The collaboration between Rider Resilience and Ortlieb goes beyond selling a product. Daniel Blackham speaks to both parties to understand the meaning behind the launch.
This piece first appeared in the November edition of BikeBiz magazine – get your free subscription here
Most products usually start in the design office of a company, with teams of people trying to figure out how to sell more to their target audience.
The story behind the Rider Resilience and Ortlieb Velocity Design bag is quite different.
It originated from an 11-year connection, from a family, from the darkest moment in one person’s life, and the community that was born from those moments and connections.
This collaboration is more than just a bag. The parties involved see it as a symbol of the power of adventure that couldn’t have been made without all those people supporting something more important.
Like many stories, this one starts with people, or more accurately one person, Nils Amelinckx.
An enthusiastic adventurer and cyclist, he often found himself mixing passion and profession.
In 2012, Amelinckx relocated to Kendal and began his career at Lyon Equipment. Quickly moving up the ladder, he soon began the role of looking after Ortlieb in the UK.
Amelinckx and the Ortlieb team became very fond, and it was from here that some of his closest relationships began to blossom.
“By its very nature, a lot of people who work in the bike industry are there to extend their hobbies into their professional career,” explained Amelinckx.
“As such, you get to know a lot of people with similar interests and values, and it’s not uncommon to strike up long lasting friendships with people you have met through working in the industry.
“When I looked after Ortlieb for the UK and Ireland as brand manager, I was motivated for it to succeed both because of the brand’s values and strengths, but this was almost certainly compounded by the friendships I had built up behind the scenes with the team in Heilsbronn.”
In 2017, Nils’s path was marked by an unimaginable challenge — an incurable cancer diagnosis.
“When I was diagnosed with stage IV cancer at the age of 30, a major part of my coping strategy was normality, so I carried on looking after the brand to the best of my ability between fortnightly chemotherapy sessions and frequent surgeries,” said Amelinckx.
“It gave me a focus and strong sense of purpose.”
Upon learning of his diagnosis, Amelinckx found solace in the activities of cycling and photography.
After receiving treatment that forced him to take a break from cycling, he was determined not to let his condition defeat him.
He sought inspiration from others and with a persistent attitude, he started pedalling again.
Amelinckx faced numerous obstacles on his journey, including seven rounds of surgery, five rounds of radiotherapy and over sixty of chemotherapy but he never lost his determination to keep moving forward.
The fulfilment Nils got from riding bikes and the camaraderie of the cycling community was like no other.
This experience inspired him to create Rider Resilience, a not-for-profit organisation that would offer similar support to others facing challenges.
“Every time I rode a bike, I felt more resilient to deal with the next blow of chemotherapy, or felt better prepared to go in for major surgery,” said Amelinckx.
“However I sensed that Rider Resilience had the right mix of ingredients to resonate with a lot of people, and to do it justice would need more time than what I had at my disposal.
“Whilst I was well enough, I didn’t want to close a work laptop at the end of the day and open another one to work on a fully fledged CIC. When I eventually stepped back from my position as brand manager I had the opportunity to launch the movement, strongly wanting to pay back into the bicycle community that had given me so much.”
Martin Eslinger, the CEO of Ortlieb, added: “Nils has been a vital member and strong promoter of Ortlieb in the UK for many years already, for which Rider Resilience and its great cause is close to our heart not only as company, but also to many people within our organisation including our founder Hartmut Ortlieb.”
With such a strong relationship between the brand and Amelinckx, Ortlieb wanted to do what they do best and use its global platform to spread the message of Rider Resilience.
The idea was born to create a limited run of backpacks, of which a proportion of profits would be donated to Rider Resilience.
“From the beginning there has been a loose cooperation between Ortlieb and Rider Resilience,” said Eslinger.
“As the organisation is quite new, we are still jointly defining the best way to support Rider Resilience with its activities.
“As producing great products is our natural strength, we figured that putting out a special edition would be the easiest and quickest first step to use our outreach to spread the word about Rider Resilience while generating additional financial resources for its activities.
The Velocity Design was chosen as a starting point of the collaboration because it’s one of Ortlieb’s best-known products that can easily be customised.
“We had already worked with Graeme Stewart, better known as Stormstatic, on a graphic that encapsulates all the feel good hormones, mindfulness and restorative powers you get from a bike ride, but we hadn’t found the right place to use it,” explained Amelinckx.
“The Ortlieb Velocity was the perfect canvas for it, and from the initial conversation to the first one rolling off the production line was an incredibly quick process.”
The Rider Resilience Velocity is a departure from Ortlieb’s traditional design range but has received a plethora of positive comments online and creates a talking point about the movement.
“So far we are really happy with the media coverage that we have seen, not only in the UK,” commented Eslinger.
The bag is not the culmination of the relationship between Ortlieb and Rider Resilience – it’s just the beginning..
“Ortlieb have already committed to supporting our 25 minute mini documentary that is being shot by Jacob Gibbins at Aspect Media and longer term we are looking at Ortlieb carrying out the 3PL for our merchandise throughout Europe,” said Amelinckx.
“We very much want Rider Resilience to become a global movement that riders, pros and brands are proud to affiliate themselves with, paying it forward in a community filled with camaraderie where riders look out for each other and hopefully inspire non riders to turn to the humble bicycle during times of hardship.”