In Conversation: Bentley Niquet-Olden
With the rising popularity of cycling and in-turn the equipment which comes along with it, a group of young brands are reimagining the modern-day cyclist kit. One such brand is Pas Normal Studios. Started in 2014 out of Copenhagen, the label was founded by Karl Oskar Olsen – co-founder of fashion label Wood Wood.
Bringing a fresh perspective to the world of cycling through a unique colour palette and a distinct graphic identity, Pas Normal Studios (PNS) has quickly formed a devout following.
Outdoor sports never stop, and with their growth PNS has taken on projects with partners to expand the scope of their impact. One such example is their upcoming collaboration with Salomon — no strangers to adventure sports, but rookies when it comes to cycling. Together the two worked on trail-ready items which combine the design sensibilities of Pas Normal Studios and the technical know-how of Salomon.
In order to mark the occasion we sat down with local legend, professional cyclist and PNS aficionado Bentley Niquet-Olden to discuss his career and the burgeoning market of new-wave cycling fans.
When he’s not studying or working at Bike Gallery Melbourne, he’ll be out training on the bike as a member of the CCACHE Par Küp race team. Thankfully Bentley took some time out of the saddle to chat with us.
UP THERE: I think it’s fair to say that riding a bike is a universal joy for most kids, bikes give you freedom when you’re young. Was there a particular moment that kicked-off your journey?
I think my love of the bike all started when my parents registered for the Great Victorian Bike Ride when I was 10. It was such a massive undertaking for me at the time and I remember on one particular day there was what felt like this never-ending hill. I rode what I could and walked the rest, it took me forever to get up this hill. The “sag wagon” was looming behind, but I persisted, and the feeling when I got to the top of that hill was what got me hooked on cycling.
Obviously being an athlete is a massive commitment not just for you but also those around you. How’s it trying to juggle that work/life balance?
It’s definitely a full-on lifestyle. Cycling is a sport that requires a lot of hours on the bike and then when you’re not on the bike there’s a thousand other things to think about in-order to perform at your peak. I’m currently balancing full-time work as well as finishing up my university degree this year, alongside twenty-or-more hours on the bike each week. There’s no shortages of early mornings and riding in less-than-optimal weather, but the sacrifice is worthwhile when a goal comes together. I’m also very lucky to have a really supportive girlfriend who puts up with me and is an excellent chef!
I think for me, listening to Lachie Morton talk about his relationship with professional cycling is pretty refreshing. Do you get where he’s coming from when he talks about hating it at times?
Yeah, I definitely have a lot of respect for Lachie — very raw with his feelings. He isn’t afraid to do things differently which is nice to see in a sport so tied to traditions. I think the main lesson Lachie preaches; is that there’s nothing wrong with hating parts of the process. No good comes without sacrifice and I think its important to decide whether that’s worth the end result.
I know some sports people get superstitious, do you get up to any weird stuff on race day?
Yep, I have a few things that I get very superstitious about! I’m not sure why but as cyclists we tend to get in our own heads about little things. For example; I never shave my legs on the day of a race. I did this once and crashed so I’ve never done it again.
Another, very European superstition is to always pass the salt at dinner by placing it on the table — not into the hand of the person receiving it. I’m not sure where this came from, but it’s a pretty widespread superstition amongst professional cyclists.
Do you get attached to your bikes at all? Is there any in particular you remember fondly, or are they more of a “tool”?
I definitely do get attached to some bikes. Part of why I love cycling so much is the bike and the emotions that they can evoke. I have one bike — a Colnago C64 — which I will never sell. It’s hard to explain but it’s just such a timeless bike — a modern-day classic. Colnago has such a rich history in cycling and the C64 is one of their last bikes to be handmade in Italy. It also has a special place in my heart as it came from the first ever job I had out of school.
That said, being on different teams I’ve been obliged to ride certain bikes — some better than others. I would definitely describe these bikes as more of a tool.
There’s been a recent overlap of streetwear and cycling. We’ve seen projects like Palace x Rapha at the Giro D’Italia and all-Aussie Pam x Maap collab. How’s it felt from your perspective?
It’s definitely been cool to see these brand collaborate and get around cycling. Cycling has never been the trendiest sport in Australia, but I think these collaborations have boosted the image by showing that riding a bike isn’t just for 50 year old MAMILs. (Middle-Aged Men In Lycra)
Do you think that it’s been powered by the uptick in cycling since the past few years?
Yeah I would say so. Cycling went absolutely crazy through lockdown. Working at Bike Gallery I got to see first-hand the increase in demand for bikes and parts through this time.
It’s been crazy even to see through Instagram and the likes of people from school — who I never thought in a million years would kit up in lycra and go for a ride — doing exactly that. I think the pandemic definitely broadened the demographic of people that would identify as cyclists. I think brands have recognised this and want a piece of the pie.
Another interesting story has been Pas Normal Studios — you might be a bit young to remember when the streetwear brand Wood Wood was really popping but both were setup by Karl Oskar Olsen.
There’s a trend of muted colour palettes in cycling brands at the moment. PNS kind of spearheaded that look.
A lot of high end cycling kit brands are doing a great job, but you’re right, Pas Normal Studios really came in hard with their Scandinavian look and a lot of brands have tried to follow-suit.
I think what our customers love about the palette is that there are so many combinations of kit that look good together. It’a made cycling kit more like streetwear in the sense that there are no prescribed “sets” — the wearer can pick a combination which reflects their taste.
Furthermore, Pas Normal Studios kit never goes “out of season” which I love. They add seasonal colours but the base palette is consistent which means you can wear different seasons of kit together without feeling dated.
Like anything, too much of a good thing can spoil the fun. Do you get tired of the muted tones? Your kit for CCACHE x Par Küp is pretty fun in comparison.
There’s definitely a time and a place for everything! I really like the muted designs aesthetically and that’s the way I’d chose to dress off the bike too. However, team kit is a whole different story. Historically pro team kits are loud and not always the prettiest — but I don’t think that is necessarily the goal.
I really like our CCACHE x Par Küp kit as it seems to be the only green kit in the peloton which makes it super easy in a race scenario to spot teammates. From a sponsor’s point of view it also helps their branding stand-out more.
Thanks for your time Bentley, just a few more questions to end on… Any particular event you’re most looking forward to this year?
We’ve got a big year planned so there’s lots to look forward to, but I’d have to say the Melbourne to Warrnambool is my favourite race of the year. The event is the second oldest in the world and the longest race we do for the year at over 270km. The “Warnie” is a race that suits me really well as I love the long flat and fast days. I missed last year’s after fracturing a vertebra in a crash, so I’m super motivated to get back as it’s a race where anything can happen — I’d love to win it one day.
Noted! We’ll be keeping tabs on that… So aside from the Warnie, is there anything else you’d like to achieve in racing?
I really just want to see how far I can go. I’m getting older in the scheme of cycling these days, with 21-year-olds winning the Tour de France! I’ve got a few things I’d like to tick off the list before I hang up the boots though. I’d really like to win a UCI race and also a NRS (National Road Series) race at some stage.
Let’s end on this one… What’s your dream ride? A place, maybe even a particular road and some riding buddies — if you could have anything what would that look like?
I’ve been lucky enough to have made some amazing friendships thru cycling and ridden in some amazing places around the world. But I think at the end of the day; nothing beats a warm Melbourne summer day riding down to Sorrento and back with mates with an iced latte and a muffin at the end.
It’s the simple things Bentley. Good luck for the rest of this season!