Following up on, and in response to Ken’s most recent post, ‘Ode to the Parka‘, or something like that, I thought it’d be cool to do some looking around to see where the best cycling threads are coming from these days.
Obviously, Rapha, from the UK, is going to sit at the top of my list. Rapha offers a unique blend of cycling performance capability and modern urban style I haven’t found anywhere else… It’s an undeniably attractive combination, providing cycling wear that can also often be worn ‘off the bike’ (Ken, this stuff was made for you). Collared shirts, jeans, trousers, have never really been considered performance cycling wear, but now, thanks to Rapha they kinda are. I wear my Rapha shirts at the office no problem. Rapha’s success has been driven even further through clever collaborations with designer Paul Smith. Need I say, it’s nice stuff. Maybe not cheap, but very, very nice. Coles Notes: Highest quality, artistic detail, spendy, incredible fit and performance, distinct yet understated, and very hip.
Assos, from Switzerland, has always been right at the top for me as well, when it comes to really cool, and well-made cycling gear. And, not to be outdone, they’ve also launched what I call a lifestyle line, offering cycling gear you can wear both on and off the bike. Style-wise I can’t say it pulls me in as much as Rapha, but you can bet your last Swiss franc (euro), you won’t be disappointed with the quality, and if the ‘sportier’ look is your thing, then Assos has got you covered. Coles Notes: Ultra high-end quality, spendy, understated, very high cool factor.
Sugoi, from Canada, is a hallmark brand around the Edmonton scene. You’ll see lots and lots of it on any group ride, and there is good reason for it – the cost is less, than say, Rapha or Assos, but the high quality is still there. Sure you give up some finer styling details, but I’ve never been dissatisfied with the look and quality of my performance Sugoi gear. Now, searching their website, I didn’t notice any lifestyle line sections, but a huge advantage Sugoi has over the brands above, is their well-established Custom Gear. You can design your own complete team kit, and have Sugoi make it. That’s awesome! Coles Notes: Good quality, well priced, nice looking, your basic ‘go-to’, well-known for great custom gear.
Louis Garneau, from Canada (thought it was from France), is a similar level of gear to Sugoi, at least to me. It’s sporty looking, I’ve heard it’s well made, and seems to be decently priced, plus they offer a wide range of options for all riding and racing clothing needs. Louis Garneau is also a big player when it comes to Custom Gear. I see quite a few local teams wearing the stuff, and it looks pro. Coles Notes: Good quality, decently priced, well-known and trusted brand, popular for custom gear.
Pearl Izumi, from Japan, comes in as another one of the main players here. I have some of their stuff and like it quite a bit. They offer ‘cool’ sporty styling and designs, plus I found a lifestyle line on their site that I didn’t know about. The men’s jackets look pretty darn snazzy to me. Coles Notes: Good quality, edgy-sporty designs, reasonably priced.
Gore, maybe best known to most of us for their innovative development of the famous ‘Gore-Tex‘, has come on pretty strong around here. I see it in a lot of the local bike shops now, which means they’re offering both quality and good pricing. I find Gore wear to be simple looking – not to be confused with boring, just really modern, clean designs that are going to allow you to easily wear it on and off the bike. Personally, I really like the look of Gore stuff, and can see myself adding it to my gear more and more as time goes on. Coles Notes: High quality, reasonably priced, but getting up there, modern/clean designs. Pretty cool, I think.
When it comes down to it, I’m with Ken on the whole, ‘necessary duality’ of cycling clothing. I’m not sponsored, so I need to shell out for everything I own, and therefore it only makes good sense that when I do put my money down, that I’m getting some cross-over functionality – at least with some of the big ticket items, like shells/jackets. And though I dearly love all my Rapha gear/clothing, and I’ve threatened to wear my collared shirt with my new knicker bibs to the next CX race, I’m not likely going to do that (much to everyone’s chagrin, I’m sure). I do however enjoy the fact that I have some gear that rolls with me both on and off the bike – and the thing I like the best is most often the ‘fit’, because they just don’t make baggy cycling gear, which is self-explanitory… the stuff simply fits me. And like Ken always says, ‘what’s cooler than biking? Looking cool, while biking…’ of course.
If you’re aware of any ‘off the beaten path’ cycling clothing companies not listed here, we’d love to hear about them, so drop us a comment, or send us an email.