Words: Ed Spratt & Tom Bradshaw
Photos: Ed Spratt / Eilidh McKibbin / Tom Richards
Based in Livingston just outside of Edinburgh Endura has continued to build upon its in-house facilities to expand its custom clothing operation allowing riding groups, events, clubs and pretty much anyone who wants custom kits to make something unique. Recent years have brought the brand's custom gear operation to its mountain bike orientated MT500 and Singletrack ranges with options to customise jerseys, pants and baggy shorts. Examples of these can be seen being ridden by the Atherton race team, Mikayla Parton and the always wild designs of Joe Barnes and Hazzard Racing. Last year Endura put together some custom pieces as part of its support for Pinkbike's former presenter Tom Bradshaw (miss you already Tom!).
While the brand's standard range of clothing is mostly made overseas, the Scottish headquarters house all the facilities needed to recreate items from its mountain bike ranges with a custom twist. From Roland printers specifically designed for the sublimation process to a whole room full of sewing machines and handmade expertise, we take a look through the process of getting a piece of custom kit made.
To start the process of creating a custom jersey Endura put together a few different designs for us, once we had picked out our favourite it is checked over to ensure each panel will print the design correctly in the next stage. For standard custom orders, the initial stages would involve sending over design ideas that can include sketches of what you want your clothing to look like before Endura's graphic designers make this into an interactive 3D render of the design. At this time a print-ready artwork will be created ready to get the manufacturing process started.
Next up is the print shop, Enduro has kitted out this part of its factory with a selection of massive Roland printers specifically designed for sublimation. Sublimation is a printing process where a design is transferred from special paper to fabric using heat and pressure. For Endura, the process starts properly at its print shop where the initial design is checked over once again and its layout adjusted to make efficient use of the transfer paper and ink.
As the full garment design is printed out onto the transfer paper there is a lot of ink required for each one-use design so to help avoid any smudges or defects a heater is placed in front of each printer as it produces a design. Once the printing is done the designs are left to dry out in racks before moving on to the next stage.
Before the next step can start each section of fabric to make up the custom piece of clothing needs to be cut. Instead of using old cutters and making each piece by hand, Endura uses a CAD cutting table that can apparently cut the same number of pieces in two days that would have taken a week with the traditional methods. Each custom garment from Endura will mostly start out as white fabric which is placed on the cutting table where the sizing of each can panel comes from the computer to ensure garments of each size can be accurately cut. Endura offers multiple sizes across the custom range with the MT500 jersey being made for us available from XS all the way up to XXL. Another benefit of using a CAD cutting table is Endura can ensure it effectively uses as much material as possible when cutting to avoid unneeded waste.
Continuing the dye sublimation printing process the printed designs are laid out on the transfer presses before each part of the garment is carefully laid over the matching part of the design. This step is very important because the design needs to be matched to a specific fabric panel these need to be lined up perfectly to ensure a seamless-looking final jersey.
Once the fabric panels are matched up to the correct part of the design they are sent into the transfer press where very high levels of heat and pressure turn the ink into gas which is transferred onto the fabric. Once done the machine feeds out the finished piece of fabric, these can then be peeled off the transfer paper and packed up ready to be taken to the next stage which is the final assembly.
The final stage of production takes the printed fabric panels upstairs to the sewing shop. Endura hand finishes each garment off with its skilled sewers providing the final touch to its custom clothing. The initial design seen on the computer at the start of the process is used again to ensure each panel is matched up correctly to the design. Endura says that it has made sure to keep these skills going by it providing training for its staff to keep the hand-making skills continuing into the future. It's incredible to see the speed at which the jersey can quickly be put together from what starts as just a pile of fabric.
At this point, Endura's custom clothing would be packed up and shipped out with this process normally taking around six weeks for delivery from the date of final approval of the design. Tom put his custom jerseys to work throughout the season racing at the EWS
and taking on the Canadian Open DH
during Crankworx Whistler. Disclosure: Endura supported Tom Bradshaw's video efforts in 2022. Thanks for helping make fun things!