A couple weeks ago, we had Cait Dumas of Champion System on the podcast to talk about what companies are looking for in athletes these days. While we were chatting, an idea bubbled up that I keep coming back to: Why aren’t more privateers who are hoping to get sponsors making their own custom kits? In my book, The Athlete’s Guide to Sponsorship, I talk a lot about showing up to races looking put together. This could mean basic kit with minimal color or pattern, a working bike, appropriate post-race clothing to put on, tools/snacks/water/et cetera. But as we chatted, I got really excited about the idea that a racer who’s trying to make a name for themself could design their own kit to stand out in the crowd.
Most people assume that custom kit is only for a team, or that you have to order a ton of it if you do get it made. But that’s not the case these days. For instance, with Champion System, you can keep an eye out because often, they run specials with super low kit minimums for orders, and even at their normal minimum, you can walk away with awesome custom kit including everything from baselayer to armwarmers to shorts, jerseys and jackets for a few hundred bucks. In many cases, it’s actually less pricey to get a fully custom kit—especially if you opt for the less expensive options—than it is to buy each piece individually from another clothing brand.
I’ve written about my experience using Champion System for Shred Girls kit and included a few tips for if you’re doing a custom kit design here, but here are the tips I would add for privateers who are currently in the market for sponsors:
- Use the kit to show off your personality. Use colors and patterns that don’t just stand out in the crowd, but that you actually really love. Side note: It’s also OK to lean into the fact that you like simple colors and patterns. Note that the Shred Girls kit this year is basic black, and last year it was dark purple. You don’t need to be neon to stand out! Think about your personal style and run with that.
- You don’t need to have logos from sponsors. In fact, unless you need to, I would skip adding any if you’re in the market.
- You can, however, create your own team logo—if you want. But it’s not required! (Canva.com is a great free resource for this, and you can save your logo as a PNG with a transparent background to import it neatly into a kit design.)
- Add fun details. In the Shred Girls kit, for example, the arm has a band of text around it that reads, ‘ride bikes, get rad.’
- Get some cold weather clothing too. Two reasons: 1, the jackets are great and less pricey than you’d pay for winter coats from other brands, and 2, if you’re warming up for a cyclocross race, you can still show off your style!
- Get some off-bike kit for around the race venue. With Champion System, check the running clothes section or look towards the MTB collection for more casual clothing you could wear around a race venue. At the very least, order a second jersey for podiums!