Bike accessories biz goes boom
When Tom met Tony
This story is from our 2012 youth and employment issue of dandyhorse. Order it here.
Story by Colleen Kirley
Photos by Rebecca Baran
You probably know about Tom Mosher. He’s the fast-talking, thick-spectacled, fixed-gear-freestyle-founding biker who throws events in Toronto such as Hell Track, a fixed-gear trick competition that harkens back to the late 80s when on-street Alley Cat races began in Toronto. What you may not know about Mosher is that he’s a mechanical engineer.
“I don't really talk about it much,” Mosher says, laughing, “Well, it just doesn't really come up. There are other things that people want to talk about first.” Mosher is able to combine his degree and his passion for riding by working at YNOT Cycle, alongside founder and owner, Tony Mammoliti.
Only in it’s third year, YNOT quickly rose to success. You can spot the YNOT brand on a lot of bikes in this city. They’ve also found international success with their backpacks, messenger bags and pedal straps, which are shipped to Europe, Korea, Hong Kong and beyond. Half of their sales come from Americans.
And it all started when Tom met Tony.
After graduating from Queens, Mosher was living in Toronto and working as a bike messenger, unable to see himself in the “suit and tie” job that awaited him after university. While travelling to the West Coast of the United States in 2008, Mosher made a stop in Seattle to check out Future Tense, a trick riding competition. “They had really approachable events,” Mosher says. “Some skids and some tricks – just basic stuff. And still, a million people came out.” The event was able to draw a huge crowd of people from different communities. Mosher saw the event bring people together because it wasn’t too serious. It was fun and silly, and everyone was encouraged to be there. He decided to bring that idea home to Toronto, and Hell Track was born.
Mosher planned the event himself, got sponsors to provide gear for prizes and spread the word by telling other messengers, advertising online and handing out fliers.
One of those fliers ended up in the spokes of Mammoliti’s bike wheel. “That's pretty much why I met Tom,” he says. He attended the event, which ended up being a huge success, and the two became friends.
The initial idea behind YNOT started when Mammoliti became unhappy with a pair of pedal straps he had bought and decided to make his own with his mother’s sewing machine. He had a pair of the straps on display at Bikes on Wheels in Kensington Market, and someone offered $80 for them. Soon after, Mammoliti made another pair and asked Mosher if he would wear them, knowing full well he would be in the public eye in the bike world.
“He gave me this really early prototype set which were already better than the competition, and still are,” Mosher says. “People started seeing them more, and started wondering what they were.” Then the orders started coming in. Mammoliti, who was working as a marketing manager at a consumer foods company, taught Mosher how to use an industrial sewing machine and the pair started taking days off from work to sew pedal straps in their garage-turned-workroom. Four pedal straps adorn the wall along the staircase of their Keele St. warehouse. The very first YNOT pedal strap, made out of pink measuring tape and Velcro, sits in succession beside three additional incarnations that have been created since.
As demand for the straps kept climbing, Mosher was able to quit his job as a messenger. The garage became too small for their burgeoning business, so they moved into a bigger studio in the Junction. When, eventually, that became too small, they moved just a bit north into their current location. Two and a half years after the business was founded, and Mammoliti was also able to quit his job and work full time for YNOT. The staff has grown and product innovation never stops.
And that is what they are proud of – innovation. In terms of their business, it means always trying to improve, always making their products better. In terms of the future, Mammoliti says that innovation is what the youth of today have to look forward to. “It's about smart people thinking about complex problems and creating simple solutions,” he says. They also believe in community, and think our generation is moving in the right direction when it comes to “the little things, like supporting local farms and small companies,” Mosher says. “It's a positive direction that things are going in.” YNOT does its part by sourcing almost all of their materials from North America. The business also finds community within the like-minded cycling businesses that are coming out of Toronto. Mammoliti likens it to a “little ecosystem of cycling brands” that are able to give each other advice and support. “We're a very young company,” Mammoliti says. “Give us a couple more years, and just wait to see what we can do.”