Russell Bickle explains why it’s the quality, not the cost, of garments that is important to triathletes
The British Triathlon Federation reports that in the UK in 2016 there were 150,000 “committed, active racing triathletes”, with others doing a triathlon as a ‘bucket list’ activity. It’s estimated that 200,000 people in England did a triathlon in 2016, and that there are on average 26 British Triathlon ‘permitted’ events each week. Add to that research by the Triathlon Industry Association that triathletes have an average salary of £48,900, and it appears that it’s a lucrative sector for garment decorators to tap into.
The Brighton Tri Club, which started in 2013, has 250 members including juniors. It holds two swim, three bike and two running sessions a week as well as social events, explains Russell Bickle, making it a busy club. Russell was previously kit officer at the club with Gemma Lewis and oversaw the changing of all of the club’s kit suppliers last year.
The club, which offers both casual and training gear for its members to buy, decided to change the available kit for a better range in terms of performance and quality, explains Russell, as well as to introduce a new design. “Gemma and I did the design work with Orca and then gave the committee a chance to view it before going live just in case anyone hated it, which they didn’t.”
From Orca, a company that makes wetsuits and other sports kit mainly for triathlons, Russell and Gemma selected two different types of tri suit, a running vest, cycling jersey, bib shorts, arm warmers, buffs and both running and cycling gilets. “We did change the supplier from Champion Systems to Orca this year,” says Russell. “We decided on Orca after getting quotes from six or seven manufacturers and then when we had it down to the last two, we got samples of the kit and ranges. We chose Orca in the end based on quality – the kit is more expensive than before, but it is excellent quality and fit.
“On the casual kit we have hoodies and tech T-shirts which can also be personalised by the member at the point of order. All kit is available in male and female cuts.” The casual kit is supplied by Blade Print Services in Reading, a garment decoration business that is the official kit supplier for British Triathlon Age Group. “We chose Blade as they were already providing some of our coaches’ kit, sourced nice hoodies, were willing to add people’s names free of charge, and would run orders whenever we wanted.”
An order is placed once a month with Blade by the club, with kit generally delivered to members from the club within two to three weeks. Orca orders are placed once every three to four months, explains Russell, adding: “We have had some delivery issues so it normally takes about 10 weeks from the end of the order.” The club doesn’t make any profit from selling the kit.
“It is really important that people can race in club kit as it really gives a morale boost seeing someone you know on the course,” says Russell. “When we went to Southwater for the triathlon relays we had around 50 members all in some form or other of club kit. For cross country racing you actually have to be in club kit in order to race.
“The personalised hoodies are always good sellers as people like to wear club kit when going to and from events and at training sessions.”
For those looking to supply triathletes, Russell has the following advice: “I think the key is making sure the quality is there. Triathlon is an expensive sport so saving £10 on a suit generally won’t make someone buy it if they have no idea of the quality. Also, if you could do quick delivery (four weeks) I think there would be a big market as many people start in the season and would love to get kit quickly.”