At the outset we focus on the very latest technology fabrics and components. These include hollow fibre technology to increase thermal properties in winter training products, combinations of hydrophobic and hydrophilic yarns to draw moisture away from the skin and through to the outside of the fabric for fast evaporation and drying, and coldblack® technology to reduce heat absorption from the sun’s infra red rays.
Some of these technologies form the absolute basis for the garments; others are details that may barely be noticed at first glance.
Once the fabrics and components are selected, each pattern shape is honed to create the target ergonomic fit allowing for the specific weight and stretch of each fabric used. Our garment technologists work intensively with riders to fit the pattern shapes and refine them on a CAD system before grading them for different sizes. Every rider has a particular pattern matched to them allowing for their particular shape and riding requirements.
These pattern shapes are sent both to Endura’s Graphics Department and its Cutting Room.
In the Graphics Department our graphic designers create artworks that match the pattern pieces. Every panel of every size of every garment has its own individual artwork so that the logos and design are matched to within a millimetre on the finished clothing. If you ever see the size of the cycle wardrobe of a Movistar Team rider then you can start to understand how big a job this is!
Next stop for the artworks is the print shop. Long gone is the traditional screen print room with its messy pots of inks, exposure units and wash-out bays. Instead the artwork files are transferred to state-of-the-art digital sublimation printers to produce the full size sublimation transfers that will be used to print the garments. These prints are photographic quality and the water based inks used are environmentally friendly and allow the paper transfers to be recycled after use.
Meanwhile, in the Cutting Room, the fabrics are being laid out ready for cutting using a tension free electronic cradle machine. This is vital to avoid the Lycra® fabrics being stretched out of their relaxed state and means that the cut shapes remain true to the original pattern design. The fabrics are then cut using either a laser cutter (for small intricate pieces) or an automatic cutting machine. The automatic cutter applies a vacuum to clamp the fabric in place before the high speed blade creates the pattern shapes from the fabric to an accuracy within a fraction of a millimetre.
It is now that the cut panels of fabric meet the digital print transfers as they are combined in a large format heat press at a little over 200 Centigrade to stimulate the sublimation ink into becoming gaseous and dying the fabric panels. This process leaves the fabric fully dyed with the team colours and, after printing the inside of one of the panels with each individual rider’s name so that they can easily be reclaimed from the soigneurs after washing in the team bus after each race, they are off to the sewing and bonding line.
And this is where technology steps aside and makes way for craftsmanship. Because, for all that Endura has the latest equipment, the quality of the final product ultimately depends on the skill and attention to detail of the people who are tasked with the job of producing the best performing clothing in the peloton. That it has the potential to perform impeccably is beyond doubt; that was dictated much earlier in the process when the designs were created and the specifications set. But the requirement is higher than that; it must look beautiful and be made with the care and attention to detail that only highly skilled people who really take pride in their work can deliver.