A rider’s kit says a lot about a person…apart from the bike itself it’s the only way to add a bit of creativity, flair and personality to your ride. Your body is a blank canvas with which you can show off what sort of rider you are, be it hipster, racer, coffee shop regular or just simply a rider with no fashion sense.
Wearing the wrong kit, especially on club rides opens you up to huge amounts of ridicule by other riders (some of it snobbish, some of it justified). I personally play it safe but have a few rules that I’ll abide by.
Rule #1 – Never ever wear leaders jerseys and kit
Wearing the Yellow Jersey for instance singles you out as someone who obviously knows something about cycling, but nothing about riding. There is an accepted wisdom, that you only wear a leader’s jersey if you happen to have earned one and that the jersey is to be respected (much like an adored relic). Generally, I think I’ve only ever seen 1 yellow jersey, but I’ve seen a couple more Green Jerseys being worn and the relatively more common Polka Dots. If you’re seen wearing the Polka Dot jersey whilst cycling uphill, this is an invitation to other cyclists to start racing with you. Your jersey has made a declaration that you are King of the Mountain and Joe Cyclist will feel the need to defeat you, which he probably will.
Rule #2 – Team Kit
Team kit is fine to wear, but it must be co-ordinated, you can’t wear a Garmin jersey with Team Sky shorts for instance. This is mainly because it looks weird and clashes more than anything. Speaking of Team Sky, I flat out refuse to wear it. It still has a little bit of the glory supporter feel about it, I don’t want to advertise Murdoch and at the end of the day, it’s a bit bland too.
It’s possible to dig out and find some former team kit, popular choices here are Mercatone Uno, Saeco and Rabobank – this seems to be the only area were we embrace the old doping culture for style purposes. Despite that, US Postal or the pink Deutsche Telekom kits are rarely seen these days; you’re more likely to see a proper old school Peugeot or Molteni jersey.
Rule #3 – Rapha Yes/No?
This may create a divide…but to me wearing Rapha gear is a bit like advertising you have far too much money (although some of the Core kit during the sales is quite reasonable).
It’s become a bit of a game to guess the cost of the most expensive jersey on the Rapha site, I think £180 is the record so far. Largely Rapha seems to be perfect for making it easier to identify the full-blown MAMILs (middle aged men in lycra). Some of this group are fine, usually the club riders, but the ones you’ll come across in a mass sportive can be a huge liability to be around.
Rapha gear seems to give a red rag to a bull effect, where I absolutely have to race past partly to show that no matter what you spend, it’s what’s in the legs that matters and also partly to remove the green eyes of envy.
Rule #4 – Jeans
Jeans on a bicycle machine should never be seen….or something.
All in all…
Aside from these 4 rules, nearly anything else goes. You can be garish as long as you can take the banter (some of the Morvelo kit falls in this bracket) and if you can ride fast, it won’t matter what kit anyone else is wearing because you won’t be following it for very long anyway.