Capoforma is the brainchild of Upland Sports Group founders Gary Vasconi and Rob Carbone, who regular readers of PEZ will recognize as the guys who import Italian brand Bergamo apparel, DeMarchi apparel, and DMT shoes. USG has been around for only 4 years, but from its inception the company has proven itself different from traditional bike industry operations.
Both Gary and Rob are active and enthusiastic cyclists who ride what they make, but what really makes ‘em different is that before starting USG, they worked in the hi-tech biz – and NOT in a bike shop… go figure. At least part of their success has come from their ‘corporate America’ business-like approach to an industry that’s often run more like a glorified … bike shop. For USG, a lot of professionalism has gone a long way.
Another part of their success has come from their passion for cycling and hunger to succeed. No matter how good your business strategy is, or how big your cahones, if you don’t love your work, you won’t last long in cycling, especially when your category already has some big name brands with long histories controlling the landscape.
Actual company photo of Gary and Rob – they don’t just talk the talk, they ride the ride.
So Gary and Rob love what they do, and their self-belief is inspiring. And it’s working. But still, why create a new brand of cycling clothing?
Gary told us: “We’ve been importing and distributing European cycling products and developing smaller European brands in the US for the past 4 years, and honestly, Rob and I felt there were some gaps in the apparel industry. Especially with the evolution of the US road market of the last 5-7 years – cycling is not only a sport, but a lifestyle for many people. We weren’t satisfied with existing lines of casual and pre/apres cycling apparel that were available so we decided to shut up and put our money where our mouths are.”
“Our first entry into the cycling market was technical cycling socks and causal pre/post race apparel, and this led into a full line of technical cycling apparel for men and women.”
The Ghisallo line is their top stuff – the ‘capo di capo’ – that’s Italian for “boss of the bosses”.
Pez: Sure the line looks great, and as riders yourselves, you guys have some pretty good cred when it comes to designing high-quality kit, but what’s different about CAPOforma?
Rob: I think you’ve partly answered your question: CAPOforma is designed and developed by cyclists for cyclists. Gary and I both ride several days a week, and we want high-quality high-performance kit – so that’s what we set out to design – stuff that we’d want to buy even if we weren’t making it. So that covers off the ‘quality’ aspect. Then, we’ve both spent a lot of time in Italy working with DMT and Bergamo, and we like the way Italians design things – they have a certain ‘panache’ that we think just looks cool.
“Let’s face it, as road cyclists, we believe ourselves to be inherently different from other people – I mean hey – we shave our legs and spend a lot of hours in skin-tight lycra – and we’re all okay with that – that makes us different right there… Most of us are attracted to the ‘European-ness’ of the sport, and part of that includes styles that are different from the typical American ‘look’.
The famous MDL4 Chamois – in our experience it’s one of the best. Three years ago you could only get a chamois of this quality in a couple of brands – including the Bergamo line. Today, we’re seeing this chamois, or versions very similar produced by the same factory – appearing in several brands available in the US.
Gary and I wanted to bring more of that Euro-Italian flare for design to kit that is designed specifically for the American market. The problem we’ve seen – both from talking to dealers and other riders, is that that the old ways of selling Euro-styled goods into the US didn’t always translate, so we wanted a line that combined high Euro-quality and styling with pieces that appealed to the American culture and life-style.
Another cool part of the Capoforma retro line are the wool blended arm and knee warmers. Both ergo-cut, sewn with modern flat-lock stitching, and held in place by Capo’s gel-grippers.
So we created CAPOforma to be a blend of American and Italian cycling influences – made specifically for the US market.
We still handle almost all of our sales relationships ourselves, so we talk a lot to dealers and riders, and we’re always asking questions and looking for ways to improve. Then we added in our own ideas on styling, and think we have a line that stands out both technically and because the pieces look really cool.”
Remember when cyclists were really tough? Before helmets they wore things like wool caps – but not nearly as comfy as Capoforma’s 73% wool/poly blend here. Perfect for staying warm on really cold days, or pulling on after the ride.
What’s In The Line
The full CAPOforma line is an ambitious undertaking that runs the full gamut of cycling apparel offering In-Line, Custom, Casual Apparel, and Accessories for every discipline and level of rider, AND a women’s line. It’s a good thing Rob and Gary already know a lot about the clothing side from importing various Italian brands the past few years. I asked them about expanding into areas like bikes, components, or eyewear, but developing expertise in the clothing segment takes a long time, and they’d prefer to stick with their ‘core competency’.
Could I BE anymore Capo? The Italians might call me the “Capo di Capoforma”.
The line is far too big to do justice here, but they do have some very cool retro-styled items for winter in merino wool blends like jerseys, arm & leg warmers, the classic wool cap.
We’ll be testing the summer kit in the coming months, and expect it to be top notch. Gary told us: “We’re really interested in next generation textiles (Carbon/SPF/Anti-Microbial/Anti-Odor), chamois technologies, and patterns & cuts that enhance an individual’s experience on the bike.” Sounds good to me, but until then I’ll just enjoy the cooler weather in some of the Capo’s warmer items…
• Another standout piece in the Capoforma line is their ‘felpe’ – that’s Italian for sweatshirt. It’s super-plush cotton with a high zip collar that’s perfect for cool Fall days and relaxing on the dock with man’s best friend. It’s made from 100% 24-ounce Cotton, with a Fleece lined Ribbed Knit Collar, Cuff and Waist Capoforma™ Embroidered Logo – comes in Black, Red
and sizes XS – XXXL. I’ve been wearing mine since summer and it’s perfect for winter days.
Where To Get It
CAPOforma is available through over 350 select dealers throughout the US, plus in Australia and New Zealand through Euro Bike. They hope to be available in the UK and Italy very soon. Readers can always check the website for a dealer near them.
• Shorts from $50.00 to $140.00
• Bib Shorts/Knickers/Tights from $120.00 to $200.00
• Jerseys from $65.00 to $120.00
• Vest/Jacket from $120.00 to $180.00
• Accessories from $8.00 to $65.00
Upland Sports Group, Inc.
2355 Poplar Street
Oakland, CA 94607
Web Site: UplandSG.com