Body-hugging skinsuit boasting incredible comfort and performance levels thanks to a tailored, made-to-measure design philosophy
- Made-to-measure, 52-point 3D scan (optional extra)
- Tailored fit
- Comfortable chamois pad
- Custom design brings unique flavour to the package
- Silicone grippers around leg and arm cuffs add extra fit security
- 3D scan only available to UK customers (for now)
The hunt for speed has never been more relevant than right now. It's become an obsession, among pros and amateurs alike, and everything from bikes and helmets to water bottles and socks are being tweaked to cut through the air with as little resistance as possible. Nopinz is a chief proponent of this new world order and currently produces a range of cycling paraphernalia that caters to the specific needs of the speed merchant.
We've covered the brand's products in depth in the past - the indoor-specific Nopinz Subzero range and Pro1 Road skinsuit are cases in point - but the garment pictured here is easily one of its greatest achievements to date. As a white-label supplier to myriad WorldTour teams, Nopinz has become an established player in the best cycling clothing brands space globally, designing and manufacturing everything in-house at its headquarters in Devon, United Kingdom.
I recently spent time with the Nopinz team to understand the inner workings of the brand not to mention what goes into producing something like the Flow Suit, from 3D body scan and design to the printing process and manufacturing stage.
Made to measure with 3D scanning technology
When it comes to cycling kit, and this goes for any discipline really, fit is incredibly important as its very much individualised. Not only can a poorly fitted garment cause discomfort and chafing, when racing it can adversely impact performance, too. While Nopinz has a really impressive made-to-measure programme which comprises 24 measurements to customise fit, the company also offers 3D body scan service that takes 52 millimetre-perfect measurements to precisely craft the closest-fitting race garment available.
At £100 (you'll also need to factor in the price of the Flow Suit to get a better understanding of the overall cost), the scanning process is substantially cheaper than rival brands and represents a more quantifiable - read economical - investment than forking out on bike equipment constructed using global size standards.
Contrary to my initial thoughts, the body scan took just a few minutes and the process was a lot less complicated and invasive than I envisaged - you need only provide your body weight (in kilograms) and change into close-fitting undergarments such as a base layer or underwear to ensure the most accurate results. Once completed, the measurements are analysed and inputted into garment tailoring software before getting passed on to the design team for the next phase of the manufacturing puzzle.
Design and print process
Nopinz has built a reputation for its intuitive custom 'Club Nopinz' kit offering, which allows customers to pick and choose various designs in great detail. It's one of the few outlets that require no minimum order not to mention incredibly short lead times. I've used Nopinz's custom platform before and came away impressed by the collaborative approach offered by the design team. Having dealt with the team over e-mail, it was great to meet them in person and chat about what design to implement on my Flow Suit - in this case, a tweaked version of my Toyota CRYO RDT eSports Subzero kit.
A couple of challenges were presented as we couldn't merely copy and paste the Subzero design onto the Flow Suit blueprint owing to the differences in seam alignment and panel arrangement - the Flow Suit is a lot more intricate in its design packaging and special tripping fabrics. Thankfully, it was merely a case of deciding on how to implement the blue-to-white gradient. Everything else was already set up and pre-approved by team sponsor Toyota and fitted the narrower front and rear panels
The trick however, comes in being able to see past the 'flat' on-screen design and visualise how each individual piece will slot together for what will become the final product. The kit is precisely sewn together by a highly skilled in-house tailor and there's no room for error when it comes to piecing it all together. If the design is out by a couple of millimetres, this could potentially result in some overlap and, as you can imagine, this becomes trickier and more difficult the more complex the design.
Once each panel is laid out and thoroughly checked, it gets printed onto paper which is then pressed into a white fabric - this process known as dye-sublimation. The ink from the print is ingrained into the top layer of the fabric, allowing the printed design to stretch with the fabric and not split. The colours are rich and resistant to fading and wear. According to Nopinz, research and testing has also shown that dye-sublimated fabric can also improve aerodynamic performance.
The Nopinz Flow Suit was developed in collaboration with AeroCoach, a company synonymous with aerodynamic performance, over a 14 month rigorous testing period that comprised computational fluid dynamics (CFD), wind tunnel and real-world testing. Prototype fabrics were constructed and tested using mannequins and real riders, over a range of speeds which resulted in a 11-16 per cent lower drag coefficient than standard fabric at 40-55km/h - average speeds commonly associated with time trialling.
It also tested faster than the skinsuit it replaces, the Nopinz Tripsuit, with a two per cent drag reduction at all speeds. It's worth noting that the Tripsuit is still a formidable option and Nopinz claims it to be quicker than similar options from Bioracer, Endura, Castelli and Assos.
The Flow Suit boasts many innovative attributes that have been developed by Nopinz over the years and packaged together. The Speedpocket, an innovation upon which the company was founded, remains a staple feature and is a lot easier to work with than rival brands - some of which spec their skinsuits with incredibly small number pocket openings. Here the Flow Suit can be specced with either the large pocket or double, both options are wind-tunnel-tested, improve performance and reduce garment wear and tear.
Then there's the inclusion of tripping fabric flowlines around the shoulder, back of the arms and flanks, the culmination of which have been designed to reduce drag in any arm position. The fabric around the arm area can be further customised based on rider body composition. Like with many of its products, the company's proprietary Speedscale fabric is used on the legs to aid with wind-cheating proficiency. Of course none of these measures would mean anything - particularly to WorldTour teams - unless it were legal so everything you see here has been approved by the UCI for in-competition use.
In terms of standard sizing, Nopinz offers seven off-the-shelf fits ranging from XXS to XXL. The next step up is the made-to-measure package followed by the tailored for speed 3D scan and fit featured here.
Performance and fit
The fit - particularly around the chest and shoulders - is unbelievably comfortable and stretchy. While still tight-fitting, it's not restricting in any way and doesn't feel like it's pulling you down into a hunchback-like position. Of course, the 3D scan has a lot to do with the impressively tailored fit but the materials feel good against the skin and the zipper tab is non-invasive.
A skinsuit like this is never going to be a pragmatic solution for training sessions or longer rides owing to the lack of pockets but it's so darn comfortable that it's hard not to consider it every time you kit up for a ride. That said, it's best reserved for its intended use: competition. Sourced from Teosport in Italy, the chamois pad is excellent, too, and managed to strike a balance between pressure distribution and moisture management - I don't foresee any comfort issues down the line, even on longer 25- or 50-mile time trials.
With time trial season in full swing in the UK, I already managed to race-test the Flow Suit, albeit in terribly cold and rainy conditions. My initial impressions are more than positive based purely on how well it dealt with the chilly weather and the non-restrictive fit so I'll wait a bit for things to warm up before attempting any personal bests. My next outing is on 15 April on the super-fast A3 10-mile circuit in Liphook, and I'm fairly certain the Nopinz Flow Suit is going to get me closer to my sub-20-minute goal. For context, last year I set a 20:32 (my second best time) using the standard Nopinz Pro-1 Road Skinsuit. I'll be sure to update this review once the official results are finalised.
I've been fortunate enough to have sampled similar skinsuits from brands such as Castelli, Parentini, Endura, Le Col and Bioracer and, while there's not much separating them as far as performance goes, the Nopinz Flow Suit fits the best by far with very little in the way of discomfort and tightness around the chest, shoulders, traps and arms. Much of this can be attributed to the 3D scan and made-to-measure precision of the Flow Suit but then again, the standard-sized Pro-1 Road Skinsuit I reviewed last year possessed equally as impressive comfort levels.
At £334.99, the Flow Suit (£434.99 if you include the 3D scan, something we highly recommend), does represent a pretty expensive outlay but it should be considered more an investment than purchase, based purely on the personalised and incredibly comfortable fit. Nopinz has done a lot of homework to validate its aerodynamic claims and, while we'll need to test it against the segment perennials in a wind tunnel for ourselves to be sure, it certainly feels fast or at least gives that impression which is a massive confidence boost.
For those looking at improving their on-the-bike performance, I've no qualms suggesting going the Flow Suit route first and ensuring you're comfortable and aerodynamically sound from a kit perspective before looking at disc wheels and fancy aero doohickeys. A brief gander at the local time trial scene and you'll see riders wearing poorly fitting kit and flapping numbers yet their bikes are bedecked in all the latest gear. Once you've got your kit and position dialled, only then should you move onto the really expensive part - the bike components.
Tech Specs: NoPinz Flow Suit
- Sizes: Made-to-measure, using 52-point 3D scan
- Weight: 290g (pictured)
- Colours: 4 standard colours (black, blue, white, red), custom designs available through Club Nopinz
- Price: £334.99 (£434.99 including 3D scan)
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Aaron is Cyclingnews' tech editor. Born and raised in South Africa he completed his BA honours at the University of Cape Town before embarking on a career in journalism. As the former gear and digital editor of Bicycling magazine and associate editor of TopCar, he's been writing about bikes and anything with wheels for the past 16 years. A competitive racer and Stravaholic, he’s twice ridden the Cape Epic and completed the Haute Route Alps. When not riding, racing or testing bicycles in and around the UK's Surrey Hills where he now lives, he's writing about them for Cyclingnews and Bike Perfect.
Rides: Cannondale SuperSlice Disc Di2 TT, Cannondale Supersix Evo Dura-Ace Rim, Cannondale Supersix Evo Ultegra Di2 Disc, Trek Procaliber 9.9 MTB