I’ve been a bicycle rider since high school and a racer since 1980. When I was at my best I competed on the national level, within sight of but never really cracking into the ranks of America’s elite riders. This allowed me to race more or less full time through to the late 80s, but never so good that I could really get ahead in the sport. After college I abandoned racing full time in ’88 to start a career in graphic design, but my love for cycling never left.
In 1997 I became a member of a cycling club called Alto Velo, based in Palo Alto, California. Alto Velo was a very organized cycling club, and they encouraged racing by paying their club members a small amount for top-six placings in local races. Race placings were sent from the club member via email to the treasurer (and the group listserv) and before long, race results were augmented with brief descriptions of the race. One beginning racer, A Dr. Rob Schott, started the trend of writing more vivid tales of racing, whether or not he expected reimbursement by placing in the top-six.
In one of his more florid race writeups, Rob wrote: “… by this point, I was deep in the Republic of Anaerobia and my visa had suddenly expired …” Which got me thinking about a mythical Republic of Anaerobia, and what a national team jersey might look like from such a country. Fellow rider Dave Stahl came up with the motto for the Republic (‘Veni, vidi, vomiti’), I designed the jersey, and with the help of some fellow team riders, found a vendor to make them. Rob and I split the costs on a run of 100, and at our next club meeting, we were astonished to have almost completely sold out at that one meeting alone.
This suggested to me that there might be a market for clever, attractive cycling apparel for active cyclists.
Schott and I joined forces, producing at first more Anaerobia jerseys, then bib shorts, skinsuits, wind vests and windbreakers, bottles, frame decals, cycling caps. I created a Republic of Anaerobia web site and used PayPal as a payment engine.
Velogear and Bike Nashbar bought Anaerobia jerseys for their catalog/website sales and at one point we were Nashbar’s top-ranked jersey. We also created a second jersey, “Lucky Sprint,” which was sold both online and through VeloGear. Sales of Lucky Sprint, a parody of the Lucky Strike cigarette box, were good, but not as brisk as the Anaerobia merchandise.
Anaerobia, however, suffered from neglect. Both Schott and I had our own careers (he as a cardiologist, I with my small animation company). Sales weren’t really supporting the minimal effort we were spending, and in 2004 we agreed to terminate the Republic of Anaerobia as a business entity and liquidate all of its remaining assets.
In the meantime my graphic design business had been doing well. I specialized in animation, for medical device, pharmaceutical companies, documentaries and tech firms. In 2007 I won an Emmy award for my work on a documentary about the Bay Bridge. But I was tired of being chained to a computer throughout my work day. And cycling continued to call …
The past experiences and successes of Anaerobia persisted in my mind. In 2007 I felt that active recreational cyclists made up a large and increasingly poorly served group of people when it came to the choices offered to them in cycling apparel. At the same time I was goaded from many die-hard fans of the original Anaerobia to continue on with the line. So in 2007 I launched the new company as a sole proprietorship which I named Elevengear. I started with just five jersey styles, and continued to source them in the U.S.
Three of our jerseys; Saturn V, Poseur and Coral Snake, were selected by Bicycling Magazine as their “Jersey of the Month.” Over time we’ve expanded our offerings to include items for when you’re not riding (‘coasting gear,’), as well as developing kits that make use of high-visibility colors and reflective materials in a unique way. We’ve attracted investment and become an LLC, sell cycling apparel directly to customers around the world as well as to retailers here in the US. We’re currently sponsoring two cycling teams and have a presence in local Sonoma County riding and racing.
All said it’s been an amazingly enjoyable journey and one that is ongoing.
-Rick Pepper, Managing Partner, Elevengear LLC