Let's start with the Coke. Andy Warhol said: ‘America started the tradition where the richest consumers buy essentially the same things as the poorest… You know that the President drinks Coke, Liz Taylor drinks Coke, and just think, you can drink Coke, too. A Coke is a Coke and no amount of money can get you a better Coke than the one the bum on the corner is drinking. All the Cokes are the same and all the Cokes are good.’
Well cycling clothing is increasingly going down the Coca-Cola route and here is why: a lot of my job consists in developing new products for our custom cycling clothing range. And part of the development process is buying all of our competitors' kit and riding in it (then the good stuff is taken apart to look at in fine detail). Although this works out as quite an expensive process, as a brand you pretty much have to know what your competitors are up to: you can then copy the good bits (except when they are patented of course!) and occasionally bring your own innovations to build on what they have done. Essentially that is what every brand is doing in the cycling clothing (and triathlon clothing) business and we all know that everyone is doing it and that is fair enough.
It can be a sometimes fun, sometimes tiresome part of the job to test all of this kit out, but it does give you a privileged position to be someone who gets to test pretty much everything that is out there in the cycling clothing market. The most obvious thing that you can see is a convergence between brands: it used to be the case that there were high end brands that sold fabulous kit that was just streets ahead of their lower cost competitors. Over the last 2 to 3 years, this has all changed though. Now you have a few brands at the bottom of the pile still churning out frankly mediocre kit (short durability, washed-out colours, non-technical fabrics, poor fit etc) and then you have the mid and premium priced brands that are increasingly becoming indistinguishable.
The reason for this convergence is that high level cycling has essentially gone from a niche to a mass participation sport, so where once niche manufacturers had to source scarce fabrics, chamoises, leg grippers and other fancy kit from small suppliers, now this stuff is being churned out in vast quantities; and whereas before premium brands had to use technically gifted seamstresses to put them together, now there are all manner of clever machines that mean the seamstresses can work a lot faster and with less skill required. So really it means that the difference in quality between the mid-priced and the premium is tiny and increasingly the price differential is just a question of clever branding.
Here at Carvalho Custom we have never aspired to be a super premium brand, we just plug away at producing the best quality kit we can at a fair price and put all our efforts into following innovations and developing our own. We have never paid for any advertising, just using word-of-mouth to develop our brand. Cycling clothing is not Coke and it never will be, but the days of great quality kit only being available to the lucky few have thankfully come to an end.
2016 has been a great year for Carvalho Custom and we hope that all our customers and friends have had an equally fantastic year. For us 2016 has been all about innovation: whilst being granted the UK patent for our halterneck bib shorts was undoubtedly the highlight (the design rights are currently licensed to Wiggle and we are negotiating with some other brands also), we were also very happy to introduce innovations to our custom cycling jerseys, including new fabrics and an improved fit, particularly to our custom race fit cycling jersey. Our male bib shorts have also had a few improvements made to them, including laser cut leg gripper and a new injected foam chamois.
In triathlon we have also done some work on our hydrophobic fabrics to decrease the weight a little whilst maintaining the water repellent properties so that our custom tri suits glide better in the water and dry off extremely fast for the bike leg.
We have a few new ideas that we are currently working on to launch in 2017 - now is a very exciting time to be in the cycling and triathlon business because of the blinding speed of innovation, but we like to see it as a time of great opportunity. May your 2017 be all that you want it to be!
Here at Carvalho Custom we realized about 5 years ago, that female cyclists were being neglected, typically getting palmed off with either men's clothing or the tremendously patronizing "shrink it and pink it" option. So we started experimenting with new fits and fabrics and we made some steady progress. We sponosored Shu Pillinger's kit for the Race Across America and in return she helped us field test some of our concepts (we thought that 5000 kms of non-stop cycling would probably be a good test for our chamois for example...).
We knew that the biggest single problem that women cyclists faced that men did not was bib shorts - the problem was getting caught short in your bib shorts (in other words taking a pee). With a bit of stretching of fabrics men can take a pee relatively easily without removing the straps, but for a woman it was always a case of having to take the straps of her shoulders in order to be able to pull the back down, which meant having to remove her jersey also. Most women resigned themselves to wearing waist shorts, but they just had no idea on the comfort they were missing out on: bib shorts do not dig into your tummy, they are held up high on the back so that there is no gap between jersey and shorts when in the riding position and very important (but often overlooked), they hold the chamois firmly in place against your backside which dramatically reduces chaffing.
There have been a few efforts at resolving this problem, many of which are not great. For example adding a zip to the back of the shorts works OK, but most women find having a zip being pushed into their flesh less than comfortable! Then there is the so called "drop tail" option, which anchors the back straps at the side of the rider and leaves a flap of material at the back to be tucked in. This sort of misses the points of bib shorts however as it does not pull the back of the shorts up, so the chamois does not get held in position.
We went through a lot of iterations before we realized that there was an alternative solution. By using a halter neck, and using clever anchor positions for the strap and a super soft and stretchy neck strap, we could hold the shorts in position just like normal bib shorts, without putting pressure on the neck and they could be pulled down without removing the neck strap.
The reason that this idea was complex to develop was twofold - first understanding it was possible to anchor a halter neck on the front and back of the shorts (which meant that the back of the shorts would be pulled up, so keeping the chamois in place properly) and second understanding that there are 3 positions to wear bib shorts and the functionality of the straps changes completely according to the position. When you try on cycling shorts for the first time, then generally you will be in the upright position, but this is pretty much irrelevant for a cyclists, because the only time you are upright is walking to and from your bike and trying them on in the shop. So our halterneck shorts do not really work very well when you are standing upright, because they don't really pull up the back properly. When you bend forwards into the riding position though, everything slips into place and the tension is transferred from the front anchor points of the straps do the back anchor points and suddenly the shorts make sense. Then when the rider squats down, so reducing the distance the straps have to cover from the shoulders to the hips, all tension is released and the back can just be pulled down.
After a lot of work with prototyping and testing we realized we have a very good idea, so we applied for a patent. And today, 17th of October 2016 it was granted in the UK, with worldwide patents to follow hopefully over the coming months. It has been a long journey for our little company and it has been troubling so see several other brands try to copy our idea, particularly as we have made it clear that are prepared to license the idea to them. We were very happy that Wiggle/DHB did a license deal with us and now our halterneck shorts are one of their biggest selling cycling shorts, which really feels like a validation of our original idea and all those years of development.
So if you are a female club cyclist and you would like to wear halterneck bib shorts in your club colours, then Carvalho Custom is your only choice as we have not licensed the concept to any other club cycling kit supplier. If you are a brand and you would like to license the concept, then please speak to us!
We have a fantastic special offer in October - order at least 10 custom cycling jerseys or 10 custom tri suits (or equivalent) and we will not charge a design fee. We will produce your design for you free of charge and the only thing you have to do is to post the design and a link to our site on your twitter feed; no catches, no nonsense. Order at least 10 and get your design for free until the end of October (normal charge for a full custom design is €150). Please contact Eldon for more information.
As well as providing all the custom cycling clothing and custom triathlon kit you need to race in, we also provide a range of custom tracksuits, hoodies, technical t-shirts, caps, socks, beanies etc for you to wear when you are warming up or just generally showing off your club colours. Here you can see some custom tracksuits/hoodies that we made for the Eastern junior triathlon team; they are fully sublimation printed, which means that they can carry pretty much any design.
Here you can see on the back that we have added individual names to the tracksuit hoodies.
If you are interested in getting a custom tracksuit or custom hoody for your club, then please get in touch with us.
Once again this year, we are proud to be supporting the Race Around Ireland, Europe's toughest cycling endurance race. We will be providing custom cycling jerseys, given to all competitors and we will be there exhibiting for anyone interested in speaking to us about supplying their custom cycling or triathlon clothing.
The Race Around Ireland starts on 28th of August this year and is a bike race of monumental proportions, with 2150 kms of non-stop racing, to be finished in 132 hours. Considering the enormity of the challenge, it is incredible that every year there are more entrants and indeed, the race is pretty much up to capacity now, so if you think you have what it takes, then you need to put your name down for 2017 asap! For those of you who don't fancy riding the race alone, there is the option to ride in twos, fours or eights.
We get all sorts of strange requests for custom tri suits here at Carvalho Custom and some of them can be quite challenging for us to produce. When the Harlem Lacrosse and Leadership triathlon team said that they wanted their custom tri suits to look like they were wearing jeans, we knew it would be a bit of a challenge, but we think it came out pretty well.
We will leave you to make you own mind up.....
Whatever you think about the design of their triathlon suits, there is no doubt that Harlem Lacrosse and Leadership is a fantastic organization: it is a non-profit youth service organization that uses lacrosse to engage roughly 300 at-risk children from low income areas of New York City, providing a safe, structured environment for children to compete, learn and develop into future leaders in their communities. Carvalho Custom salutes you and all the other organizations round the world looking to make a difference through sport.
We have just come back from the Bristol GP, where we sponsored the women's racing and exhibited in the race village. It was an extremely well run event, with a cracking atmosphere and even the sun came out. As a cycling clothing brand, it is great for us to put something back into the sport and help it grow and we look forward to coming back to Bristol in future years. With the work we have done developing our custom women's cycling clothing range and in particular our patent pending halter neck shorts, we are particularly happy to get involved with supporting women's racing.
Charlie even got to give the champagne out to the top three riders...
We get a lot of requests for charity cycling jerseys, particularly from the UK where charity cycle rides are so popular. So we have just launched a low cost custom cycling jersey which although it does not include any of the more advance features like mesh lycra side panels, silicone body grippers, carbon thread moisture control and so on, it is a fantastic basic custom cycling jersey. It is very sturdy, lightweight, prints with strong vibrant colours and has 3 back pockets like a standard jersey.
We are able to make these charity cycling jerseys for €19.90 each (ex VAT), based on an order of 100, which it makes it one of the most competitively priced jerseys on the market for a strong, reliable quality product coming from a reputable charity cycling jersey supplier. We can make smaller quantities, but the price would be higher.
Please contact us for more information.