Chloe Hosking’s pro racing career didn’t end the way she wanted it to. The Australian sprinter had been all set to race with the new B&B Hotels women’s team this season, but when that organisation fell apart in December, it was too late to find a good alternative.
But she certainly hasn’t wasted her time since then. The 2018 Commonwealth Games road champion is currently hard at work building a new bike brand with her husband Jack Lindsay – the aptly named Hosking Bikes.
Looking back now, Hosking is justifiably proud of how she handled a frustrating end to her career and the pivot towards new projects.
“Obviously it didn’t end how I had anticipated, envisioned, wanted but hindsight is also a great thing,” she tells Escape Collective from Lahti, Finland. “While it was a really difficult time, from October through until February, I’m really proud of how I’ve managed to reset, refocus, and rebuild.
“I kept looking for contracts up until February and I had a few contract offers, but I just genuinely didn’t feel like they reflected what I could bring to a team and what my career was worth – what I am worth – and I really thought I would be doing myself a disservice and other female riders a disservice if I signed for a contract that was so far below that.”
The day we speak, Hosking is about to take part in FNLD GRVL, a gravel race in Lahti created by Finnish Formula 1 star Valtteri Bottas, partner of Australian road cycling veteran Tiffany Cromwell. Hosking describes that event as the “unveiling” of the Hosking Bikes gravel offering, a chance to put the bike through its paces.
“This is our big test ride to see how it goes,” she says. “We’ve been riding the bikes, and they feel great. But of course when you put them under pressure, you get that much more information out of them. I think that this is actually a really good event for it, because the gravel isn’t the most extreme and the weather looks good as well, so we’re not gonna get bogged down in mud, like happened in Unbound Gravel just the other week. So yeah, this is sort of the unveiling – the first Hoskings in the wild.”
The idea of starting up a bike brand had been percolating for a while.
“My husband and I – he’s been speaking to me about it for years really,” Hosking explains. “And then when we knew the contract wasn’t there, which was December, we really announced at the end of January that we were launching.”
So why a bike brand? For starters, Hosking wants more people to be able to experience the joy that is cycling, and to help make cycling more accessible. She’s also looking to have a “significant impact” on the cycling industry, to make real change, especially for women in cycling.
“When you look at who are some of the most influential players in the cycling industry, it’s bike brands, and overwhelmingly they’re run by men,” she says. “If you go and look at some of the biggest brands, the representation of women on their executive boards is really poor. And I think that it’s important for changes to be made. For women to have more of an impact in the sport, there need to be more women in decision-making positions.”
The Canberran is certainly in a decision-making position at Hosking Bikes – the brand, in essence, is just her and her husband. Hosking describes Lindsay as “a bit of a secret weapon” in the whole endeavour.
“He’s got extensive experience working in start-up companies in hardware, software, scaling businesses,” she explains. “I come with the bike knowledge of what I want out of a bike, what I think makes a good bike to ride, and obviously I have 13 years of racing the best equipment. So knowing what I like, what can be improved, what goes well together. And then Jack, my husband – he just gets shit done.”
While, on paper, it’s just Hosking and Lindsay behind Hosking Bikes, many others have had a hand in shaping the young business. In the opening months of the project, the pair reached out to as many people as they could in the industry, to learn what they could about the do’s and don’t’s of starting up a new bike brand.
They spoke with Onguza, the bike brand founded by Namibian former pro Dan Craven, they spoke to Ventum, and they also spoke with bigger brands like Orbea, Time, and Felt.
“It was really refreshing to see how receptive the industry was to speaking to us about their experience, what they’ve learned, what they think they could have done better when they were in our position, and giving us those tips,” Hosking says.
That collaborative approach applied to the design of the brand’s bikes too. Hosking Bikes aren’t an off-the-shelf, open-mould offering with a label stuck on – they’re brand-new designs.
“One of my best friend’s dad’s has worked in the industry for over two decades and he introduced us to this company that helped us with the design, the engineering, and the manufacturing,” Hosking explains. “So these frames – this silhouette is a Hosking. We’ve drawn on things that I’ve ridden that I enjoy riding that I know work well and then tweaked it to be what we want out of a bike.
“It’s been a really interesting process working with them because obviously it’s nothing I’ve done before. My husband’s been in this area, so it’s helpful having his knowledge but it really has just gone back to that collaboration, working with them to get the frames right.”
Any day now the Hosking Bikes website will start taking pre-orders for the brand’s first offering: a gravel bike “drawn from an endurance road frame, but with more clearance”, available with either drop bars or flat bars.
“We’re starting with an alloy mix with a carbon front fork, carbon handlebars,” Hosking explains. “The idea is that it’s more durable – we’re travelling, we don’t want the bike to break – and we also want it to be an affordable option for people to get into the sport. And then we want to deliver a great quality frame that they can scale to their price point.
“So you can choose a lower-end wheel or a higher-end wheel and then higher- or lower-end components and really mould this bike to suit what you want to get out of it and how much you can afford to pay. We really want to make sure we have a bike that is accessible around the AU$1,000 to AU$1,200 mark, and then it just scales up from there. We’d like one around the AU$2,500-AU$2,700 mark, and then one around AU$4,000-AU$4,500.”
After launching with a gravel frame, a road frame will follow in July.
“The road frame is an aero frame, which … I was a sprinter,” Hosking says. “It wouldn’t have made sense to do anything other than an aero frame.”
The hope is to sell a total of 400 bikes in the first year. To that end, the brand will target Australian, Asian, and US markets initially, going direct-to-consumer via its website.
“We’re really lucky with our partner who does the engineering, design, manufacturing – they can do that for us, which is great,” Hosking says. “We would look at speaking to bike shops if they want to stock Hosking; [that would be] phenomenal. What we’d want to know is that if they’re stocking Hosking that they believe in what our brand represents, which is inclusivity, being affordable, accessible, and supporting women.”
As if starting a new bike brand wasn’t enough, Hosking’s got a bunch of other projects on her plate, too. Not least of those is finishing her postgraduate law degree (Juris Doctor) after completing a Bachelor of Communications (Journalism) in 2015.
“I’m now three units away from finishing that,” she says. “I’ve been working part time as a paralegal. I did my first nine-to-five work day in April and I was pretty impressed I actually got to age 32 before doing my first office work day!”
As it turns out, Hosking’s currently involved in a legal battle of her own. After her contract with B&B Hotels fell apart late last year, she and some other riders decided to sue the team mangers, the Pineau brothers, for compensation.
“That’s been commenced with the help of a CPA lawyer in France,” Hosking says. “We had our first hearing a couple of weeks ago, and they’re fighting it. I don’t know what they’re trying to argue, to be honest. [But] because they’re arguing it we then go to trial and I think that starts in September, October.
“I had one of the riders reach out to me recently and she asked ‘what do you think the chances of success are?’ And I said, ‘I honestly don’t know, but I just know that they really fucked me over and I’m not going to let them just get away with it.’ Even if we don’t win, they need to know that it wasn’t acceptable.”
Meanwhile, Hosking’s juggling other projects in cycling too.
“I applied for the AusCycling board [AusCycling is Australian cycling’s national body – ed.]– I narrowly missed out, which was a shame. I’ll go back again,” she says. “I’m trying to engage more with the clubs in Australia to see where the discontent is, how they want to improve, what they think can improve. And it’s going back to making cycling accessible and more attractive and appealing to more people to get on bikes.
“And then I launched a junior cycling group, Hosking Junior Bunch. Now that it’s getting colder [in Canberra] we ride every second Monday. That’s been really great watching the young riders, their enthusiasm, their passion, their commitment. It’s 0 ºC (32 ºF) and they’ve got no body fat on them, and they’re rocking up, and they’re all shaking, and they’re so excited to be there.”
And Hosking has some other, longer-term plans in the works as well.
“I’m looking into starting my own crit race circuit over Anzac Day long weekend next year [late April], knowing that Bay Crits has come off the calendar and knowing how important Bay Crits was to me when I was coming through the sport,” she says. “It’s where I cut my teeth, it’s where I learnt so much of my race craft, where I got to race against amazing women like Oenone Wood, Alexis Rhodes, Rochelle Gilmore.
“As a 17-18 year old, it was such a great opportunity to learn. And as these races are disappearing, it’s just taking opportunities away from our junior cyclists, which sort of just leaves this gulf between Australia and Europe. So we’re trying to fill that in with something based out of Canberra next year.”
With whatever time she has left in her packed schedule, Hosking’s also been training as best she can, with an eye on a racing block that she’s now just begun.
Since our conversation, Hosking has competed in FNLD GRVL, flown over to the US, and is now taking part in the 11-day Tour of America’s Dairyland. Over the next little while, her and Lindsay will roadtrip their way around the States, with Hosking putting the brand’s new road bike to the test in various crits in Wisconsin, Idaho, and Utah.
“I had always said that I wanted to do the crit scene in America when I was racing so it just made total sense to go and race them this year, especially with our bike brand,” she explains. “We’re launching an aero frame and it’s aluminium, actually with the intention of being raced in crits. When I was growing up, I raced a lot of crits and I crashed a lot, and aluminium bikes bounce back.
“It’s quite nice I get to race these crits that I’ve always wanted to do as the American crit scene is starting to come back to life. There’s so many teams now in America that are really doing an amazing job to create this entertainment really, that I think is so great for cycling. So I wanted to be a part of that, firstly, and I get to race my bike there. And also we get a cool holiday around America.”
And while Hosking’s not racing in Europe this year as she’d hoped to be, she hasn’t given up on that dream entirely.
“Obviously I’m angry and pissed off at how it all unfolded,” she says. “I mentioned to someone yesterday that it’s not the end; I haven’t made a decision about whether or not I want to continue trying to pursue a contract in Europe in 2024, or follow these new avenues that I’m pursuing and opening up. I haven’t made that decision.
“While, right now, I feel incredibly unfit, I know that if I signed a contract for 2024, I would be able to get ready and be capable of winning races in Europe. I still know that. I haven’t shut the door on that. But I also really feel like I can have a big impact in the ways that I want to, going down the path that I am now.
“So yeah, we’ll just have to see what happens.”
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