by John Brown, HaveFunBiking.com
The importance of good cycling clothing cannot be overstated. Comfortable shorts allow you to ride longer and in greater comfort, Jerseys move moisture to keep you cooler, and jackets make those otherwise chilly fall rides warm and comfy. So now that there is no question on if you should be wearing cycling clothing, how do you find the right pieces for you? You can cruise down to your local bike shop and try the clothing on or make your own. “Make your own clothing?” you say. Yes, one thing I learned at this year’s Interbike show was that there are loads of companies looking to make custom clothing to match your imagination.
What is Custom Clothing
By custom, I am not encouraging you to go designing a piece of clothing from a functional standpoint. No need to start specifying where each zipper and seam goes. Instead, let the professionals figure that out. What I mean by custom is the appearance. This can be something as easy as just picking a solid color, or creating a pattern that shows off your company, club, or a favorite picture of your group.
Who are the players
It seemed like you couldn’t turn a corner at interbike without seeing another custom clothing maker, but there were major themes. Overall, it appears that you have one of two avenues to custom clothing. You can contact a manufacturer in China like Bohang sports. They offer custom cycling clothing with a minimum order quantity of 1 piece. Or you can work with an American company like Athlos sports and Primal. Athlos will make any quantity of custom apparel you want, but also offer design services if you aren’t able to
What is the process of ordering from China
If you plan to order from China, it is best to have your artwork completed by an artist in the U.S. Most companies have templates that your artist will fill out and save in a .PDF or .AI file type. From there, you share your art with the company and they return a proof to you. The proof, is effectively your art, modified slightly to fit their production machines settings. Once you approve the design, you will need to pay for the product in advance before they start production. Costs for a normal jersey range from a few dollars to a few hundred depending on quantity and quality. While you can make just one of anything, the cost to do a single item is way higher than a group of products.
Ordering from the Athlos
Every company is different, but a great example of what US companies do well is Athlos sports. The process to order with Athlos is pretty easy. You can either develop your own artwork (as you would with a Chinese company) or have the professionals at Athlos do it for you. You can go to them with a strong idea of what you want, or just have a good conversation and let their creativity run. Once you approve the design, you pay for the products and four weeks later the jerseys land on your doorstep. Where Athlos really shines is if you are organizing a team or group. They offer some amazing features that allow you to setup a virtual shop and have each individual pay independently. No more trying to track down each rider, just set the date of production and share the payment info.
What’s the better option
Both Chinese and US companies have their pros and cons. Mostly it comes down to service vs cost. Without a doubt, you can get clothing cheaper if you deal directly with manufactures in Asia. The Downside to dealing with the factory, is that most are setup to work with brands who have art, marketing, and product management departments. Operating as an individual can lead to problems if you are not exactly sure of what you want made. U.S. companies, on the other hand, may be a few dollars more but are equipped with all the support you will need. With a US company, you could submit a sketch on a napkin, have a few conversations and get what you want. On top of that, payment is far easier and re-orders are a breeze.