The newest member of VeloVoices, Ant Beal, will be coming to you every Thursday with AntBanter. He picks a topic, expounds upon it and elicits a respond from a guest … he’s sort of the Terry Wogan of the blog. This week, it’s all about the lycra and his special guest is Panache, who is giving some style points on the new kits.
It’s that time of year: team presentations and, most importantly, new team kit! Matters of style and fashion will always divide opinion on many of these. After all, one man’s meat … But what makes good cycling kit good, and bad kit so unforgivably bad? For instance: Molteni jersey good, Footon-Servetto bad.
The trick lies in balancing these three elements of kit design: team identity, sponsor promotion and making the riders look awesome.
Getting noticed is simple enough. Just ask Mario Cipollini – for better or for worse, the man was always noticed. However, aside from Cipo (or Bet Lynch), who wants to be noticed in a tiger-print skinsuit?
To design kit that makes a rider look awesome can be tricky. Skin-tight lycra is a hard look to pull off (especially for me) and designing the kit with its own six-pack isn’t going to do anybody any favours. Ahem! I’m looking at you, Columbia-Highroad 2009.
There is also the matter of practicality – racing across a sun-scorched Spain in all black isn’t going to be much fun for the Sky boys, although they will be laughing on the other side of their faces on the wet days when the Persil White Argonauts turn jellyfish grey (and transparent).
So what are the offerings for this coming season? Here are a few standouts:
The new Rapha kit is retro, classy, easy on the eye, and leaves no doubt as to who the lead sponsor is. Progressing nicely from the last two seasons’ branding, it makes the Imperial Army from the black and blue Death Star one of the most easily recognisable teams in the peloton. However, I’d hazard a guess that dressed in almost full black, they will also be the sweatiest team in the peloton, and therefore also quite easy to recognise by their scent.
I say: Beautiful, but possibly smelly.
Panache says: When I first saw the jersey alone, I was a bit underwhelmed. However, when Rapha published its ‘look book’ of the entire kit, I was mesmerised. The entire design system is scalable and the details are fabulous. My favourite things are the blue racing gloves. Can you say LUST! Those are likely to be on my Christmas list this year. One other thing that really impressed me is the fact that Rapha is creating more reasonably priced pieces for fans that may not need pro-level, high performance gear. That is a brilliant business move and very fan friendly. I guarantee you are going to see Sky jerseys everywhere this season.
I like argyle – the pattern, not the football team from Plymouth – and they’ve kept that pattern but with some changes. I can only assume it’s my twisted little mind that finds it ironic that a prominent clean team has a massive ‘e’ on their tops. Inadvertent ironic drug references aside, this kit is cool. The subtle retention of the argyle pattern makes it elegant, and somehow they’ve crammed on seven sponsors – seven! – without turning it into a small ads page. It’s an organised and cohesive design with just one blemish (see above…).
I say: Classy kit – just don’t merge with anybody else or it’ll look like a Thomson directory.
Panache says: This kit doesn’t look bad at all but the problem is that I’m not sure where to look. I was hoping to see a bit more focus on the main sponsor, Garmin. The old Cervelo kit was brilliant and the first Garmin- Slipstream was pretty good too but the merging of the two has created this strange argyle, Sharp, large-e, Franken-kit that seems to diminish the main sponsor (Garmin). I want to see something new and fresh from a team over which the stylish Jonathan Vaughters presides.
Is it just me or is this more apricot than carrot this year? The addition of a little bit of black trim on the sides and sleeves sets off the orange nicely. The black trim is quite flattering and works well but what I really like is the addition of that beautiful Basque flag on the sleeve. It’s a jersey that deserves to be worn with fists punching the air over plenty of finish lines.
I say: Such an orange kit required an expert opinion, and the man from Del Monte says hell, yes!
Panache says: Ant, frankly, I think Euskaltel blew it here. They failed to capitalise on their brand with this new kit. This is the CARROT team! The kit should be mostly orange with a little green on the shoulders and helmet. All that black makes them look too cool. This particular orange is nice though because it’s ‘warning sign’ orange, which is always good for the rest of the peloton who need to stay away from Euskaltel riders to ensure their own safety, especially during the sprints.
A VeloVoices favourite from last season will once again be taking to the roads looking like somebody washed their kit in waste-water from the Springfield power plant. (D’oh!) You’d expect nothing less from a team riding Cipollini’s bikes, would you? And hey, that’s why we like them. Good team kit has to make you stand out, this one nails that objective and then some.
I say: If I was a pro cyclist, I’d feel pretty awesome zipping around like a glow-worm with a jet pack in this gear.
Panache says: I’m glad to see that team ‘Raving Glow Stick’ has decided to enhance this kit even further by making the black on the bibs slightly fluorescent. People around the world are going to be adjusting their televisions and computer monitors when they see this team. The typography and logo placement seem a bit careless but nobody will notice because of the radioactive colour. Vini Fantini, by Chernobyl.
The ultra-bright Argonaut kit [Tim’s favourite – Ed] has got even brighter. They’ve seemingly done this by using the thread from a genetically modified silk worm, using DNA extracted from the Fonz’s teeth. Plus replacing the green trim and 1t4i logo from last season with dark blue bands on the shorts and sleeves simplifies and defines the kit better.
I say: I’m going to start calling Marcel Kittel the Persil Kid.
Panache says: Many think this kit is a bit boring with all the white and grey but I think it’s fantastic. The Argos-Shimano team will stand out in the crowd. The title sponsor, Argos, is given perfect placement and size while the Shimano typography stands out in knockout on navy which adds delightful contrast. The remainder of the sponsors are smartly grouped to maintain a very clean-looking kit. The splashes of red and green add a bit of flair. I hope to see a bit more green in the next version!
Sky’s kit is made from the latest high tech material which provides protection from UV rays, disperses sweat and provides muscle support. Sadly it won’t make you ride like anyone on the team but hey, you’ll look as if you could.
You might well wonder how I know all of this? Well, Rapha aren’t the only kit producer using this material.