Friday, May 27, 2022
HomeInterviewsGary Chambers - Nopinz Sales Director

Gary Chambers – Nopinz Sales Director

"The thing our customers really like is the more personal approach we take with them, we try to build relationships with the clubs themselves and really strive to provide a high level of customer service."

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Recently I was looking around for a seamstress who could replace the zip in an old Assos winter jacket and after failing to find someone locally, I broadened the search and found a company at the other end of the country who were happy to do the job quickly and easily, and for a very fair price – Nopinz.

I knew Nopinz produced race number solutions and wind tunnel-tested skinsuits for elite riders but I didn’t know much more than that, so I made contact with Gary Chambers, Sales Director at Nopinz, who filled me in on some of the details.

Gary raced on the Wilier/Live to Ride team ‘back in the day’; a former top flight road racer and bronze medal winner at the National Closed Circuit TT Championships, in 2018 Gary broke Michael Hutchinson’s British 30 Mile TT Record with a time of 55’09”, and is also the Royal Navy record holder across all distances, so he is well placed to discuss the advantages to be had from his company’s products.

Nopinz
Gary Chambers. Photo©supplied

Thanks for replacing the broken zip on my old jacket Gary, but that’s just a small part of what you do, what other products and services do you provide?

“Ha, you’re welcome!

“We offer a wide range of services, all with the main aim of making the customer go faster – our “tailored for speed” slogan is carried into each and every product.

“Our business is split into two; on one hand we have our collection items on nopinz.com which covers everything for everyday riding to our world-known skinsuits and speed wear. We also offer many race day number solutions, including our patented speed pocket.

“We also have clubnopinz.com where we supply custom kit to over 400 clubs and teams across the world. 

“We have created a club ‘portal’ system where riders can login to their team’s club shop and order kit directly to their home address, with no minimum orders and no kit windows.” 

We’ve seen your aero products in use at time trials for a few years now, notably with Marcin Bialoblocki inside them hurtling to a new record or championship title, but when did the business start?

“Nopinz was founded in 2015 by former elite rider Blake Pond, and he remains our CEO.

“The company is based in Barnstaple, and we made waves in the industry with our product, the innovative SpeedPocket™ – a world-first integrated pocket developed after Blake was looking for a solution to damaging apparel when pinning on race numbers – hence the name Nopinz.”

Nopinz
Marcin Bialoblocki during the RTTC 10 Mile TT Championships in 2018. Photo©Martin Williamson

Blake was a good tester in his time.

“Yes, he was a prolific time trial winner, and he finished 4th in the 2012 RTTC National 50 mile TT, as well as being an elite rider on the road. I was Blake’s team mate on the Wilier/Live to Ride team.

“He still rides, but Nopinz has been his focus over recent years preventing him from racing as much as he would like.

“Don’t be surprised if you see him back on a start line again soon though!”

Tell us a bit more about the SpeedPocket and it’s evolution.

“To begin with we designed a stick-on wallet that you would slide a race number into and then stick it to the rear of the suit.

“These were a great start but they were disposable and sometimes could come unstuck during a race.

“The next step was to design a SpeedPocket that could be sewn into skinsuits, so that’s what we did; customers would send their own suits into Nopinz and we would retro-fit our SpeedPocket to the rear of their skinsuits for them.

“This was a big step forward in aerodynamics as well as preventing riders from damaging their expensive skinsuit with pins!

“And it’s still a service that we offer and provide today.”

Nopinz
One of the early Nopinz SpeedPockets, in 2014, attached to an Assos Cronosuit. Photo©supplied

Then you added your own suits to the product offering?

“Yes, after a while of seeing lots of different skinsuits come through the door Blake decided that we could make better suits ourselves – with our SpeedPockets already built in.

“And that is where we are today. We’re currently on our 3rd generation of skinsuit, with our fastest suit to date being the Flow Suit.

“The SpeedPocket is now a patented product of Nopinz.”

You have many clubs and companies on your books getting their custom kit from you, from Microsoft to Team Bridgelane in Australia, via the Shetland Wheelers. How is the custom clothing business going ?  

“Yeah, it’s going really well!

“We currently provide over 400 clubs and teams across the globe with their custom kits.

“This has actually become the biggest part of the company and we are continuing to see it grow.

“We obviously cater for a vast amount of UK clubs but as you point out we are starting to gain more and more interest from around the world now; we have clubs from America, Australia, the Middle East and the EU.”

As the sport grows in popularity custom cycling and triathlon kit is becoming an ever-more crowded market, what are your unique selling points which attract your customers and keeps them?

“So when we setup our club shop system, this was again a problem that Blake had faced as a rider; most companies demand high minimum order quantities, ‘kit windows’ [orders only possible in a limited time frame] and long lead times.

“This was something that Blake found frustrating and knew there must be a better way. 

“We’re unique in the sense that all of our custom kit is designed and made in house at our HQ in Devon.

“This has allowed us to create “club shops” where riders can login to their clubs shop and order kit straight to their home address, with no minimum orders and shorter lead times.

“This is a huge draw to the riders themselves but also kit secretaries from the clubs – gone are the days of the kit secretary having to organise a bulk order and be left to collect money off the riders and distribute the kit when it arrives.

“It also removes the need for clubs to hold spare stock of kit for the season, as riders can simply order new kit for themselves whenever they wish.

“I think the platform is obviously a huge part of what attracts the clubs and also keeps them.

“The other thing our customers really like is the more personal approach we take with them, we try to build relationships with the clubs themselves and really strive to provide a high level of customer service.”

The Nopinz factory in Devon. Photo©supplied

Many kit providers design in one place and manufacture in another – in Italy or Hong Kong for example, but you design and manufacture all your own kit in your own factory?

“Yes, that’s correct.

“We design and manufacture out of our HQ in Barnstaple, in Devon.

“This gives us complete control over our products and allows for quicker lead times and no minimum orders.”

You work with Santini SMS and other manufacturers on their skinsuits used by World Tour riders? 

“That’s right. Santini – along with many other brands – heard about our SpeedPocket technology and of course wanted it in their suits.

“They are signed up to our licence agreement and buy the wallets from us before fitting them to their suits.” 

Nopinz CEO Blake Pond with the official Wanty skinsuit in 2021. Photo©supplied

Am I right in thinking that Nopinz clothing was used at the very top level for a few years but ‘incognito’ or ‘under-the-radar’, before World Tour squad Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux partnered with you as their official aero kit supplier at the start of last season. How did that go and did you receive feedback and ideas from the team to improve your products even more?

“Actually, we’ve been working ‘in the shadows’ with World Tour teams for years now, manufacturing ‘white label’ skinsuits for them.

“Teams will always want the fastest kit on the market and they know how fast our kit is.

We partnered with Intermarché last season as their official aero partner and it was a great experience, seeing riders like Taco Van Der Hoorn win some big races in our road race suit was amazing!

“We had some feedback from the team, but it was mainly just how much they liked the kit.”

Taco Van Der Hoorn’s Stage three victory at the 2021 Giro d’Italia by just a handful of seconds after a long break showed that saving precious watts matters. Photo©Luca Bettini/AFP

Are you supplier to any Pro or World Tour teams for 2022?

“Not officially!”

Have your products evolved much since you started?

“Our products are constantly evolving, we are always re-designing and bringing in the latest fabrics.

“As I mentioned before, we are now on our 3rd generation of TT skinsuit for example, and we also have specific suits for road racing and cyclo-cross.

“We’re always looking at the demands of each event because we don’t believe there is one suit that fits all requirements.”

Nopinz
Having all the processes in-house means Nopinz are in total control of their product output. Photo©supplied

You also market the SubZero range – specific clothing for using indoors – did that come about because of increased turbo/trainer use as a result of lockdowns?

“The SubZero range is the latest problem that Blake has addressed as a rider through Nopinz.

“At the time Blake was doing a lot of racing on Zwift during the first lockdown period and consistently over-heating, even with fans on.

“This is where the idea was born and in 2020 Nopinz launched the first indoor-specific race and training apparel, the SubZero range, with ‘FreezePocket’ technology.”

FreezePocket, that’s the use of ice packs in the suit?

“That’s right. Nopinz SubZero kit was designed to help address overheating of the body, a key issue that particularly affects the performance of athletes during high intensity indoor exercise.

“SubZero’s Patent Pending technology focuses on the use of frozen gel packs that sit against key temperature regulation points of the body, providing a continuous cooling effect during training or competition.

“The range consists of bib shorts, race-suits and sweatbands, each with FreezePockets that hold replaceable frozen gel packs.

“Similar to existing Nopinz products, the entire range is made from bespoke technical fabrics that offer maximum breathability and moisture management. 

“Cooling the body during indoor exercise is vital to prevent overheating, dehydration and the resulting reduction in performance.

“While many of today’s elite e-racers have found that using multiple fans and air-conditioned rooms gives them a competitive edge, these aren’t always solutions that everyone can access. In contrast, SubZero provides a marginal gain and performance advantage that is accessible to all.

“This range has grown very quickly and proven really popular. As e-racing has become bigger and bigger the need for marginal gains has become essential, no different to outdoor racing really.”

Nopinz
The Nopinz gel pack sits in the suit to cool the indoor rider. Photo©supplied

You sponsor some e-racers as well?

“We do yes, it’s a market we take very seriously and we support two e-race teams, Nopinz R3R eRacing Team and Saris | Nopinz.

“We want to continue to drive e-racing forward and be part of it’s ever-growing popularity. “

“The SubZero range is also fully customisable in team design which is pretty cool, pardon the pun.”

Nopinz never stop evolving their ideas and products. Photo©supplied

So what’s next for Nopinz?

“We have a lot of exciting plans just around the corner…

“There is a new website going live over the Easter period which will migrate our two existing sites,  nopinz.com and clubnopinz.com into one website – and we also have an exciting new product to launch in the coming months so stay tuned for that!”

If the next product Nopinz produces is as innovative as the others, it should be very interesting to see what changes it heralds in the chrono world. With thanks to Gary for his time with this interview.

Martin Williamson
Martin Williamson
Martin is our Editor, web site Designer and Manager, and concentrates on photography. He's been involved in cycle racing for over 43 years and has raced for many of them, having a varied career which includes time trials, road and track racing, and triathlons. Martin has been the Scottish 25 Mile TT and 100 Mile TT Champion, the British Points Race League Champion on the track, and was a prolific winner of time trials in his day, particularly hilly ones like the Tour de Trossachs and the Meldons MTT.

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