Cyclists are an odd bunch. We dress up in tight pants, styrofoam hats, and excessively-pocketed full-zip polyester shirts, then go ride around for hours on end in an endless monotony of slightly varying rhythm, sometimes a bit harder, sometimes a bit easier. From an outside, lucid perspective, one would assume we're all completely mad. Which, really, isn't that far from the mark. But, lost in practicing our madness, many of us manage to look truly insane - especially to the unbaptized outsiders, those who don't share our lunacy. Those untrained observers behind the wheels of cars, buses, delivery trucks, police cruisers, and espresso machines the world over. Compounding the issue? Many cyclists' choice of garb, from the totally mismatched to the downright bizarre. It's tough to relate to something - someone - so weird, so foreign, and frankly, so aesthetically unappealing. Would you go out in public in a pair of lime green gym shorts, red blazer, and velvet tophat? The logic follows, at least at the extreme end of things.
Style on the bike isn't just a matter of taste (or, in our case, looking good in the attire we wear more often than our street clothes) it's also matter of making our sport relatable and accessible. Let's dive into a few tips on how to look as acceptable on the bike as when at work. Or the opera. Or a pub. Or the Olive Garden. Maybe not that last one. And finally, for the love of Fausto, don't think of these as "rules".
Keeping branding consistent is a plus, but not necessary. More critical is the jiving of color. With the advent of the "minimal" cycling aesthetic (here's to you Rapha, Q36.5, ornot, Velocio, and even stalwarts like Castelli), it's become even easier, with subdued patterns and muted branding washing over the high-end. A good default is a black bib. It's really, really tough to go wrong with black bibshorts. If the jersey has a matching bib - great! Just know it won't be as swappable with something as minimal and clean. Neutral tones like navy and grey are also great to sub in here, and go with nearly everything. Bibs also tend to be the whipping boy for a lot of the junk that comes off the road - light-colored bibs can easily fall victim here, and unless you're approaching single-digit bodyfat, a pair of white bibs is a tricky feat to pull off. A lot of brands highlight colors - for instance, Q36.5's very subtle lime green gripper at the bottom of the L1 Essential bib, work very well with other bright, fluo and semi-fluo colors in tops and socks (like the remainder of Q's jersey lineup), or even helmets and shoes (like the Kask Protone and fi'zi:k R3B). It even blends well with a lot of Castelli and Giordana pieces possibly kicking around the closet.
Unless contractually bound, eschewing the NASCAR-style team kit covered in an obligatory shotgun blast of random sponsors is almost always a great move. It's especially appreciated if the kit that's shed is from an actual pro team that one isn't on. Mismatched team/club kit? Honey, no, the 2010 Team Sky bibs don't go with the 2015 jersey. Or with that Etixx-Quickstep jersey. Or with the Champion System (poor you) club jersey from 2004. Instead, patterns and simple, geometric designs are what really look great, especially with a solid bib.
They have to be coherent - and importantly, work with your shoes. Black/white are always safe. If you have bright blue shoes, you may have run yourself into sock purgatory, but if you've lucked out with something a hair more monochrome, start playing with it. Or, from our "List of Banned Hashtags", #sockdoping. Match to bib highlights, sunglasses, jersey cuffs. When it comes to height, the most heinous sin is a sock too-low. While hiding the underwear for the foot was a thing in 1999, it was only in a pair of sparkly white K-Swiss. A nice mid-ankle or even taller sock looks nice, just remember that especially tall socks and especially big legs gives the viewer the impression of calves masquerading as Sequoia trunks.
Black. Or white. Or go without.
Skidlids, brain buckets, styrofoam hats, whatever the name - helmets can be a pain. On the one hand, like shoes, a distinct color can be limiting. On the other, a striking, coordinated lid can really set everything off, and just be unwearable with the other 80% of a cyclist's closet. A white helmet is always in the repertoire (and budget) - it matches almost everything, commands attention, and looks clean, even when filthy. Black and dark helmets tend to lend an unbalanced look to minimalist attire, and hence work best with a bright, loud design on the jersey. Always get a helmet that fits - too big, and it resembles an overgrown foam mushroom. Too small, and it pushes into Yarmulke territory, while fostering the dreaded "gaper gap" - the space between the sunglasses and brim of the helmet.
Look awesome. Almost always. Wear them, and make sure they work with the highlight colors of the kit. And, make doubly sure they work with the face they're on. Remember the cycling eyewear of the 90s? Yeah. Tiny, like little bug eyes to make the wearer look straight out of a Mystery Science Theater 3000 special. Huge mug? Opt for something a little more expansive, like the Smith PivLock Max, Oakley Radar EV, or the Spy ScrewOver. They'll look better. The same is true for those with small faces - if the lens is extending past the edges of your face, opt for something a bit smaller. Mirror finishes? The standard, though clear and transparent looks become necessities in low light or bad weather.
Our two apparel brands – Q36.5 and chpt. ///, are shining examples of cycling apparel that not only looks good, but defies cycling’s tradition of outre aesthetic, appealing to the unbelievers as much as the faithful. Above, James is wearing almost a full assortment of Q36.5, from the Vaccaboia, Veloce Club Bolzano, Flowerpower, and Pinstripe jerseys, to the Miles (in titanium), Essential, and Dottore bibshorts. The line is crafted such that almost everything can mesh, no matter which style chosen, and it's supremely fashionable on - or off the bike.