An Interview with Yanto Barker,
founder of Le Col
Thursday 16th March 2017
Le Col is a local brand for us but has expanded globally recently with a recent successful crowdfunding campaign. Their latest announcement of their partnership with the new Bike Channel Racing team only shows that they mean business and are looking to be at the forefront of cycling apparel and design. We caught up with ex-pro rider and Le Col founder Yanto Barker about their plans for the cycling market, if he ever gets tempted by the racing bug still and any plans to open up their own cycling cafe?!
Hi Yanto. Thank you for taking the time to speak to us. Was having your own cycling label something you always aimed for or was there a moment in a race where you looked around at all the other kit and realised you could do better?
Thanks – It was more a case that I believed I could produce something much better than was currently out there. I love designing and I am passionate about my products and performance, with an intensity most people probably don’t realise, but that is absolutely necessary if you are going to produce industry leading garments continuously.
Le Col is obviously a phrase out of the French dictionary, for those who didn't study GCSE French, what does it specifically mean and how important was it to you to have a French influence at the core of Le Col?
Le Col means Mountain Pass. The pass being that point where it is the most efficient place to cross the range, built on goat tracks that were then used to guide cart tracks which later turned into roads, and used in the amazing events like the Tour De France. It was never my intention to specifically look for a French influence, but the name encapsulated so much of what I was aiming for, that it was an obvious choice.
Planning to have your own label is one thing, putting the wheels in motion is another. What was the main stumbling block in getting Le Col up and running?
No real stumbling blocks, but a continuous and never ending sequence of challenges. These challenges morph into a different kind of characteristic when you are up and running but its effectively the same attitude to overcome them all. “I will find a way to make this happen!” this is the long and short of my mind-set. I rarely accept no for an answer and will pursue an outcome relentlessly if I have decided it’s the one we need to achieve. Being an entrepreneur, is about crossing what look like ‘uncrossable’ gaps in the pursuit of progress and ‘backing yourself’. I enjoy defying convention and proving the doubters wrong.
Did you take inspiration and guidance from other cycling clothing labels such as Rapha or did you want to start with a blank canvas and see where the journey would take you?
I took what I would call inverted inspiration. I am not a fan of the core brand identity of Rapha, it speaks to a slightly different demographic to me. They are all about dividing the market and personal suffering. I am about enjoyment of the pleasure of cycling, fitness and exercise and the pursuit of achieving my potential, in an inclusive and supportive way. This is how cycling has looked after me in the teams I have been in to allow me to see the world, meet amazing people and achieve fantastic results. The same goes with Assos, it’s just not quite there for me, so I created my brand to be what I wanted in everything it represents.
Le Col have recently announced their partnership with the Bike Channel Racing Team and design kits for other domestic teams. Has there been an increase in interest from teams in the UK and abroad for Le Col to be their kit designer?
We’ve been supplying pro teams for quite a few years now and yes the momentum and interest is increasing as word of mouth spreads through the peloton. We are already talking with teams for 2018, with some exciting potential opportunities for the future, so keep an eye out for announcements!
Let’s get in the Delorean and fast forward 10 years from now, should we expect to Le Col at the head of the peloton climbing up Mont Ventoux?
I would like to think a lot sooner than that! – So yes.
We assume you still ride even if its leisurely but do you ever find yourself waiting at the lights and a rider jumps in front of you and you’re tempted to show why you were a success on the domestic racing scene?
I spent 20 years as a full time international professional: racing, competing and achieving results against the best in the world, not just domestically, so I have nothing to prove to the commuters at the lights. Having said that, I may only ride a little now compared to what I used to but I am still pretty fit and like riding fast. My riding friends at the weekends know I can still be quite competitive when the time is right, but I like to see people push themselves, I respect anyone riding to work or setting goals and targets for themselves, or just simply keeping fit.
You’re often a nemesis for us on Strava segments especially around the Surrey Hills. Is there a climb in the area you often find yourself diverting to and what climb in the world still needs to be ticked off your climbing palmares?
None really. It’s a bit late for that now I am nowhere near as fit as I used to be. I might tackle a few descending Strava segments but that would be it, I can still go downhill like I used to.
Final question, will we one day see a Le Col cycling café or will clothing and design be your niche market?
Never say never. It’s not part of our core plans now, but there are opportunities all the time and we will take each one on its own merit.
Thank you for your time and we wish you all the best with Le Col and if notinthepeloton ever dives into the racing scene, we know who to come to!