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Interview with Jan Rühl, one of dirtlej’s founders

Christoph 28. June 2018

Christoph had the chance to ask Jan about the company and their innovative Dirtsuits.

As a relatively new company, dirtlej hit the market running with their Dirtsuits and bike transport aids. We had the chance to sit down and chat with Jan for a bit and ask how he and his wife, Lena, came to the idea to invent the waterproof overalls they call Dirtsuits.

Jan, founder of dirtlej showing us a Dirtsuit.

Jan, founder of dirtlej showing us a Dirtsuit.

Jan telling us his story.

Jan telling us his story.

Christoph: dirtlej is still a young company. Tell us a little more about how y’all got started.

Jan: All of our products started as ideas for other sports and not mountain biking. Lena rides horses a lot and the horses often wear spats, or covers, to protect their feet. This is where the bike protectors come from. The idea behind the Dirtsuits came because of my love for kite surfing. After riding one especially muddy das in Lac Blanc Bike Park, we realized that the suits would be great for mountain biking as well.

Christoph: How long did it take to go from the original idea to founding the company?

Jan: We had already founded the company and first introduced our bike transport protectors. The suit was our second idea. It took about a year and a half to put them into production.

Christoph: And what did that process look like?

Jan: On our honeymoon in Chili we started to develop our vision. Lena started designing and I jumped into the world of functional materials. When we had a final design, I began looking for a manufacturer.

Christoph: Starting out is always difficult. What did you have to learn to get started?

Jan: One step forward, two steps back. You just endure and push on. The business playbook says to get a plan together, but weren’t happy with general estimates, so we just started. Besides that, we had to find someone to manufacture a small series first.

Christoph: Tell us how it felt having the first samples in your hands.

Jan: Wow - we pulled it off. The only question remained as to whether other bikers would like them as much I we did. 

Christoph: Now to the products. Where is the advantage when compared to pants and jackets?

Jan: The Dirtsuits have three advantages:

  • First, there is no more mud or wet where jacket meets pants.
  • After biking, I can just take the whole thing off, without getting my house or car dirty.
  •  Lastly, because it is a one piece, there isn’t a break in clothing where the cold or wet can get in.

Christoph: Riding MTB, can mean crashing. How durable are the materials?

Jan: That depends on the model. But that’s why we are introducing a super robust version for Downhill riding in the spring. We are also working on a repair kit to fix tears and make the suit waterproof again.

Christoph: How are the suits resistant to wear and tear?

Jan: Because we use various layers in the membrane, the outer surface of the suits can be very robust. We also work with triple stitch on the seams.

Christoph: Does dirtlej offer crash replacement?

Jan: We want to keep as many of our Dirtsuits out of the trash as possible. At the moment, we are working with local partners when it comes to repairs. If a repair isn’t possible, we are looking into a type of crash replacement, but those details still need to be figured out.

The commuter looks extremely stylish.

The commuter looks extremely stylish.

The commuter suit is perfect for staying dry on the way to work.

The commuter suit is perfect for staying dry on the way to work.

Christoph: Since we are talking about the materials, are the suits breathable?

Jan: All of our suits are breathable and the materials are tested by independent institutes.

Christoph: In the summer, it can also rain. I can imagine that a suit like that gets warm. Are there other ways to keep it cool?

Jan: Certain suits have extra air vents. The Dirtsuit Light is also perfect for summer use and packs down small.

Christoph: After seeing all the products you offer. I was surprised that you are bringing out a suit for commuters. How did you come to this idea?

Jan: Lena and I commute to work every day. We wanted a quick solution to pull over our work clothes when rain hit, so we decided to make one.

Christoph: What is the difference compared to MTB Dirtsuits?

Jan: It packs down even smaller and the legs cannot be removed. It is also cut so that it can be pulled over shoes and it has reflective elements.

Christoph: In the winter months it’s good to have bright coloured clothing. But y’all went with a navy blue colour. Why?

Jan: We chose navy blue to make it a little more office friendly. This way you don’t stick out too much when you arrive.

Christoph: But how do you ensure that riders will be seen?

Jan: We put 3M reflective elements on the legs, arms and wrists. The reflectors on the arms are especially important when making hand signals.

Christoph: The suits are all made for bad weather, but how should they be cleaned?

Jan: Depending on how dirty they are, we clean by hand with a hose. It’s important to remove the sweat from the inside, so that it remains breathable. Every so often we wash them at 30° C with functional clothing detergent. The detergent should not have softener in it.

Christoph: How do I take care of my suit to increase its lifespan?

Jan: Wash it with functional clothing detergent from time to time, but not after every use. Occasionally, using waterproofing detergent is also helpful.

Christoph: Great. Thanks for your time, Jan. Now, I’ve got to go hit the trail and try out one of these suits out. See you!