Technology is helping us avoid riding outdoors in bad weather. Highly interactive virtual riding platforms such as ZWIFT are changing the behaviour of cyclists. Even amongst my own group of riding buddies, more and more are choosing to stay indoors during the rainy months and compete in virtual races from the comfort of their homes.
I think this is fantastic. Riding in bad weather isn't fun despite the romanticism attached to it. It's also quite dangerous, particularly in winter when there is the real danger of sliding out on black ice.
This has affected my product development quite a bit. RedWhite Apparel used to focus exclusively on "hot weather" bibshorts. Until June 2020, I did not offer a winter version of the popular long distance bibshorts. I simply wasn't confident about the long-term demand for winter cycling kit. Winter kit also tends to be really expensive. Thermal fabrics are not cheap and this results in a product that is costly and gets far less use than regular (and cheaper) summer kit.
If you happen to have a ZWIFT monthly subscription, it becomes harder to justify spending a lot of money on expensive kit for foul weather riding when you can re-use your summer kit indoors. This was my belief.
I quickly learnt that this belief was not accurate.
In December 2019, I wrote a blog post talking about indoor cycling and the potential impact on demand for winter cycling kit. Customer comments on that blog post told me 2 things :
- Winter riding is alive and well - on gravel (it's far safer than encountering black ice on roads).
- Customers do ride more indoors thanks to technology, but when a good winter day arrives, they seize that opportunity to ride outdoors.
It was obvious at this point that RedWhite Apparel had to develop something for these good winter days and for the gravel riders. The most common item to develop would have been a full length winter bib tight. I personally didn't think that was a good idea because it wouldn't be versatile. A full length bib tight would keep you warm at the start of your ride, but unless the temperature remained as cold, you'd quickly overheat. This would result in a piece of kit that could only be used on the coldest days.
A more versatile option would be a Thermal Bibshort. Fleece backed lycra keeps your groin, tummy, back and thighs warm. Customers can pair this with leg or knee warmers for colder morning starts. As the temperature climbs, the warmers can be peeled off. The bibshort can be used in a wider range of temperatures, particularly during the fringe seasons to winter. It would also be a much cheaper product to purchase, giving you more value.
The BIB - Thermal is the product of this thought process. It was initially launched to a small number of customers in Winter 2019 and is now available as permanent option within the RedWhite Apparel product line-up. Just in time for winter in Australia & New Zealand.
Do you own a pair of thermal bibshorts? Is it a product you would consider? Or do you prefer full length thermal bib-tights? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below.