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Textile, clothing and footwear stories

Tassie wool rides to success

Edition 202_BreatheVelo

An innovative Tasmanian is manufacturing high-performance cycling gear out of the island state’s celebrated merino wool, and it’s already generating worldwide interest.

Breathe Velo is also the only cycling kit in Australia that is 100 per cent wool.

Tasmania produces the best wool in the world, and there are some really innovative and clever people farming in the wool sector,” Breathe Velo creator, Mark Munnings explains.

“They are really passionate about merino wool, and there is a lot of science and intellectual rigour that goes into creating fine merino wool. I just think that is something worth celebrating and a story that is worth sharing.

“After all, it is the backbone of our product and what we do.”

Munnings only began making his high quality cycling kit – jerseys, bib-shorts, arm warmers and leg warmers – last September, and says it is superior to the mostly synthetic outfits currently on offer.

“Everyone who uses Breathe Velo loves it! They are surprised by how comfortable the wool is,” Munnings explains.

“I have been a cyclist for 30 years, and have been a long-time believer in the benefits of merino wool in adventure clothing and outdoor wear.

“People have a notion that wool is an itchy fabric that is hot. So, they have been really enjoying wearing a merino outfit that is soft to the skin, and performs really well in both warm and cool  weather.”

As well as keeping riders warm on a cold day by trapping heat next to your body, wool also keeps cyclists cooler on hot days.

“Wool breathes well when you are wearing it. When you get hot, it allows the moisture to ‘wick away’ from your skin to the outside of the fabric, which creates a bit of a cooling cycle to allow that moisture to evaporate and effectively cool you down.

It also allows you to have a sweeter ride – literally.

“Another huge benefit is that wool doesn’t smell after you have been active in it. It seems to capture those odours, and only releases them once it has been washed,” Munnings adds.

“So after you have ridden on your bike for 100km, you can walk into a café to have your coffee and not stink the entire place.

“And that doesn’t happen with synthetic fabrics, they get very stinky, very quickly!”

Breathe Velo is produced by the Tasmanian Clothing Company, at Spreyton, just south of Devonport.

And, in a matter of months Munnings has built up a customer base of 50 keen cyclists, as well as a growing export market, with 20 percent of his stock shipped overseas – mostly to North America and Europe.

His target is to have 500 customers, and export 70 per cent of his stock by the end of 2019.

Munnings combines Breathe Velo with his full-time job as an outdoor education teacher at St Patricks College in Launceston, and fell into manufacturing the cycling gear by accident.

It happened last Christmas, when he went to buy cycling gear – as a present for his wife Mary-Ann – from a boutique Sydney company which was the only one in Australia to manufacture the gear from merino wool. However, during the process, Munnings found out that the business – Eleven Velo – was about to close down.

Seizing the opportunity, Munnings enlisted the help of Gerrard Thomas, who ran Eleven Velo in Sydney, and set up his Tasmanian operation.

“Gerrard has been a wonderful mentor and help,” Munnings explains.

“He has worked closely with us, including helping to set up our production line which is based on his tried and tested patterns and 20 years of expertise.”

There is no doubt that Breathe Velo combines the best of Tasmania: A niche export product, made from our celebrated merino wool, that promotes the state’s growing international reputation as a cycling mecca.

Breathe Velo is available online at www.breathevelo.cc.

Image courtesy of Chris Crerar

12 February 2019, Edition 202

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