The emergence of cycling as a means of getting from A-to-B and an obsession for many has thrown up some uncomfortable challenges for the style-conscious gentleman – especially now that temperatures are plummeting.
Since the London Olympics, cycling’s popularity has ballooned; commuters, weekend warriors and highly committed competitive cyclists do battle for their piece of tarmac, especially in the capital. And the trend is only going one way.
However, if one hopes to look the part while bestriding one’s pride and joy, foremost among your concerns will be comfort. If you aren’t comfortable, you won’t be stylish – grim-faced and sweaty will not cut it.
With more brands and styles out there than you can shake a carbon fibre seat post at, Dapper Chapper has done the leg work for you. We’ve put a selection of cycling apparel to the test for the commuter, road rider and those who want to make a statement.
So whether you ride one of Italy’s finest (a Pinarello or Bianchi anybody?), a fixie or a regular commuter or road bike, read on.
Almost a household name, Rapha’s seat at the cycling apparel top-table is in no doubt. It has been designing performance-orientated, technical and stylish bike wear and accessories for some years now, and is the choice of professional tour race teams, including Team Sky.
We opted to try its relatively new, mid-priced ‘Core’ range – Rapha is by no means the cheapest option – selecting the black bib shorts and unfussy, elegant long-sleeve jersey in navy blue.
The shorts are tight to the skin, very breathable and the cushioning pad does an excellent job of shielding one’s posterior from vibrations transmitted to the saddle; two long rides and several commutes proved so.
As for the jersey, it is snug; just what you want on a long, fast ride, and warm enough for commuting as well. When temperatures fell to two degrees I donned two layers below the jersey, knee warmers, thick gloves and a cycling cap under my helmet and was perfectly toasty a few minutes into my commute.
With Rapha, it is all about the fit and feel though; on long rides and commuting the quality and performance of its mid-range ‘Core’ gear is palpable; it is excellent.
The commuter wear specialist, Vulpine, is a relative newcomer. Its British-made and comfort-orientated approach is bang on for those who don’t adopt the minimalist, marginal gains attitude every time they ride.
We tested its Gravel Rain shorts and Harrington Rain jacket in Olive Green, paired with a long-sleeve base layer. This combination really is excellent for autumn/winter temperatures.
The shorts are baggier than cycling bibs (the figure-hugging variety) and reasonably breathable – essential in winter and summer – while also rain proof. For those who want to pull off the casual look, these are perfect. You don’t need to cycle fast in the Vulpine shorts.
As for the jacket, up close it’s a bit of stunner. Cut for cycling – so longer on the back and arms – it fits perfectly when leant forward on the bike, but it’s eminently wearable off the bike, too. In fact, that’s what Vulpine is aiming for.
Much of Vulpine’s range is stylish in its own right, but tweaked to be practical bike wear. It gets the comfort, breathability and urban style balance just right.
A relative newcomer on the scene, this Australian brand creates bolder, brasher designs than the rest of the pack. There’s something about the slightly wild graphics – we like it very much.
Part of the charm is that you’ll be noticed, but your fellow commuters won’t be wearing it too. The boutique nature of Cycology means only other cycling obsessives will know what you’re wearing – for now at least.
In terms of performance and fit; the bib shorts and jersey combination we tested was a delight. The shorts actually fitted my six foot one, 75kg frame better than the Rapha bibs, but that’s just luck sometimes. The pad – known as the chamois – performs as it should.
The jersey, too, was an excellent fit and is very much geared to those who want to cycle quickly. Absolutely no flappy material here.
We opted to try out the short-sleeve jersey (long-sleeve available) purely because it looks so good, but combined with a long-sleeve base layer, I was comfortable during a rapid weekend ride at only nine Celsius. Highly recommended if you want something different.