Printed or dyed lycra for different panels for custom cycling bib shorts

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…..

custom cycling clothing

custom cycling clothingSo 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…..

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