There’s no accounting for tastes. One man’s dream of turquoise riding shorts paired with a lime-green jersey is another man’s nightmare. That is what’s cool about NWT3K; the Seattle-based brand lets you make all the decisions. Want to go crazy on the colors or lengthen those shorts or add long sleeves or an extra zippered pocket? They’ll do it. You pick the options on their site, they build your custom kit (right there in Seattle), and two weeks later you have a pair of shorts and/or jersey that you personally designed at, amazingly, a price that’s not far off of buying the same basic product off the shelf.
NWT3K Custom Kit Details
• You choose the colors: sleeves, zippers, jersey, short yokes, short panel, etc.
• You choose short, 3/4 or long sleeve length
• You choose short, regular or long inseam
• Waterproof, zippered pockets
• Double needle stitched seams
• 4-way stretch material
• Made in USA
• 100% satisfaction guarantee
• MSRP: $69 USD (jersey) / $139 USD (shorts)
You can go nuts with the color combinations. Spoiler alert: I did not. But it's still fun to mess around in the designing phase.
On the Screen
Custom clothing is not something I've ever considered. I don't own a custom anything. No custom fishing rods or guns or underwear or cigars or...you get the idea. Custom is often just a tidy code word for "I have stupid amounts of money, I'm bored and I want something no one else has." Or that's how I've seen it anyway. That said, I've often looked at mountain biking apparel and thought, "Why the f*ck do they only make the shorts I want in lime-green or mango?" Color me conservative, but I lived through bell bottoms, parachute pants and the `80s neon craze. The great American philosopher, David Roth, summed it up well. "I've been to the edge," said Roth. "And there I stood and looked down. You know I lost a lot of friends there, baby. I got no time to mess around."
In other words, I've already worn some stupid shit in my life, I'm not paying for the privilege to do that all over again when it's time to go ride my bike. To that end, I was intrigued by what NWT3K is offering here. And, hell, maybe you look at black shorts and think they'd be perfect if they were baby blue. It takes all kinds, which is the premise behind this business model.
So, here's how it works, you go to the website, click on the "bike" tab (they also do custom snowsports apparel) and start messing about with tailoring your jersey and/or shorts. The menu walks you through the process. Want to see what the jersey looks like with short sleeves instead of 3/4 sleeves? One yellow sleeve and one red sleeve? Each time you click, the piece of kit changes and shows you what your inner Armani is creating. It's actually kind of cool. You've got the color options, you can add a stash pocket or extra zipper, add some length to the shorts so that you don't have an unsightly gap between kneepad and short hem, etc.
The paperwork that arrived with my jersey, detailing all the options I chose a few weeks earlier.
Once you've finished letting your designer demons run wild, you click the "Buy" tab and wait about two weeks for the stuff to come. The new kit arrives along with paperwork detailing each thing you ordered, as well as a quality-control checklist that highlights all the steps they took to make sure that zippers were lubed, seams were double checked, stitching is dope, etc. Gotta give them credit, these guys are nothing if not thorough.
What you don't change are the basics: the 4-way stretch materials used on their jersey and shorts is standard, as is the overall fit...somewhere between athletic and loose-cut. Neither XC body condom nor ultra-baggy, DH pajama party. Sorta straight down the middle, style and fit wise. If, however, you suddenly take an intense disliking to your creation or its fit, you have seven days to return it. You can't go and ride in it and then return it, but you do have a chance to say yea or nay with the product in hand.
So, yeah, when faced with the option to go nuts with the colors, I still opted for just enough color to (hopefully) not get me shot during deer season. My only extravagance, really, was the red zippers. The product showed up looking exactly like what I'd ordered. So far, so good. Let's start with the jersey—it's a fairly stretchy material. The fit, like I mentioned earlier, spans the middle ground of current mountain biking styles—a happy medium, if you will. I opted for an extra stash pocket, but chose to go short sleeves. Adding long sleeves would have pushed the price up $10, but I mainly opted for short sleeve because I was running low on those. The stitching is tidy and there are no irritating seams. On the whole the fit and finish is quite good. The jersey also features a healthy drop tail that prevents flying mud from spackling your ass crack. That's always appreciated.
On the trail, well, I didn't really notice anything on the trail—it just felt good, which is sort of the point. The only thing missing, for my tastes, is a 3/4-length front zipper. I sweat like a pig and in the summer months and I like opening my jersey wide to maximize airflow. Not an option here. It wasn't a huge deal for me this year, as my riding temperatures didn't exceed 85 degrees Fahrenheit (it's the Pacific Northwest, after all), but if I lived somewhere hot, I'd really want a long front zip. Oh, and the logo. Well, no getting around it—that's one bold bit of billboarding there and it's standard issue on the jersey. It could be more subtle. A lot more subtle.
The shorts are built from a 4-way stretch material that I'd classify as somewhere between mid and heavier-weight fabric. It's durable stuff, but not so heavy that you'd avoid wearing it during long, hot summers. The double-stitched seams are nicer than what you'll see on a lot of shorts in the $80 to $110 price range and the patterning is nicely executed, so that the overall fit is quite good. To accommodate winter beer gut, the waistband sports two Velcro tabs—nothing groundbreaking there, but functional all the same. I prefer buckle-type adjusters, since mud and repeated trips through the washing machine eventually reduce the effectiveness of Velcro, but these work and are, again, fairly standard. The pocket zippers—all five of them—are waterproof specimens, which is something I greatly appreciate since I ride in slop conditions much of the year. There's no shortage of storage for multi-tools, a phone or, if you are Mike Levy, a half-eaten donut and a flask of Monster Energy Drink. Sweet. Waterproof zippers can be a bear to open and close—these ones all have nice pull tabs to provide you with plenty of leverage.
I opted for the longest inseam option. I was particularly stoked that I could get the right length, as I still encounter riding shorts that stop way north of my knees and I haven't thought that was a brilliant idea since the mid `90s. The shorts do not come with chamois. Again, not terribly unusual these days. There are plenty of shorts selling for $100 that also don't come with chamois, but it's worth noting all the same since $130 ain't pocket change.
If you are straight across price shopping, you might find the shorts a bit pricey—about $30 more than you might expect. Then again, the stitching, fit and storage are actually better than what you often find at the $100 price point and, of course, there is the whole custom angle. You want yellow, waterproof zippers on top of blue shorts? Go wild. You can dream up all sorts of interesting stuff here. There's value in that. Finally, the shorts are made in the United States—the fact that they are even cost competitive with shorts coming out of Asia is impressive in its own right. Well, it's impressive if you happen to live in North America...You might not give a damn if you live in, say, Sweden.