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.