Monday, May 2, 2016

Retrogrouchy Cycle Clothing

Eroica California wrapped up its second run a couple of weeks ago, and Eroica Britannia will be coming up soon. After the California edition, there was much discussion (and much griping) about the rules requiring vintage-style bicycles with "old-tech" equipment -- you'd never believe just how worked up some people can get at having to use non-aero brake levers and toe-clip pedals in order to participate in a group ride that celebrates cycling's past.

Seriously - some of the complainers would probably go to a Civil War re-enactment and complain because they can't carry their AR-15. (Yes, Clem, we know weapons technology has moved way beyond muzzle-loading muskets. Now will you please go put your Bushmaster back in your trunk?).

I don't know if there will be the same level of "controversy" at Eroica Britannia, in a country where people are a little more immersed in tradition, but I'm guessing it won't be an issue. I mean, have you ever seen their judges? Or the House of Lords?

They're gonna party like it's 1799.
Although I did not see or hear as much complaining about the clothing requirements, Eroica rules do encourage people to dress consistently with the period:

"Participants must be dressed in period cycling clothing, in particular they should wear wool jerseys and shorts. Reissued wool or non-wool vintage-looking jerseys and shorts are allowed as long as they look proper."

That is a disappointment, because if I ever get to participate in Eroica, it means I won't be able to ride in my all-time favorite riding kit:
"No, really. Just take the damn picture." 
The watermelon suit comes from Attaquer Cycling. And if you must know, the thing that really sold me on it was the description on their website:

"Watermelon is a vine-like flowering plant originally from southern Africa. It is a large, sprawling annual plant with coarse, hairy pinnately-lobed leaves and white to yellow flowers. It is grown for its edible fruit, also known as a watermelon, which is a special kind of berry botanically called a pepo. The fruit has a smooth hard rind, usually green with dark green stripes or yellow spots, and a juicy, sweet interior flesh, usually deep red to pink, but sometimes orange, yellow, or white, with many seeds."

See? Not only can you buy this spectacular matching cycling suit, but get a nice botanical lesson as well. And if the watermelon suit isn't to your liking, you might be interested in my second favorite skinsuit:

If I smiled for the picture, people might not take me seriously.
From the Attaquer website (again): "Peafowl include two Asiatic species and one African species of bird in the genera Pavo and Afropavo of the Phasianidae family, the pheasants and their allies, known for the male's piercing call and, among the Asiatic species, his extravagant eye-spotted tail covert feathers which he displays as part of a courtship ritual. The term peacock is properly reserved for the male; the female is known as a peahen, and the immature offspring are sometimes called peachicks."

You are now ready for polite dinner conversation or drinks with an ornithologist.

Like the peafowl on which it is modeled, I like to wear this one for courtship rituals. But again, it is not appropriate for Eroica. So what is a person to do?

I recently found a couple of places where one can get traditional wool jerseys that are not only Eroica-compliant, but really cool for retrogrouches no matter where they ride.

One company is Tiralento in Italy, which offers traditional-looking wool jerseys and shorts, classic leather cycling shoes, and even leather hairnet helmets (Eroica allows/encourages modern helmet use. Leather hairnets are more about "looks" than "safety"). They also have some vintage team replica jerseys that might interest some out there.

Tiralento offers some vintage-look national team jerseys, as well as some traditional styled jerseys which can be purchased plain, or with custom-embroidered names or logos. Jersey prices range from about $140 - $210 (based on current exchange rates) depending on embroidery and logo options.
Traditional cycling shoes, all leather, with slotted cleats, 3-hole drilling, or smooth soled. (Prices shown in Euros. Expect $200 - $225 in U.S. Dollars)
A selection of vintage team replica jerseys (about $200).
Another company turning out traditional wool goods is Magliamo in Belgium:

Like Tiralento, Magliamo are producing fine merino-wool replica jerseys from classic era teams, in short or long-sleeve versions. Here are a few samples:

Again, prices shown in Euros. Expect $125 - 130 in U.S. Dollars.
Magliamo also has t-shirts and traditional wool winter cycling caps (about $55).

One other source for traditional wool has been around for a while now. That's Vintage Velos, which offers super nice merino wool jerseys and shorts from Woolistic.

I actually own a couple of the Woolistic jerseys from Vintage Velos and can attest that they are very soft and are well made. Here are some samples:

Team jersey prices range from $148 - $169, depending on the design.
But Vintage Velos also offers a pretty simple, traditional design like this one for $129. I have one of these (long sleeve) and love it. These ones were also available for a time from Rivendell, but not anymore it seems.
I've heard good things about the Woolistic wool shorts, which are mostly wool, but also blended with nylon and elastic, so they don't get saggy - unlike the old wool shorts of the past. They are $145.

Yes - it's all very pricey stuff -- but that seems more or less in line with the cost of most traditionally made wool and leather goods these days. And at least in the case with the Woolistic jerseys which I've personally tried, they are actually softer and nicer in a lot of ways than many of the vintage examples from the past. Want some classic wool cycling clothes for less? You can always check for actual vintage jerseys on eBay, but be prepared for some disappointment - like moth holes, or really scratchy blends, etc. Used and vintage wool can be really hit-or-miss.

Oh - and as long as we're talking about prices, I should mention that the lycra watermelon suit shown above sells for about $350. You can't buy the peacock one anymore, as they're all sold out. No. I'm not joking. Sold out. That puts the price of these traditional wool goods into perspective, doesn't it?


  1. Another couple of good sources for wool are Oregon Cyclewear ( and Kucharik (

  2. Dang! I was all ready to get one of those peacock outfits. Oh, well. I guess I'll have to content myself with that nice, simple traditional striped jersey.

  3. I lost it at "Clem". =:D

    I agree, 100%. Likely the finest example of white people problems I've ever heard.

  4. I do agree the classic wool looks better - but then again, Lycra et al in similar shades and styles both looks good and works. And I'm practically married to my "membrane" jackets riding here in soggy England.

    I think for the complainers (I don't complain - this club is for others) are reliving those days in school when the "cool kids" had little secret meetings or when you got picked last for some pickup game.

    But the organisers are honest - it's a bit of a cult club, most of a certain age and background. Think The Boss and Glory Days. I wish them well, and appreciate the newfound interest in classic bicycles.

    But unlike my brother-in-law, who thought a 1968 Buick was the apogee of motor vehicle technology, I know that much good stuff came after the "Eroica cut-off date" (brifters, for two) and more is yet to come.

    Don't shoot 'till you see the glue on their tubs!

  5. I think that is kind of missing the point though, maybe?

    It's not that new fangled stuff isn't good, I also imagine most of those folks have newer bikes too.

    The point is, much like Brooks example, it's a re-enactment.

    As such, you do it as authentically as possible.

    Watching the Reb's clash with the Yanks on the soccer field behind Barton Elementary, wouldn't have the same feel or give the proper context, were they all in camo, with AR-15s and a couple anti tank artillery pieces, in place of wool, muskets and cannons....

    A guy we ride with is a hopeless old Mopar guy. Newest vehicle he has (or will ever own) is an 86 New Yorker.

    I don't think most "proper mindset" Eroica riders are that guy, I think they just appreciate where it all comes from, and enjoy reminding themselves (and interested others) of that. You can't do that to the same degree in blinding spandex kit, carbon everything and 12 speeds out back.....

  6. I wonder if they'd be OK if one dressed retro, but not racer retro? Like California schlub in hi top socks, running shorts, headband, and tiger sneakers retro?

    1. I think that sounds great - though something tells me that the officials would have a problem with that.

  7. Interesting blogs, very creative cycling costumes, these retro jerseys are very cool, but I like watermelons the most, it’s so novel.