For 2020, I’ve started working with custom athletic clothing brand Champion System to create some wicked custom Shred Girls kit for me to shred on bikes and on trails in this season, and going through their custom design process was super interesting. I’ve never been the point-person on a custom kit design before, though I’ve obviously worn plenty of custom kits over the years. As I went through, I realized that it can definitely feel intimidating and honestly, a little awkward, since you’re tasked with being super-critical to get the vibe you want. So, here’s what I learned, and I hope it can help any of you who are considering going custom!
This is for YOU
‘Wow, it’s really hard to be this picky in an email!’ I wrote in the draft of this article as I was going through the custom design process. I’m a people-please, so to say anything critical is really challenging for me, even when it’s super simple and subjective like ‘this didn’t fit me the way I want it to’ or ‘I don’t love this color, can we try something darker?’ I’m going to repeat this mantra a bunch of times. You’re designing a kit that you’re theoretically wearing A LOT, so while it’s tempting to just start signing off on things, or doing the all-to-familiar “yeah, that’s perfect!” when something clearly isn’t… Don’t. Be OK with saying “A is good, but can we change B?”
…But sometimes designers do know best
I’ll be honest here, I am not a designer. I have zero design experience. So while I have suggestions and opinions, I do defer to the designers that are actually employed to do this job to tell me what’s going to look the best. Turns out, they had a much better idea of what I was going for than I did and the finished product is So. Rad. If I had kept pushing my own design agenda and hadn’t stepped back a bit, the finished product wouldn’t look nearly as pro or special. They know what they’re doing!!
The Fit Kit is 110% worth modeling/photoing
Again, you’re wearing this a lot. So when trying on pieces in the fit kit, try it on your bike (don’t ride in it, but see how it feels in the drops, bending over, etc.). Show a friend or family member and get their take on how different sizes and cuts look. Take some mirror selfies. Don’t just try on / discard / try on. Take your time with it! I actually ended up going for different sizes than I originally expected after conversations with Peter, my sister and my dad (Peter and dad for how efficient the kit would be in motion, Colleen for style.)
It’s OK to want what you want
A custom design brand will have what I’ll call ‘default settings’ for most customers: For example, I was sent most of their Apex line to try on, which is the most racer-friendly high-quality that they offer. But really, what I wanted was the wind vest and a long-sleeve jersey, which were part of their middle-tier line. I realized I didn’t need to stick to one line, I could mix and match to figure out what suited my needs the best! Ultimately, the process is designed to be super easy and it is… But you have to remember to have a voice!
Try every piece of the fit kit
Sizes may vary between lines, and even between styles. I admit, I felt really weird being super picky as I made notes trying on the pieces from the Fit Kit. From piece to piece, I went between Small and Medium—which makes perfect sense, because on their fit chart, I am dead-set between the two. If I was racing in the kit, I would likely opt for Small or even XS in most things. But… I’m not really racing bikes much anymore, I’m doing a ton of riding and coaching. Which means wanting some breathing room, some bonus pocket space, and a bit more stretch for when a ride includes a lengthy cafe stop with croissants! That meant trying on pieces and not being afraid to mark XS in some pieces, M in others. You don’t need to be one thing across the board. The same applies to shopping in general, of course, but it’s rare that you’re filling out a big form of sizing all at once when shopping in stores or online.