Like many of you, I have been wearing bib shorts and shaving my legs long enough that I don't think much about clip-clopping into a coffee shop dressed like an aged, deflated superhero sans cape (and super powers). That said, when not actually riding a bike I definitely prefer to wear normal clothes. On the rare occasions I have time for a pre- or post-ride coffee, I'd just as soon enjoy the java in street clothes. With their 'New Road' line of slightly baggy merino and polyester clothing, the designers at Giro are hoping roadies will appreciate a casual look enough to ditch their Lyrca — or at least cover it up. I'm not quite sold.
In mountain biking, a few companies like Club Ride have successfully merged the ride and the post-ride beer hangout into a single set of clothes. But that's mountain biking, where putting a foot — or even your rear end — down to stop and smell the roses is part of the deal, and even mentioning aerodynamic drag will result in rightful heckling. Now running companies are exploring the idea. I've seen a few advertisements from Brooks showing a guy running, then hitting the grocery store and the coffee shop, in the same set of clothes. Judging by the way I smell after runs, this strikes me as a horrible idea.
Sure, mountain bikers can hang out. It's in their DNA. But what about tightly wound roadies?
Could this idea of the casual-but-functional uniform work for roadies? We take our fashion cues on the whole from European racing, where function defines the cut and sponsor advertising defines the graphics. And for those who don't care for fashion on the bike one way or the other, the functional bib-and-jersey just works, much in the way tight swim shorts just work; it might not be pretty, but it is the functional uniform for the task at hand. All that said, if you can raise your hand now and say you have never felt self-conscious in your tight bib-and-jersey kit, you are lying.
Giro invited a few media outlets including BikeRadar out to Santa Cruz, California, for a couple of days of riding the backroads around where the brand known for its helmets and shoes calls home. The photos here are from those rides.
As you might be able to discern from looking at the pictures, the New Road clothing looks and fits more like normal, modern clothing. Merino polo shirts with collars and buttons. Three-quarter-sleeve shirts with a front pocket. And — like we're seeing from a few players including Specialized — hidden storage compartments like sizable pockets on 'liner' bib shorts. In some ways, this is a bit of a spin off what some riders are already doing when riding errands around town. I've definitely pulled street clothes over some bibs when, say, riding with the kids over to get ice cream.
I clearly remember the first pair of Lycra shorts I purchased — and the distinct shameful quasi-nakedness I felt upon donning them. After hemming and hawing, I plunked down about US$30 for a generic pair through the Nashbar catalog (Brits and Aussies, think Wiggle, but circa the printed catalog days). As a new cyclist, I had decided I did, in fact, need some padded shorts, but I would be damned if I was going to step outside in those things alone; so I pulled a pair of Dickies shorts over them and off I went. But after a while, the function won out over the form, and I merged into the skintight clothing lane.
Thinking back to those Dickies-over-Nashbar shorts days, I definitely understand how newer riders could appreciate cycling clothing like New Road. Or modern women, who clearly have a better sense of style than most dudes on 700c wheels.
These days I live in the cycling-crazy town of Boulder, Colorado, where Lycra-clad riders are seemingly everywhere, but I grew up in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where the spandex outfit would regularly earn a verbal insult if not a hurled object from passing motorists. Regardless of others' intolerance, for shorter, around-town rides, there is no need for the full-on skinsuit look or function. But for longer rides? I default to traditional cycling gear. It works. Giro is pushing the New Road gear as long-haul or epic-ride gear, but I see it more as great urban, around-town wear. More ice-cream ride than all-day ride.
Functionally, the stuff works. Of course you can ride all day in it; you could ride all day in a sweatshirt. On the great rides that Giro hosted through the Redwood forests, we knocked out fireroad climbs, bomber descents and the odd town-line sprint. The clothing wasn't inhibiting or chafing. But the longer the ride, the more the compromise of fashion over function becomes apparent. Wearing shorts over bib shorts, to me, feels unnecessary when riding. And a merino shirt eventually gets wet and heavy. When stopped, however, I have to say that I felt more normal sauntering into a hotel or gas station amongst regular folks than I would have if walking inside wearing the typical sausage-casing clothing and that aforementioned merino shirt won't stink, even if you've been sweating in it for hours.
Bottom line? I've enjoyed wearing the Giro New Road samples around town. I'll often wear the merino polo as a regular shirt. And I'll often use the gear when riding with my kids to school. But for a straight-up road ride? I go for the standard Lycra bib shorts and tight polyester jersey, then change out of the monkey suit after the ride.
Regardless of my habits, I salute Giro for striking out on a new path with the New Road gear. I'm curious to see how other roadies react to it.
What do you think? Do you like the look and concept of Giro New Road? Leave a comment below.