Podiumwear: Changing the Game

In this day and age, customization is the name of the game. Custom frames, custom colors, custom vacuum carbon-soled shoes – Anything you want, in any color you want, in any fit you want.

So why are local teams still depending on, what amounts to, mail-order kit printing? 

Podiumwear is going to change the way local cyclists think about kit printing/design. With individualization the new standard in cycling, it is a mystery that we’ve waited so long to consider what is literally right next to our skin. Well, Reid Lutter, Jessica Larsen Lutter and Kristine Larsen intend to fix this. They recently invited the Musette to swing by and check out their plan for total kit domination. If my response is any indication, you’ll be seeing those three little rings quite a bit in the coming years.

It’s my second visit to the humble, industrial-yard based HQ. Snow has fallen once again, and I’m beginning to think that my visits and snow accumulation are somehow connected. It makes sense, as Podiumwear has their roots in the Nordic Skiing business. Both Reid and his wife Jessica are avid skiers and, as all good Minnesotans are nowadays, our chat kicks off with the unseasonably warm winter we’ve been experiencing. Their Nordic business isn’t too affected by our freak season – and it’s apparent with the boxes and boxes of nordic gear ready for delivery/pickup.

Just then something catches my eye. A tiny print out of the Musette’s kit lying in plain sight. Kristine informs me that she intended this to be printed before I arrived, but since I’m here now I’ll get to watch the sublimation process first hand. The tech takes the printout and slides it under the heated drum. The dye vaporizes off the paper and onto the fabric. Less than two minutes later and it’s in my hands. Amazing. As a designer, this is what excites me the most about working with a local company, I know how the kit will look before any stitching has taken place.

After the printing, I turn to my left and see the cutting tables. With the printing process finished, every single piece of fabric is now hand-cut and piled up on one of two tables. Scraps litter the floor, signs of a busy couple of weeks. A gentleman takes a hand saw and deftly maneuvers it around the colored sections. I wonder where they found skilled work in this area, as obviously he has done this before. Each template is cut and inspected, this is where the quality check also takes place. If there’s a tear/bleed/anything that would compromise the kit in any way, it’s back to square one. This isn’t a shotgun effort, this is a precise and controlled dance. Quality reigns supreme here.

And yet with all this emphasis on quality, how is it that they can routinely promise turn around in as little as four weeks? Their printer goes round the clock, and the sublimation machine rarely sees a break during this peak season. Reid tells me about heading in over night to put in a new order on the printer. A group of skilled, local Hmong women carefully stitch together the fabric cut-outs. From the looks of things, they do stellar work as I take a look at the samples. Reid informs me that they take about two to three weeks to finish up a batch. From artwork finalization to finished product – four weeks (give or take). Plus, you can just take UPS or FedEx out of the game entirely. Drive (or ride) on over and pick up your gear. Simple as that.

As I pack up and get ready to go, I take another look around. It’s a small place, but it’s well laid out and everyone is diligently about their work. It’s amazing that it’s taken so long for a kit printer to appear here, and now that it’s here it’s great to see Reid and his crew at the helm. Their dedication and enthusiasm for this craft is unparalleled and it shines through the final product.

It’s enough to make a guy want to print kits through them. And that’s why you’ll see the three rings alongside the Musette’s logo on our first kit. We’re proud to give a local endeavor our business. After being stung on the behind by the mail-order giants one too many times, we’re glad to work with someone who’s so concerned with the final product.

Be sure to stop in and say hey. If your kit is looking a little old, or you need to get some reprints, they’d love to hear from you. Trust me, it’s a lot better than putting your faith in something you won’t see until it’s too late to change anything. And mark my words – these kids are going places. They’re going to change the way you think about what you wear.

A big thanks to Reid, Jessica and Kristine for showing me around and being so welcoming. Excited to see what you three come up with! 

-MM

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5 comments
  1. Pearl Izumi has a portable sublimation press that they use for races – we saw the guy doing it in Breckenridge at the USA PCC. It was pretty cool. I got the paper from HTC Highroad (from Van Garderen’s Best Young Rider); Emily picked up the one for Lay-o-pard (from Andy Schleck’s most aggressive jersey). VeloNews did a thing on it: http://velonews.competitor.com/2011/08/bikes-and-tech/colorado-tech-pearl-izumi%E2%80%99s-speedy-leader%E2%80%99s-jerseys_190314

    And PodiumWear look awesome. Good to see some good ‘ol made in the USA cycling wear!

  2. I can’t speak to their bike kits (yet), but I can say their ski suit is at least as nice as pro-level ski suits from VO2Max, Adidas, Swix, or Bjorn Daehlie. In fact, I’d say PodiumWear’s ski suit is a good bit nicer than most of them. Wonder if we can get the half of the team that races bikes to go with them too…

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