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When Sombrio hit troubled waters a couple of years ago, we were pretty sad and disappointed. Sad because we've been fans of the brand for a long time, and disappointed because we wondered how come a seemingly successful venture such as Sombrio would end up as an unhealthy business. Well fortunately for us and other Sombrio fans, the company has found a new lease of life with new owners, and are busy righting the ship. With freeride legend Darren Berrecloth and racers Jill and Bryn Atkinson back onboard, Sombrio seems to have picked right up where it left off. We took this opportunity to catch up with the team now running the brand to figure out the lay of the land. We also took the opportunity to lay our hands on some of that sweet new gear that Claw has been rocking lately, and we'll be getting back to you soon with a review of how it stacks up too!

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Vital: Sombrio is a storied brand – take us back to the roots and some of the company milestones.
Sombrio: It all began in 1998 with a single pair of mountain bike shorts. At the time, skintight Lycra was the norm for mountain bikers, but this didn't really work for the rigors of modern North Shore riding. Our founders were at the forefront of the freeride movement, pushing the limits of what was possible on mountain bikes and needed gear that wouldn't fall apart every time they crashed, and wouldn't compromise their style. Then in 2002, Sombrio officially launched and our first collection was released. The rest is history!

Vital: Then trouble arose, mainly a result of failed expansion plans, and Sombrio halted its operations at the end of 2013. Somber days?
Sombrio: Sombrio's had its ups and downs, but we've never lost sight of who we are. We are best at designing and producing mountain bike apparel and that is the focus of the company going forward.

Vital: FF a few months, Sombrio is bought by Sugoi (a part of Dorel), and we now see you back in the game. Tell us about the transition and what it means for the operation.
Sombrio: Sugoi shares Sombrio's passion for life on two wheels, so it was a natural fit. We were both founded on Vancouver's North Shore, by people who were dedicated to bringing new life to riding gear. The timing of the transition gave us the opportunity to really fine tune our Spring 2015 collection, and focus on what we do best, making great gear that supports our lifestyle. Our team quadrupled overnight, but it still has that small grassroots feel.

OF COURSE we had to test that new Disciple jersey in pink - photo Johan Hjord.

Vital: Sombrio Founder and ex-CEO Dave Watson (of Tour de France peloton jump fame and one of the freeride founding fathers) is no longer with you – did he elect to not stay on under new ownership?
Sombrio: Dave joined the brand in our new home for a few months to help make the transition a smooth one. He laid a solid foundation for Sombrio with core values that continue to shape Sombrio today.

Vital: You’ve managed to keep your core group of athletes around, led by Darren Berrecloth one of the long-time faces of the franchise – how important are your riders to the brand and the products?
Sombrio: Our riders are everything! They're out there pushing the limits every day and putting our gear through the wringer. We work closely with our athletes to innovate gear that they're excited about. They're at the heart of our brand, and always will be.

The Claw sending it - photo Sterling Lorence.

Vital: The collection now available is distinctly Sombrio – non-MX styling and a focus on all-mountain, freeriding or should we just call it mountain biking. Are fans happy to see your stuff back on the shelves again? How has the collection gone over?
Sombrio: Yes! The response has been great, especially in our own backyard. People just seem excited to see Sombrio back on the shelves. Retailers are also encouraged that the strength of Sugoi’s ability to manage inventory, meet delivery deadlines and provide quality product at a competitive price will help them drive sales in their stores for this category.

Vital: You are selling direct in North America – do you think this is the way forward for you, and will take over from retail, or will we always see your stuff in shops as well?
Sombrio: We've sold direct in North America for many years now while partnering with premium retailers. It's a way for us to really showcase our unique perspective, create brand awareness, and highlight our retailer partners. It also allows us to offer our gear to fans who may not have a local Sombrio dealer. Retail partners will always be an important piece of the puzzle.

Don't be fooled by the casual look, Jill Kintner is always PINNED - photo Reuben Krabbe.

Vital: What about international distribution? How does that work now?
Sombrio: Sombrio is currently available in select locations across Europe. We're constantly expanding our international distribution, so keep your eyes peeled for more updates soon!

Vital: Did you change manufacturing facilities, or otherwise leverage the considerable resources now available within Sugoi and the Dorel group?
Sombrio: We've definitely found synergies where it makes sense. We now share an amazing development team that's committed to holding Sombrio to the same high standard as our other brands.

If Claw is happy, we're happy - photo Sterling Lorence.

Vital: Hard at work on the 2016 stuff we imagine – any hints of what’s coming? Are you looking at keeping a similar product line, or do you have plans for new stuff? Where do the design influence and ideas now come from?
Sombrio: Our product team is hard at work on the 2016 collection! We will continue to focus on creating innovative, fashion-forward gear to shred in. Sombrio has always been influenced by our own backyard and that will never change. We also draw a lot of inspiration from our riders. In 2016, you can expect to see some new stuff that really caters to the sometimes harsh conditions of Vancouver's North Shore, along with updated Sombrio classics that have stood the test of time.

Vital: We’re stoked to see you back in the game! Any final thoughts you wish to share with our readers?
Sombrio: Just keep pinning it!

For more on Sombrio and to check out the new collection, head on over to www.sombriocartel.com, and stay up to date on Facebook.

Title image by Sterling Lorence

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