Behind the scenes at YNOT Cycle in Toronto
It's always rewarding to happen upon local companies making interesting and innovative products. A recent discovery for me in this capacity is YNOT Cycle, a Junction-based cycling accessories outfit that makes some of the best designed backpacks and messenger bags that I've come across.
Started in fall of 2009 by Toronto entrepreneur Tony Mammoliti, YNOT has already come a long way since it specialized solely in the production of pedal straps manufactured in a Croft Street garage. Although this particular product still makes up a significant portion of the company's sales — and exists as the basis for its design philosophy — gone are the days of catering exclusively to the niche fixed gear market. A couple of years ago, you could only find YNOT products at Bikes on Wheels — now they're expanding their reach across the globe.
Headed by Mammoliti and production manager Tom Mosher, one suspects that the key to YNOT's growth has been a commitment to turning out well designed products that put functionality at the forefront. "We're not trying to out-fashion the other guys," says Mammoliti of the competitive space YNOT occupies. "We trying to out-think them. Function comes first, and fashion comes second."
That's the type of line that you might expect from a company owner, but as I'm given a tour of YNOT's studio, the various products I'm shown all seem to have little features that set them apart from the other bags and packs I've tried, whether it be the placement of the straps for maximum on-bike comfort, the way that things like laptop sleeves are integrated with other products or just the location of the pockets for easy access and lock storage.
Coupled with the local connection — the bags are manufactured here using products sourced from North American markets — it's hard for cycling and design nerd like myself not to get a little excited by what YNOT is up to. Nice products aside, they're also active in the cycling community, promoting various events of the course of the year.
2012 will mark the second time that the company has a booth at Interbike, the world's largest cycling trade show. Following that, Mammoliti promises the release of more new products that are already at the design stage.
While still only composed of eight employees (five full time, three part time), YNOT is now selling over 10,000 pedal straps and thousands of bags/packs a year. That might be small potatoes compared to some of the larger US brands like Chrome, but that represents impressive growth considering that it wasn't so long ago that this was a garage-based operation. If you're an urban cyclist, this is a company to keep an eye on.