Allison Cline, creator of Kor roadwear, likens the feeling of riding a bicycle to a dance, or to taking flight. She thinks of clothing as architecture for bodies in motion. Most of all she wants to make everyday bicycling as carefree as possible. That’s why she created a collection of active wear geared toward setting urban cyclists free of the tight-and-bright tradition.
The minimalist, black and white essentials in breathable fabrics that wick moisture include drapey T-back and muscle tanks in silky mesh, drop-crotch pants that poof, and briefs lined with a lightweight chamois, which are her bestsellers.
“You don’t have to go underground to commute to work,” says Cline, a freelance TV writer, producer, editor and voice-over artist. “You can ride a bicycle and you can look hot doing it.”
On a recent summer morning, Cline looked city chic in black leggings and a fine-knit tank by Kor, topped with a simple black cotton shirt — as ready for riding as for a yoga class or fish tacos with friends. Fanatical about product testing, she is, in a sense, her own best customer. “I run everything by me “ she says. “Am I going to wear this? Yes, so I’m going to sell it.”
From left: Kor T-back tank and Unisex Short designed for urban mobility.
Cline rode 250 miles from New York City to Boston in three days in 2012, and is about to embark on her most ambitious cycling adventure yet. On Labor Day, she departs for a solo, cross-country ride to Los Angeles, where she hopes to build the brand to the next level in a setting where she has extensive contacts through her freelance work and where the climate supports year-around active living.
“I’m not coming out of nowhere on this,” Cline says. “I’ve put in the miles.”
‘Bicycling Changed My Life’
“I can’t even tell you how much bicycling changed my life,” says the 41-year-old, who currently resides in Manhattan. “Everything about it. My body, emotions, outlook…”
Since rediscovering a childhood love of cycling in 2008 when TV production slowed during the economic downturn, Cline ditched a pack-a-day smoking habit, dropped weight and gained muscle tone. Her fitness regimen also includes running and yoga.
Above: Kor founder Allison Cline on the go in New York City. Photo by Melissa Holtz
“I love walking down the street and feeling every muscle in my body empowered,” she says.
It wasn’t just the freedom and fun of pedaling that captivated Cline, it was also the machines themselves. Her pursuit of a dream bike hints at the resourcefulness that eventually fueled her entrepreneurship.
Cline first rode a Bianchi road bike. That was followed by a Specialized hybrid for traveling around town. Then the earth moved. A man on a sea foam green, fixed-gear bike with bull-horn handle bars and deep-rim tires whizzed by her on the street one day. Cline was smitten – with the bike.
With nothing more to go by than the color and a number painted on the top tube, Cline tracked down the frame, built by Leader, a custom-maker in San Diego.
“That just threw me into the bike abyss,” Cline says of discovering the world of collaboratively built bikes, in which the buyer can specify every part to her liking – frame, handlebars, gearing, saddle — rather than buying an off-the-rack model.
Specs for Cline’s dream bike can be found at the bottom of the post.*
“I was like a kid in a candy store,” she says of researching bike components online, relying especially on comments in forums frequented by the similarly obsessed. Cline found a collaborative builder locally in 718 Cyclery in Brooklyn to help assemble her dream bike.
“Now I had this awesome bike and nothing to wear,” she says with a smile. The minimalism of the track bike and the satisfaction of creating exactly what suited her helped lead the way to Kor.
No to the Status Quo
When Cline had returned to bicycling, she wore the usual snug bicycle shorts and zip jerseys. But she felt dissatisfied with their look and design, and she knew that plenty of other women felt the same way.
“Every time I looked in the mirror, I felt pinched,” she says. “I didn’t feel cute.”
Inability to adjust the length of cycling shorts on her petite frame led to the design of her versatile Unisex Short. A billowy cut allows the grippers on the shorts to be adjusted up or down. A wide, elastic waistband can be pulled up, down or rolled over. The design also comes in a ¾ legging tight. The roomy drop-crotch easily accommodates Kor Ünterwear® cycling briefs, which are available with a light pad for spin, commuting and short distances, and a heavier version for distance cycling. The garments are made of quality, Italian fabrics and include handy features like hidden key or cash pockets.
Above: Padded briefs have a minimal profile for wear under pants, skirts and dresses.
An Allison Production
As her business concept gelled, Cline, who had no garment industry experience, wondered if she should attend fashion school. But she found that she already possessed many of the skills she would need.
“I’m a TV producer,” says the Brooklyn native, who grew up on Long Island. “I get all the best stuff, I put it all together, I deliver it perfectly and it goes on the air.”
So, to get this unique production off the ground, she teamed up with NYC designer Gingie McLeod, who helped handle the technical aspects and production. Cline wears the digital, marketing and PR hats.
The collection launched in 2014, straddling the worlds of bicycling apparel and of athleisurewear and boutique fitness.
“People are exercising more and more,” Cline says. “They want to know what’s next.”
“This is your new, hip socializing culture now, it’s on a bike,” she continues, acknowledging that there is plenty of work to be done to attract more women to the joys of outdoor cycling. “It’s filled with smart, sweet, giving people. It’s a great way to meet people – and to burn calories.”
Although she is not quitting her day job, Cline says of Kor: “I think I’ve already succeeded. People are wearing it. That makes me so happy.”
Product photos courtesy of Kor.
*Bike specs: Leader frame, Brooks saddle, SRAM front wheel, H Plus Son rear wheel, Phil crankset, Deda Pista handlebar with Brooks handlebar tape, Cinelli stem, Campagnolo seat post.