Biking in Style
With a lifelong love of biking, seeing a gap in the market for precisely designed and constructed biking accessories fit for the modern biker’s ‘bike to boardroom’ lifestyle, Jonathan Cazzola and Robert Nightingale founded Malle London
Article by Andy Barnham
When meeting one half of Malle London’s founding duo Jonathan Cazzola, the infectious positively about the luggage and adventure accessories brand is palpable. Begun in 2012 with half a dozen samples made on a $60 sewing machine, the brand now sells a range of items and is rapidly growing its two biking events.
Bikers from birth, cousins Jonathan Cazzola and Robert Nightingale grew up in Kent and would tear around on their father’s motorbikes at the drop of a hat. Drifting apart, in regards to preferred side of the Atlantic at least, it took opposite sides of the ocean for the cousins to realise their path was best trodden together from which the seeds that became Malle London were born.
Having studied motorsport engineering, Jonathan found himself the one man pit crew for former British F1 driver Jonathan Palmer and his prototype race car. Falling out of love with mechanics, Jonathan went back to university to study visual communications and graphic design before setting up his own digital design studio. In parallel to his cousin, Robert studied industrial design at Lund University in Sweden before finding employment in NYC in branding and innovation. Needless to say it wasn’t long until they started collaborating on projects from different sides of the pond.
Talking to other biker friends, the cousins found the repeated comment that there were no biking accessories suitable for a ‘bike to boardroom’ lifestyle. With no panniers available that they liked, they found themselves packing their weekends into makeshift alternatives. Looking at old designs the guys found that traditional items, such as a Gladstone bag, just didn’t suit the modern tools of life. Undertaking research by speaking with a variety of the biking community including professional trades such as architects, stylists and so forth, Malle London found the daily tools of a laptop or iPad, keys, shades, pens and so forth were common across all who took part. With this in mind the cousins were “driven by modern design and form but inspired by heritage.” Whilst old designs themselves were unsuitable, old school materials such wax canvas, which not only is hard wearing but sustainable and organic in nature, were perfect and hadn’t been bettered. Small independent stores began to stock the brand which was soon followed by Barney’s in 2014; all with no outside investment.
Jonathan is happy to admit their items are stripped back to basics, pure and utilitarian. Putting their money where their mouths are, the duo planned a 10,500 mile trip in July 2015 from NYC to LA visiting 20 craft manufactures constructing items such as bamboo fishing rods and traditional kayak making. Undertaking the road trip on two Triumph Bonnevilles and spending one to two days with each craftsman, the journey gave the pair confidence that Malle London was going in the right direction. And naturally the guys lived in Malle London luggage, accessories and kit for six weeks, field testing their items to the limit. The Malle London jacket, created by a former Navy SEALs garment designer using British materials, came in for particular scrutiny. Incorporating 72 pieces (not including lining or armour) the felt collar disintegrated following regular exposure to hot and dry conditions and the single seam was replaced with a double seam following water leakage. A dedicated key pocket was added and something Jonathan is particularly proud of, ‘love handles,’ straps inside the side pockets for pillion passengers to hold on to, were introduced. Even the lining has a purpose; bright red in colour, when taken off and folded inside out the red can be used as a help beacon, should it so be required. “Everything has to integrate seamlessly with the machine,” says Jonathan who is keen to explain that while Malle London has their Expedition Collection, it is not a fashion brand creating looks every six months, rather their items continue to evolve; roll up canvas lids, secured by straps are being phased out as customer feedback is showing clients prefer zips.
Looking at a Malle London item, it is clear the love and attention to detail the guys put into the design extends to the materials and production. The wax canvas comes from the original manufacture of waxed cotton for outerwear based in Lancashire who originally made sails for ships, the lining comes from the Midlands and the hardware components from Liverpool.
Which naturally leads on to the two biking events. Not content with world domination via accessories, the pair started The Mile, responding to what they considered to be the increasing gulf and disconnection between modern motorsport events and the joy of riding they grew up with. In its inaugural year, the event was billed as a grass track sprint race which attracted 30 – 40 bikes located on the 250 acre Kevington Hall estate. A family friendly event, this year the event is hosting 400 bikes and includes a slalom hill climb, the sprint race along with the Malle 100, a grass track scramble race for up to ten contestants at a time including a Le Mans style start (ie riders lining up at a start line and running to their steeds).
Added to this is the Great Mile, a 1, 250 mile rally from Castle Mey in Scotland finishing at The Lizard in Cornwall in what Malle London believe to be the largest motorbike rally in the UK. Open to 120 this year, bikers drop off their beauties with sponsor Club Moto in London who are responsible for transporting, via crate, the bikes to the start line. Participants are then collected from Inverness airport and taken to the event which includes a hot dinner and breakfast along with a packed lunch every day. Placed into teams of four riders are given a Malle London duffel bag with their race number as they ride 11 – 12hours a day down the west cost of the Highlands (using some of the same route as the West Coast 500), through the Lake District and on through Wales to Devon and then Cornwall. Aimed to be a rally and not a race, each rider is given a log book and an ideal time to hit the checkpoints, staffed by marshals who greet the rally with tea and biscuits. Supported by deBolex Engineering last year the Great Mile saw riders competing from as far afield as Spain, South Africa and even a couple on honeymoon from New Zealand. Despite the torrid conditions (it rained almost non-stop during the five day event) 69 out of the initial 100 completed.
“We’re building a brand allowing people to explore and go on adventures,” says Jonathan. “If we can provide a toolkit and a foundation, then we’re doing our job.” From where Riddle is standing, they’re mighty strong foundations.