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‘Every time you go to a new destination, you always fall back in love with cycling.’
Gems in this
Stevan Musulin and Greg Hamer’s love for cycling has seen them pedal across the globe. Exploring new destinations on two wheels acts as the continual inspiration for the friends’ brand Attaquer, which combines fashion with cycling like never before.
When fashion industry sales manager Stevan Musulin and cycling industry product manager Greg Hamer began road cycling together, it wasn’t long before they noticed the total lack of stylishly designed riding kit. Pooling their expertise, they formed Attaquer, a brand that steered away from the traditional sponsor-driven look to offer unique, artistic gear. Attaquer’s success, and the pair’s love of riding in new locales, has taken them on some life-changing trips which, in turn, have inspired them to new creative heights. We chat with them about the origins of Attaquer, how their brand has changed the perception of cyclists, and their Travel Playbook for a cycling trip to Chiang Mai.
On how you both met
GH: We met through a mutual friend. I was working in the cycling industry, Stevan was working in the fashion industry, and it sort of evolved from there. The melding of our minds for cycling and fashion came together and we started Attaquer.
On what’s changed since the early days
SM: It doesn’t seem like that long since we started the brand, but when you look back on the kit that was out on the road in 2012, for the most part it was really heavily team-sponsored. There wasn't much out there that was graphics-based or driven by any influence outside of cycling or sponsorship. That’s why we started, because we couldn't find kit that represented our style or our interests outside of cycling. So we decided to give it a go ourselves.
On having a rebellious edge to your designs
SM: Our style and our aesthetic was rebellious when we started.
GH: It was almost a ‘fuck you’ to what the culture of cycling was at that time. Starting out we had so many people who had been road cycling for years saying, ‘No one's ever gonna wear that. No one's gonna touch that stuff’. And we were like, ‘Whatever. That's cool, but we're gonna have fun doing it, and we'll see’. It was a hobby at the beginning; something for our friends to wear and for guys like us who were considering what they wore.
On using artists in your early kit designs
SM: In the early days we were always calling in favors through friends and industry contacts, be it graphic designers or artists. That was part of the reason the aesthetic was the way that it was, because we were calling in people who had no experience with cycling whatsoever. None of the people doing our design work had ridden a bike or worn Lycra, so they didn't have any blinkers on, or say, ‘Oh, you need to do things a certain way’. They were instead influenced by their own creative industries.
On using your brand to bring new people to the sport
SM: That's always been part of the motivation. There’s this perception of cyclists, and you want to influence people and show them a different side. Attracting creative types to the sport was always in the back of my mind — what could we be doing to show people another side of the sport, show the actual beauty of cycling, not just someone commuting to work?
GH: One thing we found — and still do to this day — is guys who could have been skaters or surfers saw our kit and were like, ‘I want to wear that, so I've got to get a road bike’. They've gotten into the sport because of the kit.
‘One of the best places for riding, as well as food and culture, is Seoul.’
On traveling with the business
GH: One great thing about our business is that when we're speaking to our distributors or dealers around the world, it's not very sales orientated — it's relationship building. We’re packing the bikes and going there and riding with our customers and their customers all through Europe, Asia, USA. The best thing is you're going to their home, and they're taking you to their favorite rides. You discover places around the world, then come home and want to take your friends back. So you’re discovering through work, but then going back and enjoying it with your mates.
On favorite riding locations around the world
SM: One of the best places for riding, as well as food and culture, is Seoul. It’s pretty densely populated, but right in the center of town they've got this iconic tower at the top of this hill. You can approach it from four different directions. And it's proper climbs, too. So you get to the top, and you're looking straight down onto the CBD and these amazing, perfectly smooth, groomed roads. Kyoto is another one. Like, two kilometers out of the city center you can be away and out in the wilderness, hitting the most picturesque climbs that you’ve ridden. There are so many historical and cultural sites of significance you'll come across just randomly on a ride. We bumped into this local dude and he took us around one day. We went out to this bamboo forest, over a couple of historical bridges, and through a village that was 600 years old, maybe even older, with traditional thatched roofs.
On how riding differs around the world
SM: Every region has a different style of riding. Some aren’t so fussed about what their bike looks like, or what their kit looks like, but they really pride themselves on absolutely destroying you and making sure that they're the fastest riders. Whereas others are more about that social aspect and making sure that you do a long ride, but you stop five times for coffee and have the best meals and chats. I like going on trips; as cliché as it sounds, you always gain some different perspective or an influence or inspiration on new kit design or new product design. Influences that you don't get from sitting at home or being in the office.
On the best thing about travel
GH: You get to leave the kids at home! But no, the best bit would be the people you meet and form friendships with. I've traveled a lot through Southeast Asia and Asia, and the people are so hospitable. One of our dealers, their mom took me out for a day and we went and got massages and spent time with their kids. They’re just so wholesome and want you to have the best experience.
SM: Every time you go to a new destination, and take the bike and ride, it's a completely new experience, and you always fall back in love with cycling. You're at home for most of the year, and you're doing the same routes over and over and over again, having similar chats over and over again. When you go somewhere new, and you're with new people and it's a different environment, you're like, ‘Wow, this is why I got into cycling to begin with, because it's just so much fun’.
‘I like going on trips; you always gain some different perspective or an influence or inspiration on new kit design or new product design.’
On first hearing about Chiang Mai
GH: Our dealers in Bangkok put Chiang Mai, in the north of Thailand, on our radar. It’s an hour’s flight out of Bangkok. We started talking to guys about it, and eventually about 30 of us went over. We ended up renting out a whole hotel — The Artel Nimman. It had a slippery slide from the top level to the bottom level.
SM: It’s an upcycled hotel, so a lot of the furniture and fixtures had been upcycled from wherever they had found them. I'm guessing the slippery dip was one of those pieces that they found from a different site and decided to install. It was really cool.
On Chiang Mai as a tourist destination
GH: Chiang Mai is actually the second-largest city in Thailand. There’s a lot of temples, and the tourists who go there are more your clean eaters, vegans and yoga people. There's no beach. It’s definitely a different vibe.
SM: It's not really a party destination. There are heaps of things to do and see, and places to have fun and go out for drinks, but it's not your tourist hotspot like Bangkok or Phuket.
On the city’s appeal for cyclists
SM: It’s a very undercover cycling hot spot. There’s a really good close-knit community of cyclists there. And a lot of the savvy pros go there to train because the roads, elevation and climbing are really good. It's exceptional riding.
GH: Every day you’re out there riding, you'll see the actual pros out there riding together. We saw the Jumbo guys there one time. They actually called it the Girona of Asia.
On choosing routes
SM: You’re definitely going to come across really good routes without having to plan too hard. There's a handful of key climbs in super close proximity to the city, and you can do them in all sorts of different directions. You don’t have to follow anything too closely: you can take a left turn here, or a right turn there, and go off the beaten track. There was one day in particular when we went to the top of Doi Suthep, one of the closest climbs to the city. It's 12 kilometers up, so we would go to the top, turn around and come back. It was a short-ish loop.
‘Chiang Mai is a very undercover cycling hot spot. It's exceptional riding.’
On getting off the beaten track
SM: At Doi Suthep, we assumed where we had been turning around at the temple was the end, but there's a section of dirt road, so one day we thought we'd just go that extra bit and see where it takes us. We ended up descending into some random little village with maybe four huts. We pulled up, and one of the homes was also a restaurant. We sat down thinking, ‘Is this actually a restaurant or is it just a house?’ But sure enough, the husband and wife who run it pulled out some menus. We didn't really have too much to choose from, like a couple of things and a couple of rice dishes, but it was exceptional.
On the best time to plan a cycling trip
GH: Every time we've gone it’s around November, December, which is the start of Thailand's winter. That’s the peak time to go, because you've got high 20s every day and it's quite dry, so humidity isn’t too much of an issue. I wouldn't go in summer or during the wet season.
On a must-do ride
GH: There's a route that we did called Mae Rim. It goes out to this yoga retreat, and this café on a plateau. It looks down onto these rice paddies, and there's a bunch of these almost like NASA pods where people have gone on a yoga retreat and glamping setup.
SM: Yeah. That was one of the nicer rides. There are probably four or five pretty decent–sized climbs along the route, but it's very secluded, really quiet roads. You hardly see a car, but you can be on the side of the road and see elephants just walking up the street.
On Doi Inthanon
SM: Doi Inthanon is an absolute monster of a climb — it starts off at virtually sea level. It becomes super steep. It’s like they just went, ‘Well, we've run out of road, we're just gonna have to go straight up now’. It’s not one you want to do on a regular basis. You'll be coming down the hill at warp speed — it's so steep and you’re straight–lining it — and you need to feather the brakes a bit in case a car comes onto the wrong side of the road.
GH: You're climbing pretty much 2500 meters elevation in what is 35 to 38 kilometers or something like that. And it ramps up and up and up. A lot of people say it's the hardest tarmac climb in the world. It’s certainly the hardest climb I've done. There's a really nice temple right at the top as well. It’s so worth it. I wouldn't do it again, but it's worth it.
‘A lot of people say Doi Inthanon is the hardest tarmac climb in the world. It’s so worth it. I wouldn't do it again, but it's worth it.’
On coping with mechanical issues
GH: When we got to Doi Inthanon, my skewer, which holds a wheel onto a bike, snapped. I went to a local bike store and the mechanic created a part on a lathe; pulled it apart and redid it and fixed it, and it actually worked. It saved my week. Can you imagine in Australia, going to a bike shop out of nowhere and saying fix my axle, and them trying to jimmy something together?
On the food in Chiang Mai
SM: There are tons of really good restaurants and cafés to eat at. And there are night markets pretty much every night of the week.
GH: There are these open-air roadside restaurants with plastic seats. Your meals were $2 a plate, and you'd be getting a big stir–fry. We were just eating so well. It was so cheap and good quality. In northern Thailand they’ve got a thing called khao soi, which is like a laksa that has crispy noodles and meat. And it was unreal.
On finding ‘Cowboy Hat Lady’
SM: There was a lady at one of the night markets that was made famous by Anthony Bourdain. He went there and did an episode on it. She wears a cowboy hat and she just serves one dish: a suckling pork stew thing. You don't know exactly where it is but you know it's part of a certain night market, so we went to that area and sure enough, we were in the tuk tuk and spotted her in the distance. We were like, ‘Drop us off here!’ and quickly grabbed a table. It was chockers. She's definitely worth looking out for, for sure.
On window or aisle seat
SM: I'm an aisle person because I don't want to disturb other people if I get up to go to the bathroom or go for a walk.
GH: I'm six foot three, so definitely aisle on a long-haul flight because I can put my feet down in the aisle. But if it's a short flight, like interstate, I go window. But I'll take a spare seat next to me over a window or an aisle, every day.
On a song that best represents Chiang Mai
GH: Probably a more modern song, like ‘Up In The Clouds’ by Skegss Honestly. When I think of Chiang Mai, I think of the high climbs we were doing and every time we were climbing up into the clouds, it was pretty rad.
On Chiang Mai in one word
I've not been to a place like it, it's just that: heaven. For cycling, for food, for culture, it's got it all.