That having been said, cycling is, in and of itself, at once a revered sport, pleasurable pastime and popular commuting option whose community of avid enthusiasts has grown exponentially since the dawn of the bicycle in the early 19th century. An activity now enjoyed daily by countless millions worldwide, the enduring merits of cycling — physical fitness, affordable travelling alternative, adventure enabler, carbon foot print reducer, et al — are as varied in appeal as its world spanning playing field (i.e. Mother Nature at-large) is bountiful and broad in its visual spectrum and topography.
Howbeit, what does stand out within this unique world, being of particular note that is, is the belief (reality?) that the same intoxicating aesthetic portrait (often) cannot be painted nor applied to the state of dress and style of the average (road) cyclist whose preference in (typically lycra-laden) attire can be rather off-putting, quite overly ostentatious, and just generally an eye sore to any innocent passerby.
Indeed, to say most cycling garments are unflattering, or rather a far-cry from mimicking the appealing aesthetics of Mother Nature’s array of beautiful cityscapes, pristine countryside and impressive mountain peaks, would be a gross understatement to be sure.
Having that in mind, does the assumptive (and seemingly prevailing) notion of the head-to-toe neon-clad lycra cyclist truly reflect upon the general tastes and state of dress of all those who choose to commute, tackle fitness goals, or structure adventure within the saddle?
I for one am certainly believe not, especially if you take into account that some of the finest dressed gentleman in the world — from Milan and Paris through New York and everywhere in-betwixt — commute on a daily basis to work upon their (city) bicycles whilst dressing to impress. Inasmuch, there is truly no excuse for the modern cyclist to adopt the the sort of stereotypical wayward peacock aesthetic that persists in the public eye seeing as there is indeed an enticing sartorial platter of alternative style-conscious options awaiting commuters and competitors alike which focus not only on breathability, protection, stretch, and versatility but also aesthetics and style so as to be able to be capably worn with panache (and comfort) whether you find yourself on or off the saddle.
In view of that, and at the behest of a dedicated reader, I crafted this guide to answer that very question by means of touching upon which brands to peruse, styles to invest in, and where to ultimately begin your search.
Speaking unto the latter, much like perusing options whilst buying a suit or choosing comfortable seasonal wears to invest in (i.e. linen in summer), I strongly advise beginning your journey by starting with fabric and ending it with design and aesthetics. In any such case, the natural attributes of merino wool are said to be of greatest value to cyclists (and fitness aficionados in general) as are garments finished with both moisture wicking hydrophobic + hydrophilic treatments and that of specialized flatlock stitching (see below for more on the latter).
Incredibly soft yet sturdy in its handle with natural moisture wicking/odour-blocking attributes and a comforting four season (spring through winter) utility in wear, merino wool is revered by many as being the optimal performance-enhancing fitness fabrication of choice for those obsessed with setting personal bests in not only fitness but in comfort and luxury through seasonal thick-and-thin whilst in the confines of the saddle.
Fabrication, weight, elasticity and moisture wicking aside (i.e The Four Compositional Components Of Sound Performance Cycling Attire), what I imagine to be of more pressing concern to the masses at-large would be the finished design of a garment as it, rather then its compositional markup, is where the aesthetic appeal of any item of clothing, footwear or accessory is ultimately derived from and subsequently adjudged upon.
Marrying elite performance advancements and characteristics with that of tastefully stylized detailing and tailored forms, the cycling attire I speak of (which is strewn about this feature) is all sleek, modern, and handsomely understated.
Functionally timeless yet aesthetically refreshing you could say, the fine collection of goods highlighted below is a mix-and-match conglomeration of classic and avant-garde cycling essentials that embody the (bygone) purity and simplicity of the sport (i.e. pared back essentials that keep you comfortable without getting in the way or arriving in distracting ‘day-glo’ hues) while all the same innovating upon its parameters by means of incorporating tailored formalwear into the (cycling sportswear) fold.
Defined by flattering cuts (which better frame the body), designs that are minimalist, palettes that are subdued, and structures that offer a full range of movement (i.e. soft tailoring), each individual piece herein is capable of becoming an unexpected yet beloved gem (or perhaps an everyday alternative wardrobe staple) that actively illustrates just how utilitarian and versatile cycling attire can be when styled at its finest.
Think streamlined, well-tailored jackets and flexible, water-repellent business suits playing alongside reimagined wardrobe staples (such as cycling chinos) and day-to-day transitional sportive wears (i.e. base layer turtle/rollnecks) instead of head-to-toe Lycra and loud, in-your-face patterns — covetable attire rather then that in which you could do without.
Be that as it may, and while it is indeed true that you could honestly ride in whatever you desire, it most often holds true that a mans performance and appearance are only as good as is his gear and appropriateness in dress render them capable of being.
My point being, naturally, is that while you could indeed take to the saddle wearing most anything from your wardrobe that tickles your fancy its better to aim a little higher in the pursuit of reaping all the benefits (i.e. comfort, respectability, durability) that are afforded to a rider by proper cycling attire.
All that having been said, and whether its a timeless Gallic cycling jersey worn with a coordinating gilet (for added protection from the elements) and bib shorts (for the serious cyclist) or highly covetable tailored suit separates, padded (chamois) boxers, simple fitted base layers, and functional yet sartorially rakish cycling footwear, here is a choice selection of some of the finest high-tech meets fashion cycling godsends that offer a point of stylized difference that tastefully belies their otherwise primary high-tech sportswear purposing.
Hailing from some of the most revered brands (as well as a variety of newcomers quickly making a name for themselves) in the world and with something for everyone whether they are roadies set upon feathering through the wind with ease in the autumn, climbers tackling mountain peaks in the spring, professionals commuting to the office year-round, or simply casual riders intent upon cutting a dash whilst running weekend errands, the following investment worthy staples will not only help you achieve peak performance but also effectively ensure that a respectable semblance of your highly cultivated sartorial persona remain in tact whether you endeavour to wearing them in the saddle or well beyond.
The net result: you setting new PR’s (i.e. personal records) in performance, comfort and style.
Proceed accordingly (ladies and) gentlemen…
Sleeveless Base Layer (Caselli: $40) | Road Cycling Shoes (Fizik; $265) | Fitted Leg Warmers (Castelli: $49.95)
ROSE Pro SL-2000 Bike ($1600; review) | PURE CYCLES Single-Gear Cruiser ($349)
or those who savour style as much as performance, this (road) cycling style guide can fulfill the role of an inspirational beacon within a niche fashion industry that otherwise has no shortage of unflattering sportswear (in design, style and branding) to contend with.
Featuring a score of quick styling tips and “what to wear’ outfit capsules alongside a fine host of innovative cycling staples to peruse at one’s discretion, its casting of a bright light upon that rare specialized breed of cycling garment that marries high-tech function with tastefully stylized design effectively illustrates just how far the industry has taken strides in creating utilitarian cycling attire that could be (dare I say it) worn beyond the saddle.
: Performance Wear Roundup :
Left-Right — Dromarti | Thousand | Brooks England
Foffa Chinos | 3-Layer Jacket | Rapha Reflective Crew
CHPT./// Gilet | Le Coq Sportif Gloves | Rapha Winter Jacket
Be that as it may, no longer is it beyond the realm of possibility for performance cycling wears to arrive in appealing forms that balance style and substance in (near) equal measure. In that vein, brands such as Rapha and Cafe du Cycliste warrant particular note as they are spearheading this subtle evolution with catalogues featuring some of the finest and most luxurious cycling attire in the world which emphasize cut and timeless design (think Breton-stripes and darker hued colour-blocking) rather then crass statement-making hues and overly ostentatious styling.
The result: the ushering in of a new vanguard of technical cycling wears that demonstrate in kind that when care and attention to style and detail are given an equal billing to function in the manufacturing process the results can be both surprisingly refreshing and quite fashionable (relatively speaking of course).
Or, and to be rather blunt, anything but a full on head-to-toe lycra team-racing kit (i.e. wearing just one brand from top to bottom; mix-and-matching is advised and illustrated above) that will paint you as either a snobbish try-hard or just simply a costumed buffoon that has dutifully earned his ‘Puffin’ or ‘Mamil’ designation (i.e. middle-aged men in lycra).
Inasmuch, don’t feel as though you need to cater specifically to specialist cycling brands or wears whilst casually traipsing about town or commuting in the saddle nor that you need opt for something black or Day-Glo / neon (which is a true eye sore) as the best cycling clothing today is designed with either reflective stripes or retroflective detailing (which deflects light directly back to the source rather then scattering it) incorporated within the design no matter its final colour or purposing. Moreover, do also keep in mind that your primary focus should be placed upon fabrication and comfort before turning to matters of design and style — comfort is the foundation of endearing style after all.
All-in-all, the underlying message(s) I hope you take away from this are:
(1) A new benchmark in luxury cycling attire has been set;
(2) You no longer need to compromise sporting ability for style (or vice versa) while in the saddle.
So gentlemen, here’s to pursuing a different kind of fun between your legs and doing it in (respectable) style!
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