Sugoi has been in the cycling apparel biz since 1987, and around PEZ HQ was the very first brand of technical cycling shorts I ever owned. The brand has been on the up in recent years, scoring some high-level visibility as sponsor of the Cannondale pro Cycling Team and Peter Sagan. Closer to home – the Ted King Signature series lumberjack jersey was a big hit in a recent Small Prize Friday giveaway right here on PEZ. All that adds up to some top level exposure in a category that’s getting more competitive every year.
While all this cool kit was on display, the standout for me was their very personalized approach to custom kit (see the website: www.SUGOI.com/CUSTOM) – called Live Art Direct. Sugoi offers a very large catalog of custom gear, including versions of their top level RSE line (not all brands offer their best gear as custom), the difference is that every order comes with some hands on design time with the customer meeting the graphic designer online to revise and refine that customer’s order together – as if you were in the studio standing over the designer’s shoulder…
Custom kit is best worth doing if you have the coolest design to show off – and that’s where a lot of brands falter with limited offerings, or a lack of creative design time to help a customer’s idea look really cool. But Sugoi’s answer takes away that concern as they have real designers – I’m talking about the guys in their office driving the quad-core Mac’s jacked up with the latest Adobe design software, who will actually get online with you and help design your kit in real time. You need that logo moved to the right shoulder? How about making room for that last minute sponsor who just signed on? Done and done – right before your eyes.
That’s a big commitment in man-power and hours, but is proof they intend to be a serious player in the world of custom kit. Having direct access to the person laying out your own design is very rare, and is also the kind of service I’d want for myself.
Add in all kinds of colors, multiple styles and price points, and items that will cover you 12 months of the year, and get this: delivery is guaranteed for just 28 days from a signed off (and paid for) order. That’s a very quick turn-around (some brands take 8 – 12 weeks).
Another long time force in the category is Primal Wear – a company originally started as a custom-only brand, and it remains a huge part of their business – which by the way started 21 years ago. After the show I spent a little time in their Axios Helix jersey and bibshorts, both of which feature some ideas that show some smart thinking.
Cut in a contoured race fit, the jersey’s main body is a 4-way stretch SLR Ion fabric that’s light and created for hot days. There are mesh panels down both sides of the body, and behind each shoulder to improve ventilation.
The sleeves are made from their own “Z92” fabric – named for the year of the company’s birth, and created in a dimpled grid pattern designed to break up airflow around the arms so it doesn’t ‘stick’ to you as it blows past – thereby intended to create less drag.
But the Axios bibs made an even stronger impression on me…
… Very likely because the Vero fabric used throughout the main body offers more compression than many bibs in the price range ($199). I’m not saying this is the same as someone grabbing hold of yer shnerps and not letting go, but the feeling is certainly snug and secure.
The leg bands are their Z92 again, to help regulate temps both down low, and in the main back panel… The high T-cut straps are full mesh for full coolness.
For comfort between you and the bike, their HX8 Carbon Chamois handles things nicely. It’s a 4-density, 4-way stretch seamless chamois that’s got carbon filaments right in the pad to keep you cooler while fighting bacteria, stink, and helping blood flow.
One thing they’re very committed to is supporting worthy causes with their Give Back program – Primal Wear donates 15% of your custom apparel order back to your fundraising team’s account. They also support organizations like Bike MS and the American Diabetes Association, donating up to 50% of proceeds from official jersey sales back to your cause.
While a lot of brands were showing new fabrics designed to wick, repel, transfer, make popcorn etc, certain looks simply inspire that ‘I wanna ride my bike’ look – like the classic Italian tricolore from Bianchi Milano on show by Albabici. The fabric looks like wool – but is actually a more comfortable & practical poly-blend, so in addition to the two chest pockets and Coppi-esque coloring, it’ll be way more comfy than real wool on most days.
Walking the floor of the new show at Mandalay Bay this year I was thrown a few curves trying to find my way around, and while being lost was a semi-hourly occurrence, getting lost in time was a welcome change when I stepped into the Descente booth and thought it was 1987 all over again.
Timelessly classic replica jerseys from Descente of Panasonic, Raleigh, and wait for it… 7-Eleven teams have been reintroduced as the brand ramps up for a resurgence in the US, with its custom offerings leading the way. And while a full custom look has a pretty big appeal, who doesn’t have room in their jersey drawer for a design that quite possibly inspired you to get on your bike in the first place?
Each of the ‘new’ 1980’s team designs have been updated with full-length zippers, silicone gel grippers around the waist, and are made from a fabric called H20 which is sourced in the USA, is lightweight, breathes and wicks very well – and has a nice soft feel to it. The bodies are a ‘Sport cut’ (also known as a gran fondo fit) – designed to fit in between race and club cuts.
Some cool stuff from Descente that are available in stores now for $100, of which $5 from every jersey is donated to the Davis Phinney Foundation.
A lot of you will remember Hugh Walton from his days riding for Ti-Raleigh & Panasonic in the ’80’s, and a bunch more will know him as a guy with the cycling biz running through his veins.
Anyone recognize that Arrogant Bastard jersey from the episode of Californication – being worn by a cyclist depicted just as the jersey suggests…?
Remember how iron-on transfers revolutionized the t-shirt biz (or more accurately ‘created’ the t-shirt biz)? That’s kinda what’s happened with custom jersey printing – while some of you may prefer to be the master of your own design, Canari is another apparel brand delivering the ease of simply seeing and buying a jersey you like.
They showed off some cool designs from their craft beer series – licensed from brewers like Stone Brewing and Arrogant Bastard, while their Souvenir series of states and big cities depicted in cool graphics should harken you right back to those family road trips from your youth. This kind reminded me of buying a license plate with my name on it as a kid… (ie: I want one.) These jerseys are all modestly priced in the $70 range.
Their new Trinity bibshort will arrive in Spring 2014, with a retail of $140 for the bib ($120 for the short) setting it in the popular mid-level tier. The chamois foam is sculpted into the anatomical shape – so material has been removed to allow for a uniform density but varied thicknesses. This allows for better form and flow when the cyclists’ body is in motion. Moisture control is handled by CoolMax, which pulls moisture away from the skin-side layer and moves it out of the short.
The bib back also features a cool pocket for your tunes, phone, team radio…
And of course, if it’s still custom you want, Canari has it covered in cycling, running & tri lines – see more at Canari.com.