Founded by its current CEO Blake Pond in 2012, Nopinz is known world-wide as the producer of innovative, aerodynamic cycling kit, both off-the-shelf items such as skinsuits and accessories as well as the famous Nopinz custom kit ranges, widely used by clubs, teams and companies for their training and racing gear.
Here at VeloVeritas we had been looking for a suitable partner for our new cycling and leisure clothing and when we spoke to the folks at Nopinz, based in the south of England in beautiful north Devon, and learned about their offerings, we were very interested and wanted to find out more.
Employed as a flooring and carpet fitter a decade ago and racing on the road and in time trials at a pretty decent level, Blake was always aware of the issues inherent in fixing his race numbers to his skinsuits; the problem of getting the number to be as flat or aero as possible and of course the act of putting pins through expensive wafer-thin lycra, usually resulting in a hole in the material.
It was just such a problem – punching holes in a new, expensive skinsuit on its first wearing in a race – which prompted Blake to come up with the idea of a wallet, or pocket, similar to a “documents enclosed envelope”, which would stick to the rider’s back and hold the race number.
Working on his kitchen table at home, the hurdles Blake faced with the first few iterations of the ‘Speedwallet’ were for it to be stretchy enough to move with the material and with the athlete and also that the adhesive had to be just right; sticky enough to remain in place on the material during the race but easy enough to peel off after the event.
The ‘Speedwallet’ was a success and Blake was able to produce and sell sufficient numbers of them to see the potential. Being a natural innovator he could envisage that making the number pocket a part of the skinsuit rather than just stuck on to it would be a good idea and so the ‘Speedpocket’ evolved, a permanent version of the wallet, it was (and still is) essentially a clear envelope sewn into the skinsuit and eliminating the need for and the hassle of adhesive.
In those early days however, Blake and his small team didn’t have much sewing experience and they worried that folk may not be comfortable sending in their expensive skinsuits to have a hole cut out of it but they needn’t have worried and the idea took hold across the British time trialling scene.
Since Blake’s customers were trusting him with their precious garments it was important that Nopinz had amazing customer service and the company have strived to maintain that standard ever since.
Blake realised that there was a market for skinsuits with the Speedpockets already installed, and for a period of time he bought in pre-made skinsuits, fitted his Speedpockets and sold them as ‘ready to race’, but over time problems with the suppliers such as delivery schedules and minimum order numbers led to the company manufacturing their own skinsuits from start to finish.
First though, ‘Trip Socks’ were an early product; aero socks constructed in such a way as to influence the flow of air around the leg and minimise drag, and Blake partnered with Aerocoach’s Dr Xavier Disley in the development and production of the various versions which were so popular and successful that he was able to purchase the large format dye-sublimation printers, heat presses and additional sewing machines needed to move into producing their own skinsuits in-house. Once fully in control of the process they found they could also innovate and develop new products very quickly.
Ex-professional rider and top time triallist Marcin Bialoblocki helped develop the product lines, his exacting standards and attention to detail making the difference in fine-tuning the garments.
By this time the ‘Speedpocket’ and Nopinz’ other innovations had changed the thinking across the cycling world, all the way to the top of the sport and the World Tour teams competing in the Tour de France, with several teams using Nopinz products often rebranded to bear the name of their clothing sponsor.
Most top end clothing manufacturers are now involved in similar approaches to Nopinz and the ‘Speedpocket’; several of them do the right thing and buy the ‘Speedpockets’ from Nopinz to install into their own skinsuits and speedsuits but some others don’t and have come up with their own very similar versions, despite the patents applied to Blake’s design.
We’ve partnered with Nopinz to produce our fantastic VeloVeritas kit and we were lucky enough to be able to visit the factory in Devon recently to see the first batch of our own kit being put through the production process, from the design planning, cloth being printed to the kit being sewn together.
We were hosted for the day by ex-British 30 mile TT Record holder and Nopinz’ Sales Director Gary Chambers, who we interviewed back in March, and Blake also gave us a good chunk of his time (and bought us lunch).
Gary explained that the custom cycling clothing business has grown phenomenally for the company, and now they have around 500 clubs, organisations and teams worldwide maintaining a ‘kit shop’, which collectively is called ‘Club Nopinz‘.
With an average of 46 items available in a club’s kit shop there are over 1,300 kit options per club (ie. male/female, sizes going from 2XS through to 2XL, as well as Standard/Tall configuration…) it takes a lot of organisation to fulfill such a vast array of permutations.
We were interested to see just what happens once your order is placed through the Club shop and how your design is turned into fabulous garments so read on to discover what we learned about the Nopinz custom kit manufacturing process.
- The Nopinz Custom Kit Process
- Step 1 – you start the ball rolling
- Step 2 – work with your designer to nail down your design
- Step 3 – your club shop is setup
- Step 4 – the design is positioned onto the template flats
- Step 5 – your club shop is now open!
- Step 6 – the flats are setup and scheduled for printing
- Step 7 – the flats are printed
- Step 8 – the flat designs are transferred onto the fabric panels
- Step 9 – the cloth panels are cut out
- Step 10 – panels for each garment are collated
- Step 11 – the panels are sewn together to create the garment
- Step 12 – your order is assembled and posted to you!
- How does the Nopinz Custom kit turn out?
- Indoor Cycling
- Made to Measure
- Top Tips
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The Nopinz Custom Kit Process
Step 1 – you start the ball rolling
There are a number of ways to get in touch with the folks at Nopinz to get started. You can contact them through their on-line form, you can email them using firstname.lastname@example.org or you can call them on 01271 859573.
Once you’ve kicked things off, the in-house design team will contact you via the email address you used to purchase the club shop.
You should have your design brief ready to pass to the team, along with any artwork / logos you wish to be used and these files should preferably be in vector format or a high resolution file. A vector file can be Ai, EPS or PDF, if you don’t have your files in this format there may be a small charge for converting them.
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Step 2 – work with your designer to nail down your design
The designer assigned to work with you will get in touch to discuss the work and answer any questions you may have, working iteratively with you until you and they have nailed down the design.
We worked with our designer Toby to get the kit we envisioned ready for the next stage. Toby was fantastic at replying to our emails quickly and he proactively asked questions about, for example, the colour of the zip guards and tweaking things like the shades of yellow and the size of the various logos.
There is no limit to the number of iterations that can be made during the design process (just as well really since we took a bit of time working with Toby to get the upper shades of yellow on our jersey design perfected) and the design team will continue to work with you until you’re completely happy with your new kit design.
Once you’re happy with everything you will be required to ‘sign off’ on the design so it’s