Woodie’s is an Irish DIY chain and for 5 years now we have been supplying kit for their annual charity cycling ride. The ride was set up to support Woodie’s Heroes which was set up to support children’s charities in Ireland and has so far raised over €2.5 million.
Ten years ago, charity bike rides tended to be fairly amateur affairs, where riders would get an old bike out of a shed and grind round a park for 10k in a tracksuit, but of course that has all changed now. Like many of the charity rides that we supply custom cycling clothing for, Woodie’s Heroes organises a serious ride and of course for that they need serious kit, which we have had the privilege to supply.
If you are running a charity cycling ride and need custom cycling jerseys or full cycling kit, please get in touch with us – for larger orders we can offer some lower cost options if you do not need higher spec fabrics. Finally our thanks to Woodie’s Heroes for the amazing work that they do – below you can watch the first stage of their epic ride!
Over the past 20 years as a custom cycling & triathlon kit supplier we have generally been able to keep price increases to under 3% a year, but unfortunately there have been some extremely sharp increases in the prices of our fabrics over the last 12 months and this year we are having to increase our prices by around 9%. It feels terrible to have to do this, because we have thrived as a company by a relentless focus on producing the highest possible quality kit at fair prices, which we can achieve by being very careful with how we spend our money: so we do not sponsor teams, we do not advertise, we don’t pay influencers etc. Rather we rely on the quality of our kit and our prices speaking for themselves with a little help from word-of-mouth publicity from happy customers.
So it is completely against our philosophy as a company to increase prices sharply, but it is good to see that we still offer outstanding value for money when you compare Carvalho Custom to other custom cycling & triathlon brands of similar premium quality. One thing we are not going to do is sacrifice quality to help keep prices down – instead we will carry on doing what we have always done, which is to remain a small company focuses on making the best possible quality kit at the best possible prices. Unfortunately these prices are now around 9% higher than they were…
Typically the cycling & triathlon clubs we supply will place a couple of large orders a year rather than multiple mini-orders – this is in part because it is easier for clubs to organise, but also because the larger the order is, the larger the discount we offer (our discounts start at 5% for orders of over €1500 up to 10% for orders of over €5000) and because it makes it easier to meet our minimum order requirements (we ask for at least 10 of any one item and then no minimums on anything else in the order) – incidentally you can read more about our how to order custom cycling & triathlon kit here.
It is not unusual that after a club receives a custom kit order from us, then a club member may find that they have chosen an incorrect size, or they forgot to order something, in which case a top up order may be required. In order to help out our customers for these occasions we have a two week grace period – this means that after receiving a main order, we will accept an order that does not meet minimum requirements (i.e. 10 of one item) without any surcharges.
As a custom cycling & triathlon clothing supplier, we have done everything we can to simplify our ordering process and make buying kit as painless as possible. So for example we have an excel order form that will automatically calculate the final price you will pay including any discounts, surcharges, tax and transport; this order form will also allow you to input individual orders from club members and automatically consolidate them into one big order. You will also only every deal with one person from Carvalho Custom for every step in your order – receiving samples, quotations, making payments, producing the design and ongoing support. And when there is an issue with an order, regardless of why this issue has occurred we do everything we can to put things right in the fairest possible manner. We are a relatively small supplier in the custom cycling and triathlon kit market next to the Chinese behemoths which now dominate, but we like to think that our personal touch and unbureaucratic order system can make buying your kit a much smoother and friendly experience!
We have done an enormous amount of work to make our waterproof jackets and gilets breathable, so that the rider’s sweat can be released through the fabric. Keeping garments breathable is also important for a custom cycling kit supplier for non-waterproof garments as they also have to keep the rider as dry as possible.
The way we achieve maximum breathability is by choice of fabrics and how we blend different fabrics in a single garment. So for example in the underarm panels we will often use the most breathable fabric possible (typically a perforated fabric) because this is the one area of the garment that will generally be protected from the elements. We can also use these perforated fabrics to give the garment more elasticity to help improve the fit.
The key issue for waterproof fabrics is the waterproof membrane that is used – the secret to these membranes is that they allow water vapour through, but not water droplets. So as you body sweats and heats up, it creates water vapour that is allowed to pass through, but on the outside of the jacket the water droplets from the rain cannot pass. There has been incredible advances in these membranes in recent years to improve their breathability but also to give them more elasticity. So the real secret to a great waterproof jacket or gilet is the choice of membrane and the blend of fabrics.
When it comes to non-waterproof garments like custom cycling jerseys for example, the key fabric technology for moisture control is wicking – this is the way that moisture from the skin is taken from the inside of a jersey to the outside as rapidly as possible so that it can evaporate to keep the rider dry. Again there have been dramatic advances in fabric technology to promote this process, but it has been further complicated because of the move towards more aero, figure hugging designs of jerseys, which require a higher amount of elastane (Lycra) in the fabric. The issue here is that this extra elasticity comes with the price of some decrease in the wicking capability of the garment, so once again we blend fabrics to have more elasticity in some areas of the jersey and more wicking in others. In the custom racefit jersey above you can see three fabrics being used, an aero Lycra on the shoulders, stretch microfibre across the chest and mesh lyca on the underarm panels.
Putting together a garment (be is shorts, jerseys or jackets) with a blend of fabrics is complex both in terms of design and construction and this added complexity is one of the main reasons that custom cycling jerseys have become so much more expensive over the last 10 years or so. We can make simple custom jerseys with one less technical fabric for under €20 each, but the jerseys we generally supply are more like double that price, because the fabrics are so much more expensive and they need twice as much labour to assemble.
So you got landed with the job of coming up with a design for your cycling or triathlon kit for your club and you have no idea where to start? We are here to help with as much of the heavy lifting as possible – the best place to start is with our custom cycling kit design tips , which talks about some of the technical things you need to consider as well as some basic design advice.
The best advice we have to give to help you come up with a design is: don’t start with a blank sheet of paper! It is not ‘cheating’ to take your inspiration from another design and then adapt it to your needs. So find some pro cycling kit you like the look of, or maybe a tri-suit you saw in a race or even a favourite old t-shirt, then all you need to do is to send us the image with some comments about how you would like it altered to make your design. So for example we can swap all the colours around, add in or take away some design elements and then add in lettering or logos as appropriate. We will then produce a first draft for you to look at and we will continue reiterating the design until you are happy with it. Sometimes a client might decide that the direction we started the design in did not work out, in which case we can always come up with a new idea until you are happy.
We make hundreds of club cycling and triathlon designs every year and sometimes we start off with the vaguest of instructions, but using our experience we are always able to come up with something unique and compelling, so if design is not your thing, then you can leave most of the work for us. A full custom design costs €150, which includes the full cycling and triathlon range and once you have approved the design for one piece of clothing (typically either cycling jersey + shorts or tri-suit) we will then extend the design to all the other garments that you wish to order. Furthermore, if you are concerned about getting your club colours exactly right, then we will post you the design printed on fabric so that you can approve the actual colours.
Some clients of course already have a very firm idea of what there design should look like, in which case we will walk the client through the particularities of how our garment are put together to find away to translate a design from a theoretical concept to some real cycling or triathlon clothing. Below you can see the process from design concept to custom cycling kit.
See https://www.instagram.com/h.o.t.o.n/ for some more classic photos!
We are based in Portugal so we obviously have skin in the game, but I would like to underline how as cyclists or triathletes you can do your bit to support European manufacturers and say no to Chinese produced custom cycling and triathlon kit! It is not just the fact that the biggest supplier of custom cycling & triathlon clothing is Chinese (they are called Champion System and dominate in northern America, Australasia and many northern European markets), but there are many apparently European brands that are actually sourcing from China. If you go to the right European supplier, you can get comparable prices to those currently coming out of China and you can save on the damage done to the environment from flying the kit from China to Europe, avoiding effectively supporting the increasingly despicable Chinese regime and do your bit to support the European economy.
Twenty years ago there were signs that China was increasing freedom and human rights within its national borders and having a fairer approach to international trade; there was even some hope that there might be a move towards democracy as the economy was liberalised. The last 10 years have put those hopes to bed as the regime has doubled down on repression (look no further than Hong Kong), played a profoundly unfair and dishonest game in international trade (exploiting loopholes in trade agreements and using state support to undermine foreign competitors) and scaled up its human rights abuses (of which the Uighur muslims is just one example). In short the Chinese regime is nasty, dishonest and exploitative and we as European suppliers of custom cycling & triathlon kit have to compete with them, so we would like to remind out potential customers that there are any number of good reasons to buy from Europe.
Northern European manufacturers of custom cycling and triathlon kit have largely had to abandon producing their kit in their home countries, because the labour intensive work that goes into making clothing is just not viable any more in high wage economies – some of these brands have gone under as a result, some have begun manufacturing in southern or eastern Europe, but some have gone to China and in so doing offer their tacit support to the regime there.
We are happy to fight a fair fight for market share with European suppliers and we have a profound respect for some of our competitors who are making great quality kit, with good service and reasonable prices. We are proud to abide by all the employment and environmental laws that exist in Portugal and the rest of Europe to protect our workers and the planet, but we think it would be fair of our non-European competitors were obliged to do the same thing. There really is no reason that you as a customer cannot buy European and end your implicit support for the Chinese behemoth so you can get out and wear your kit with a clean conscience.
Generally our custom bib shorts are made of two different lycras – dyed lycra for the inside leg panels and printed lycra for the rest. Here is the explanation of why.
When making custom cycling clothing (as well as custom triathlon clothing), pretty much all the panels are made with printed fabric (apart from these inside leg panels). This printed fabric starts off as white and we use sublimation printing to take a design that is printed on special sublimation printing paper and transfer it to the white fabric. This is done by laying the printed sublimation paper on a panel where heat and pressure is applied – the colour is then released from the paper and transferred to the fabric where it dyes the top layer of the fabric, but does not penetrate all the way through the fabric. (As a side note, old fashioned style printing (screen printing) actually transfers colour that sits on top of the fabric, so it can eventually be scraped off with a lot of wear and washing, which is why you might see cracks in the design of an old t-shirt. Sublimation printing will never wear off, because it is dyeing the fabric).
Whilst sublimation printing is normally a fantastic solution to make custom cycling clothing, there are two problems with using it for the inside panels of shorts: the first is that where the shorts come in contact with the saddle, they will experience a lot of friction and eventually this will lead to some threads being teased out of position (known as pilling). This is a real problem with printed lycra, because the threads that are pulled to the surface will be white so will appear as white specks on the design that is printed there, which makes the shorts look a bit scruffy. The second problem is that this lycra is white (underneath the print of the design) and when you are in the riding position it will get stretched: this can cause the colours to lighten and (especially when wet and with light single colour print) can lead to some problems with transparency, which is never a good look on a bike and can really spoil the view for riders behind you…..
So the best thing to do is to use black dyed lycra for these inside panels as you can see in the pictures above of a speedsuit. It does mean some compromises to the design, but it is the recommended option. There is a further benefit of using black lycra which is that we use a special engineered black lycra for these inside leg panels, which is ultra-breathable so helps to stop sweat build up, which is a great thing in lots of ways for anyone who spends a long time on a bike. One thing you must be aware of though is that if your printed panels are black and the inside leg panels are dyed black, you will notice that the printed panels look slightly grey when next to the black, particularly when you are riding and they get stretched a little. This is because of the white lycra showing through a bit on the printed panels.
If you really want to have printed lycra on the inside leg panels because the design demands it, then we are happy to make them for you, but a couple of things you should consider – try to avoid light colours, because these give the most transparency issues and if possible try and add some design detail on the panel, because this will help disguise any transparency problems. Put bluntly the thing that will stand out if shorts have any transparency is the cleft between the butt cheeks (also controversially known as ‘coin slot’); if there are various graphic elements on the design, then the cleft line will tend to get lost in the other lines on the design. In a monochrome design, there are no graphics to disguise the line that nobody wants to see…..
In a cycling universe a long, long time ago, cycling jerseys were either cotton or wool and custom cycling jerseys had logos sewn on to them. Then came synthetic fabrics and sublimation printing, which meant that a plethora of technical characteristics were opened up. Perhaps you yearn for those simpler days when the choice was just wool or cotton? Well we are going to try and simplify what the technical fabrics used in custom cycling jerseys actually mean.
Perhaps the key innovation for cycling jersey fabric (and indeed all kinds of sports clothing fabric) is microfibre. As the name suggests, microfibre uses tiny fibres (around one denier which is a fifth of the diameter of a human hair) and the fact that the fibres are so small allows them to transport moisture very effectively. This is the so called “wicking” effect (also known as capillary action) and is great for sports clothing, because it transports the sweat from the inside of the garment to the outside of the garment so that it can evaporate, which simultaneously drys and cools the athlete.
The story gets a bit more complicated because microfibres can be made from different materials and blended with different fabrics to alter their properties – so they can be made more lightweight, stretchy, higher wicking etc. This means that different microfibres should be used for different functions, which is why we use a blend of three different microfibres for our racefit jerseys for example – each microfibre is carrying out a slightly different function according to where it is used on the jersey. We use a perforated and super-stretchy fabric on the shoulders so that it will follow the form of the shoulders but breath easily, a super lightweight and slightly less stretchy fabric for the chest and back panels to minimise the weight of the garment and then a lycra mesh super-stretchy microfibre for the underarm panels to pull the garment in across the torso. Using these different grades of elasticity helps to keep the racefit jersey form fitting, but allows it to move with the rider, whilst maximising breathability.
As a custom cycling jersey supplier, choosing the right microfibres for our garments we also have to make sure that they are soft to the touch, durable to abrasions and washing and that they will give vibrant colours with sublimation printing. You will only really see the true value of high end microfibres when you use them in anger however – it is when you are several hours in to a long sweaty ride and the jersey still feels fresh that it really comes into its own, not when you try it on in your bedroom!
Here is a video about our racefit custom cycling jersey:
We have always tried to keep our pricing system as transparent and simple as possible, but because of the small scale nature of producing custom cycling & triathlon clothing it just doesn’t make sense to offer the same price to everyone. The key issue is that to make small numbers of a custom garment is very inefficient because the effort required to print 3 of a custom design is not much less than to print 30. Our production process is of course set up to produce small quantities, but we felt our pricing structure had to reflect as fairly as possible our costs of production, but how to make it as simple as possible?
Here you an see an example of some quite complex kit to produce (not a look that works for everyone admittedly, but it is a lot of work to make it happen….!). Most of our competitors have a system where there is one price for less than 10 of an item and then a lower price for say 10 to 50 and then an even lower one for 50+. This is a fair system in that it gives a reasonable reflection of the costs of manufacturing, but it does make it difficult for a club ordering if they do not know what the final price of an item will be until they know how many people would be ordering it. So we came up with a duel pronged strategy to make prices fair and simple: we have a minimum order policy that you have to order at least 10 of one item and then there are no minimums on any other items. This means that we know that on at least one item we will have some efficiency in production and the cycling or triathlon clubs we supply will know that they can offer our full range to their club members without surcharges for small orders. Then we set up a discount system based on the total order size, rather than on individual item quantities in order to simplify the calculation of the final price. Our discounts based on total order size are as follows:
€1500+ = 5%
€2500+ = 7%
€5000+ = 10%
We also set up an order form which allows you to input your order quantities so that it will automatically show you the discount as well as the shipping cost so that you can easily see the final value you will pay. There is more information here about how to place an order for custom cycling & triathlon clothing . We have been in business now for 17 years and have built the business based on making a complex production process as simple as possible to navigate for our clients, making pricing as transparent as possible and above making pro quality kit at fair prices
After a lot of head-scratching and testing we have finally launched our new custom triathlon speedsuit. The path we have taken is to use a variety of different lycra blends for different panels of the speedsuit. So for example the inside panels of the shorts section has to be breathable but hard-wearing (where it rubs on the saddle), side sections can use mesh to add breathability and the shoulder sections have to be super-stretchy to allow free movement of the arms. Then the entire suit has to be extra-fast drying, lightweight and aerodynamic as well as being extremely comfortable for all three disciplines. And of course it has to look good….
Our speedsuit costs €94.90 (compared to €81.50 for our standard (sleeveless) tri-suit), which is a lot of money, but the overwhelming majority of our clients are asking for the kind of premium features that this speedsuit offers (whilst of course nobody wants to pay the sometimes absurd prices that some brands are charging for premium speedsuits). Here is a video that explains some of the features, but to really get to know our new custom speedsuit, you have to try it on for yourself to get an idea for how it feels on – it really gives you that ease of movement that allows you to perform at your best and the performance benefits that you need to be able to give your very best in a race. Please contact us if you would like to see a sample.