So I know I look like a dolt in lycra (though maybe a little less so in my new svelte profile), and I’ve always had a lot of time for “alternative” bike wear, whether it’s the astonishingly expensive Rapha gear, or equally expensive Vulpine, or in-between gear like Twin Six.
It’s seems that with cycling you always have a choice between looking like a twat in lycra or looking like a fashion victim.
I used to ride my bike in jeans and ordinary shoes. Those were the days. I used to ride miles like that, and it never occurred to me that my clothes were holding me back. But then I was young, and I could do anything. Now I’m an old git, I need all the marginal gains I can get, and it’s unfortunately true that even in stretch denim, I need more stretch.
I bought some Rapha trousers a while ago, which I rarely wear, but they’re held in reserve for when I finally pluck up the gumption to cycle the 20 miles to work. For my birthday, thanks to a voucher (which I spent immediately, wary of receivership and administration issues) I got a Rapha Merino roll neck jersey, which will make me look almost completely normal at work, should I get around to doing this thing. Also, for christmas, my sister gave me a grey Vulpine shirt which will also be all right for workwear.
Having dropped a waist size, I was in the market for a new pair of work trousers, and I had a look in the sales. I came across these Levi’s 511 skinny commuter trousers at half price, and tried them on. They fitted all right, had some stretch, and I reckoned they’d be all right at work – but I doubted they’d be any good on the bike.
For a start, although they have a Rapha-like reflective strip on the inside seam (visible if you roll up the leg a bit), I felt that the emphasis on “skinny” in the styling put fashion before practicality. Just to be sure, I tried them on the bike last Sunday, on the rollers in the garage.
I lasted 15 minutes. Even though I was wearing padded undershorts, they were too uncomfortable. They have reinforced seams, but they’re still seams – where there shouldn’t be seams on cycling clothes. And they have some stretch in the fabric, but it’s nowhere near enough to give your leg the proper freedom of movement. So I took them off and completed my session in just the undershorts.
Okay, maybe, for pootling along at low speeds on one of those trendy fashion victtim retro bikes. But hopeless for anything serious, or for any faster pace. And just as expensive as stuff that would actually work. If you want my recommendation for cycling gear that looks all right and is actually appropriate and comfortable for riding properly without being too stupidly expensive, I’d go Twin Six. This topical Dopers Suck jersey, for example, is only £47.96 from Always Riding.