High-Performance, Everyday Cycling Clothes

Giro-Merino-Crew.jpg

Cycling continues to gain popularity in the United States, but ask anyone on the street what they think of when you use the term “cyclist,” and they’ll probably tell you the term conjures up an image of a spandex-clad, shaved-leg roadie.

Many of us, however, ride bikes for more pragmatic reasons—in the city, a bike is the easiest way to get from point A to point B.  I’m sure many of you—myself included—want clothing that’s functional on the bike but won’t make you look like you’re wearing a spandex uniform.

Luckily, a number of companies have stepped up to the plate in recent years to fill this void.

Men

Perhaps the most well known brand serving the cyclist market is Levi’s and its commuter line.  Sporting details such as water- and odor-resistance, reflective details, and U-lock holsters, this line has been around for 2-3 years and isn’t going anywhere soon.  The line offers jeans, shorts, khakis, and jackets.

If you step your budget up a notch, the next place to look is Chrome.  Chrome cut its teeth making bombproof messenger bags and has more recently expanded its product mix to include performance cycling clothing.  The line includes handsome t-shirts, jackets, hoodies, and even SPD-ready sneakers, and all of their products are made for city cyclists, by city cyclists.

Swrve is probably Chrome’s closest competitor.  Both companies’ product assortments are pretty similar, but Swrve definitely has the edge when it comes to styling.  Their garments are a tad on the pricey side, but they are made to last.  Swrve’s BLK Label line looks especially good-looking.

A new entry into the category comes from Giro’s handsome New Road apparel line.  There’s really something for everyone here.  They offer t-shirts, polos, shirts, shorts, and some tech items, too.  Really the only thing missing here is pants.  In terms of pricing, the New Road line is definitely on the pricy side, but the garments look fantastic.

As we continue up the price scale, we get to Outlier.  Proudly Made in USA, Outlier is based out of Brooklyn and has gained a reputation over the past couple of years as an extremely high priced, durable, and stylish brand.  Their bread and butter is probably their durable, waterproof pants and shorts.  A friend has been wearing the same pair of Outlier pants for 3 years now.  Their product assortment also branches out to include button-up shirts, merino tees, outerwear and more.  Overall, a nice product line that commands a high price tag.

Finally, no cycling clothing piece can be complete without a mention of Rapha.  You may have seen professional racers clad in Rapha kit – the company officially outfits Team Sky this year.   However, they also offer an attractive city line for those of us who aren’t in the peloton.  The prices here range from absurd, to really absurd, to outrageously absurd.  That being said, if you can afford any of these pieces, they are truly best in class.  I have some Rapha jerseys and merino tees, and they perform every bit as well as they look.  The city line really runs the gamut in terms of offerings and sports button-ups, tees, jerseys, jeans, henleys, jackets, shoes and more.

Women

Chrome and Outlier, who we talked about above, also offer women’s lines.

Chrome--known for its messenger bags and more recently, clothing--primarily offers hoodies and jackets in nice looking silhouettes.  Outlier is a step up from Chrome in terms of pricing and has a reputation as something of a cycling clothes “luxury” brand.  Outlier women’s line is more comprehensive than Chrome’s:  3 pairs of pants, a tank top, a nice shirt, and a pair of shorts.

There are also a myriad of companies that are offering bike clothes that look a little more chic.

Seattle-based Babecycle proudly offers tops, bottoms, dresses, outerwear and accessories.  Babecycle’s fabric and pattern choices are among the more playful I’ve seen, making them a nice breath of fresh air.  They currently offer their products on Etsy.

Betabrand is also getting in the cycling clothing game, and I especially like these red, bike-to-work pants.  They offer reflective cuffs when you roll up your drive-side pant leg, a reinforced crotch, minor stretch, and a higher back rise.  They are a tad on the pricey side as they break the $100 mark, but that’s not unusual for cycling clothing.

The Café Range by Ana Nichoola looks like its pieces will look every bit as good off the bike as on.  There are attractive jackets, jerseys and dresses, although the UK prices put these pieces on the expensive side for those of us who live in the United States.

Other brands offer women’s cycling clothes in technical and non-technical looking varieties.  Take Terry, for example.  Some of their offerings look right at home in the gym, while others, like this plaid shirt, are pretty casual.  Terry’s product assortment runs the gamut from baselayers, to tops and bottoms, to outerwear.

Nona Varnado is another company offering some really great looking, technical pieces.   They look a bit more like workout clothes than the previously mentioned brands, but they look like damn good workout clothes.  Check out their latest lookbook here.

Like Nona Varnado, Title Nine offers cycling clothes that primarily look workout-oriented, but that could probably be repurposed for everyday wear pretty easily.   The prices here are very affordable, and Title Nine offers tops, jackets, accessories and more.

Finally, if shoes are your thing but you’re not ready to plunge into clipless territory, these Evera Draft shoes by Merrell may be just what you’re looking for.  They offer anti-odor lining, reflective details, and a stiff sole where it counts.

If you ride bikes in the city, that doesn’t mean you have to look like you ride bikes in the city.  As cycling continues to explode in Baltimore and beyond, I’m sure that these product lines are only the beginning of like-minded companies getting into this category.

Note:  Thanks to Elly Blue for the female clothing suggestions.