish I’d discovered it 20 years earlier.
CB: What kind of mountain biker would you say you are? Are you more at home holding your nose in the uplift van at the weekends, or are we more likely to see you taping an enduro banana to your frame and heading out on a trail centre red or black route?
AH: I really enjoy both so wouldn’t say I’m one or the other. I have one bike that does it all, my beloved Commencal Meta AM, and I think the mix of trail and downhill skills complement each other really well. Based on where I live most of my bike time is spent pedalling around the local trails but if there’s an offer of uplift I’ll be at the front of the queue ready to get an adrenalin rush. I definitely prefer the descents!
CB: You’ve said previously that the idea for Flow MTB came about in part after struggling to find good female specific MTB clothing; do you think that this is still the case?
AH: My problem was I knew there were lots of brands making women’s specific MTB kit but few retailers selling it, so you had to hunt round different shops/websites to find something you liked and hope they had it in the colour and size you wanted and unfortunately this still seems to be the case with a majority of stores, only recently I received a mail shot marketing the top 10 MTB shorts for 2017 and they didn’t list a single pair of women’s MTB shorts.
As Flow MTB is specifically for women it means our entire budget can go on stocking great kit for just for women.
CB: How do you go about developing relationships with MTB brands, and are there any brands you are keen to add to the Flow MTB fold?
AH: I’m not the most confident person so it was a bit overwhelming when I was starting out and I had to go and speak to brands and tell them about Flow MTB and my plans for the business. I had great support from my husband, and friends offering me tips, but fortunately the bike industry are a friendly bunch so building relationships has been a lot easier than I imagined it would be!
I think we have a great selection of brands at Flow MTB now. This year we’ve taken on Troy Lee Designs, Maloja and DHaRCO. I’d like to have Shredly as I think they’re a little different to the other brands but they’re not quite ready to distribute to the UK yet. There’s also a new UK women’s specific MTB brand coming next year Zania, so really excited to see what they have to offer.
CB: What have been the most significant challenges in developing and operating the Flow MTB business?
AH: Starting a new business in a market that already had strong players (Chain Reaction Cycles, Wiggle, Evans Cycles) is tough. The biggest challenge has been to get customers to think of Flow MTB when they’re looking for new kit and to come to us first. There was a social media post recently asking for women’s MTB kit recommendations and I was so chuffed to see how many people recommended Flow MTB. It shows the hard work and dedication is paying off. I have tried really hard over the past year to provide excellent customer service and keep customers happy; I want them to feel excited when they come home and see a purple Flow parcel waiting on their door mat! And everyone loves the magic stars
CB: If you had one piece of advice or comment for clothing manufacturers developing products for women what would it be?
AH: I’d really like to see consistency in sizing, it’s amazing how one size label can differ across all the brands.
CB: You are running your own racing team, why did you decide to do that and what have you learnt from it to date?
AH: I wanted to put the race team together to help encourage other women to take part in mountain bike racing. I remember turning up on my own at my first race at the Forest of Dean Mini Downhill and all the girls were so welcoming and friendly, I want our team to be that familiar face at races. The team are a perfect mix of riders aged 11 to 45 so there’s at least one rider others can associate with and think “if they can do it, so can I”.
The race team were always part of a bigger plan to help increase female participation in mountain biking. We sponsor the ladies categories at the Onza Mini Downhill and MIJ Downhill. We’ve teamed up with MTB Instruction to provide MTB skills courses for women. We offer guest blogs on our website for women to share their stories and inspire others and this year we’re running a ladies MTB week to the Alps.
The past 18 months has really shown me how many awesome women there are out there giving it a go, how encouraging and supportive women can be towards each other and how a little bit of support can give you a great confidence boost.
CB: What are your favourite items of clothing at the moment? What jerseys will you be wearing this summer?
AH: At the beginning of the season I try and pick out kit from new brands we stock so I know how well they last throughout the year, check out their sizing and see whether there’s anything we need to feed back to the brand. I wore the ION trousers loads throughout the spring as they’re great for riding in or pushing up at the bike park.
I really like the 2017 Fox flexair range, the shorts are super comfy and the fit is spot on and of course it’s our team race kit. I’ve also been giving the Maloja kit a go and love the bold print on the jerseys.
I prefer 3/4 sleeve jerseys so this summer I’ll be shredding in the Sombrio Noble jersey and the Dakine Xena jersey.
If you would like to find some lovely clothes or accessories for whatever kind of mountain biking you are into then you should go visit Flow MTB.
July 12, 2017