"Seriously — how would you feel? If a company that is worth approximately $260,540,000 stole your brand message and cycling ethos, that you've spent over 10 years creating and refining?"
That is the question Thom Barnett, founder of Sheffield-based "fine products" and cycling clothing manufacturer Mamnick, was left asking on social media after Rapha, the self-professed "world's finest cycling clothing and accessories" brand and one of the biggest names in the cycling industry, announced, promoted and ran a new bikepacking event in Southern California — the Yomp Rally.
Mamnick's issue, Barnett explained to road.cc, is with the 'yomp' branding. And while he openly admits Mamnick has no trademark on the word — which originates outside of cycling, notably in a military context and made famous by the Royal Marines in the early 1980s when referring to a march with heavy equipment over difficult terrain during the Falklands War — for Barnett, as the culmination of a decade producing clothing bearing the word, numerous written pieces exploring the concept of yomping in cycling, social media posts, and organised yomp rides, its origin in a cycling context is clear.
"I've not come up with a word but I've put it into a cycling context. I would argue that most people who have heard that in the cycling context, it's originally come from us," he said.
One such article on the subject from 2018, titled 'Contemplating Yomp' on Mamnick's website, drills down into the brand's "cycling philosophy". Another published a year earlier suggests in a cycling context a yomp (sometimes referring to the acronym 'Your Own Marching Pace') is a form of riding "that reflects the Mamnick ethos to do things your own way" and involves: dressing your own way, riding your own way, regardless of if your bike is old or new, riding alone or with a group. In short, riding "a reliable steed that will take them over varying terrain on their epic adventures" and leaving everything else to personal preference.
But what has any of this got to do with Rapha?
The Mamnick founder has been in communication with the clothing brand since it announced a new venture — the Yomp Rally — a multi-day bikepacking event in California which prompted friends, customers, and even a professional rider who has raced for a team that uses Rapha kit to point out similarities.
Seriously - How would you feel?
If a company that is worth approximately $260,540,000 steals your brand message and cycling ethos, that you’ve spent over 10
creating and refining. pic.twitter.com/f8k7TFhJjX
— Mamnick™ (@Mamnick) May 6, 2023
Rapha's website promotion for the event, which debuted on the scene last May, states: "Embody the Yomp Rally ethos: ride with your friends or alone, hop on a wheel, share your snacks, help someone with a broken spoke, ride for each other.
"The concept is simple: complete the course in five days or fewer at your own pace, on your own or with your friends. Rapha provides the route, a celebratory send off, one checkpoint, a bag transfer and a warm welcome when you arrive in Los Angeles. The rest is up to you."
"I've not got yomp trademarks or anything like that. There's not much we can do about it. It feels like a David and Goliath situation and we're just getting flicked a bit.
"Rapha is the market. We're trying to build something ethically and correctly, we're 11 years into this as a project and we don't want it to look as though we're following them when ultimately they're following us. I'm quite proud of that as a cycling philosophy, it's something that I've developed myself in a time when everything in cycling is about emulating the pros — what they eat and drink, what miles they do — to sell that whole yomp idea that actually it's just about doing it your own way and riding your bike.
"That's something that gives us, in quite a saturated market, a bit of a unique selling point but now suddenly it's like, well, Rapha has incorporated it into marketing and it feels slightly unfair."
Rapha rejected the accusations and insisted the project was created by US-based staff who "never came across Mamnick and their use of the word".
"The Yomp Rally was created as a passion project by our US team," a Rapha spokesperson told us. "They started with the concept for the experience first, which was to create a multi-day bikepacking event without the rules that have typically defined bikepacking races in the US. They wanted to create a ride that allowed riders the freedom to shape their own ride, but with enough structure to create a shared experience. From there, the US team set out to find a name that felt true and aligned to the experience.
"YOMP — 'Your Own Marching Pace' — is a term dating back to 1982 and has been used in many different contexts across the decades. It fits perfectly with the ethos of bikepacking across long distances and carrying your own kit; approaching your ride with a certain amount of freedom, and pursuing your own way, which is how we used it.
"The US Rapha team never came across Mamnick and their use of the word. We don't believe the term Yomp is owned by anyone, and we believe that there is enough separation between the use of it by Mamnick and Rapha's US event to coexist peacefully."
"It's something I'm extremely protective and proud of"
"It's strange because I did at one time have a great relationship with Rapha," Barnett explained, pointing out the two brands have even collaborated on producing a bottle opener in the past and, ironically, in a few of his yomp write-ups you can even spot photos of him sporting Rapha kit.
"Even if they'd have said 'we understand, is it something that we could collaborate on? Is it something that we could organise from our Manchester store?' I'm not saying that I'd have gone for that but that was kind of the worst case scenario in my head [when first approaching Rapha] whether they were just going to still want to use it but we'll get you involved," Barnett said.
"The internet makes the world a small place. It doesn't matter if you're in LA or bloody Doncaster... everyone's looking at smartphones so that's my argument, I'm still getting my mates in Rotherham telling me that Rapha is using yomp. In that world of marketing it travels around, the internet has made the world a small place so it doesn't matter if you did it in Timbuktu... it's still Rapha as a brand using yomp.
"I have to try and stand up for myself."
Barnett points to Mamnick's extensive yomp-branded back catalogue and, having saved one of every product the brand has ever manufactured, as a memento, he can quite reliably report there is enough yomp merchandise to "do an exhibition".
He also said communication with the brand was frustrating and accused individuals of being "ignorant of our project" despite a decade of merchandise, marketing, writing and events based on the concept of yomping in cycling.
"You would still think that at that point they would show some respect and back away from that now, but it doesn't seem like they do want to," he continued. "I've always said that I've appropriated it into a cycling context, I've not come up with a word but I've put it into a cycling context and I would argue that most people who have heard that in the cycling context it's originally come from us.
"I know it might sound daft but I have philosophised the idea, it's become a kind of cycling culture, I've thought about it and written pieces, published them on our journal and on Strava's website. All about the essence and the philosophy of cycling and yomping and so, yeah, I believe that I've been kind of cultivating it as an idea for eight to ten years."
As far as Rapha is concerned "there is enough separation" between the use of it by Mamnick and its US event to "coexist peacefully", and the brand's website states the Yomp Rally will be returning in May 2024.
Meanwhile, Mamnick is hoping to run even more organised yomp rides, the first of 2024 coming on 17 February, especially once its new coffee shop and bar opens underneath its 'Loft' concept store in Sheffield.
"We've got big hopes and aspirations for this yomping community that we're trying to build around our around our new coffee shop," Barnett concluded, promising this is just the beginning of this particular yomp.
This isn't the first time Mamnick have made headlines: in 2022, an advert from the brand featuring a man in cycling gear holding a gun breached the UK's advertising code, according to the ASA.
In response to a critical comment on Twitter, Mamnick replied it would "not cower or by summoned by the Twitter-mobs of the eternally offended."
Update, 10/02/2024: The original article included claims that Rapha had ceased communication with Mr Barnett. road.cc now understands that Rapha was in communication with Mr Barnett via email, so references to "radio silence" and Mr Barnett "[trying] to reach out to [Rapha] again but to no avail" have been removed.
Dan joined road.cc in 2020, and spent most of his first year (hopefully) keeping you entertained on the live blog. At the start of 2022 he took on the role of news editor. Before joining road.cc, Dan wrote about various sports, including football and boxing for the Daily Express, and covered the weird and wonderful world of non-league football for The Non-League Paper. Part of the generation inspired by the 2012 Olympics, Dan has been 'enjoying' life on two wheels ever since and spends his weekends making bonk-induced trips to the petrol stations of the south of England.