With so much cycling clothing on the market, the days of brands being able to launch run-of-the-mill kit have come and gone. So when Shimano went back to the drawing board to launch the S-Phyre kit it called in some help.
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Knowing that it would be sponsoring the LottoNL-Jumbo team for 2017, Shimano brought the riders directly into the design process to provide feedback and create the kit that they wanted.
“Basically we wanted to help them go faster with the least amount of force and to help the clothes work with the touching points that a rider has with the bike to create the ultimate comfort," Bas Stamsnijder, sports marketing officer for soft goods told BikeRadar. "Just developing something for yourself as a brand and using product designers to lead the process is one way to go about it, but we wanted to bring the team into the process, these guys know what they’re talking about."
"We want to make sure they have something that they can look at the other riders and go ehhhhh," Stamsnijder said making a nose horn gesture.
The S-Phyre range started with the shoes launched last year and was just the beginning of this concept. While we may have initially made fun of the socks that came with them, it provided an insight into what the S-Phyre gear was going to be about. With Shimano also owning Lazer helmets, it's offering a literally head to toe system and makes you wonder when the brand will release a frame.
Nayoung Kim, Shimano’s sports marketing officer said of the approach: “It’s all designed to work together as a system and everything affects each other… Especially socks and shoes they all have mesh that lines up with the shoe mesh and our gloves also have really good padding for our shifter."
With this in mind Shimano put a premium on the rider's input because they have six hours a day on the bike to think about this stuff. “We really went into the details like seam stitching, fabrics, fit, zippers, everything that the riders weren’t happy about in the past, or just wanted to have because they could influence it this time. We tried to listen to them as much as possible,” said Stamsnijder.
Speaking with LottoNL-Jumbo rider Koen Bouwman, he and the rest of the team had quite a bit of influence on the kit. “I was already last year testing some of the clothing. We had lots of time with the guys from Shimano and we discussed many things about how the clothes should be, and they gave us their thoughts about how the clothes should be and we are working together to make the perfect jersey and perfect bib short.
"I think the relationship between Shimano and our team is really good and I think it will be one of the best brands of clothes for sure next year, maybe it is already this year, it is really good," said Bouwman.
One of the biggest things the LottoNL-Jumbo riders wanted was a jersey that would be physically lighter on the bike. So Shimano put grams at a premium for the whole S-Phyre concept, looking to shave a few wherever possible.
Yuji Miyamoyo, head of advance development at Shimano, told us that the S-Phyre team jersey weighs only 90g while many competitor's tops weigh closer to 120g.
“It’s a big difference and when we presented the numbers to the riders it got their attention right away. Even the fabric feels aero, but it feels closed so the riders were very sceptical,” said Stamsnijder. “For example with Tour Down Under, there are very hot temperatures and the riders are like, ‘yeah but the fabric is so thick’ but I see the riders riding with that jersey in the heat. So it’s aero, it's light, it's well ventilated and the moment you have that you have the riders on board.”
Another interesting and rider-influenced design is the chamois. In the same vein as the Assos S7 bibs with the floating chamois, the back third of the pad is split to allow either side to move independently. “I have been with these guys for a fair bit and we took the experience from the guys on the bike and said what do you need, what do you want?” Stamsnijder told us.
“For a chamois to work the padding needs to be under your sits bones, but when you're out riding you don’t have that perfect position. You're moving around, you’ve got a saddle sore, you're standing up, you're sitting down and when it’s raining you're completely crooked on the bike as well. So why not make padding that supports both sits bones independently?” he continued.
Trickle down tech
Shimano is clear that the new S-Phyre range is for the performance rider, but even if you’re not pushing 1,700 watts in a sprint finish it’s designed to offer an advantage.
"It’s fine if you find a fabric that is faster or creates less drag when you’re going 50kph, but the consumer isn’t going that fast. So you need to find a fabric that has that effect at the lower speed because even these guys, if you have 200k stage, they aren’t 50kph the whole time and you also want them to save watts," said Stamsnijder.
"When we did find a product that achieved this we brought that technology into the consumer line and used the fabrics and the same fit and try to see what relevant stuff from the pros you can use for the consumer because they all want to go faster," he continued.