First, there was a duck. Now there is a little green dragon. Rapha and Palace Skateboards have collaborated to create a ‘switch-out’ kit for the 2022 Tour de France and Tour de France Femmes.
The brands first collaborated for the 2020 Giro d’Italia, where EF Education-EasyPost (or EF Pro Cycling, as it was known then) wore a much-hyped, kaleidoscopic kit featuring a cap-wearing duck.
The kit for this year’s Tour de France and Tour de France Femmes features two green aliens resting their talons on the Venus symbol. The EF Education-EasyPost men’s team and EF-Education TIBCO-SVB women’s team kit will feature this design.
Rapha says a select range of Rapha and Palace items will be available exclusively to Rapha Cycling Club members soon.
Alongside the aero pro team jersey and bib shorts, this range includes ‘non-team issue’ training kit for men and women, as well as socks and a cycling cap, POC helmets and Crocs.
The two teams will be racing on Cannondale bikes with matching livery. Rapha says a special-edition Cannondale SuperSix EVO frameset will be available commercially.
Celebrating the Tour de France Femmes
Rapha says the design of its second collaboration with Palace “righteously celebrates the Tour Femmes”.
This will be the first women’s Tour de France stage race in 33 years. The race starts on 24 July, the final day of the men’s Tour de France. It will see riders cover 1,029km in eight days, beginning at the Eiffel Tower and finishing at La Planche des Belles Filles.
Rapha says the race will be a chance for women to “show the world what it’s been missing”.
Jonathan Vaughters, CEO of the EF Education-EasyPost team, says the switch-out kit is celebrating women in the sport.
“It’s wild, it’s bold, and it’s an exciting time for the cycling world and long overdue. It’s an honour for our team to race in this kit in advance of the women’s Tour de France. Both races will be incredible, and we’ll fight to keep this kit and its celebratory message at the front of the race this July,” says Vaughter.
Linda Jackson, founder and owner of the women’s team EF-Education TIBCO-SVB, says the Tour de France Femmes will accelerate the growth of women’s cycling and “further our search for equality”.
The men’s and women’s jerseys share similar designs, both featuring the Venus symbol and dragons.
“It’s a true honour to have the EF Education-EasyPost men’s team racing their Tour de France in a jersey that celebrates women’s cycling. It’s been a very long road to get to this point, and all of us, the riders, staff and management, realise the significance of this jersey and will be proud to wear it,” says Jackson.
Cannondale SuperSix EVO and more
The two EF teams will head to the Tour de France and Tour de France Femmes with race bikes painted to match the switch-out kit.
Rapha says these bikes are designed to match ‘seamlessly’ with the Rapha and Palace kit and while they are “extra un-ordinary” they are “designed to be taken very seriously”.
The bikes will share elements of the same design, but Rapha says the SuperSlice time trial bikes will have features reflective of each rider’s personality and riding style.
These are described as “easter eggs”, a term used in computer games referring to hidden media to be discovered for its own sake. So maybe pay close attention to find these details.
The teams will have matching POC helmets. It appears from press imagery that these will have a line of dragon-like teeth around the front.
Team sponsors WHOOP and Wahoo are also said to be providing designs inspired by the kit, so maybe we will see some rather funky wristbands and Wahoo Elemnt bike computers.
For the casual collection, Rapha says there will be a range of products available soon, including Crocs.
What is it with streetwear and cycling?
In recent years, there has been an increase in cycling and streetwear brands collaborating to create cycling jerseys, kit and other accessories.
In part, this is due to how some streetwear brands operate, seeking out collaborations with other, more mainstream brands.
Founded in 2009, London-based Palace has developed a reputation for creating highly exclusive, limited-edition collections with brands such as Adidas, Reebok, Polo Ralph Lauren and Arc’teryx.
Another skateboarding brand that thrives off collaborations is Supreme, which has a near cult-like status.
Before Palace and Rapha collaborated for the 2020 Giro d’Italia, Castelli teamed up with Supreme to create a run of jerseys. Some of these jerseys even challenge Rapha and Palace for garish looks.
Cannondale has also collaborated with Palace independently from Rapha, releasing the Mad Boy collection.
Elsewhere, MAAP has an ongoing relationship with Perks and Mini, a streetwear and lifestyle brand.
As cycling has grown in popularity, it’s not surprising these streetwear brands have looked to some of the more stylish cycling brands for collaborations.
For example, MAAP was recently included in Highsnobiety and LYST’s top 20 performance brands to watch, with this category being heralded as an insider fashion reference. So it makes sense to see a brand such as Perks and Mini looking to MAAP as a potential fashion ally.
On the flip side of this, cycling has – or had – a reputation for quite uninspiring, unadventurous designs. So just as many more mainstream brands benefit from the credibility the cultish status of brands such as Palace and Supreme lends them, so too do cycling brands.
This feedback loop is probably furthered by the fact many people who used to skate or ride fixies have grown up and got into road cycling.
Of course, collaborations like the one between Rapha and Palace can seem gimmicky and a way to cut through the media storm that preludes big races. They can also seem like sanitisation of the more underground and edgy background of brands such as Palace and Supreme. The world of professional cycling is far removed from some of Palace’s acid-house inspired designs, after all.
But if, as Rapha and Palace hope, this works to celebrate women in cycling and draws a more diverse mix of people into the sport, then let’s hope we see more brands coming together.