For Tim Woods and Jason Fritzsche, mountain biking is a passion. Woods, a Philadelphia public school teacher, and Fritzsche, a graphic designer, have made their enthusiasm the basis for a significant career transition.
They’ve gone from buddies speeding through the local backwoods trails to business partners in an apparel design company, creating and selling clothing and accessories for mountain bikers to wear on strenuous, bumpy outings.
The two are the force behind Lone Wolf Cycling, a company that’s looking to build its reputation on street cred. The brand’s merchandise is being purchased by consumers all over the world through its website, but Lone Wolf’s roots run deep in the local mountain biking community
Filling orders from the basement of Woods’ Chestnut Hill home, the Lone Wolf duo embodies an indie, DIY ethos. The name grew out of Fritzsche’s stint on a Fuji-sponsored team. Once that group disbanded, he and Woods decided to go it alone and in 2011, they began designing jerseys, shorts, gloves and more that were “racer-driven” in their appearance and function.
Unlike the busy, brightly colored, corporate-sponsored jerseys and shorts often sported by bikers, Lone Wolf’s designs come across as understated and crisp.
“I don’t know if Spandex can be classy, but we don’t do a lot of logos,” says Woods with a laugh.
Fritzsche, who designs the line, finds his inspiration in nature.
“You find the soul of riding is being in the woods,” he says. One jersey-and-shorts combo uses a camouflage-like pattern that incorporates leaves, while another features rows of Xs that are rough-hewn, as if made of twigs.
For the company’s logo, the LWC initials sit inside a hexagon, a common form found in nature: think honeycombs and a turtle’s carapace.
A weekly getaway to Fairmount Park
The spirit behind Lone Wolf comes from a weekly under-the-radar gathering of mountain bikers that takes place in West Fairmount Park, among hidden trails that weave their way around vestiges of the old infrastructure from the 1876 Centennial Exposition, and then at points veer surprisingly close to the Schuylkill Expressway.
The race course, which changes every week, is challenging, but the tone of the get together remains friendly and welcoming. Woods, 37, and Fritzsche, 38, have been going to the gathering for years, and many of their fellow riders have become “ambassadors” for the Lone Wolf brand.
Woods describes the mountain bikers’ outing as “counterculture, a total escape.” By capturing that attitude, he explains, “We get so many emails and Instagram comments that say, ‘You guys get it.'”
‘We were just dudes’
In addition, they market the brand guerrilla-style: The two attend regional mountain bike races toting beer, megaphones and a trunk full of merchandise for sale.
Post-race, they might goad attendees into stunts like trying to bunnyhop a keg, with the winner getting something from Lone Wolf’s line. (At one race, they were asked to shut down their little party, though the the race’s organizer told them, “If I weren’t running the event, I would’ve thought it was cool.”)
“We never once said, ‘We’re going to make a stink for marketing,'” explains Fritzsche. “It just kind of evolved.”
“We were doing this stuff before and we were just dudes. Now it’s Lone Wolf doing it,” Woods adds.
“Riders like what we’re doing because we’re doing what we always wanted to see ourselves,” explains Woods. “People can identify that we ride.”
It’s this grassroots knowledge, as well as the apparel’s conspicuous lack of beer logos and bank ads, that sets Lone Wolf apart.