Why we don’t sponsor clothing for cycling & triathlon teams…

As a supplier of custom cycling & triathlon clothing you can imagine that we get a lot of requests from teams looking for us to sponsor their clothing (i.e. supply it for free) in return for some exposure – I am sorry to say that our answer is always no and here we explain why.

Our biggest competitor, the gigantic Chinese supplier Champion System, sponsors one of the worlds leading cycling teams (UAE Team Emirates) but we decided long ago that we would not try and compete on this level. We are happy to stay as a small company (we only have 25 people working in our factory, compared to 600+ at Champion System!), but that is fine as world domination was never our goal.

Sponsoring a pro team is an expensive business and ultimately clients have to pay for this in the price of the kit – we run a low cost business, which means we distribute direct from Portugal (no national distributors sticking 30% on top of the costs!), we don’t do media advertising or even trade shows and we don’t sponsor teams. Ultimately this limits our growth potential, but it means that we don’t have to take financial risks which helps to guarantee our longevity.

team cycling jerseys supplier

We stick to focusing on the quality of our kit, keeping our prices reasonable and customer service and leave all the branding and marketing to others. The only exception we make to sponsoring clothing is when we have a club that is already ordering from us and has a promising junior athlete who needs help with their clothing or perhaps is running a special charity event, in which case we will look at it.

We also get a lot of request from existing or new European custom cycling & triathlon clothing brands for us to manufacture their kit for them as a subcontractor, but the answer again is no as we only produce kit with our branding. It seems that a lot of European brands are now trying to pull their manufacturing out of China (in part because prices have increased significantly over the last 5 or 10 years, but also because there is a growing reluctance to support the increasingly Machiavellian Chinese regime and an awareness about the carbon footprint involved with importing from Asia) – the problem is that it is difficult to find European factories that are specialised in producing high end kit with the relatively low volumes necessary for custom production.

Minimum order requirements for custom cycling & triathlon clothing

Minimum order requirements are a headache for clubs just as they are for suppliers of custom cycling & triathlon clothing. For clubs it can be a real headache to round up enough orders to achieve minimums and as a manufacturer it can be very inefficient to make very small quantities of an item. So here at Carvalho Custom, we tried to go for a balance that allows us to produce efficiently and help keep our prices down, but makes life as easy as possible for our clients.

Our minimum order policy is that you need to order at least 10 of one main item (so not an accessory like mitts) and then there are no minimum requirements for any other items. So for example you could order 10 full zip male jerseys, 4 1/4 zip female jersey, 2 bib shorts and 1 training jacket for example. If you do not order at least 10 of one item, then we charge a 35% surcharge on all items. This means that we can make at least 10 items in an efficient manner, but it means that club members can be free to order whatever they like from our range, which we think is a fair balance. Our excel order form will automatically apply this minimum order requirement when you input your order.

club cycling kit supplier

As a producer we are of course more efficient producing larger orders, which is why we offer discounts for order worth more than €1500 (so 5% discount for €1,500+, 7% for €2,500+ and 10% for €10,000+). Our discount system encourages our clients to put together larger and less frequent orders which enables us to pass on the savings that we make.

We do allow an exception to our minimums policy: if you receive an order and within two weeks realise that some of the items do not fit correctly, then we will make replacements with no minimum requirement and no surcharges. This is because we cannot take back kit that does not fit correctly (because it is all custom), but we want to make it as easy as possible for our clients to get replacement kit when required.

Some of our competing custom cycling & triathlon kit suppliers will have a price per item that will decrease depending on the quantity ordered, which makes sense from the manufacturers standpoint, but we think complicates the ordering process for clients, because the individual club members will not know how much they are going to pay until the final order numbers are totted up. Click here for more information on how to order your custom cycling & triathlon clothing.

Should you be buying your custom cycling kit in Europe rather than China?

We are lucky enough to be based in northern Portugal, where we make custom cycling & triathlon clothing in a small factory with around 25 staff. All of our fabrics come from Portugal, Spain and Italy and we sell almost exclusively into northern Europe. Whilst there are several manufacturers based in Southern Europe like us some smaller, some larger, but we are all mainly not competing against each other but against a small number of extremely large Chinese factories. The question we would like to address here, is why the hell should you buy European?

The gigantic elephant in the room is Champion System, which employs over 700 people in its Shenzhen factory and is the market leader for custom cycling clothing in many of the major markets in north America, Europe and Australasia. But as well as Champion System there are other large factories that are making the kit for European owned brands, so the Chinese tentacles actually stretch much deeper into the sector than may appear.

The Chinese hit the European market extremely hard starting in around 2007, when they flooded the cycling market with cheap and cheerful kit, upsetting many of the complacent European brands that typically dominated their domestic market with little foreign competition. Champion System really came to dominate around 2010 however when it stepped up the quality to rival that available in Europe and invested heavily in marketing and set up offices in 22 countries to represent their brand.

Under this Chinese onslaught it became a battle for survival for European manufacturers. Many northern European brands had to close down their domestic manufacturing and either shut down all together or began sourcing their kit also from China or from southern Europe. Meanwhile southern European manufacturers also had to sharpen up their act or also face closure.

These last 10 years have been difficult for Carvalho Custom also, but there is no doubt that we are slowly bouncing back now as prices coming out of China for medium to premium quality kit have risen dramatically whilst our prices have risen only slowly to make us competitively priced once more. Furthermore there is a backlash in the cycling community against buying from China and a rediscovered reverence for European brands. This is not just because of the higher prices now coming out of China or the reduced carbon footprint in not having to ship clothing half way round the world, but also perhaps a realisation that the China is run by a despicable dictatorship with scant regard for human rights or environmental stewardship and that given a choice we should buy our cycling clothing and all manner of other goods from somewhere else.

Perhaps it is the well televised suppression of democracy and human rights in Hong Kong, the bellicosity towards Taiwan, the not so well televised oppression of the Uighur muslims and the international outrage over their handling of Covid-19 that have all served as a wake-up call to consumers that this might not be a country they should be doing business with.

For the sake of all European cycling & triathlon clothing suppliers, we have to hope that whilst the 2010s were the decade of the Chinese, the 2020s will belong to Europe.

How to place an order with Carvalho Custom for cycling & triathlon clothing

In this post we will just explain the different ways that you can communicate with us your final order numbers for custom cycling & triathlon clothing – there are of course more elements to getting to the stage of actually confirming the order numbers (like receiving samples, understanding minimum order requirements and so on), but you can find out about these here.

The main tool we use for order is our excel order form, which is actually just an intelligent version of a normal excel spreadsheet. So this spreadsheet allows you to choose the items you want to order and the quantities and then when you press the “calculate total price” button it will automatically give a final price including any discounts or surcharges where applicable and transport, so you know the final price you will pay. If you make any changes, then you just need to press the same button again to recalculate. (It is worth remembering here that our minimum order requirements are that you must order 10 of any main item and then no minimums are required for any other items and our discount system starts at 5% for €1500+ order value up to 10% discount for orders of €5000+).

Our spreadsheet also has another nice function, which is the “add multiple orders” button. This allows you to consolidate all the orders you get from club members into one order form. To use it, choose the items in the order form that club members are going to order, then click the “add multiple orders button” and you will see a mini order form for each club member. You can then fill out these mini order forms and they will automatically be added together to make a total club order.

Some of our clients just don’t want the hassle of working with excel sheets so they just send an email listing their order and that is fine too! We will just confirm the order back to you.

The final option is to allow individual club members to order and pay individually via a club shop – in this case we will set up a specific shop for your club with a password and your club members can shop and pay individually , either choosing to have their personal kit delivered to their home or the entire club order can be sent in one box for it to be distributed by whoever drew the short straw at the club to handle the kit…..

We have tried to make a slightly complicated process as simple and transparent as possible – if you have any questions about our ordering system or any other aspect of our business, please don’t hesitate to ask.

Welcome back to some old clients & some that never left….

Over the last few months everything has been turned upside down by the new universal enemy Covid19 – we initially thought that all our clients would hunker down and stop ordering until it became clear when they would be allowed out on their bikes again, but it has been interesting to see that orders kept on flowing. Perhaps because cyclists and triathletes are a hardy bunch and have been determined to keep their sport alive through all the restrictions and difficulties.

There is also a hope for all the European manufacturers like us that some clients will question buying their custom cycling & triathlon clothing from Chinese suppliers, not least because of the sometimes sinister way the Chinese Communist Party have behaved over the virus which serves as a reminder that it might not be a bad idea to source from closer to home. The major Chinese supplier of custom cycling & triathlon kit is of course the gargantuan Champion System, who are market leaders in most of the major custom cycling and triathlon clothing markets (US, UK, Ireland and Australia for example) and have a factory in Shenzhen with over 600 employees (we have 25!). Originally we were never able to match their prices when they were priced extremely aggressively a few years back, but now that they have increased their prices we are now competitive with them. We are very much focused on keeping our peripheral costs down without sacrificing the most important thing, the quality of the kit and our highly personalised customer service. We can keep our costs down by selling direct from Portugal with no national distributors, no pro teams to sponsor and no flashy advertising as we are happy to grow by word-of-mouth recommendations and let the quality of our kit speak for itself.

There are many northern European custom cycling & triathlon clothing brands that are sourcing from China, but there are of course a number of strong European suppliers available, particularly in Spain and Italy (and of course us here in Portugal!). From our perspective it would be great to see European cycling & triathlon clubs looking to source their club clothing from European suppliers just like it is great to see cyclists and triathletes supporting their local bike shops rather than buying from the online giants.

Custom cycling kit design to stop traffic

We get all sorts of requests for designs for custom cycling kit and we try not to judge. If you want to ride around in a brown cycling jersey like AG2R La Mondial then that is fine; or perhaps you want to channel Marco Pantani in his migraine inducing Mercatone Uno kit – we won’t charge you any extra for that (although we might not include it on our facebook page).

Just occasionally though we have a client who wants to make a statement with their custom cycling kit – they have a particular personality and they want their kit to speak to the world about them. Well that is Håvard Tryti from Norway. Channelling Mario Cipollini in his zebra phase, he came up with a fantastic design that is already stopping traffic on the streets of Oslo – his own bio describes him as a “Euro style cycling freak” and we are happy with that – here he is in all his glory in a Carvalho Custom skinsuit.

https://www.instagram.com/h.o.t.o.n/

Your dream cycling kit might not be quite as flamboyant as Håvard’s, but here at Carvalho Custom we can make your design ideas come true – we will work from a pencil sketch, a photo of some pro kit or even just a description. Here is some more advice on designing custom cycling kit.

For those of a certain generation who can remember the Saeco train dragging Cipo to the front of the peloton, here he is in full zebra mode.

Low cost cycling jerseys for high volume orders for events and charity rides

Generally the custom cycling jerseys we supply use various of the very best fabrics available on the market, with a carefully tailored fit to give the very best possible for comfort and aerodynamics for the rider. We frequently get requests for high volumes for charity rides and other events and for these kind of orders we offer a less premium cycling jersey – we still use a hard-wearing microfibre, but it is not as lightweight, breathable, moisture wicking or stretchy as our high end fabrics and nor is the panel design so complex. This does mean however that it is a lot cheaper!

We only make our low cost custom cycling jersey for a minimum of 100 units and you can rest assured that we are not selling cheap tat – these jerseys are more than adequate for wearing for a long ride and they are very durable so they will not fall to pieces after a couple of spins in the tumble dryer. These low cost cycling jerseys we sell for just €18.60 each (compared to €36.90 for our premium custom cycling jerseys). We also offer unlimited graphics and logos and there is no design fee (normally €150). We also have available custom sports bottles for similar events at prices from under €1 per unit (delivered to northern Europe), depending on quantities.

Cycling jerseys for a charity ride – in this case the Duchenne Dash from London to Paris

For orders substantially larger than 100 we can also offer further discounts, which have to be negotiated separately. It is also worth pointing out that for standard orders we have a discount system, where orders over €1500 receive a discount of 5%, over €2500 get 7% and over €5000 get 10% although this does not apply to our low cost jersey offer.

Furthermore when we have riders from the cycling clubs that we supply taking part in charity rides, we are happy to discuss supplying kit to them as a means of supporting the charity and as a means of thanking our clubs for their continued custom. For example we supplied kit for free to Shusannah Pillinger when she became the first female British rider to complete the Race Across America .

Shusannah Pillinger – racing to become the first British woman to finish the 3000 mile non-stop Race Across America.

Custom cycling jerseys – made with carbon fibre fabric

There is a bewildering range of fabrics available for custom cycling jerseys and it is down to us to choose the best one for our clients. To get high quality sublimation printing (the process by which designs are dyed into the fabric so that they will never peel or degrade) requires the use of a synthetic fabric, as natural materials will not take sublimation printing well. That does not narrow things down much however, so here are the criteria that we look at when selecting our cycling jersey fabric:
*heat & moisture regulation
*air permeability & water vapour permeability
*wicking capacity
*speed of drying
*dimensional stability (also when wet)
*durability
*breathability
*elasticity
*lightweight
*ease of care (washing and tumble drying)
*softness of touch
*sharpness of colours with sublimation printing

When we receive samples from our fabric suppliers we test them first in the lab to see how they rate against these criteria (which will mean more than 90% are rejected), then we make up cycling jersey samples to be tested first by staff and then by professional riders. To get to this stage in our testing will take around 3 months. If we are then convinced that this new fabric is the very best available on the market then we will supply it to one of our tester club teams and get their feedback, before we release it to the general market.

All of our cycling jerseys actually use multiple fabrics (a mixture of mesh for superior aeration, lycra panels to give a contoured fit in the appropriate places, silicone coated grippers for the arms and the principal fabric itself). Here we will only consider the principal fabric which in our case is a carbon fibre blended into a high specification microfibre thread with a perforated weave.

Cyclists will of course be used to frames being made with carbon, but there are numerous benefits from incorporating carbon thread into the microfibre thread – it helps to give the jersey outstanding heat and vapour/moisture management, it makes it extremely strong/durable but still lightweight. Added to this the weave gives four way stretch to the fabric which helps to give a contoured fit and reduce any flapping in the wind and it is perforated to maximise breathability with a silk soft finish that will never get sticky and cling to your skin.

We are confident that our custom cycling jersey fabric is the very best available on the planet and you can rest assured that we use the same rigour when testing the multitude of other fabrics that we use in our range like for our bib shorts, custom tri-suits and so on.

The truth is that these kind of very high-end fabrics are extremely expensive (using high end fabrics as opposed to a more basic version nearly doubles our cost of production), but we manage to keep our prices manageable because we save money in the rest of our business, which means we can provide high-end kit at reasonable prices. We don’t use national distributors (only selling direct from Portugal), we don’t sponsor big teams, travel to trade shows, advertise in glossy cycling magazines and all the other kinds of branding which have been taking over the cycling industry in recent years. Rather we run a more old-fashioned bread and butter type of business, where our focuses are just quality of product and customer service. So if you are looking for a glitzy brand that you can see on the telly we are probably not for you – if it is just high quality at fair prices, then please give us a call!

Also please contact us if you would like to see samples from our range and test them for yourself!

We are still open!

We just wanted to assure our clients and prospective clients that we are still open for business at Carvalho Custom. Where possible our staff are working from home, but our fabrication of custom cycling & triathlon clothing is still going on. We have reworked our factory so that there is appropriate distancing between staff and staggered breaks so that there is plenty of room in our canteen and so on.

custom-triathlon-clothing

Please get in touch if you would like to get started on the design or order of your club cycling kit or club triathlon clothing.

Understanding sublimation printing for custom cycling & triathlon clothing

Pretty much all custom cycling & triathlon clothing will be made with sublimation printing and we get a number of questions about it from our clients so here is an explanation of how it works and the possibilities that it gives you for your design ideas.

The basics of sublimation printing is that the design is printed on a special sublimation printer with specific inks to fit the panels that will be sewn together to make up your design. These sheets of paper are then laid over the white fabric that the garment will be made from and heat is applied. This heat will cause the ink on the paper to transform into a gas and simultaneously open up the pores of the fabric, which will effectively dye the upper layers of the fabric with the design. The white fabric can then be laser cut into panels and sewn together to make the garment.

sublimation-printing-custom-cycling-clothing

The great advantage of this process is that the print does not sit on top of the fabric as it did with previous printing technologies, so it will not be subject to cracking or peeling; the other main advantage is that printing can be done with endless numbers of colours and intricacies of design as the sublimation paper can be printed like a desktop print prints a design off your computer.

It is in short a fabulous technology, but there are a few things you need to be aware of – the first is that although very intricate designs are possible, having detailed design elements cross the seams of garments is not a great idea, because when the panels are sewn together, it is very difficult to be millimetre accurate in getting one panels to line up with the next one. The fabrics we use are all stretchy, so as they are pulled through a sewing machine it is impossible to always be 100% accurate, so you can get small misalignments over seams. Generally this is not a problem, but for example small lettering over seams can be problematic. Our advice with designs is always to try and work with the panel construction of our cycling & triathlon garments, rather than work against it.

A second issue with sublimation printing is the kind of fabrics that can be used – you will only get the best quality print with 100% polyester (i.e. synthetic) fabrics. You can print on polyester blend fabrics, but you will not get such sharp colours. The real issue for us is that to make our full range of cycling & triathlon kit we have to use a wide range of fabrics, with several different kinds of lycra for different garments and for example 3 different fabrics used on a single cycling jersey. The problem that this brings for us is that different fabrics can print slightly differently, with some printing brighter than others for example. We have to ensure for example that the red a client chooses for their design, will be the same shade for the tri suit, as for the cycling jersey and for the hoodie. Also when we update a fabric and a client reorders, we have to make sure that the colour prints exactly the same shade. This means we have to constantly test and adjust the exact colours we print on the sublimation paper to make sure it comes out right on the garment.

The reason we charge a design fee for new designs is that the work of setting up the production of a garment is rather time consuming, because not only do we have to take a design idea shown in a 2D version to be converted on to individual panels that will match up correctly, we also have to do the work to make sure that the colours come out exactly as specified. For those clients who are particularly concerned about getting the colours exactly right, we print out the design on the fabric of the garment in question and post it to clients for them to approve (even printing a range of different shades of a colour for a client to choose from when required).

sublimation-printing-custom-trisuit

We invest a lot of money in buying the very best in sublimation printing technology and heat presses, so that we can print fast but with no smudging or blurring. We also have to assess all new fabrics to make sure that they will take sublimation printing well – some fabrics make appear to initially print well, but when they are stretched they will tend to whiten as the underlying colour of the fabric shows through the outer layers that have been sublimation printed.

We have been using sublimation printing for over 20 years and we do it all in-house so we have a profound understanding of the process – please see our design tips for custom cycling & triathlon clothing here, but if you have any questions or need help developing your design, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

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