Saturday, February 7, 2009

Custom Cycling Clothing Vendors: A Cheat Sheet

As many of you know, I have the thankless job of assembling the clothing order for Cambridge Bicycle. Before you say "Oh cool," you should realize that I merely order and distribute the clothing that Croth designs. Croth is the creative end and I am the organization and numbers guy.

In the course of doing this job, I have investigated just about every custom clothing vendor to find the best quality and value for my team mates. CB is very design based, so one of our major focuses is having complete design freedom, this may not be the case for you and your team. Also we have few riders and can't achieve any but the smallest minimums. A clothing vendor we reject out of hand may be the perfect vendor for you, as your circumstances differ from ours. This is merely an offering of my accumulated knowledge for the benefit of other cycling teams.

The Vendors:

Craft--Without a doubt, they make some of the best base layers and windblocking clothing on the market. As for their custom program, they are flakes. I have emailed them multiple times, no follow up. Even worse, when I call them, I reach a call center who gives me another number and a name. When I call that number, it is answered by an operator at Champion Systems. When I finally got the guy I needed, he flaked too. I am still waiting for all of those calls to be returned...



They may make the best clothing on the market, but they sure don't return phone calls to get business. What are they going to act like after they get half your money and you are checking up on a deadline?


Craft appears to have low minimums. Their prices are very high, $95 for a bib short. There may be hidden design and shipping fees as well, but I was never able to get a rep on the phone to find out.




VOMax--Cambridge has used VOMax company a number of times in the past, mostly because they are local. They have made serious mistakes with our designs, missed deadlines and generally messed up our work. They have been gracious and apologetic and quick about fixing the issues. We have found some of the clothing to be of low quality. Stockier team members complain that the bibs fit poorly. There are complaints of chafing.




Bib shorts are about $75 and up, depending on design and chamois options. They offer some teams a discount as part of a sponsorship. They allow complete design freedom and, new for this year, opaque white Lycra. That's right, if we use these guys you all won't get a free show this year.




Turnaround time is generally 10 weeks, but they often miss deadlines. There are 25 piece minimums on base items and then 6 piece minimums on similar items, though they have been flexible for us in the past.




Champion Systems--We have ordered clothing from CS once and most of us were happy with what we got. The clothing is inexpensive and the quality of the goods is acceptable. The chamois is a little stiff and offers little comfort. Riders from other teams have described CS clothing as a single season kit, which is about accurate.



CS has very low minimums and allows you to meet those minimums with different items of clothing. You can order ad hoc, 3 bibs and 3 knickers meets the 6 piece minimum for bottoms. Their turnaround times are generally 6-8 weeks and they delivered our order a week before scedule.

New this season, they are willing to fully sublimate bib shorts for a $10 upcharge per short and they fully sublimate jerseys for free.

Reorders are require a mere 10 piece total order.




Giordana--This is some high quality clothing. It is costly, but very durable.

CB does not use it because they don't offer design freedom. They have templates where you pick which swooshy patterns that you want and then you plug in your text and they print it.




All of their stuff looks the same, but with different colors and different sponsor logos. I can speak from experience and say that Giordana has some of the best chamois in cycling. I am not sure about minimums, as I have never contacted them because of design restrictions.



Verge--My friends from BRC swear by Verge. It is high quality and very comfortable. They are doing some very stylish things with contrast stitching on their high end clothing. Their premium bibs are $90+.

Verge has 6 peice minimums. On each kind of item. They also offer lower minimum reordering

Cambridge is unable to use Verge as they require that you allow them to emblazon all of your team clothing with their logo. I don't mean labels, I mean billboards. Furthermore, the billboards are orange.




Its too bad, we would like to support Verge since they sponsor all those great races, but our aesthetic is important to us.




CapoForma--While we have heard good reports about the quality of this clothing we have been unable to use them for a number of reasons.

We wanted to order from them for cyclocross. I called them in June and they told me that they normally have a 12-16 week turnaround time, but in our case, they said it would be much longer since they manufacture in Italy and ITALY IS CLOSED IN AUGUST! The country is closed for the entire month. That is argument one for cheap Asian manufacturing. We were unwilling to wait until late October/early November for our cross clothing.



Capoforma has 35 piece minumums, which is beyond the scope of a small team.

They also were not particularly polite on the phone. I did not feel endeared to them or all that willing to work around their issues since they were rather brusque and exasperated from the word hello.  



If anyone has any intelligence to add to this discussion, I am sure that other racers would love to hear it.  I'd much rather be warned off of a company by a fellow rider than waste $1000's of dollars of teammate's money on low quality, poorly fit Lycra. 







17 comments:

Dave said...

I don't think Verge's logo placement is any larger or obtrusive than Champion's... look at the Richard Sachs kits. They also offer full-sub bibs, something you liked about CS.

zack said...

Dude, you are a school teacher and have the summer off--you can't make fun of the Europeans. Although I am jealous of the 35hr work week there...

Matt said...

You should include Blackbottoms Cyclewear, we make full custom gear for cyclists and triathletes since 1974! We are making the jerseys for the Tour of Utah, Tour De Palm Springs, and the Athens Twilight Crit as well. You should check us out and post us as well.
Blackbottoms Cyclewear

rosey said...

matt, your link doesn't work.
zack, rmm has 365 days off. he's gainfully unemployed right now.

Dave said...

have you looked at Pactimo yet? Their minimums seem pretty low

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Team Paisa said...

You should take a look at veloce speedwear - they have done our team kit for the past 3 years and every new design is cooler www.teampaisa.com

here is the address for Veloce: www.velocespeedwear.com

Anonymous said...

Hey Rosey there is another great store for cycle clothing which i used from 2 years. Probikekit Coupons

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