Gobik: Dreaming of rockets
Emerging from the small town of Yecla, Murcia, in a decade clothing brand Gobik has raced to the forefront of the professional peloton
The region of Murcia is usually associated with the Mediterranean Sea, good weather, and a cycling tradition represented by Alejandro Valverde, José Joaquín Rojas, and Luis León Sánchez.
However, when you look for Yecla on the map, you see it’s also a kind of isolated place – a geographic and geological exception, surrounded by rocky mountains and semi-arid steppes. It is Murcia, but it doesn’t look quite like Murcia.
In Yecla, winters stain the landscape with green and summers with yellow, and the weather marks every day for those who live and work there. Talking about the weather is, therefore, something of a speciality among the locals.
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"Traditionally, the Yecla area has been dedicated to furniture, upholstery, and mattresses. So setting up a furniture factory was easy because there is machinery and trained people here. But setting up a cycling clothes factory? That was like making astronaut suits or rockets," founder and head of sales José Ramón Ortín recalls.
“We were the ones who had to train the employees and when we started, we didn't have a clue how to do it, but we had to convince ourselves that this was what we wanted to do and push ahead".
Yet within a decade, the firm’s rocket ships would be heading towards the moon. This season Tour de France winner Tadej Pogacar and his UAE Emirates WorldTour team will be contesting races dressed by Gobik. Also outfitting UCI Continental team Eolo-Kometa, Gobik has also established itself within the cycling history of its native Spain by providing the leaders’ jerseys in the historic Volta a Catalunya and Vuelta al País Vasco stage races.
But Gobik never intended solely to measure success through the achievements of its professional athletes. The result of the last decade of work has also shaped the lives of its one hundred or so workers. A fact thrown into relief by the effects of the recent pandemic.
"It gave us a deeper understanding of the workforce,” explains Alberto Garcia, head of commercial actions and founder member. “There have been many stressful situations in the face of the prevailing uncertainty. But the staff has given themselves wholeheartedly to the company, giving overwhelming support”.
“A good example of this is the action we took to support health institutions, manufacturing protective material, with everyone working on it altruistically," says co-founder Jose Ramón Ortín.
From this experience, Maask was born, a division of the brand dedicated to the production of personal protective equipment.
Now, after the instability and worry of last year, like many cycling firms, Gobik has found itself riding a wave of unexpected growth. Allowing it to again develop new projects within professional cycling, it’s also invested time and resources investigating recycled fabrics.
Long since absorbed in cycling, digging back into Gobik’s history illuminates some of the company's internal dynamics and the origin of the spirit they want to communicate. For one thing, neither of Gobik’s two founders comes from the cycling industry.
Instead, Ortín was an industrial technician doing R+D for a company making motorbike helmets while García is a trained architect and product designer.
“In a way, this initial lack of knowledge has been a blessing,” argues Ortín. “Obviously, there has been an extra effort, because we needed to get to know the sector and the industry. You know what you want to do, but not how to do it. Yet that has also given us the feeling that everything can be done".
It’s why the term Nonconformist recurs across many of Gobik’s designs. It’s an idea that still animates both directors. "It comes from the fact that every time someone from the team presents us with a new idea, we always have that ‘what if…’ in our mouths,” says Ortín.
With non-conformism also comes a freshness inherent to a company unaffected by the complexes of more established firms. This newcomers’ attitude is reflected both in the way Ortín and Garcia discuss their company and in the uncommon combinations of colours they propose in their collections.
Jose Ramón Ortín and Alberto Garcia
However, these same traits also force Gobik to be competitive in terms of price, precisely because unlike long-established companies they don’t have a legacy to endorse the brand.
“Little by little, we built our aesthetics and our way of working. But the most important thing is to be able to develop a product we really like and that you feel passionate about. At the same time, we’ve always wanted to position the brand within a democratic price range," says Ortín.
Affordable and with high-quality standards, Gobik’s aimed to present cycling clothing in a similar way to streetwear. However, alongside developing their products and way of marketing them, the pair first also had to learn to be entrepreneurs and how to manage a company.
“What motivates us is to be able to create the product, we like to consider ourselves more like cooks than businessmen,” explains Ortín.
Squashed somewhat by the pandemic, key to Gobik’s success has been getting out and meeting a wide range of riders. "Our experience has told us that often the best product is not the one worn by a professional cyclist. Professional teams tend to have fewer complaints than the average person. In the end, the average user is the one who is aware of every detail. They’re always very open to trying new things and always look for other brands, compare them, and find the flaws. So, keeping this type of consumer happy is complicated, because, in the end, they are the ones who pay for our products," explains Garcia.
Emerging from the mountains
Back in the rocky mountains a few kilometres south of the Gobik facility in Yecla there’s a peak popularly known as El Colorao. A constant up and down of demanding steep slopes that breaks up a landscape of plains, its profile provided the first Gobik logo. It’s still a regular target on the firm’s twice-weekly group rides.
"Every Tuesday and Thursday, we go out riding in two groups. It's our ritual," says Ortín.
“On the bike, I can put my mind in order. Riding a bike is like an escape valve, especially after passing so many hours in the office. You go out for a midday ride and that's when a lot of ideas start to come into your head".
Always taking influence from both its staff and the varied environment surrounding it in Yecla, these rides allow Gobik to test clothes and experiment with new ideas regarding patterns and materials - while also letting staff ride on company time.
“If we have a lot of people involved who ride bikes, we'll get a lot of feedback from them and that has a priceless value”.
Intending to keep looking outside of cycling for inspiration, while still spending as much time on the bike as possible, the team at Gobik thinks the next ten years will see an increased focus on sustainability along with style.
"It is difficult to say where the world of cycling clothes will go, but in our case, we believe it’s important to maintain that freshness with which we were born,” says Garcia.
Ten years on from founding a cycling clothing maker in a place with the scenery, if not initially the expertise, to design and create great products, Gobik aims to be at least the same distance along in a further decade.
Guided by its manifesto of non-conformism it’s hard to guess exactly where this might lead it, but it’s unlikely to be a boring journey.