When club kit supplier Nopinz offered to send me their ‘Pro-1’ Speedsuit to review, I was keen to see how their latest offering compared to the skinsuit I’d been racing in for last seasons Time Trials.
That suit dated back to 2016 and at the time was the comparable ‘entry level’ skinsuit offering, also from Nopinz. After 7 seasons of club and open TT racing, this Skinsuit has seen more than its fair use. While it is just now showing signs of its age, this speaks volumes that I’ve managed to squeeze into, as well as out of it, as many times as I have!
So although Nopinz did supply this new skinsuit to me for free to review, I was already a big fan of their racing line and I want to be clear that this hasn’t influenced the honest opinions for this review. Had they paid me handsomely then it might, but sadly they didn’t.
Before the suit was even sent out I needed to determine the size I required. I consulted the size guides and my previous suit, both of which suggested I needed a large. Gaz offered some useful advice that the Pro-1 line club jersey kit is a great indicator of the required skinsuit size. I tried on one of the club sample jerseys and this gave me full confidence in the size choice.
When the Pro-1 skinsuit arrived my first impressions were that this was far more than an ‘entry level’ piece of equipment. While it may be the lowest cost offering from Nopinz at £167.00, this was a certainly a pro cyclists quality garment. Compared with other skinsuits on the market this not only punches well above its weight on features including a number pocket but also comes in at a lower price point.
This garment was a significant step up from my seven year old suit. Where previously the suit was simply skin tight, smooth grey lycra, cut to a figure hugging fit, this new offering clearly had aerodynamics at its design heart. Made from three totally different textured lycra materials, positioned deliberately to control the airflow over different areas of the body. In the charcoal grey they sent this also looked sleek. Our brighter Club colours would only improve this suit’s visibility.
The build quality has stepped up too. Where my old suit was starting to show its age, understandably after nearly 100 races and subsequent washes, around the stitched seams around the neck and forearms. The new Pro-1 suit had significantly more and substantial stitching in these areas. The collar, rather than scrunching and stretching to the required neck size now has a fully tailored collar to smooth the airflow and reduce wrinkles. The materials, particularly in the upper section of the suit, also have a far more elasticated feel. This makes the suit much easier to put on and relieves stresses to these stitched joints without compromising the fit.
The previous suit had at times felt like performing a contortionists straight-jacket-escaping magic trick every time I inserted or removed a race number from the famous RTTC aero pocket where no pins foundations. The number pocket is accessed from inside the suit for optimal airflow and negating the need to use garment destroying pins! This new suit now has the elasticity needed to make this easily achievable without joining the magic circle.
Nopinz also offer the TT pocket in an ‘easy’ version for those who ride to races in their skinsuit. This number is inserted from outside the suit for convenience. Whilst not quite as aerodynamic as the aero version, this is still significantly faster than pinning on a number and again removes the need for those pesky pins.
The chamois is an aspect of the old suit that had proved the test of time. This is still as comfortable as it was when it was brand new. Not something that can often be said of most cycling bib-shorts over time. I’m pleased to say that Nopinz have not compromised on this and the Teosport Armadillo Chamois met my high expectations. Any additional comfort that can be found on a time trial bike saddle is very welcome!
One gripe I always had with my old suit was with the leg grippers. They were fairly large, felt noticeably rubbery and sat slightly too close to my knee. Previously these weren’t incredibly elastic either, so during the pedalling motion could move ever so slightly. The new grippers are a smaller contact area and as with good bib-shorts you are not aware of the grippers. These sat between the knee and quad, with much better elasticity in the fabric for a far better hold too. At first I was concerned I’d requested the wrong size when I saw the size of the arm and leg openings. To my relief I realised that the grippers come with a protective wax paper backing on, to stop them sticking together. This paper obviously doesn’t stretch as the rest of the garment does. Once removed the garment stretched over my hands easily and fitted perfectly without excess stresses on the arm seams.
The YKK Soflex zip is soft and flexible to the point you don’t notice it whilst riding. It’s also feels robust enough to stand the test of time as my previous suits zip has. I’d still handle a garment like this with care at all times to avoid making snags in the fabric, however with careful use, this feels like it would offer a long lifetime of aero performance.
Washing the Pro-1 suit is also very simple, 30° wash and hang to air dry inside-out.
So, with all this cutting edge technology in the quest for aerodynamic gains, from exotic laser-cut panels of specialist fabrics and dye sublimation printing, you might assume this all comes at the cost of sustainability. You’ll be pleased to know that Nopinz in fact provide penguin friendly products. Nopinz has a zero to landfill policy, with all waste being either recycled or used to power their local marine base. They are also a British manufacturer, which vastly reduced the carbon footprint on our previous club kit supply.
Nopinz are famous for their pinless number pockets, which many professional cyclists have used at the pinnacle of the sport, including all 3 grand tours. So the UCI’s recent decision to change the rules prohibiting the use of them comes as a disappointing one for this British company. It’s nothing new that the UCI blocks advancement in technology, it’s temporarily held up the progress of disc brakes, aerodynamic frames and lower bike weights over the years with such similar bizarre decisions. Thankfully, Time Trials in England are governed by CTT (Cycling Time Trials) instead and these speed pockets are totally legal in their races, including our own club TTs. Which is handy, as an amateur who doesn’t have a pro team supplying me with a constant stream of new equipment, I’d rather not use pins for my race numbers!
So what’s my honest review? …Considering I’ve already admitted than I’m not impervious to bribery! Well, I was so impressed with the improvements to this product that I immediately put my hand in my own pocket and ordered another Pro-1 Skinsuit in club print colours! This is the all season hydrophobic version for the colder wetter days and I’ll review the performances of both suits at the end of the racing season.
This suit punches well above its price tag making it a brilliant investment for those who want to seriously improve their personal best at the evening 10 Time Trials. This price point also makes this one of the most cost effective speed improvements you can make to your TT kit, ahead of disc wheels, aero helmets and even aerodynamic bike frames. Plus, this will look very sharp in Club Colours!
– By Chris Pope