A Chat with Claire Armstrong owner of Saddle & Spoke
We all can appreciate the finer things in life, those things that have an edge, a sophistication, an eye for detail, a thing of beauty. Certainly recently there have been some wonderful products for our beloved activity commonly referred to as cycling that have been crafted and introduced to the market, some beautiful and exquisite pieces that really do add a touch of class to our chosen pedal powered steads. The one draw back though is often these finely crafted pieces are a bit of chore to go find. They’re here there and everywhere, wouldn’t it be absolutely wonderful if some kind soul put them all in one place for us.
Well they have and the kind soul in question would be Claire Armstrong who’s put together a fantastic online emporium called Saddle & Spoke selling a growing and fantastic collection of hand picked and quality accessories for the discerning cyclist.
Claire’s love for high detail, design and, of course, cycling ultimately lead her down the path towards setting up this new venture. “I came up with the idea of Saddle & Spoke late summer last year,” Claire begins, “I love cycling and design. The idea came from looking online myself for some new, different and unique cycling accessories. I found there were a lot of small labels and brands out there that provide products for the style-conscious urban cyclist. But I found it a bit of a chore to source these. I then had the idea to create an online store to bring together these small labels from around the globe and place them on one site, cutting out the need for cyclists to trawl the internet for themselves. There are some fantastic products such as bells, bags, panniers, saddles, grips, helmets, bike stands, handlebars and so on from many different countries that have design consideration, aesthetic quality and style in common”
Claire was very careful that the products appearing on Saddle & Spoke (S&S) would match her own brand ethics and company ethos. “Most of the brands on offer at S&S have been set up by like-minded people who have a passion for cycling and design. Saddle & Spoke’s ethos is all around the design background and story of everything we sell.” She’s also clear about the people she wants to target her products at, “Saddle & Spoke caters for the cyclist who places a lot of emphasis on the design, style and materials used to create their cycling accessories. People who are willing to pay that little bit extra for something that is unique, well designed and high quality.”
Claire’s first port of call when she started her beautiful cycling accessories quest was the worldwide web. “My initial research was online: cycling websites, blogs, Google, social networking sites, online groups and forums. And also from friends visiting other countries and seeing a product, taking a pic and sending it to me. I have good friends!” Very good friends.
When Claire’s studies and research minions find potential products she looks into them further, “I contact the supplier and ask more questions and receive samples so I can see, touch and test the product and assess its quality and functionality. I’ve built up good rapport with some suppliers such as Susan Mocarski from Cleverhood in the US who pointed me to another brand, Belle Helmets in NYC and we now sell some of their designs on the site too. I can honestly say though that all of my conversations with suppliers, customers and other contacts to date have been an absolute pleasure! Testament to the friendliness and openness of the cycling community the world over.”
Originally from Northumberland and living in Newcastle for most of her life she one day decided it was time for a change and, very inspiringly, made the move to England’s capital and she couldn’t be happier. It’s getting around London that has stirred Claire’s passion in cycling and pushed it to the levels that made her want to set up a business to service the stylish cycling community. “I moved to London three years ago from Newcastle where I had always driven. I’m quite active, running, squash and walking are my thing, but then when I moved to London I realised cycling was the way forward to avoid overcrowded tubes and buses.I had cycled a bit before I moved, but certainly not in a urban environment like London”
Not needing to ride to work due to close proximity to her place of employment, Claire’s cycling is definitely more relaxed than the average commuter, “I currently ride a traditional bike by Achielle, the Craighton Pure Oma in black. It was hand built in Belgium, it’s unbelievably smooth. A total joy to ride and provides an element of calm when getting around London.” Talking more about what her dress and accessories will be when she goes on her rides, Claire adds, “Style for me is important, it adds to the joy of cycling. It really depends on the weather and, yes, my mood and the accessories are just as important as the clothing I’m wearing.”
Claire is bringing a fresh and enthusiastic approach to an area that’s always seemed tagged on the end when it comes to cycling. It’s uplifting to see a shop dedicated to selling cycling accessories given such a thorough and informed approach to it’s creation. It’s hard to not to get excited by her passion to bring new, unique, bespoke smart looking accessories for cycling into one place. Whilst Saddle & Spoke is just beginning its journey in the cycling community, there is the exciting possibility for exclusive Saddle & Spoke own-label accessories down the line as well as extending the clothing range. Claire’s fine range of cycling accessories is gaining popularity daily and was recently featured in The Observer by Lauren Laverne in her article about Cycle Chic. A very exciting development on the horizon is adding the beautiful range of F&Y Handlebars to the Saddle & Spoke collection, in fact they’ll be the first UK retailer and wholesale provider so you’ll know where to get them as soon as they’re available.
Saddle & Spoke is richly deserving of it’s standing as one of the top up and coming websites for cycling accessories & products and surely it won’t be too long before S&S takes it’s place as a key member of that area. Certainly with Claire’s focus and passion I can see her being a major success and Saddle & Spoke the place to go for your discerning cycling accessories.