By Trina Ortega
Neil Berrett talks about zippers on cycling clothes like a car enthusiast talks about a Maserati. “A zipper is a precision part,” he says. “Cheap Chinese zippers are OK but they’re not going to be like a really nice, locking YKK zipper that’s made in Japan. Zippers are really a precision manufacturing part. And there are only two or three companies that make zippers that are worth a damn.” The cheap zipper will last a year, he continued, “but that’s not what we’re trying to make.”
Berrett and his friend, Jeremy Smith, had a simple goal when they founded Cedar Cycling. Both are longtime cyclists and shared a problem: They could not find a high-quality cycling jersey made in the USA. So they began to solve their own problem, researching fabrics and learning about cut-and-sew shops in the States. Then they turned to other cyclists to help them thrash, mishandle, and abuse prototypes in the hills near their home in Oakland, Calif. After a few iterations, they came up with a jersey they both loved and got to work putting a sample together.
“That first prototype was awful. It's hideous and the fit is wrong. But we keep it around,” Berrett told Mountain Flyer, during a quality control check at the All Ways Sewing facility in San Leandro, Calif. After some changes in the fabric blend and an upgrade in the zipper (of all things), among other improvements, they launched the first line in April 2012. It consisted of a men’s jersey (their flagship product) and merino wool T-shirts.
This week, they introduced the Women’s Standard Jersey made of StandardWool, a blend of merino wool and nylon that is breathable, naturally anti-microbial, abrasion resistant and retains shape. The full-zip jersey is tailor fit for women and form-fitting with three large, easily accessible pockets in the back. Soft gripper elastic keeps the jersey in place around the hips, and it is machine washable.
Berrett and Smith are particularly proud of the jersey because they have involved women in the process every step of the way. In early 2012, they organized what they call a “fit and concept summit” with 12 local female cyclists to find out what they liked and didn’t like in a jersey.
They wanted something made from a performance material that is comfortable, durable, packed with features, sophisticated and “smart.” (Among the dislikes: tight-fitting necks and shoulders, loose cuffs, high pockets and short hems.)
“We asked them, ‘What works for you? What doesn’t? What’s your favorite jersey, and why?’” Berrett said.
After initial illustrations and first round specs they began working with a local pattern maker—also a woman—with more than 30 years experience designing technical apparel to begin the prototype process. They then embarked on a work session with Barb Howe, former U.S. National Champion cyclocross racer, for fit and real-time, real-world R&D in the mountains near San Francisco.
Several iterations and countless tweaks later, the start-up company began production on the first run Women’s Standard jerseys. This was not the typical ship-it-overseas job, however. They contracted with a local, female-owned factory east of San Francisco. Yes, Cedar Cycling is a rare breed—its cycling apparel is made in the USA.
The jersey blends “all the good qualities of merino and all the good qualities of a synthetic jersey. You get the fit and durability of a synthetic jersey but the performance of merino,” Berrett said of the jersey that uses the same blend as the men’s jersey. That wool blend was based on their cycling experience in the crazy climate changes of the San Francisco Bay Area, where you may start a ride in a chilly 50 degrees but be facing 75 degrees on your climbs.
The Women’s Standrad jersey costs $160 (purchase now at the introductory price of $144). Berrett says some people balk at the price, but it’s simply based on what it costs to produce it, and it will last longer than a cheap piece.
“You get what you pay for,” he said. “Americans spend the same percentage of income on apparel that historically we have done since the ’30s and ’40s, but we just buy more pieces. We’re spending the same amount but we’re getting more crap.”
Cedar Cycling apparel can be purchased online at www.CedarCycling.com. All of the products carry a 90-day, no-hassle return policy.