Kit Critic: Why social shopping is the best shopping

Shopping

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Kit Critic is a column on cycling style by Aliya Barnwell, the founder of Ride Up Grades, a cycling instructor, and a longtime rider. Follow her on Instagram at kitaddiction.

Have you heard of this little platform called Instagram? No? How about an antique called Pinterest? It allows people to search for ideas or inspiration and pin them to a board for later reference. I believe I left some relics there. In fact, my first social media purchase was through Pinterest. It was a bike tool roll that has since been redesigned. I hate it.

Who cares, and what does this have to do with cycling kit? We cyclists should care, because now there’s a social network dedicated specifically to kit. With a little help from our friends we can find kit that fits without having to play the returns game, and without having to study fit charts like we’re interpreting the prophesies of Nostradamus. If Pinterest had been set up the same way I might have avoided that poorly-designed tool roll, which opened up while on the bike and scattered my roadside repair supplies across Houston street.

Kit.Fit is the company behind the Kitfit – Cycling Kit Obsessed account on Instagram, and a new social shopping app by the same name. Kit.Fit allows users to create an online closet complete with their unique measurements and their preferred fit (snug/race or comfy/club).

They started in 2015 as an account that shared photos of kit and the local Aussie cycling scene. Built under the guidance of tech executives who are friends, the app was already in the works. As cyclists themselves thrust irrevocably into the era of online shopping with the rest of us, they wanted to offer more than pictures of the best-looking kits. The app offers a new way to find the fit that works best for each individual and their unique shape. Because two people can be the same height and weight and still not fit the same size item.

On Kit.Fit, riders upload pictures of themselves and their sizes to help others get a sense of fit.

Instagram is great as an advertising platform, and if you’ve been on it long enough, you remember when they built in the direct purchasing feature. That is an example of social shopping: selling directly through a social media platform is social commerce. The difference between Instagram or Pinterest and the Kit.Fit app is Kit.Fit’s account profiles are designed to share more than just what users think is cool; as users build their profile and add items to their closest, they can share what sizes they wear.

In my last piece, I mentioned the differences in fit that result from different fabrics: the high-elastic jersey is going to fit differently than a low-elastic variant from the same company. In addition, cuts are different (all race cuts are not created equal). The Kit.Fit app helps people find cycling gear by connecting them to other riders of similar size, shape, and fit preference. Posts also include the weather conditions favorable for a given kit. It takes the educated-guessing out of ordering online.

My most expensive kit mistakes are all ordering kit from overseas only to find it doesn’t fit. Returns take time, are expensive, and there’s a chance the size needed will not be available by the time the item is returned. We are not all lucky enough to live in areas where we can simply go try on gear. I try to do that now, but I live in a major metropolitan area where bike shops stock unique cycling gear; not everyone is so lucky.

Social media shopping may have saved me from the Pinterest tool roll debacle; people can comment on items, and in this case someone else may have pointed out it was missing a Velcro or closure band needed to function properly. I would have saved my money and the company would have gotten the necessary feedback to make those adjustments earlier in the products lifecycle.

‘How will this look on me?’ Having a rider’s height, weight, and sizes listed helps the shopping process.

The catch with Kit.Fit is adding your own closet takes time if you’re a kit hoarder like myself. If the item hasn’t already been created on the platform users add it themselves, complete with a picture. Of course, all this info can be pulled from brands’ existing online listings, so if a rider’s kit collection is smallish or includes brands or items already on the platform, it only takes a moment.

That said, brands are in the space and adding their own gear. While it does offer brands space to share, its main focus is not on brand voices – the whole purpose is to see and get feedback from regular cyclists. As of now, however, it seems a gathering of the cutting edge technophiles and the elite. Content creators interested in sharing images that hook fellow cyclists are already building their profiles. Since it’s more specific in its purpose than other social media, it’s easier to find content that is relevant to a particular aesthetic, as opposed to searching the cycling kit hashtags on the Gram.

The app is still growing, and the developers are actively responding to feedback from users. I’m keeping an eye on it, and will build out my online closet, no matter how daunting the task. If nothing else, it has made me measure my girth and reflect how large my kit collection has grown as I sought the perfect fit from every brand in existence. I’ll keep an eye on Kit.Fit, and give my wallet and the returns departments a much deserved break.