My totally subjective research has concluded that new kit does make you faster, and certainly look better (… usually…). Rebuilding PEZCyclingnews.com V.3.0 took all of Q1, and then April was spent fixing things that didn’t work exactly as planned, and that meant pushing back the time I needed to design the newest look for PEZ on the bike.
As an adult I rediscovered my bike in the early ‘80’s, and was one of the first around here to buy one of them new-fangled mountain bikes. In 1986 I stumbled across the Place de la Concorde in Paris as Greg LeMond won his first Tour, and I fell in love with road racing from there – so the 1980’s have always had a special place in my heart – the music, the hairstyles, the bike racing – ah, good times…. !
When it comes to kit design, (and website design too) I’ve never pushed ahead until I could visualize what it would like like. So for 2013, I spent some time revisiting the cool jersey’s of the 1980’s, and looking for something that would inspire some more great rides and translate as a worthy look for Ciclismo PEZ. So I present to you the PEZ interpretation of the classic team Renault-Elf kit worn by cycling legends Bernard Hinault and Laurent Fignon.
While I normally get into designing next year’s kit in October, to allow plenty of time for delivery by Spring, I came to Castelli late in December – then took even longer to get my design sorted out. But while other brands can take 12 weeks or more to turn around custom kit orders, Castelli USA had mine ready to ship in only 5 weeks (plus a day) after I’d signed off on final artwork. That’s fast.
A big part of the reason is their manufacturing facility is based in Washington state – yep – right at home in the good ol’ US of A. While the company originates from Italy, and of course has manufacturing there and in other parts of the world, the North American custom orders are made primarily at home by Castelli USA (who are based in Portland – fyi.)
Take a closer look at the sleeves – you can tell by the smooth fabric (no ripples) and uniform fit that it’s been constructed to fit best in the riding position.
Cycling kit production has evolved immensely in the past few years, and the options to kit yourself and team out in your own design have made going custom a no brainer. And while most brands reserve their most innovative and latest design and technical ideas for their inline collections and pro teams, Castelli make much of this same technology available to their custom ordering customers. Sure the pros do get access to some leading edge gear (and Castelli has a history of involving their pro teams in the design and testing of new kit), but it’s a clear advantage to consumers that Castelli offers many of these developments in their custom lines.
Getting back to my 80’s inspired design, the Renault Elf team served the perfect platform for a look I just have not seen since… well, the eighties. Working with Castelli’s designers, I was able to evolve my idea into a look that’s both different, and comfortingly familiar. A discerning eye will note we even copied the font design from the original Renault Elf for our ‘Ciclismo Pez’ logo.
The process is really easy, and if you’ve never done custom kit before, there’s never been a better time to get started. Their website has a whole section devoted to it here. It shows you which products from ther seriously huge catalog are available for custom design, how to order, and what templates you’ll need to get your own designs out of your head and onto the reality of a jersey and bibshorts. Each custom order is assigned a go-to man on the inside who helps coordinate the order, answer any questions you might have (I had lots), and shepherd the order through production.
Of the four custom jersey designs offered by Castelli, I chose the TRAINING FIT JERSEY, which comes with set-in sleeves (not the raglan cut that’s been so prevalent in the last decade) that worked best with our 80’s retro design. It’s a slightly roomier cut than Castelli’s other jersey designs, but I’ve found it fits pretty much like I expected. I weigh 140lbs and could go with size medium, but prefer the snugger fit of a small.
It’s made from their ProCool fabric, which is a slightly more robust poly-blend knit that adds some durability to what remains a lightweight overall garment – my size small weighed just 163 grams. There’s a two way stretch knitted into the fabric that allows both structure and movement where needed. The knit is also designed to move as much moisture as possible, and as we’re into our 26th straight day of summer sunshine here at PEZ HQ with temps in the mid 20′s Celsius (around 80F degrees), I’ll attest that this jersey does a perfectly fine job of regulating my body heat.
The zipper is lockable, full length, and hidden – so it won’t flap when you’re riding, allows for as much front ventilation as you could want on hot days, and disappears beneath whatever cool design you come up with.
It’s not a full-on ‘race cut’ like some of their other designs, and while ‘race-cut’ doesn’t make sense for a lot of riders either, the technology and proper design surely will. I really like that all of Castelli’s gear is made to be worn in the riding position. So while jerseys or bibs may look slightly baggy or stretched when you’re standing or walking around, they’re designed, cut and sewn together to fit smoothly when you’re bent over pedaling your bike.
The sleeves are a uniform fit that hold themselves in place. The lack of a gripper should not be missed, since the uniform cut allows themselves to flow smoothly around your arms without getting caught up or bunched.
The lockable zip runs full length, and around the waist is where you will find a silicone gripper to prevent any sliding upwards (it works great for me.)
Out back you’ll find three pockets as expected, with plenty of space for storage.
Better quality bibshorts are always worth the money, since no ride is any fun if you’re boys aren’t happy, so the right fit and a good chamois are essential. I chose the TEAM BIBSHORT with their KISS3 Chamois (again, one of four different bishort designs offered for custom orders by Castelli) – I liked how the design of the bibshort worked really well with the artwork we’d created to match the jersey. There’s plenty of all-black lycra through the center for the correct amount of coverage and – shall we say… ‘modesty’. The side panels offered a more traditional look that also worked best with the color-blocking we used for our “Super 80′s” design.
The foam padding of the KISS3 chamois is, like all Castelli chamois foam, cut from one piece. And while other brands will take one or more pieces of foam and compress it in various places to achieve ‘density’, Castelli actually cuts away sections of the foam to achive ideal thicknesses for certain parts of the chamois. This makes the pad a little bit lighter, and eliminates any chance of bonded foams coming apart.
The foam itself is covered with a seamless piece of brushed microfiber that’s smooth and comfy against the skin (and has stayed that way during my hotter summer rides), and the whole thing is curved and shaped to fit the anatomy. Of worthy note is that Castelli’s women’s garments feature the same technology, but are shaped specifically for women.
The shoulder straps and high T-cut back are a highly breathable mesh that keeps everything tensioned correctly and doesn’t slide around under the jersey.
The leg grippers are a higher content of lycra knitted in vertical ribbing that works very well to hold the legs in place without the need for silicon grippers or sewn in elasctic. This makes for a slightly lower profile fit – which should satisfy even the most aero-concerned among you. The edges are actually milled – which means they won’t fray or come apart like sewn or bonded edges – and they feel softer to the skin.
Castelli’s fit and performance have for several years now been among the top tier, and their custom gear is no different. There are certainly places to get custom kit that are less expensive, but if quality, durability, design and construction are important to you or your team, not to mention being associated with a top brand like Castelli, then you’ll want to make sure you compare everything (including price) when choosing a brand for your next custom order.
• Get more info on Castelli’s Custom Order program here.
• If you’d like to own a set of the new PEZ ‘Super 80′s’ Kit for yourself, I have a few of each size in stock at the PEZShop right now.