Saturday, April 20, 2024

Gary Chambers – Nopinz Sales Director

"The thing our customers really like is the more personal approach we take with them, we try to build relationships with the clubs themselves and really strive to provide a high level of customer service."


HomeInterviewsGary Chambers - Nopinz Sales Director

Recently I was looking around for a seamstress who could replace the zip in an old Assos winter jacket and after failing to find someone locally, I broadened the search and found a company at the other end of the country who were happy to do the job quickly and easily, and for a very fair price – Nopinz.

I knew Nopinz produced race number solutions and wind tunnel-tested skinsuits for elite riders but I didn’t know much more than that, so I made contact with Gary Chambers, Sales Director at Nopinz, who filled me in on some of the details.

Gary raced on the Wilier/Live to Ride team ‘back in the day’; a former top flight road racer and bronze medal winner at the National Closed Circuit TT Championships, in 2018 Gary broke Michael Hutchinson’s British 30 Mile TT Record with a time of 55’09”, and is also the Royal Navy record holder across all distances, so he is well placed to discuss the advantages to be had from his company’s products.

Gary Chambers. Photo©supplied

Thanks for replacing the broken zip on my old jacket Gary, but that’s just a small part of what you do, what other products and services do you provide?

“Ha, you’re welcome!

“We offer a wide range of services, all with the main aim of making the customer go faster – our “tailored for speed” slogan is carried into each and every product.

“Our business is split into two; on one hand we have our collection items on which covers everything for everyday riding to our world-known skinsuits and speed wear. We also offer many race day number solutions, including our patented speed pocket.

“We also have where we supply custom kit to over 400 clubs and teams across the world. 

“We have created a club ‘portal’ system where riders can login to their team’s club shop and order kit directly to their home address, with no minimum orders and no kit windows.” 

We’ve seen your aero products in use at time trials for a few years now, notably with Marcin Bialoblocki inside them hurtling to a new record or championship title, but when did the business start?

“Nopinz was founded in 2015 by former elite rider Blake Pond, and he remains our CEO.

“The company is based in Barnstaple, and we made waves in the industry with our product, the innovative SpeedPocket™ – a world-first integrated pocket developed after Blake was looking for a solution to damaging apparel when pinning on race numbers – hence the name Nopinz.”

Marcin Bialoblocki during the RTTC 10 Mile TT Championships in 2018. Photo©Martin Williamson

Blake was a good tester in his time.

“Yes, he was a prolific time trial winner, and he finished 4th in the 2012 RTTC National 50 mile TT, as well as being an elite rider on the road. I was Blake’s team mate on the Wilier/Live to Ride team.

“He still rides, but Nopinz has been his focus over recent years preventing him from racing as much as he would like.

“Don’t be surprised if you see him back on a start line again soon though!”

Tell us a bit more about the SpeedPocket and it’s evolution.

“To begin with we designed a stick-on wallet that you would slide a race number into and then stick it to the rear of the suit.

“These were a great start but they were disposable and sometimes could come unstuck during a race.

“The next step was to design a SpeedPocket that could be sewn into skinsuits, so that’s what we did; customers would send their own suits into Nopinz and we would retro-fit our SpeedPocket to the rear of their skinsuits for them.

“This was a big step forward in aerodynamics as well as preventing riders from damaging their expensive skinsuit with pins!

“And it’s still a service that we offer and provide today.”

One of the early Nopinz SpeedPockets, in 2014, attached to an Assos Cronosuit. Photo©supplied

Then you added your own suits to the product offering?

“Yes, after a while of seeing lots of different skinsuits come through the door Blake decided that we could make better suits ourselves – with our SpeedPockets already built in.

“And that is where we are today. We’re currently on our 3rd generation of skinsuit, with our fastest suit to date being the Flow Suit.

“The SpeedPocket is now a patented product of Nopinz.”

You have many clubs and companies on your books getting their custom kit from you, from Microsoft to Team Bridgelane in Australia, via the Shetland Wheelers. How is the custom clothing business going ?  

“Yeah, it’s going really well!

“We currently provide over 400 clubs and teams across the globe with their custom kits.

“This has actually become the biggest part of the company and we are continuing to see it grow.

“We obviously cater for a vast amount of UK clubs but as you point out we are starting to gain more and more interest from around the world now; we have clubs from America, Australia, the Middle East and the EU.”

As the sport grows in popularity custom cycling and triathlon kit is becoming an ever-more crowded market, what are your unique selling points which attract your customers and keeps them?

“So when we setup our club shop system, this was again a problem that Blake had faced as a rider; most companies demand high minimum order quantities, ‘kit windows’ [orders only possible in a limited time frame] and long lead times.

“This was something that Blake found frustrating and knew there must be a better way. 

“We’re unique in the sense that all of our custom kit is designed and made in house at our HQ in Devon.

“This has allowed us to create “club shops” where riders can login to their clubs shop and order kit straight to their home address, with no minimum orders and shorter lead times.

“This is a huge draw to the riders themselves but also kit secretaries from the clubs – gone are the days of the kit secretary having to organise a bulk order and be left to collect money off the riders and distribute the kit when it arrives.

“It also removes the need for clubs to hold spare stock of kit for the season, as riders can simply order new kit for themselves whenever they wish.

“I think the platform is obviously a huge part of what attracts the clubs and also keeps them.

“The other thing our customers really like is the more personal approach we take with them, we try to build relationships with the clubs themselves and really strive to provide a high level of customer service.”

The Nopinz factory in Devon. Photo©supplied

Many kit providers design in one place and manufacture in another – in Italy or Hong Kong for example, but you design and manufacture all your own kit in your own factory?

“Yes, that’s correct.

“We design and manufacture out of our HQ in Barnstaple, in Devon.

“This gives us complete control over our products and allows for quicker lead times and no minimum orders.”

You work with Santini SMS and other manufacturers on their skinsuits used by World Tour riders? 

“That’s right. Santini – along with many other brands – heard about our SpeedPocket technology and of course wanted it in their suits.

“They are signed up to our licence agreement and buy the wallets from us before fitting them to their suits.” 

Nopinz CEO Blake Pond with the official Wanty skinsuit in 2021. Photo©supplied

Am I right in thinking that Nopinz clothing was used at the very top level for a few years but ‘incognito’ or ‘under-the-radar’, before World Tour squad Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux partnered with you as their official aero kit supplier at the start of last season. How did that go and did you receive feedback and ideas from the team to improve your products even more?

“Actually, we’ve been working ‘in the shadows’ with World Tour teams for years now, manufacturing ‘white label’ skinsuits for them.

“Teams will always want the fastest kit on the market an