How to look after your custom cycling or triathlon kit

Selecting the fabrics that we are going to use for the custom cycling & triathlon kit that we supply is one of the more difficult tasks. Every year fabric manufacturers produce new fabrics with all sorts of promises about breathability, UV protection, elasticity, anti-microbial properties, aero-dynamics and durability and it is out job to sort out the hype from the reality. This involves a lot of testing either in our lab or on the road, but one of the hardest things to test for is durability, because although you can simulate long term usage to some extent, the only true test is to actually use a garment over a prolonged period.

Our approach is to only change fabrics when it is absolutely clear that there has been a genuine advance in fabric technology, rather than launch new fabrics every year just to ride the latest wave of hype. This is really for two reasons – first it helps to keep our costs down to offer our clients only a limited range of fabrics and buy them in large quantities (after all, we have made our main (and somewhat simple) selling point that we sell “pro quality kit at reasonable prices”) and second because we have tested all our fabrics to exhaustion out on the road and we know that what we are using is the very best in class and that it lasts.

care for cycling clothing
Just don’t fall off – he just ruined a beautiful set of cycling kit we supplied!

We sometimes get asked by clients what care they need to give their custom cycling or triathlon kit to keep it in the best condition for the longest possible time and generally speaking the answer is not much. We use sublimation printing which means that a design is printed on to paper and then the dye is transferred on to the garment to colour the actual fabric. That is to say that the colours are not sitting on top of the fabric, but are actually absorbed and by using very high quality dyes it means that they will essentially never fade (other than bleaching in the sun after very long periods of use in sunny conditions). We also choose fabrics specifically for their longevity so that they do not get tatty or fall apart. Having said that there are a few things you can do to look after your kit better:

  1. Never wash kit mixed with velcro – this is because velcro will pull threads from microfibre fabric in particular, which may expose uncoloured (white) threads that will show up against the printed fabric.
  2. Don’t use fabric softener – as this can interfere with the the wicking and breathability of technical fabrics.
  3. If you use triathlon clothing in a swimming pool, do not leave it too long before you wash it. Our triathlon fabrics are all chlorine resistant, but chlorine is a very aggressive chemical and will eventually damage the fabric.

And that’s it. You really DON’T need to follow the long list of things that many custom cycling clothing suppliers suggest, for example: washing cold, drip drying (rather than tumble drying), washing seperate from other clothing, turning inside out before washing, using mild detergents. Just treat it like you would normal sports kit and you will get years of use without any noticeable deterioration. Just don’t fall off your bike….

5 tips to design your own custom cycling jerseys or custom tri suits

If your cycling or triathlon club has given you the job with coming up with a design for your new kit and you have sat down with a blank piece of paper to come up with something original that will keep everyone at the club happy, then help is at hand – here are some ideas that you may wish to consider.

custom cycling jersey & shorts
  1. Don’t start with a blank sheet of paper! Get some inspiration from somewhere else – it might be an old but much loved t-shirt, a painting you once saw in a gallery, a logo from a local coffee shop etc. Something you just like the look of – if you then don’t know how to transform this into a custom cycling jersey or tri-suit, then you can just send it to one of our designers and we will take your inspiration to come up with a few options for a design. We don’t charge extra for this service!
  2. Don’t design by committee. In most clubs there will need to be an agreement on what is the final design for the club kit and typically at the beginning of the process of choosing a design there will be an agreement on some basic principles. When it comes to design your own cycling jersey though, it almost never works out well if several people are involved in the development of the actual design; let one person take over and then take a final design back for comments.
  3. You don’t have to be a good designer to come up with a good design. We make hundreds of custom designs every year, so let us do the hard work. You just need to show us a few other designs from other clubs for example that you like the look of, send us the text and logos and perhaps an inspiration (see point 1) and let us do the rest. Or you can just send a basic pencil sketch with annotations and a few links for us to start work on – it is our job as a custom cycling clothing supplier produce a design and reiterate until you are happy.
  4. Think about how the cycling kit or tri-suit will look when worn. Some designs can look great in 2D, but not so good when you actually wear it. A lot of this is to do with working with the panels that make up a garment, rather than against them: the panels will tend to naturally divide the garment into side views, front/back views and to separate the trunk from the limbs, whereas on a 2D design they all get presented together. You can use the panels to chop up your design into distinct sections that should work well standing on their own as well as functioning as a whole.
  5. Text and logos need space to breathe. On those areas of the custom cycling or triathlon kit that you have logos or text, you really need to have a simple background both behind and surrounding them. In fact if you are going to have a lot of text/logos, you need to have a design that can support them. If you want to have some more intricate design elements, perhaps use them only on certain panels.
custom female trisuit

With Carvalho Custom, you will get to work directly with a graphic designer rather than going through an account manager so you can get design iterations produced in real time. Please contact us to get started on your custom kit design!

Our new custom cycling bib shorts – cutting edge performance with no compromise

As a supplier of custom cycling clothing, the whole range has to start with the bib shorts – we know that if we don’t get the shorts right then we are never going to have happy customers. Cycling short technology has moved on a bit since the 1980s when this writer began cycling – then it was scratchy wool blend shorts, a real chamois leather (like you use for drying your car) which you had to grease with a special lubricant before every ride, no bibs and no leg grippers. Essentially tight woolen pants with a bit of leather in the crotch. Things have moved on a bit…..

old-cycling-shorts
Eddy grimaces with pain as he can’t get comfortable in his cycling shorts

There are really three areas that go into making truly great bib shorts: Shape/fit, the chamois and fabric choice. Here is what we have done with our latest EVO bib shorts in these areas:

The shape/fit of bib shorts is all about making them fit like a glove when the rider is actually riding a bike (i.e. bent forwards with legs pumping) rather than making the fit right when the rider is standing upright and trying the shorts on for the first time. So this mean that if you hold a decent pair of bib shorts by the top of the straps, you should see a natural curve in the way they hang and there should be some looseness in the straps and the back panels when standing upright that will be taken up when you bend forward. We have designed our panels to do precisely this so that the shorts give that relaxed but body hugging fit only when you are actually in the riding position. Then on top of this add our wide super-stretchy straps which won’t dig in to your shoulders and laser cut leg grippers that won’t cut into your legs and you get the perfect shape/fit for actually riding a bike for long periods of time.

custom-cycling-bib-shorts
Our custom EVO bib shorts. Eerything the modern pampered cyclist could wish for….

Having a great chamois is all about taking away bulk wherever possible, but keeping as much cushioning as possible in the right places to minimise soft tissue pressure and maximise skeletal support. We keep the surface as soft and smooth as possible with no seams and a delicate interface fabric and we have added additional elasticity to make sure the chamois moves with the pedal stroke. Add to this anti-bacterial action to keep things as sweet smelling and healthy as possible and you have the perfect chamois.

custom-cycling-bib shorts
A thing of beauty to sit your backside on

Finally we have the fabric choice – we use four different fabrics to make our custom bib shorts – the most important is the least visible, which is for the inner thighs and seat. This fabric is so important because it is where all the friction occurs with the saddle and where sweat is most likely to build up, so we use an aerated, friction resistant and anti-microbial lycra that gives extraordinary durability to the shorts whilst keeping the rider as dry as possible. Then we have the lycra that we use for the main panels, which has to hold vibrant colours that we print on to our custom cycling clothing designs whilst avoiding any transparency and also a high level of elastane to make sure the lycra follows all the movements of the rider’s body shape throughout the pedal stroke as well as UV resistance. Then we have the straps that are made of a mesh that is highly breathable, soft and stretchy for thar barely there feel on the shoulders and the laser cut leg grippers which give a perfectly smooth transition to the leg ends of the shorts.

So whilst we cannot remove all the suffering from our beautiful sport, we are doing our very best to keep it to a minimum by at least keeping your backside comfortable….

Minimum orders & discounts for custom cycling/triathlon clothing

Putting an order together for your cycling or triathlon club has to be the job that nobody wants – first of all you have to find a supplier that you and the club like, then you have to convince club members to buy the kit, then you have to process the order, sort out payments etc. In short it is a miracle that any cycling or triathlon club actually gets round to placing an order!

So we see it as our job to make the order process as simple as possible. So for example we have an excel order form in which you (the kit organiser) can input individual orders for them to be automatically consolidated into a single order (it is the “multiple orders” button on our order form.

Our order form will also automatically calculate any discounts you might be due – this value is based on the total order value rather than quantities. So if you order a minimum of €1500 you get a 5% discount, for €2500+ a 7% discount and for €5000+ a 10% discount. For us as a custom cycling & triathlon clothing supplier it is much more efficient to produce larger orders principally because of the set up time we need for the printing, so we think this is the fairest way to pass on these efficiencies to our clients.

custom cycling clothing supplier

Then we have the thorny issue of minimum orders – every custom cycling clothing supplier seems to have a different strategy and the truth is that the most logical way of managing minimum orders would be to insist on a minimum for each item produced because of the set up time that is required for each different garment that needs printing. We think that this just makes life too difficult for the cycling & triathlon clubs that we supply though, as it can be extremely difficult to ensure that a minimum of say 10 of each item is reached and it would be impossible to guarantee to club members which items would eventually be available (if some items could not be ordered were the minimum not reached).

We decided to make the simplest system we could and ask for at least 10 of any one item and then not apply minimums to anything else; so under our system you could order say 10 custom cycling jerseys (male), 3 female cycling jerseys, 5 bib shorts and 4 tri-suits. If a club does not meet these requirements then we charge 35% extra for all items. Our order form automatically applies this minimum order system (as well as calculating postage).

You can read more about how to order your custom cycling/triathlon kit here.

Custom skinsuit supplier

Whilst most cyclists like to go out for an enjoyable ride, enjoying the fresh air, the banter with fellow cyclists, maybe the exhileration of pushing the old legs a bit on a climb and of course a stop mid ride for some barely earnt sustenance, there is a more sinister side to cycling that the majority of right thinking cyclists are reluctant to discuss, much less take part in.

Yes that’s right, we are talking about time-trialing – how to strip out all the elements of cycling that make it enjoyable and leave behind just loneliness, misery and suffering. Whilst you may pity the time-trialist you cannot help buy admire the dedication it requires and as we all know, there is nobody more dedicated to the technical details about how to make themselves go faster than these masters of pain.

custom-skinsuit
Custom skinsuit – available in long and short-sleeve

As a custom cycling clothing supplier, this can make our job rather difficult however, because the time-trialists is a uniquely demanding client: as well as want to shave a few gramms of weight off their brake pads and wearing absurd space-aged helmets, they will of course want their custom skinsuits to also make them go faster, so that is what we have had to do.

First of all we use a corrugated lycra that improves airflow over the body to reduce drage to a minimum and then we use the lightest but strongest fabrics to make the custom skinsuit weight a little less and make sure it sculpts the body exactly to stop any folding or flapping. And this for many of hurt-worshippers would be enough! But we have gone that extra step to actually make the thing as comfortable as possible (which may seem counter-intuitive give the whole point of time-trialing is to suffer). So this means we have also blended different lycras to give the maximum breathability possible, added laser cut silicone coated leg grippers that won’t dig in to the flesh and added a top of the range Cytech chamois. And with all these bells and whistles we still only charge €81.50!

So the best advice we can give to anyone who enjoys cycling is to think twice before considering going to the dark side and riding a timetrial. But if you really must do it, then at least maximise your speed and comfort by wearing Carvalho Custom….

Discounts of up to 10% on custom cycling & triathlon clothing

When we started selling custom cycling & triathlon clothing in 2003 the internet was just taking off and there was just 3 or 4 brands selling into the northern European markets. In the UK for example the market was dominated by Impsport and Endura (who both manufactured in the UK) and when Carvalho Custom started selling to the UK (direct from Portugal) are prices were around 30 to 40% lower and we immediately gained a lot of traction.

We didn’t just want to compete on price however, so we decided to set up a discount system that rewarded larger orders because they are so much more efficient for us to manufacture; rather than negotiate a special deal for each cycling or triathlon club, we have always offered a bulk discount that would increase for larger order sizes:
€1500+ = 5%
€2500+ = 7%
€5000+ = 10%

We also decided that whilst we supply the Portuguese market with some non-premium fabrics, we would only supply our export markets with the very best quality garments possible; Given that costs of garment production in Portugal are less than 50% of those in northern Europe it meant we could focus on supplying premium quality at reasonable prices.

The focus on the premium end of the market made more sense when the Chinese joined the market (principally through the Chinese brand Champion Systems – now the largest custom cycling & triathlon brand on the planet), as they initially dominated the cheaper end of the market, although they now have increased their prices dramatically as they exercise their dominant position.

Meanwhile Carvalho Custom has kept plugging along at what we do best – selling direct from Portugal to avoid having to carry the extra 20 to 30% margin that a national distributor adds on to prices and focusing on top quality kit at fair prices. We have also avoided sponsoring teams and paying for advertising to keep costs out of the business.

We still believe that we are the best balance of quality and price selling into the northern European market – for example our carbon thread, short-sleeve, full-zip jersey still costs under €40 (plus VAT) and our triathlon speedsuit is under €95 (plus VAT). On top of that we charge a one off design fee of €150 that covers the entire range and our rule for minimums is that you just need to order at least 10 of any principal item then no minimums apply to the rest of the order (so you could order for example 10 jersey, 5 shorts and 3 tri suits). Then on top of all this you can have access to the discounts outlined above. See our full custom cycling & triathlon kit price list here

Please contact us for more information if you are are looking for a club cycling & triathlon clothing supplier.

Custom Bidons

We have recently added peronalised bidons (water bottles) to our range of custom cycling & triathlon clothing. We have a total of 9 different options, including the classic cycling shape with a cinched grip and several “big mouth” options with smooth sides and a large top opening to make it easier to mix powder supplements. We have also added a new environmentally friendly option which is made from 95% cane sugar and is fully biodegradable.

We have a massive range of colours available for the caps and the bottles themselves which can be mixed and match and we use a rubber teat that is much more comfortable to pull out with your teeth then plastic alternatives which can also be colour matched.

Custom bidon

Our minimum orders are 100 bidons, although the prices work out much cheaper for orders of 300 and above. So for example our classic bottle costs €2.39 per bottle if you order 100, but €1.52 if you order 300. We also charge a fee of €50 to make the print stamp for an order run. However shipping to northern Europe is included in our price. All our custom bidons are BPA free and dishwasher safe.

Custom bidon

We have a range of Bio Bidons which are an environmentally friendly alternative made using sugar cane extract and we also have a budget range of personalised sports bottles which are not as durable as our premium range and have fewer colour options, but come in from prices of €1.22 per bidon (based on an order of 1000 x 550ml bidons), including delivery to northern Europe.

plastic free sports bottle
Our plastic-free bidon

Generally we can deliver orders in around 3 weeks of receiving a confirmed order. You can download our custom bidon prices and catalogue here. If you need any further information, please contact Eldon at eldon@carvalhocustom.com .

Personalised uniforms & workwear

We have been running Carvalho Custom, making custom cycling & triathlon clothing for 15 years now – it is amazing how much the market has changed over this time! If you take the UK, when we first started there were a handful of custom cycling clothing brands available in the UK, most of them still made in the UK, but now there are over 20 brands, most of which are made in China or elsewhere in Asia.

With new brands popping up all the time, we get regular requests for us to produce their kit for them and rebrand it as their own, typically because they do not want to source from China (either because of the carbon footprint, or because of some of the difficulties in doing business there), but we only produce for our own brand when it comes to custom cycling & triathlon clothing.

However in other areas of the clothing business, we are able to help with sourcing, particularly with personalised uniforms and workwear, where one of our key suppliers is a specialist. They are a small business but produce everything from scratch (whereas suppliers in northern Europe typically import uniforms from Asia in bulk and then just add a logo or name to the already completed garment). This means that they can supply an almost infinite level of customisation.

So if you are looking for a personalised uniforms supplier at a mid to premium price point, then please contact Charlie at charlie@carvalhocustom.com.

New fabrics for cycling & triathlon

Over 2019 we have been adding some new fabrics to our custom cycling clothing and triathlon ranges. Most have been updates to existing fabrics, such as the increased breathability of our Drystorm winter jackets, now with “Shield” membrane insulation technology, which has helped us to reduce the weight of the jacket a little without losing any of its warmth. The same goes for our carbon thread cycling jerseys, which are now a little softer without losing any of the robustness that gives them their incredible longevity.

In terms of new fabrics we have introduced a new fabric known simply as “Speed” for our custom Speedsuits (short-sleeved tri-suits) that is incredibly lightweight and fast drying, but also very drag-resistant and aerodynamic. It is also very breathable to make it an extremely cutting edge fabric for competitive triathletes.

custom cycling clothing

Finally we have added a new fabric for our bib shorts, which we use for the inside panels that are in contact with the saddle; this is a brand new fabric that is extremely breathable and soft to the touch, but is also outstandingly durable. So it helps to avoid problems with moisture build-up and rubbing, but holds up incredibly well to the constant friction these panels are subjected to as they rub against the panel. It means that our bib shorts are now even longer-lasting!

Our patented womens halterneck cycling shorts are a hit!

We were the fist company to develop halterneck bib shorts to enable female riders to easily pull their shorts down to take a pee without removing the straps of their shorts. As we were the first to come up with the idea we were able to succesfully apply for patents in Europe. Currently our shorts are sold under license to Wiggle and Chain Reaction via their DHB brand (see
https://www.wiggle.co.uk/dhb-aeron-womens-halterneck-bib-shorts-2018/ ) where they are one of their top rated and best selling bib shorts). They are of course also available to our custom cycling kit clients (and as we are the design patent owners we are the only supplier of custom cycling clothing that can legally supply them in Europe as well as owning design patents in other countries).

Designing our halterneck bib shorts was not as simple as it may appear, but given that pretty much all male riders wear bib shorts, it is clear that there are some important advantages over waist shorts, which are:
– they don’t press on the belly area
– they don’t leave a gap between shorts and the back of the jersey when the rider is in the riding position (i.e. bent forwards)
– they pull the chamois up against the riders backside so that it is held firmly in place, improving the functionality of the chamois and reducing chaffing.

The difficulty of developing the halterneck option was mainly that in order to function correctly, it has to pull the back of the shorts up, so the straps need to be anchored at the rear of the shorts. Meanwhile, the straps could not cover the lower back, otherwise it would be difficult to pull the shorts down far enough when nature calls. Other designs of halterneck have gone for more of a corset type solution, but with the lowerback covered it then means that that halter strap behind the neck has to be removed to allow the shorts to be pulled down far enough.

One of the clever parts of our solution is that the shorts keep a perfect tension on the straps when the rider is in the riding position (bent forwards over the handlebars); however when standing upright, the halter strap is without tenstion so it is not really performing any function, but when the rider squats down for a call of nature, as the neck comes down towards the waist there is sufficient give in the straps for the back of the shorts to be pulled down. So the key to our invention was to understand first that the straps had to be anchored at the back of the shorts to make the shorts function correctly as bib shorts and second to understand how the straps could function completely differently in the riding, standing and squatting position. One additional bonus we discovered from our design is that the anchoring of the straps causes them to be pulled to the side of the breasts, so they are not a source of discomfort here either.

Some female riders have expressed concern that the halter strap would exert pressure on the neck, but we have bypassed this problem by making the strap super stretchy and also widening the strap across the back of the neck.

If your club is interested in using our halterneck design for your female riders (and we hope for the supply of the rest of your club kit also!), then please get in touch. We also will be happy to talk to other manufacturers about licensing agreements.

Here you can see the Wiggle video that explains how the shorts function:

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