Alicia Bamford felt the full, addictive force of cycling up mountains in 2010, when she joined a group called the Fireflies on a gruelling nine-day 1,000 km charity ride from Évian to Cannes via Les Grande Alpes. She was immediately struck by those awe-inspiring peaks, as the route took her on a journey up and over the most revered and difficult climbs of the Tour de France — summiting an average of three mountains each day. More importantly, it was a journey of self-discovery, of having to push beyond her known limits to reach the top and into a new state of mind. At the summit of her first mountain she knew she wanted to share this experience with other women and inspire them to get out there and ride.
Whilst clocking up the miles on the Firefles Tour and subsequent tours and racing over the years, Alicia started to notice that there were certain things missing from her cycling kit that she thought women’s road cycling needed. From this, the idea came about to start a fresh new cycling brand for women which offered high quality performance apparel, without compromising on style.
Having experienced first hand the limited kit options available for women and suspecting that this was a barrier to some women riding, she wanted to change this.
“I had an assumption that part of the reason women were put off cycling was to do with the clothing available and not feeling confident whilst wearing it. Therefore one of my primary aims was to stop the lack of attractive performance clothing being a barrier. I want women to ride more because of the clothing, not less.”
After nine years in the corporate world, working in M&A, Alicia was fostering the ambition to run her own business and gaining strong experience to enable it. The stars were starting to align and all she needed was the courage to take the leap and make it happen. With a lot of mountain climbing determination, the business plan written and a nod to lady luck, she resigned from her day job and Queen of the Mountains was born.
It is an exciting time to launch a new brand like Queen of the Mountains, as women’s cycling is growing rapidly.
“I see things are starting to change in the UK and also abroad. There is a significant rise in the number of women cycling, which is just fantastic. You can see it from the participation numbers at events and also just out on the roads — there is huge growth, and we want to contribute towards encouraging more women to become active and ride.”
The early stages of creating the first Spring/Summer 2016 collection saw Alicia selecting the pieces in her cycling wardrobe that she loved and analysing how they could be improved to make “the ultimate piece”. It was a process of thorough examination, tweaking, testing and precision to ensure that all the important elements in performance road wear for women were accounted for.
“I spent a long time researching the fabrics because each fabric sits and wears differently in different conditions and in different positions (on and off the bike). Once I had the ideal pattern I worked through several prototypes in different fabrics to find the right combination.”
And of course, at the heart of the brand are the mountains. Alicia wants to ensure they are somehow represented in each piece.
“Each collection will have a nod to a particular mountain or mountain range, taking inspiration from the flora, fauna and surroundings as well as the feeling and emotion from cycling up them.”
As she builds the brand, Alicia continues to get out on her bike as much as possible. Having an outlet and a means to encourage the creative flow is essential when launching a new business like Queen of the Mountains and cycling has an almost clarifying effect on this idea process.
“I have quite a lot of creative thoughts on the bike. It is those moments when you have the space and time to be still and things just end up coming to you. Sometimes I don’t know where they come from, you just get into a bit of a flow of thought and I love that about riding.”
The next twelve months are set to be incredibly exciting for Queen of the Mountains with the brand launch in January through KickStarter and a host of events and cycling retreats lined up for the spring and summer. Alicia will be applying her own brand philosophy to each step of the journey to ultimately inspire more women to get out on their bikes.
“It’s about setting out to climb your own mountain, setting your own challenge, whatever that is for you. It’s about doing it for yourself and feeling that sense of achievement on the way up and when you get to the top.”
Queen of the Mountains is launching through a KickStarter Campaign where you can order the Spring/Summer 2016 range. There are also a host of cycling events, such as regular Tuesday morning laps around Regent’s Park and a monthly bike-to-brunch to places like the New Forest and Brighton. You can find out more about them here.