We road cyclists still suffer ridicule from those who think we slip into such figure-hugging garb for the hell of it. Anyone who attempts to cycle, say, 100 miles in normal shorts will swiftly learn why Lycra is the only way to go on long rides. Men of a certain age even have a nickname: Mamil, or middle-aged man in Lycra.
But for commuters and about-towners who want the function of cycle wear without the fit of chamois-gusseted bib shorts and jerseys, there is a growing market for stylish gear that is practical as well as pretty. With Ted Baker now joining the race to smarten up cycling, I present a small selection of what’s out there.
Launched exclusively at Wiggle this month, Ted Baker’s “Raising the Handlebars” collection for men includes familiar gear for those who know the brand but with added cycling characteristics. So the Ohshort Chinos look like classic, smart shorts but are made of cotton with added stretch, include several subtle bits of reflective material, an anti-bacterial finish and fun little chain-ring details on the (optional) snazzy turnups.
London-based Vulpine, founded by ex-racer Nick Hussey in 2012, has grown a loyal following in a short time thanks to its smart and functional clothing. This long-sleeve polo shirt, available for men and women, is made of odour-resistant and supremely soft merino wool and is beautifully cut. It includes a handy but discreet back pocket to hint at its cycling heritage.
The classic denim brand has quietly offered cycling-specific lines for a while now, rarely deviating from the looks that built a global fashion giant. These 511s look and feel like regular jeans but include subtle adaptations, including a water and dirt-resistant protective finish and a smidgen of elastene to offer more movement than your average pair of jeans.
4 Rapha Long Sleeved Shirt (£85)
The booming north London label has steadily expanded its urban range since it launched to smarten up the road cyclist’s wardrobe (including those of Team Sky’s riders). It’s sleek signature shirt is designed with cycling in mind – features include covered front buttons to stop your shoulder bag strap catching, a hidden back pocket and just the right amount of stretch – but wouldn’t get you kicked out of any boardroom.
5 Swrve Milwaukee Softshell jacket (£115)
Now a veteran of the casual bikewear scene, Swrve’s range has grown to cover all cycle-related wardrobe problems. Their softshell deck jacket is will keep you warm but breathing even during vigorous riding when winter turns up. A fleece lining, fold-up collar and well-hidden armpit zip-vents help build up a practical yet snazzy package.
A coating of Teflon gives this classic, elegant blazer a fighting in chance even in heavy showers, while other neat little details such as cuff buttons that become reflective at night add function for style-conscious commuters. Antonia Maybury founded the Brixton-based brand in 2010. It includes a similar blazer cut for men and a range of jackets and capes, plus jeans and trousers.