Jackson Centre, Ohio – population 1,462 – is located just off Interstate 75 at Exit 102, north of the Shelby County seat of Sidney. Clustered around a wide, straight main drag with two sets of traffic lights, Jackson Centre is like so many other small American towns. Aside from a Subway sandwich shop, Jackson Centre has a bank, a hardware store, a small grocery store and a drive through pizza and liquor store. The local residents are currently raising money to pay for the Elder Theatre cinema to convert from 35mm film to digital. Otherwise the old picture house faces closure, depriving Shelby and Logan counties of their last place to go and see a film.
And it was to this place, in July 1952, that Wallace Merle Byam, known to everyone as Wally Byam, came and built a new factory for his growing business: Airstream Inc.
By the time Byam died, on 22 July 1962 at the age of 66, he had an obituary that spanned some of the greatest and also the darkest days of modern American history and which credited him with designing an American icon.
As a child Wallace traveled widely in the US with his grandfather, who led a mule train from Baker, Oregon. Later Byam worked as a shepherd living in a two-wheeled cart, cooking on a kerosene stove and washing in a bucket.
After a stint in the merchant navy, followed by a law degree from Stanford University, Wally owned an advertising agency and then became a magazine publisher. In one of the issues of a magazine he published, there was a feature on how to build a caravan. The designs were untried and when readers complained that they couldn’t follow the plans, Byam tested them himself. He found the plans were most definitely flawed.
So Byam set about building his own ‘travel trailer’, dropping the floor down between the wheels and raising the ceiling height, so that it was possible to stand upright inside. When Byam wrote an article describing how to build his trailer, for under $100, there was a huge response. The airstream was born.
Wally’s ideas were of their time. By the start of the 1920’s Americans were looking for ways to spend their leisure time and explore their country. Byam sold plans for his trailers for $5 each as well as building caravans for customers in his back garden. The Airstream Company was incorporated in 1931 and five years later acquired the struggling Bowlus Company.
Hawley Bowlus had been the chief engineer on the Spirit of St Louis, in which Charles Lindbergh completed the first non-stop flight from New York to Paris in 1927. Bowlus was already designing beautiful, sleek monocoque, riveted aluminum caravans when he met Byam. Caravans that had much more in common with the aircraft of the time than any road-going vehicles.
Together Bowlus and Byam created the curved, smooth, iconic design that came to symbolise the freedom of the open road for generations of Americans.
That the Airstream had endured for so long is not surprising. They are beautiful, practical and designed for the 76,000km of highways that criss-cross the US. The Airstream also received the stamp of approval from organisations as august as NASA: in 1969 the crew of Apollo 11 were quarantined in a modified airtight Airstream trailer, until doctors were sure that they had not carried some sort of lunar pathogens with them.
Now Airstream is owned by the biggest manufacturer of caravans in the world and continues to innovate. But whilst the company is still true to its roots, in Jackson Centre, Ohio, the true romance of the Airstream will be the originals – the shining, magnificent Silver Bullet. Truly an American icon.
The history of merino goes back a long way with sheep almost certainly started being farmed, for meat and for their skins, in Asia Minor over 10,000 years ago. By 3500 BC people had learned to spin wool and sheep were selectively bred for either meat or wool. It was immediately clear that sheep were a hugely useful domesticated animal.
The Romans were instrumental in cross-breeding different sheep to create certain characteristics especially those that they prized, including selectively breeding to obtain the most high quality wool that they could. Contemporary record show that the Merino sheep produced the finest diameter wool fiber and is said to have descended from a strain developed during the reign of emperor Claudius.
It is thought that the Merino breed resulted from a crossing of the Tarentine sheep of Rome with the Laodician sheep of Asia Minor by breeders in the provinces of Terraconenis in Spain.
And it was Spain that remained the epicentre of merino wool production from Roman times until the late eighteenth century. In fact, until 1786 the penalty for removing a merino sheep from Spain was death.
However in 1786 the ban was broken when Louis XVI imported 386 merino ewes into France to start a breeding programme. From that point on, merino sheep started to reach the farthest flung corners of the world.
By the time Spain lifted the export ban on merino sheep, the English had a thriving wool industry at home and had already reached Australia and colonized much of it. So it was not long before merino sheep were imported to Australia. The man credited with starting the Australian merino industry was called Samuel Marsden. In 1797 he acquired some very valuable Merinos and started a breeding programme.
Merino Wool – perfect for endurance sports
Before long, Australia had positioned itself as a prime source of merino wool and Sam took his merino sheep and started new sheep farms in New Zealand, from where ashmei gets the wool for its apparel.
From the very earliest days of sheep farming and wool spinning, the material has been coveted for its ability to provide warmth and comfort, for its durability and for its versatility. But merino wool took those qualities to the next level by being the superior fibre.
Merino has proven invaluable for people looking to thrive in the outdoors. From mountain climbers to sailors and from skiers to cyclists, merino has proven to be a peerless fabric time and time again. Indeed when George Mallory’s body was discovered on Everest in 1999, he was found to have been almost exclusively wearing merino clothing. This goes to show that even back in the early 1920s merino was the wool of choice. Especially when good base layers were essential.
Merino has a great history and its development over the centuries has led to a point where the fabric is now ideal for endurance sports as well as many other sorts of pursuits. It is highly wicking, never stinks, is hard-wearing and environmentally friendly and that is why it has stood the test of time.
When it comes to your chosen sport, do you always opt for the easy option or do you strive to be the best you can be? Is it the thing that you do where you try to get away with doing the minimum? We thought not.
When it comes to apparel, however, the trend since the introduction of synthetics fabrics, has been a ‘race to the bottom’ – a process of doing less and less in the way of innovation. As a simple experiment to prove this, go into any running store and take a selection of t-shirts, tights or jackets and cover up the logo: we think you would be very hard pressed to differentiate between one brand’s product and the others.
That is why ashmei uses merino wool: because for us, the focus is all about creating the ultimate apparel. We know that by creating the best, we can offer you kit that they will treasure as it fits with their aim of being the best they can be.
Key to creating the ultimate sports apparel is making sure that the material used is the very best available. Merino wool is peerless when it comes to performance: it is anti-bacterial, non-itchy, warm when it is cold and cooling when it is warm, recyclable and sustainable.
Here is the science: sweat contains not just water and salt, but also oils, fat and other organic compounds as well as anything that was on our skin, such as lotions. As the water in our sweat wicks through synthetic fabrics, these constituents of sweat get stuck in the pores in the material’s fibres. The trapped materials create an irresistible feast for bacteria, which create the smell that is synonymous with endurance sports kit.
Merino wool fibres are different to synthetic fibres for two simple reasons: the surface does not provide a matrix that for the compounds in sweat that bacteria love so much, to cling to. Merino fibres also do not hold a static charge, unlike synthetic materials, which makes merino even less attractive to bacteria.
There is a misconception that merino wool is itchy. This is based on the fact that normal wool is not all the smooth. However merino wool, and especially the merino that we use for ashmei kit, is incredibly soft, smooth and strong, So our garments are non-itchy, smooth, thin and incredibly strong. Just the way nature intended.
Merino wool has been proven to be the ideal temperature regulating material: warm when it is cold and thanks to its natural feel and superior wicking properties, cool when it is warm.
Better for the environment:
Synthetic materials are bad for the environment, not only because of the petrochemicals used to manufacture them, but also because of the aggressive chemicals required to clean them and the fact that once the stink gets too bad, they are not easily recycled and usually end up in landfill. Not so, merino wool.
The source could not be more natural. There are no requirements for chemicals to keep the nasty smells at bay. And after years of use, when you do want to replace your merino apparel, it can be recycled or is completely biodegradable.
So there you have it – merino wool is quite simply the best material available when it comes to delivering high performance material. Allowing you to focus on delivering your own high performance.
Gemma Marshall is something of a wolf in sheep’s clothing: her cool calmness belies a steely determination and drive to be the best multi-sport athlete that she can be. Since starting a few years ago, Gemma has discovered an undoubted talent for triathlon in particular. In her first year as a triathlete she qualified for the GBR Age Group team and competed at the 2013 World Triathlon Championships.
On her triathlon journey so far Gemma has learned a huge amount about her chosen sport and about her self. When asked how she has achieved so much so fast, Gemma says that: “You get out what you put in. Getting better just means doing more and doing it regularly, it’s not rocket science, it’s just dedication and enjoyment!”
This has meant that Gemma has discovered that “the more I ran, the more I would enjoy it, and the faster I would get” which helped to convinced her to find people to run with. After initially worrying that she was too slow to join a local running club, once Gemma took the plunge she found that running regularly with club members and friends meant that she improved bit by bit. In fact Gemma says “Running clubs are the most friendly and welcoming groups you could ever meet. I wish I’d joined as soon as I began running.”
Being an international level athlete means that Gemma is not sure what her year of racing will look like until she has been through the qualifying races, but her sights are definitely set on more GBR Age Group races, taking the ashmei team along for the ride: the perfect partners as far as she is concerned because “… having met the team behind the brand they’re all dedicated runners with an amazing passion, it’s really exciting to be included in that and share my passion too.” We all say ‘Good Luck’ Gemma!
If you ask Matt Lefort what his personal best times for 5km or 10km or a half- or full-marathon are, he can’t tell you. Despite having been a dedicated runner for four years, Matt does not test himself in the way many other runners do. Instead Matt has set himself targets, and created a lifestyle, that are hard to quantify, but which exemplify the ashmei ethos of being the ultimate.
Matt lives in Andorra, the sixth smallest nation in Europe with a population of only 85,000, which nestles in the eastern Pyrenees mountains, bordered by Spain and France. It is here that Matt can indulge his passion for running in the mountains.
Alongside taking on some extraordinarily tough races including the 80km ultra at the Mont Blanc Marathon and the Rond del Cims, taking in 170K of trails and over 13,000m of vertical ascent and descent, Matt has a personal project called “Als Cims” which translates as “To the Summits” in Catalan – a simple challenge: to tag all Andorran primary peaks before the end of the year… 91 summits in total.
To do all of this, Matt has to use some pretty powerful, but at the same time simple, philosophy. His main mantra is “It’s all about the journey.” When it comes to physical preparation, Matt makes sure he optimises his vegetarian diet to give him the fuel that he needs and he also makes sure that he has the right kit: “I’ve been wearing Merino-only gear for almost 3 years now. Love the eco-friendliness of the fabric and it’s natural properties” which means that Matt does not need to compromise on his ethos of protecting the natural environment that he loves spending time in whilst also having the right kit for his truly epic adventures. We salute you Matt, from the top of another mountain!
Without life there is nothing (Zulu proverb) is a philosophy that David Jury lives by – he knows that without challenges, life is two-dimensional and that is something David pushes against, certainly through the medium of running.
Having grown up in seaside town called Fish Hoek in the suburbs of Cape Town, South Africa, David was always at home in the outdoors and was a keen swimmer and mountain biker even after he moved to London where the opportunities for both were limited. However David found that he only swam and biked at the weekend and in between times his gym routine was getting stale. So he agreed to go for a 5k run with a colleague around Hyde Park in central London. That was the start of something that would lead David to mountains, coastlines and – most recently – deserts.
After the initial joy that he found with his short runs around central London’s parks, David discovered that running was a perfect sport for pushing his limits. From 5k training runs to longer and faster outings. Then races. Then longer races. After a while David ran a marathon (or two) and then discovered the idea of ultras. Now he was really getting hooked. In fact David’s dream race is the UTMB in Chamonix – a 100+ km run around the Mont Blanc in the French Alps.
Since getting into running, there are a couple of things that David knows which might have helped him in his early days, the first of which is: listen to your body. He also says that it is crucial that runners remember that pain is temporary.
David also knows that there are two keys to making sure that when you are taking on longer, more challenging runs you can concentrate on your performance: clothing and diet. David says: “I never paid too much attention to what I ate. I generally eat a balanced diet but only after following a structured nutrition plan, have I managed to get the most of my training plan. To get the best from your run, get the best quality apparel you can. The performance and feel of the fabric against your skin can make a greater impact than you realise.” We hope that David continue to get these things right and push his limits all the way to the UTMB.
Justin joined the ashmei ambassador programme as the first recruit. He immediately made an impact, bringing a unique outlook – and a unique way of running – to the team. Justin is a dedicated and committed runner. His forte is in longer distance races and he revels in marathons and races beyond that classic distance. What really sets Justin apart, however, is that he runs barefoot. Not in ‘barefoot’ shoes mind you: completely barefoot.
Justin had tackled many, many runs with nothing on his feet, including the Brighton half marathon in 2012 and then the first Milton Keynes marathon as his first ever marathon. Nothing stands in Justin’s way – he runs on all surfaces and in all conditions, dealing with the discomfort that comes with rough, hard man-made surfaces without a word of complaint. He has even taken on 24 hour races solo and made it all look easy!
Justin has ensured that the ashmei range has really been given a thorough testing, in hot and cold conditions as well as wet and dry. We are confident that if Justin has thrashed our kit, then it will stand up to anything.
What’s next for Justin, we can only imagine. But we are happy to support him in his next adventure.
Olly Sussams joined the ashmei ambassador programme in 2013 and quickly established himself as a dedicated athlete and great fun to be around. He had not had the chance to run in ashmei apparel before becoming an ambassador but has described the range by telling us that “I’ve never trained in such premium training wear”. The great thing about Olly is that he trains and raced hard and so we know that he is giving his ashmei gear as hard a work-out as he is giving himself.
Olly is 26 years old and originally from Hertfordshire. He now lives in north London whilst working as a designer for a brand & communications agency in Soho. Thankfully he still finds time to take on the hills of north London, both running and cycling. There is also some swimming in there too!
Olly has always been interested in sport although he only started running 3 years ago. Hellrunner was his first race: 12 miles of hills, mud and mayhem which he recommends to any running enthusiasts.
After the Hellrunner Olly was hooked, entering race after race as fun days out with friends, getting muddy as well as aiming to better his times.
In 2013 Olly has been taking his competing to the next level, tackling a half Ironman and chasing a sub-1:30 half marathon.
Aimee is a dedicated runner who joined the ashmei ambassadors programme in 2013. Running has become a big part of her life and something she is really passionate about. Since leaving university in 2006 fitness and exercise have become part of her weekly routine – sometimes becoming a daily ritual.
Despite initially starting to run to counter the effects of a typical student lifestyle, Aimee soon found that exercising became part of her routine: something she couldn’t imagine doing without. In 2013, Aimee has really developed her running. She joined a running club (Run Club London) in June 2012, which gave her the confidence required to enter a few races. This culminated in running the Paris marathon 2013.
Training for the marathon did not go entirely to plan: Aimee was hit by a hamstring injury. After a few weeks rest and strengthen sessions Aimee was allowed to run again, starting with a few shorter 10km runs and progressing to a 24km. All of which went well. In the end Aimee finished in a little over 4 hours 15 minutes. And that was just the start. Throughout the year Aimee has trained and raced whilst testing all the female gear we have been producing. Both her performances and the gear have been brilliant. Long may that continue.
Despite a job in the heart of the financial district in London, Simon Cresswell knows that his heart lies in the outdoors and away from the office he is focused on becoming a better and better runner, whether that is on the roads over the classic marathon distance or on the trails tackling ultra-marathons.
Simon’s dedication to being the best runner he can be came after realising that the life of a City worker was really taking its toll. Simon decided that he was succumbing to a lifestyle that was, in his words, “empty, unfulfilling and likely to lead to depression and or illness”. So it was that he went back to a love of running and started to work out how to become a better runner.
Simon has been running again for six years and in that time has amassed a pretty impressive list of personal best times on the road – including a marathon PB that comfortable qualifies him for a Championship place at the London marathon, is well inside the Boston marathon qualifying time and gets him a guaranteed spot in the New York marathon. The challenge is that with a busy job, social life and family commitments he doesn’t always have time to fit in the training, let alone travelling, to do all the race that he would like to.
Not only that, but Simon is drawn to the mountains as well as the roads. In between training to reduce his marathon time, Simon heads for the hills, especially in north Wales for days – and nights – on the trails, perhaps in preparation for a couple of the races that Simon says he would love to tackle: the UTMB CCC and The Trans Alpine Race. Certainly Simon is going to continue to be a busy ambassador with all of that lot to tackle.
Come and visit us at the ashmei HQ for a coffee, review the cycle, running and triathlon collection and perhaps join us for a ride or run.
In Aldbury near Tring station
Monday 9:30 – 5pm
Tuesday 9:30 – 5pm
Wednesday 9:30 – 5pm
Thursday 9:30 – 5pm
Friday 9:30 – 5pm
Tel: 01442 851017
How do you showcase the ultimate running apparel range? What is the best way to give runners the opportunity to get up close and personal with your highly technical, totally innovative and beautifully designed kit? These were the questions that we have been wrestling with as ashmei continues to establish itself as the ultimate running brand. We have had many questions from curious runners who were not aware of the benefits of merino wool in running apparel as well as the many clever design elements that have gone into everything we produced. We needed a way to allow runners to discover ashmei for themselves in a suitable environment. We needed a pop up shop.
The answer came in the form of a beaten up, unloved and empty icon of the road: a 1964 “Overlander” Airstream caravan.
This abandoned beauty was rescued from the US and shipped across the ocean to start its new life. The intention was that from being a home away from home for American families, it would become the home of ashmei on the road. The fact that it was empty suited us perfectly. We had grand plans and they needed space.
So now we had a suitable shell – albeit one that would require some work – we needed to create the ultimate interior: to make it definitively ashmei and the greatest pop up shop ever.
The airstream – now known as the AirshopPhoenix – contains a sofa, a bed, a pop-up flat-screen television, a coffee machine, a wood-burning stove and, of course, the entire ashmei product range. It it really is a perfect home for the ultimate running apparel.
So where can you see the AirshopPhoenix? Well we are going to be at as many races as possible from now on. And not just in the UK. One of the AirshopPhoenix’s earliest outings was a trip all the way to Chamonix for the Ultra Trail de Mont Blanc week. In the coming weeks and months we will be on the road, so check back to find out where we will be and if you see us on the road, be sure to let us know – tweet @ashmei_running, tell us on our Facebook page or just give us a toot and a wave!
The airshop Phoenix was unloved and abandoned until we gave it a new lease of life. Here is the story of how this Phoenix rose from the ashes.
Alfred LeTourner’s set a land speed record of 108 mph on his Schwinn Paramount, and he is the cyclist Wally Byam hired to photograph pulling an Airstream trailer in 1947. That photo is the iconic image Airstream Inc. still uses today to identify its product and one we recently replicated.
The fabric that sportswear is made from is the base of its performance. If you get this slightly wrong you end up wet, cold, hot, sweaty and sometimes all of these if the conditions change.
We LOVE Merino Wool, as it’s the only fibre that regulates temperature, keeping you cool in the heat but warm in the cold. However we don’t like the time Merino Wool takes to wick sweat away from the skin or how long it takes to dry so we started to play with various fibres to speed these processes up.
After years of sampling, testing and then more sampling and testing, we concluded that Carbon was the best substance to speed up wicking and drying, as it’s the thirstiest thing known to man.
The end result is a fabric that wicks sweat 10X faster that 100% pure Merino Wool and dries over twice as fast.
This fabric has been tested by our team of ambassadors in extreme weather ranging from -50ºC to +40ºC, and has the added benefit of never stinking like synthetic fibres that attract bacteria that gives traditional sportswear that distinctive whiff.
We approach the research and development process to our products in a completely different way to every other brand. We start from a blank page and work out the best fibres and technology for the athlete based on their activity and the climates involved and then create bespoke material that outperforms our competitors.
Outperform the best.
That’s what we do so you can too.
We approach the R&D process to our products in a completely different way to every other brand. We start from a blank page and work out the best fibres for the athlete based on their activity and the climates involved and then create bespoke material that outperforms our competitors.
Real comfort is determined by the mix of fibres used in the material and if you get these slightly wrong you end up too hot, cold, damp or wet.
This approach is continued with every detail, feature and component to engineer the ultimate performance product rather than focus on key price points or creating seasonal collections that follow fads or trends.
Our designs are classic and understated and evolve every time we reproduce more rather than completely redesigning them.
We hope you enjoy them
You can contact us via the contact form in the ashmei shop. or by phone 01442 851017