While fossicking through some archive folders in a search for something - I don’t remember what - I found two interesting relics from prehistory.
One is the original drawing outlining what would become Nzo Dobies. I will come to the other in a few hundred words’ time.
When this drawing was done, there was no universally fixed idea of what a mountain biking short should be like. We were pretty sure they were not going to be made of lycra, and that was about it.
We took inspiration from surfwear, or rather the stuff surfers wear when they are not actually surfing. We added a little outdoor expedition gear treatment with a cargo pocket. But the main thing we decided to do for this product was to use a heavy duty four-ply stretch knit fabric though the centre of the garment.
Doing that meant we couldn’t make a traditional fly and waistband, the knit fabric wasn’t suitable for that. But it was so well suited in every way to the application we had in mind that we designed a very simple alternative: an elasticated waist with a drawstring for adjustment. Actually, ‘designed’ isn’t the right word. It is the same system found in that other paragon of loungewear, the humble trackie pants. Borrowed, or stolen, would be a better term.
Because of the way the knit section worked, we figured we could add a pad directly into the short, and see how that worked. To make it feel more discreet, we used a very slim layer of microfleece.
We made some, they sold out.
That is where the other bit of memorabilia comes in. We put a clipboard on the counter in the shop, and offered some sort of inducement to whoever came up with the best name for this new product. Young Jake came up with Dobies. An ad we ran at the time can be seen here.
Several decades later, we have been through various re-developments of the original fabrics into our own proprietary versions, and several iterations of the design of the product leading to what we have today. Over those years, Dobies have had many glowing reviews, which are as relevant right now as they were when they were written, because the basics of the product have not changed.
Dobies were copied by three other New Zealand companies. All three copies failed, they all muffed critical bits of a very simple design. The last attempt, by a reputable distributor, was such a faithful copy I can’t tell it from the original until the rider wearing it has gone past. The rear-view shows Glen’s pattern-making magic is clearly missing from the interpretation, and the back of the product looks really bad.
So if various reviewers reckon the Dobies are the most comfortable short they have ever tried, why aren’t there more versions of them out there? Our guess is that it’s the way of the world. If you are going to set up and make bales of product to ship globally through several layers of distribution, ultimately for sale in a corporate retail environment where time and customer attention are in short supply, it is better and far less risky if your product is pretty much like everybody else’s product, but with your custom-moulded doodad holding them up, and your rubber logo welded on. Add waterproof zips, and gripper elastic here and there, and maybe burn some little holes in them for ventilation, but don’t mess with what people are expecting to unpack, hang up, sell and wear.
So Dobies are still unique, an outlier in the pantheon of mountain biking shorts.
They are not for everybody, which is just as well. We can’t supply everybody.
There are bike rides to be done