Factory Tour: Inside Pearl Izumi’s New HQ Building

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This abrasion machine reveals whether a fabric can stand up to the effect of your legs brushing your saddle over and over again.

Perhaps the most fascinating portion of our tour was a walk through the Pearl Izumi materials test lab. Or what’s essentially a multi-pronged torture chamber for all the various fabrics used to make cycling, running and triathlon apparel.

The lab’s tests are used both during the development process to vet new materials brought in from various mills, and also to maintain quality control during the production process. Turns out that occasionally factories will produce higher quality samples than actual main production product, meaning Pearl Izumi must constantly be inspecting fabrics to assure they meet company standards.

Within the lab are machines that snag stretch and abrade, check for pilling and colorfastness, measure drying time and water resistance, and even mimic the effects of multiple trips through a washing machine (one wash equals five).

“Basically we are a company that’s in the apparel engineering business,” explained our tour guide, Ride brand manager Andrew Hammond. “Different fabrics have different characteristics and different ways you can use them.”

A look inside the snag machine, a test designed to see how a fabric stands up to occasional encounters with sharp objects.

Right next door to the test lab are a pair of fit rooms, one men’s, one women’s (pictured below). Here Pearl Izumi designers work with a team of specially selected fit models, who serve as a 3D canvas for examining how products fit and move during real world use. The fit models, who are part time Pearl Izumi employees, are selected because their body size and shape most closely resembles a baseline collection of body measurements that have been collected over time. “It’s a mix of super fit people, and also normal body shapes,” explained Hammond.

This fit room allows designers to see how their creations look in real-world situations.

Finally, the new Pearl Izumi HQ building has amenities that you’d expect from a company with such deep roots in the endurance sports world. There’s a weight room and fitness center, bike storage room, and men’s and women’s locker rooms with showers. So you can go hammer on the lunch ride (which leaves everyday at 12:15 p.m.) and still be feeling fresh for that afternoon meeting. [Check out the video below to see the sublimation process and click through the gallery to see more images from our tour.]

Nicer than your neighborhood health club.

Photo Thumbnails (click to enlarge)
About the author: Jason Sumner

An avid cyclist, Jason Sumner has been writing about two-wheeled pursuits of all kinds since 1999. He’s covered the Tour de France, the Olympic Games, and dozens of other international cycling events. He also likes to throw himself into the fray, penning first-person accounts of cycling adventures all over the globe. Sumner, who joined the RoadBikeReview.com / Mtbr.com staff in 2013, has also done extensive gear testing and is the author of the cycling guide book "75 Classic Rides: Colorado." When not writing or riding, the native Coloradoan can be found enjoying time with his wife Lisa and daughter Cora.


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  • Darwin says:

    Maybe their quality will get back to what it used to be years ago but I doubt it.

    • Alterkakker says:

      Hey “Darwin” – Nothing like some unsubstantiated troll-snark. You’d think with your name you’d realize that improvement is never impossible – until you are dead. Their quality has indeed improved – two TdF teams rode PI last year and did quite well.

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