One of the most time consuming but ultimately rewarding parts of the preparation for the trip has been the decision to try and replicate the Raith Rovers RemembeR kit in cycling format.
The strip was introduced in 2014 marking the McCraes centenary and has remained our away top through to the end of the 2015-16 season. Fitting in many ways that the Battle of the Somme Centenary will herald the end of the kits use though the longevity of the decision to make such a radical change to our traditional colours will endure.
The production of cycling kit is a booming business though the options are very much hindered by the small production run for an event such as this one. The first step was to approach a range of providors who were easily found by virtue of a google search and a trawl of the most used cycling forms such as: Bike radar, cycle chat, road cc, Road cycling uk. In addition discussion with a couple of local cycling clubs and my own local bike shop gave me a list of a dozen to approach.
The response was varied from “couldnt be bothered to reply” through to “we would like to help you but cant/wont” This was far from futile as each response guided me towards new questions and ideas.
A short list of 3-4 companies stood out with price and production times in line with my hopes and expectations. I asked for a draft design and this is where one company stood out. Force GB Company site based in Yorkshire promised:
Free Design & Graphic Service- the highest quality fabrics sourced from suppliers across Europe and a rigorous quality control system.
Design & Construction- Graphics are prepared to incorporate all design features, colours and logos. Once approved the latest digital print equipment is used to ensure pin sharp reproduction of the design. This is then sublimated into the fabric ensuring no washout or fade
Made in the UK- Customer service, design & manufacturing is all under one roof at their factory in West Yorkshire.
Competitive fixed price, No minimum order, Friendly & efficient customer service
The process started with receipt of a base design which on its own was enough to generate positive comments from a host of parties with an interest in the cycle challenge.
I have no doubt that the professional nature of the design contributed towards the level of interest that sponsors have shown in the kit. The time delay in securing sponsors and providing their logo details has been a test of extreme patience for Graham who has linked all of my communications since i first showed interest. No calling and explaining my idea to a dozen different people, no promises of call backs that didnt happen, no tales of a key person having been “just missed” as I make my umpteenth attempt to discuss the order. 1 person start to finish, excellent.
As sponsors changed and evolved I have chased PDf and EPS logos for more time than I wish to recall. As such we have seen 6 different design production proposals come and go with every one seeming to cause no great inconvenience. This is key as the time has allowed for me to secure support that would not have been there but for the fluid nature of my agreement with Force GB. We also avoid disaster as the “final” kit draft contains an error that would have brought ridicule to the whole project McCreas….McCraes spot the difference? Subtle but vital.
In the midst of kit design the subject of sizing caused me sleepless nights as any cyclist will tell you the variation between a medium/large in one manufacturer and that of another is potentially enoromous. My own cycling kit cupboard has jeseys sized small/medium thorough some premium kit from the manufacturer Castelli which sizes me for some items at an XL- yep 68KG, 5 foot nothing and I weigh in to the oversized “step away from the fish supper” section of their website!!
Vanity isnt the key isssue here its more the case that custom kit doesnt come with a try it and swap it gaurantee. Instead Force GB save the day with a simple try before you order protocol. So I send 1 email and a couple of days later I have a test size medium and a large at my door. Panic abaited I know where i fit on their sizing spectrum and I order with the knowledge that I am not going to be challenging the local dress makers to resize something designed for a 10 year old into an article fit for a grown man to be seen wearing in public. Yep Ive been there before!!
So we finally reach the point of no return and the order is placed. Well I say the point of no return it still didnt stop me chasing Graham 10 days after the design was submitted for production hoping to add one last change. An email which appears to spend a week lost in the emailsphere lands with a kind request for ‘The Neeburs O’ Geordie Munro’ to add their support. The point is that I knew i could ask Force GB without it being a huge drama.
As a result Force GB benefit to as we decide to order some additional kit for my pitstop crew who will be on hand to massage my wearly mind as the trip gets going.
Pics of the kit will be posted when it arrives but meantime here is what we are working with.
I am keen to add that none of the recommendations on the site have offered any inducement for me to wax lyrical about their provision. The simple intention is to give fair praise to people who have offered support and quality provision.