When you title a piece "The Enemy" it seems like there could be any number of ways things could go. But for us the enemy might not be some of the obvious choices. We make clothing. Very good clothing. And we take pride and responsibility for every single piece we make. Who is our enemy? Our enemy most likely lives in your house. Our enemy is.....the Washer and Dryer! This can easily become a long and complex piece if we try cover all of it, but below are some truths about laundering your clothes.
Technical riding gear is meant to be worn everyday and meant to take on sweat, dirt, grime, coffee stains, beer stains, whatever. So it must be laundered. We get it. But not all fabrics are created equal and react to washing differently. Take for example our S1J jacket. That is made from an ultra-durable synthetic blend that can handle pretty much anything you throw at it, and it is actually beneficial to wash and dry in the machine from time to time. And, outerwear should not require laundering after each use anyway unless you live and ride in a swamp perhaps. In the case of the S1J the washer and dryer actually help to reset the performance qualities of the fabric. This is the exception! Now take a synthetic knit, which is used in the majority of cycling jerseys, and realize that when you put that jersey in the dryer you are about to permanently alter the beautiful garment you just received in the mail. First of all when you wash anything that has a zipper or wash with other things with a zipper that zipper becomes a fabric-eating weapon inside the machine flying around at 90 miles an hour whipping everything in sight. No good. Always fully zip everything in the machine before washing and drying to at least close the zipper teeth, coils, etc. Sooner or later those teeth will snag something. It is inevitable.
But 2 bigger problems are heat defects and shrinkage. These are killers and also permanently alter and damage your beloved garments. Heat causes most fabrics to shrink. Sleeves get shorter, as does length and width of the garment, sleeve openings get more narrow. All of a sudden your perfect fitting garment just feels different. And you get more problems like the fact that fabric almost always shrink, but zippers do not. Metal and Plastic stay exactly the same as when you put them in the dryer. So what you get then after drying in high heat is fabric shrinking around the zipper and you get what looks like a wavy zipper down the front of your garment. Actually the zipper has not shrunk or become wavy even in the slightest. The fabric is now just pulling and puckering because it is now shorter than the zipper length. That's not a good look.
Now onto the heat problem. Heat strips away many qualities of fabrics that are advertised when you buy them. So when you see a list of seven things your jersey fabric does, half of those can be scratched from the list as soon as you run it through the dryer. High heat robs your fabric of it's great qualities and finishes. Sublimation printing will often do the same thing. We're talking about tiny yarns and thread here. It does not take heat blasting on it very well. So you lose performance, colors get washed down, fabrics start to wear thin, become less durable, and on and on. Those are all truths. The enemy!
So what do we recommend: Hand washing! It says it on every care label in every garment we make. Your garments will last longer, fit better, look better, and perform better if you do so. But what about wool? That's a complex one. Heat absolutely wrecks garments made from 100% wool. Most users know that. Want to pass down your wool jersey to a kid? Just put it in the dryer. Walla! It's a now a miniature version of itself. But wool blends can fare better and you can actually stretch them back to near original shape if you don't use excessive heat. Wool is tricky. Just hand wash it when you can to be safe. You and your garments will be happier for it. And it just might feel good to give it the love it deserves in taking proper care of it. But we know....hand washing takes time. And some things take a long time to dry. So what do we recommend: Buying many pairs of SAS kits so you have more to wear when one is drying. Funny...right? We're just kidding there.
For most fabrics we obviously recommend hand washing and laying flat to dry when possible. But that's not always practical. We ride a lot, too. We need our gear to be clean and ready almost everyday. So if you must use the machines make sure to fully zip everything and anything that goes into each load in the washing machine, and dry on the lowest heat setting you have. That part is on you. For our part we our continually upgrading our fabrics to be more durable, easier to clean, and able handle more rigorous washing and drying. Heat and fabric might never have a perfect marriage, but we're certainly working on it and we are certainly ahead of the field for sure as we are able to develop many of our own fabrics from scratch and change specs to meet the challenges of being used for cycling. We hope you might find these little bits of information useful, and hope that they might keep your apparel looking and performing better longer. Take care of your garments and they will take care of you. Thanks for reading. -Search and State