Since the high-profile successes of British cycling’s leading ladies over the past year or so, there’s an increasing awareness that this is a side of the clothing and equipment market that’s not been supported or exploited fully within the UK. Sure, there was women’s cycle clothing and kit, but for the most part it was lacking that ‘je ne sais quoi’.
This year’s Cycle Show at Earl’s Court in London showed a distinct move towards bringing female-specific clothing and bikes more in line with the quality and performance of men’s and unisex gear, with new brands, new bikes and strong new ranges from industry stalwarts.
The most obvious and eye-catching products sat within the newly invigorated leisure and commuting sector. Both Ana Nichoola and Cyclodelic are producing trendy clothing and accessories for the young hip urban female rider.
Standout products from Ana Nichoola (www.ananichoola.co.uk) include two different windproof jackets, the Ruffle (£129) and Curve (£159), which combine soft fabrics, discrete venting, reflective accents and neat zipped pockets in garments that would look just as at home with jeans or a skirt as on the bike. For the brave and committed cycle fashionista, there are even plans in the pipeline to produce SPD compatible high heels!
Ana Nichoola's gear looks just as at home with jeans or a skirt as on the bike
Cyclodelic’s clothing range is pitched at a similar rider, but seems to miss the mark a little, with designs that are definitely more fashion than bike. That said, the cashmere/silk base layers are versatile and stylish (scoop neck £82), and the accessories, such as a cashmere scarf with pockets (£67), are fun and colourful.
Cyclodelic's clothing range – more fashion than bike wear?
Another relative newcomer is bSpoke, whose smart, tailored effect Angel waterproof jacket (£129.99) and brushed cotton Richmond trousers (£59.99) will become a staple in any work-a-day cyclist’s wardrobe, as will the chic shower resistant faux-leather Victoria gloves (£19.99).
bSpoke were displaying these chic shower resistant faux-leather Victoria gloves
High points of the show from established clothing companies include Assos's Uma Jacket (£234.99), from their winter range, the funky padded effect, Blake’s 7-esque Pro Insulator Jacket from Pearl Izumi, also for winter, and Madison’s good looking waterproof Stellar Jacket (£69.99)).
Madison's Stellar waterproof jacket is cut for women riders
The new range from Polaris embraces the girlier side of bike fashion, with some attractive printed jerseys, including the Torin Shirt (£34.99), while Ground Effect continue to produce casually styled, well shaped, good looking kit in pleasing colours, now including the purple shade ‘egg plant’.
Sugoi’s new range of urban influenced capri pants, tops and jackets will appeal to riders who prefer a low-key look, without sacrificing performance, while a wide range of attractive on- and off-road clothing means there should be something for everyone.
On the bike side of things, some nicely specced machines are starting to emerge in the female-specific arena, although the majority of stands at the show still seem to be focusing on non-gender-specific models.
For roadies, Cannondale’s Synapse Carbon Feminine (£1,699) stands out, with decent components – Shimano 105 – and looks that won’t offend either peloton princesses or tarmac tough girls. The Modeal is still apparently selling out on a regular basis.
Cannondale's Synapse Carbon Feminine should appeal to peloton princesses
Specialized have long been at the forefront of female-specific bike design, and the Ruby Elite Komen (£1,599.99) pictured at the top of this article is no exception. A carbon racing steed, with clean lines and understated ‘girliness’, it’s a bike you can be taken seriously on.
Off-road divas might want to check out the Norco Phena (£1,479.99), one of the first women's all-mountain bikes we’ve come across. The components are at the lower end of the scale – RockShox Tora fork and Shimano SLX mechs – but the frame and geometry suggest you’d be getting a good ride for your money.
Norco's Phena is one of the first women's all-mountain bikes we’ve come across
The styling of Scott’s range of road and mountain bikes bikes for women will draw only the girliest of riders, with pastel shades, swirling patterns and an overtly feminine feel. It’s a strong looking selection of bikes though, and will appeal to riders keen to combine a less masculine look with considered performance.
All in all, this year’s Cycle Show was a feast of female friendly eye-candy, which should prove a shopaholic’s nightmare.