Stitch in time ‘S
ometimes, a new fabric will lead us to a new idea,’ says Steve Smith, brand manager for Italian clothing company Castelli. ‘The designers will take the lead on the process and a lot of cool stuff can come about in this way. But sometimes we like to start with a problem and then go in search of the best way to solve it.’
It’s February, and Cyclist is here in Fonzaso, northern Italy, at Castelli HQ, because we are keen to understand the motivation, inspiration and processes required to create a new product. We’re fortunate to be here to witness the final moments of the birth of a new type of winter bibshort, the Omloop, which has been gestating for almost two years.
‘Soren Jensen [Castelli’s global marketing manager] had seen pro rider Jeremy Hunt as far back as 2009 cutting down his kneewarmers to cover only as far as the kneecap, but not go over it,’ Smith adds. ‘Maybe he was far ahead of his time, but back then people thought, “What on earth is he doing?”’
Andrea Peron, former pro and now race performance director at Castelli, interjects, ‘We see what’s happening around the peloton, but also from our background and experience, as we are cyclists too. Shorts have always been the same. In the Classics and early season races like Paris-nice the riders want to keep the lower part of the large quad muscles warm. Standard shorts leave this part exposed so it gets cold. The problem with a threequarter knicker or even a kneewarmer is it’s not much different to riding with a full bibtight in terms of the amount of material that bulks up behind the knee, plus also there is friction over the knee cap too, which bothers many riders when it comes to racing.’
Smith again takes up the development story: ‘It’s similar to what happened with the Gabba. It’s not like we had a focus group to decide on this. We take the nugget from the pro riders, but then how do you take that nugget to fruition? With this product there would clearly need to be a lot of testing, so it quickly went into prototyping to get real world riding miles, rather than just playing