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.

Factory Tour: Inside Pearl Izumi’s New HQ Building Gallery
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Parking Garage

Each day, most of these bikes head out for the 12:15 p.m. lunch ride, long a staple of the Pearl Izumi experience.
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Bike Room

If your company doesn't have one of these, something is wrong.
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Pump It Up

The new building added in a fitness room for those days when heading outside isn't an option.
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Of Course

Like the rest of the planet, Cross Fit classes are popular here.
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Change Up

The new building's locker room are a vast improvement on its predecessor.
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Not Far

Pearl is situated about 10 miles from the eastern edge of the Rocky Mountains.
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Business Center

Dealers come here to check out the wares they'll be selling in their shops.
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Re-use

The outside of the structure is made from recycled cars (there are 60 miles of metal panels in total), and the wood on the front the building is recycled snow fence from Wyoming.
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Reasonable Facsimile

This room avails the chance to see how products will display in a retail space.
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Shimano Sold Here

All the in-house sales reps deal in both Pearl Izumi and Shimano products.
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New Kicks

The X Project mountain bike shoe is one of the company’s prominent new products for 2014.
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Pedal Power

All the various Shimano pedal options on display.
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Glove Love

Lots of options for keeping hands protected and warm.
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Did We Mention The Views

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Report Card

Following testing, each piece of fabric gets scored. Only high scored materials end up as part of product.
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Stretch Test

Fabric stretch and recovery are measured by this machine.
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Speed Machine

This turbo-charged washing machine replicates the effects of five washes in just one cycle.
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Color Match

Color matching is also part of the testing protocol. Here a swatch of sample fabric on the right is compared with a control piece on the left. This analysis is done inside a lightbox that emits both outdoor light and retail light. The test observed must wear a gray coat when performing this analysis so that perception is not altered by outside influence.
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Abrasion Machine

The automated version of your leg brushing your saddle over and over again.
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Snag Machine

This test machine examines how a fabric stands up to occasional encounters with sharp objects.
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Courtyard

When summer comes, this will be a popular hang-out place.
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Fit Room

Here designers can examine how their creations look in real-world situations.
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Speed Shop

As the name implies, this is where apparel gets made quickly, be it custom kits for sponsored pro athletes or prototypes for testing.
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Open Air

High ceilings abound.
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Water Catcher

In order to keep site water drainage from going into the city storm drain system, there are 11 rain gardens that retain water on-site and allow water to filter into the natural underground aquifer.
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Welcome

The new digs measure 55,000 square feet and can be expanded as needed.
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 in British Columbia, Belgium, Brazil, Costa Rica, France, and Peru among many others. Sumner, who joined the RoadBikeReview.com / Mtbr.com staff in January, 2013, has also done extensive gear testing and edited a book on cycling tips. When not writing or riding, the native Coloradoan can be found enjoying the great outdoors with his wife Lisa.


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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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