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.
Tom’s has had a busy winter in preparation for what he hopes will be a big 2016 season. Having teamed up with not one but two of the best Xterra / Cross triathletes and coaches in the world, Jacqui Slack and Ben Allen of B&J Racing, he’s been building a strong foundation of base miles in the pool, out on the bike and on the trails with his two best running buddies in Harvey and Floss the collie-cross’s.
After starting out in triathlon in 2013 and getting hooked on the whole tri-life, it’s been a steep learning curve as qualifications for Xterra World Championships and ITU/ETU Cross Triathlon Championships followed in 2014 and 2015 meaning things started to get pretty serious, pretty quickly (but not too serious obviously, we’re all in it to have fun!).
With World domination planned for 2016/17 and beyond, Tom is looking to work with the best to make sure that every session counts to enable this dream to become a reality. He strongly believes that “if your dreams don’t scare you, they’re not big enough!”.
In 2016 Tom will be racing at plenty of local mountain bike, trail runs and Cross Triathlons/Duathlons trying to raise the profile of this largely unknown sport. His ‘A’ races will be in the Xterra European Tour focussing on Belgium, Sweden and the Age Group ETU Cross Tri European Championships in Switzerland, plus with a Wedding set for September it’s going to be a busy year!
Tom works in the corporate fitness industry and not only loves the challenge of pushing himself to the limit but others too. Follow Tom’s activity through his social media channels and personal blog:
Being the best you can be is a belief close to Louise’s heart. Since taking up triathlon in her early thirties she has been on a journey to reach her full potential as an athlete. An avid spokesperson for healthy nutrition, Pilates and yoga, triathlon is part of her active lifestyle.
It all stemmed from a desire to get fit and healthy, but she soon realised that pushing herself to her limits and racing were not only enjoyable but additive. Louise has proudly been part of Team GB as an age grouper since 2010 and has strived to improve her results. Over the last couple of years taking a step back from a busy career as an accountant and engaged a well-known coach has led to advances in her performance. This has seen her win two age group British Championship titles over the standard distance and a silver medal at the European championships last summer in Geneva.
As with all journeys they are bumps in the road, a serious cycling accident a few years ago tested her resolve and an operation at the end of last year lead to an extended period off training. However now fighting fit, 2016 will see her focusing on the World Age Group Championships in Mexico in September and taking part in some of the UKs biggest triathlons in Windsor, Liverpool and London.
You can follow Louise’s through her blog and social media feeds here:
Having been a distance runner all of her life, in 2012 Holly decided to take on her first Ultra, her biggest challenge to date. Finishing the 50 mile race in just under 9 hours. Days later, feeling inspired, she read the book “Ultramarathon Man” by Dean Karnazes and she recalls, “if you can do 50 miles in under 9 hours you could go on and do a 100 miler”. “That was it, I was hooked!”
By day, Holly is a fitness professional, using this to her advantage in making physical self analysis to target her weaknesses during training.
The focus now is ultra distance racing and preferably multi day running races. Last year Holly raced in the Marathon des Sables, finishing as 12th female and 6th British female. In gruelling conditions Holly made some catastrophic kit and clothing choices, resulting in bad blistering on her back and spending time with the medical team, then realising the importance of high quality, performance gear.
In 2016, Holly’s race schedule includes the Black Mountain race through the Brecon Beacons, Pony Express in the New Forest and then the Cape Wrath Ultra in Scotland.
Follow Holly’s activity through her social media channels and personal blog:
‘Believe you can’. This philosophy is engrained deep within David, even when he feels the odds are stacked against him.
Having grown up in the seaside of Fish Hoek in Cape Town, David has always felt 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. After being stuck in a rut for some time, David turned to running progressing from 10km races to marathons and discovering the ultra running scene.
Whilst David finds most enjoyment training for major city marathons, he has an undeniable love of trail running anywhere from coastline to woodland and rolling hills to desert dunes. 2016 will see David take part in 3 Ultra-Trail World Tour events in the summer and with cross training being a main focus, he will be becoming more familiar with triathlon.
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. Currently recovering from a fractured metatarsal and previously a fractured humerus from a cycling accident, David may not be looking to achieve a personal best at a spring marathon but will be using the time to improve his strength in preparation for UTMB.
You can follow David’s progress through his blog and social media feeds:
‘Racing is my life’ ‘Nigel loves a challenge no matter how big or small’
Nigel started off his sporty life learning to swim at the age of 5. He soon became addicted to the water. Many hours, weeks and years spent pacing up and down a pool. His swimming career has been a long one! Nigel sees age not as a barrier but just another challenge. He now holds World, European and GB Master swimming records.
In 2009 Nigel’s sporting career moved from the pool and to the outdoors, he found a new passion….running! Realising that running was fun, but there came the next challenge.
In 2012, Nigel entered into the world of Triathlon. His first race, an Olympic distance. He found himself first out of the water and wondering where everyone else was… Nigel finished overall in 6th position. He had found his new challenge!
In 2014 whilst training Nigel was involved in a nasty bike accident and as a result he destroyed his left clavicle, he was left requiring surgery. Following the operation, the Doctor told him not to expect to race at the level he had once been used to. Determined to prove the Doctor wrong Nigel entered a half Ironman event. Six months passed and he still couldn’t swim, however exiting the swim in first position he got out on the old damaged bike. Not only had Nigel managed to finish a 70.3 Ironman event he had also qualified to race at the World 70.3 Ironman Championships – Austria 2015.
Nigel finished the Worlds 70.3 Ironman event as the 11th fastest GB in his age group as well as racing for GB Team in Cologne at the European Aquathon Championships, finishing 2nd in his age group.
Follow Nigel’s journey with ashmei through his social media feed:
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!
Follow Matt’s progress through his blog and social media feed:
“It all began with a little pier pressure. I couldn’t stand for that, they had one over on me.”
When Paul’s friend and brother signed up complete their first Ironman back in 2012, he couldn’t let them have that over on him. A score to settle turned into an obsession that he now willingly allows to influence every part of who he is. “Yes on paper it’s a tough sport and the hours of commitment required are phenomenal. But if you love something then you’re a willing victim of the sacrifices and effort required to be competitive.”
Paul’s training ground is magnificent, living on the sleepy Lincolnshire, Rutland border with miles upon miles of rural playground for him to hone my art. The routes he has at my disposal will never get boring.
In his first year in the sport, 2013 was about becoming an Ironman finisher. “Knowing you can complete such a challenge is one of the most empowering things you can do.” In 2014, Paul very proudly represented Team GB as an age group athlete at the World Championships in Edmonton, then to qualify for Triathlons blue ribbon event, triathlon Mecca, the birthplace of the Ironman phenomenon, Kona. Paul finished as 10th Brit, 4th Amateur Brit, at the Ironman World Championships.
2016 instigates a fresh approach, a professional attitude and a more complete picture. A coach, structured training, targets and a killer support network. Events including Ironman UK, then hopefully onto Kona. Finally finishing with Marathon Des Sables.
Follows Paul’s journey through his social media and blog:
Growing up on the Isle of Tiree, Owain has always enjoyed the outdoors and fresh air. When he moved to Edinburgh to study, student life took over and one too many beers and take-away meals took their toll. In 2008, after many attempts in the past to get fit and lose the weight he had gained over the years, he signed up for Edinburgh marathon.
After completing the Edinburgh marathon in just under 5 hours, he joined a running club and started to properly think about training and looking to improve his marathon times. Now his personal best is 2:58 but he believes he can still go faster and hopes to prove it in 2017. He is a strong believer that the mind is the weakest part of the body, if you can train that, it opens up a lot of other possibilities. “Believe in yourself and your potential and the race times will come.”
Running is now a way of life for Owain and without it he wouldn’t have met his wife. Rather than get the bus to his office, he runs there. A 15 mile round trip. The days of too many beers and take-away meals are far behind him. Running has also allowed Owain to met some amazing people and he has made great friends through pulling on a pair of trainers and just going for a run.
When not in an office, Owain can be found in the Pentland hills or running along the many traffic free cycle paths Edinburgh has to offer.
2016 is all about getting faster on the roads and trails. With numerous races already planned he is hoping for some great results.
Follow Owain on his ashmei journey through his social media and blog here:
‘I love the adventure and fun the trails bring, the muddier and hillier the better!’
It all started for Jess as simply an activity to shift the baby weight following the birth of her daughter in 2007, however running has now become her passion. After the first few months of regular running her confidence and fitness improved and she began entering local races, this gradually increased to the longer stuff with her first marathon completed in 2011.
The ‘big’ step up to ultra-distance events came in 2014 when a friend from her running club talked her into running London to Brighton 100km. Jess remembers thinking “What a crazy idea this is!” having never run further than a marathon. The weather was atrocious from the start, but she had so much fun and the camaraderie with the other runners was brilliant! So when Jess crossed the finish line she knew she had to do it again.
In 2014 Jess had some success in a few 50km Ultra races and she decided to challenge herself by ‘having a go’ at racing some longer events. Being a self-confessed speed junkie, always running every session flat out, Jess was taken under the wing of a coach who has helped her to structure her training and provide focus. This proved to be a good decision as she won the UK Trail Championships at both Ultra and Middle distances in 2015 as well as the North Downs Way 50.
Jess has 2016 planned out with the Grand-Slam of Centurion 50 mile events, a 100 miler along the South Downs Way and a trip up north for the Montane Lakeland 50 it is going to be a fun year racing the trails for her. One of Jess’ biggest challenges is to not get lost ‘I have a notoriously awful sense of direction which for an ultra-runner is a massive disadvantage! So armed with my beloved map I will be reccing every course so I can enjoy them on the day!’
Follow Jess’ journey with ashmei through her social media and blog:
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.
We only source our merino wool from Australia and New Zealand and use superfine merino wool for all our garments that will be worn against the skin so that you are guaranteed the softest, non prickle handle possible.
Superfine merino wool can be as fine as 10 microns thick. To give you some idea of how thick this actually is, a human hair is typically 50 microns. (One micron is one thousandth of a millimetre).
And for anyone who still believes that wool itches because they are reminded of the scratchy woolly jumpers your Gran used to knit, Virgin wool is typically between 20-35 microns in diameter and has a far coarser structure.
We also blend other fibres with our superfine merino wool that benefits the handle and performance such as our MERINO+CARBON that wicks moisture 10X faster than 100% merino wool and dries twice as fast, making it perfect for runners and cyclists.
We design our products differently at ashmei to every other sports brand out there. We never settle for standard or off the shelf but instead re evaluate every component right down to fibre to see where we can improve performance.
This is evident on all of our products as soon as you compare them to your other sportswear. You will feel much more comfortable or less fatigued wearing ashmei because our products are engineered to make you feel fresher when you are exercising.
Take our Triathlon suit. The first thing a triathlete does is go for a swim resulting in a traditional triathlon suit absorbing water, making the athlete cold and weigh much more slowing them down on the ride and run.
We evaluated the fibres used in triathlon suits and created a fabric using microfibers that are water resistant which means you slip through the water much faster but ultimately you finish your swim dry, warm and weighing the same as when you started the race, giving you a real advantage on all three disciplines within a triathlon.
Our chamois follows a similar route, using a high density moulded foam that absorbs no moisture, again keeping you dry and lighter than your competitors but also providing you with a chamois that offers maximum comfort for ironman distance.
Our suit is also much more compressive than a traditional suit (40% stretch instead of 20%) which aids blood flow to the muscle, making the athlete less fatigued through the race and is also wind resistant, keeping the muscle warmer.
View the full details here.
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.
I started ashmei to produce the very best performance athletic apparel in the world.
To do this 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 a culmination of 25 years experience as a sportswear designer and 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 by email-: email@example.com or by phone 01442 851017