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.
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.
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!
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:
Here at Carvalho Custom we have seen over the last 5 years or so an enormous expansion in the number of triathlon clubs that we supply that now offer membership to children. It is great to see so many kids of all abilities giving triathlon a go, as it has always been one of the great strengths of triathlon that it is a sport that welcomes athletes of all ability levels.
One of the downsides of triathlon is that it can be an expensive sport however, so in line with our philosophy of supplying pro quality kit at reasonable prices (and so focusing on clients who are more interested in quality and value for money rather than branding) we launched a kids club tri suit around 5 years ago. This kids tri suit misses some of the technical features from our adult custom tri suit (such a hydrophobic fast-dry Lycra for example), but is still a good quality mid-range garment, with well-finished seams, robust zips and durable fabrics. The cost of the kids tri suit is €59.90 (as opposed to €81.50 for the adult tri suit).
Although we are based in Portugal where we manufacture all our garments, we are registered for UK VAT, which means that we can zero rate all of the children’s clothing that we sell. As well as the tri suits, we also offer kids sizes in all of the rest of our custom cycling clothing range and we also do hoodies, tracksuits and other general kit in kids sizes.
We have clients of all shapes and sizes: the ones who have the biggest problems getting custom tri suits or cycling kit to fit them correctly are the tall and skinny athletes or the short and chunky ones. But never fear, we have a fit solution that does not cost any extra that can help the the skinny rakes and the barrel chested. For the beanpoles we offer a ‘plus’ size – this means that there is extra length of the torso, arms and legs; for the shorter, chunky athletes we have a minus size with the opposite (so shorter arms, legs and torso).
So if you were to order for example a size Medium Plus tri-suit, it would have the standard chest and hip measurements, but the torso length would be that of a large. Conversely if you were to order a Medium Minus cycling jacket, it would also have the chest measurement of a standard medium, but the arm length would be that of a small.
Furthermore, if you have a particular sizing requirement that you would like (for example a slightly a 2cm longer leg on shorts) then we can do that also, although typically this will cost a little extra. We can also make other changes to our standard range, such as adding extra pockets, adding zips to pockets, adding reflective stripes and even changing fabrics where required. Please just ask for more information.
We have made some further improvements to our racefit (lycrafit) jerseys, to further improve the balance of maintaining a figure hugging form with maximum breathability. Using standard lycra for a cycling jersey just doesn’t work, because it will tend to absorb sweat and stick to the rider and so prevent air circulation reaching the skin. So we use a combination of fabrics, with a structured and micro-perforated lycra on the side panels and shoulders and a stretchy perforated microfibre on the chest and back. Furthermore the fabrics that we use are super-lightweight and of course optimised for their wicking capacity. We have also incorporated laser cut sleeves to avoid having a seam rubbing on the arm and a wide gripper band at the bottom of the jersey to prevent it from riding up the torso with a gentle grip.
The pro team that we support in Portugal is based near events in Porto where our factory is and here you can see one of the riders, wearing the new custom racefit cycling jersey and of course our EVO bib shorts. The custom cycling clothing that we supply to all our customers is exactly the same as we supply to pro teams – we are able to do this at reasonable prices because we supply direct from Portugal and do not use national distributors. Please contact us if you are interested in supplying your club cycling kit from us.
We are closed for holidays from the 30th of July until the 17th of August. Portugal has a fantastic tradition of closing down for August so that we can all ride our bikes and go to the beach for a couple of weeks.
If you are looking for custom cycling clothing or club triathlon kit, please send us an email and we will reply when we get back.
Before we started making custom cycling & triathlon clothing, our original business was a cycling tours business, set up was with Fernando Carvalho who in the 1990s was Portugal’s leading cyclist; the business was immediately very popular, since nobody else was offering this kind of tour in Portugal at the time and there was a growing appetite for cycling trips for “serious” cyclists across Europe.
Along the way, we discovered custom cycling clothing and Carvalho Custom was born – at the time cycling was still a niche sport and there were very few companies offering custom cycling clothing and even fewer making the kit in southern Europe and selling directly into northern Europe, which meant we rapidly had more orders than we could possibly process. So we decided to dedicate ourselves full time to clothing and the cycling tours dropped away.
Over the last 5 years ago, as everyone knows there has been an explosion in cycling and with it have emerged a vast array of brands selling custom cycling kit (high end, low end, mid-priced, you name it) and of course the Chinese attacked the market in brutal fashion with Champion System. So the sector became more competitive and we made a decision not to aggressively push our brand and invest the money we knew that was needed to compete with the new kids on the block. Rather we decided to consolidate our position and keep hold of our existing customers and allow our business to evolve organically, which is exactly what we have done. It has meant that we have been able to keep our costs down and focus principally on product development rather than branding and marketing – so in other words we accepted that we would not be the hippest brand and that we would forego celebrity endorsements and pro team sponsorship etc, but just stick to making the best kit we could at the best possible price.
So Carvalho Custom carries on and we are extremely proud of what the company is achieving, but we thought it would be fun to have a new challenge so we are relaunching the bike tours business and Carvalho Bike Tours has now been arrived. We offer bike tours in Portugal for riders who can comfortably ride 100k a day and enjoy some tough rides in the mountains. Portugal is incredibly blessed to have the interior of the north of the country packed with a great selection of mountains, great quality roads and nearly nobody living there, so the traffic is ineligible. There is also a light dusting of great 4 star hotels at very reasonable prices, which means that we can offer premium standard cycling tours at very reasonable prices (less than €2000 for 7 days with meals, van support and a cycling guide included).
We are not offering scheduled tours, rather we need groups of at least 7 riders and we will adapt our standard cycling tours (in Gerês, the Serra da Estrela and northern to southern border of Portugal tour). To found out more about our bike tours in Portugal click here.
As well as being a supplier of custom cycling & tri kit, we also supply custom bidons via our sister company, BeloBidon. We have just launched a new environmentally friendly bidon, the Bio Bottle, which is made 95% from sugar cane, which is processed to make a “green polyethylene” with which we make the sports bottles. It means that our Bio Bottles do not contribute to carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and they are completely recyclable.
As with our other bidons, you can have a wide range of colours and pretty much any graphics you require printed on them.
Please contact us at BeloBidon if you are interested in getting bidons made for your club or organisation. We currently offer free transport to any EU country and you can see our prices for custom bidons here.
We started looking at the issue of making better bib shorts for women several years ago and eventually we came up with the idea of a new kind of halterneck, where the straps anchored on both the front and the back of the shorts. The key advantage here was that the shorts could be easily pulled down in a squat position without removing the strap, but in the riding position, the anchor points on the back of the shorts pulled them up, to keep the chamois firmly in place. Since we patented and launched our idea there have been quite a few options for female bib shorts come on to the market, but most of them are either slightly clumsy ideas with clasps and zips, or they do not hold the back of the shorts properly in the riding position.
As well as selling our shorts as part of the custom clothing for cycling & triathlon clubs we supply, we also sell our shorts under license to Wiggle/DHB, where they have become some of their most popular female cycling shorts. We currently own utility patents for the EU (and the UK separately) and have a utility patent pending in the USA, which we hope to see granted later on in 2018. We also have design patents in the EU, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and USA and we are speaking to more brands about licensing agreements.
So if you are interested in having our halterneck shorts for your club or you are a brand who would like to license the idea, please contact us at Carvalho Custom.